Cawnpore and Perseus in Print. Buy a Book, Get the eBook Free from Amazon

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Cawnpore and Perseus are now available in the Createspace eStore and on Amazon.com (and other bookstores.) Buy a physical copy of either from Amazon, get the eBook free.

Coming soon: Hercules, the not-a-sequel to Perseus.

Professor Arrested on Flight Shows Why Higher Education Is Now So Awful

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From The Washington Post comes the story of a not-so-lovely “lady” — Penn State sociology professor and self-profressed “revolutionary”, Karen Halnon. Hlanon was arrested at Miami International Airport after she decided rules didn’t apply to her (she is, after all, a revolutionary) and after being called out on her assholishness, decided to go on a long, loud diatribe on Latin America revolutionary politics and conspiracy theory.

Best yet, the whole thing — of course — was caught on phone video. Enjoy the stupid…

And here, parents, is what you are paying $50,000 for: Your young kids, who are most likely already behind the curve on the critical thinking skills thanks to similar gits teaching at your schools, get exposed to over-read, but under-experienced halfwits like this — wannabe revolutionaries who were weaned on [pick your favorite] victim studies, and maybe well-traveled enough to have done a week’s “research” vacation in a slightly dodgy part of the world.

Even better than the plane incident, Halnon claims she was “tortured” by the FBi and TSA when she was made to sit alone in a security room for her “civil disobedience” whereupon she let The Man have it by shitting in the corner. About what you’d expect from a woman arrested in 2013 for drunk and disorderly.

While she might be an extreme example of the academic idiocracy currently ruling the faculty lounges of the United States, she is not unusual in her beliefs — the same lightweight Progressive or Fabian socialism of the 19th Century, the same reverence for murderous buggers like Chavez or Castro (but our murderous bastards…they’re the real bastards!), who’ve never done an actual day of work in their lives but claim solidarity with working folks who wouldn’t have a moment’s time for them (since they’re actually working), and who think reading a few hundred books in a very specialized area of [pick your liberal art] that all reference the same dozen or so polemics from the 1960s.

Outside of Penn State, which still can’t decide to fire this nutjob because she’s probably the doll of her department at PSU-Abington, someone like this is simply a punchline. But she’ll be teaching your kids (because childhood apparently lasts into your mid-30s) all about how Venezuela is a wonderful place that would be a paradise if we would just Maduro control the supply of toilet paper. I’m sure if she had been arrested in Caracas, she wouldn’t have had to take a dump while waiting for her arraignment…

Just in case you want to read a bit more of the sort of thought-crushing nonsense this woman spews — you may be short on entertainment this morning — here’s her interview with Philadelphia regarding her arrest…with my interjections, of course.

Can you comment on your arrest and on the videos of you on the plane that are circulating?
I do have a comment. I know that I expressed an act of civil disobedience. But that act was necessary.

Why so?
I’m very knowledgable about that part of the world. I teach about U.S. imperialism in Latin America. And the U.S. has declared war against Venezuela. That means military aggression. They tried to take out Hugo with a coup, and then they took him out with cancer. (me: That was because our earthquake and weather control machines were being repaired…)

Oh?
It is my opinion — and Fidel agrees with me …

As in Castro?
Yes, Fidel (me: She knows him personally. Really!) agrees with me that the CIA had some involvement in giving him cancer, and so he died very sadly. And now Nicolas Maduro is the president and the U.S. somehow thinks this is a better position for the U.S. now.

It’s not?
No, what they don’t realize is that Maduro is carrying on the revolution. It’s not like Raul in Cuba. There is every intention of carrying on the revolution. Fifty more years.

What is the revolution revolting against?
The problem is U.S. military global domination. And they want the oil. And they want the water. And so I found that this act was a necessary Thoreau-like act of civil disobedience. I had to speak out now. The situation is dire and urgent, and any sacrifice I make for my own self, if it saves lives — there have been far too many lives lost due to U.S. global military domination. (me: Last sentence — she’s not wrong there.)

What happened once you landed in Miami?
The FBI and TSA tortured me. My voice generally doesn’t sound like this. (me: that would be “like a crazy person.”) I was put in a room with two fans in the ceiling, it was freezing cold for hours and hours and hours. I asked repeatedly to go to the bathroom. They made me wet my pants. They humiliated me. And then to make matters worse, I have a stomach condition. Everything that comes in goes out. I’ve been like that for months since I left Cuba. I’ve lost over 30 pounds. And I was yelling that I had to go to the bathroom. But they ignored me, and I defecated on the floor. And they made me pick it up and laughed at me. (me: I thought the superior Cuban medicine would have cured her…)

That’s awful. But what of the cigarette? One reporter who covered your actions said that lighting a cigarette on a plane is just a little better than yelling “BOMB!”
Why did I have a lighter if there is such great national security? It was right in the top of my book bag. (me: Good point. Airport security is pretty much just theater.)

Listen, the point is, I am a sociologist, and I live in an intellectual world. (me: Ah! the “We live in a world of ideas” theme other educated but wholly disconnected from reality professors have thrown around.) A sociologist always thinks in terms of symbols. And every revolutionary I know smokes. It was identifying with the revolutionary cause. And then, beyond that, it is a symbol that the United States is a smoking gun. The action was necessary. They are going to kill many more people.

Some people would look at that video and wonder if you were under the influence of a substance. And I know you pleaded guilty in 2013 in Horsham Township to public drunkenness. Do you have a substance abuse issue?
No. I do not have a substance abuse issue. I have had many sufferings in my life, but no. I had a little bottle of wine on the plane that I mixed with apple and cranberry juice over three drinks. A spritzer, if you will. But I wasn’t drunk. I don’t need alcohol to protest. (me: But it does make her protestations much more enjoyable for the people being inconvenienced.) This is my life.

I am passionate about being an anti-imperialist. To follow Jesus is to be with the poor, to be with the suffering, to be with the oppressed, and to be anti-imperialist.

I made some mistakes here, but it wasn’t a mistake to speak out. I would do it again today. Ask anyone who knows me.

And this is one of the reasons why enrollments at colleges are off roughly 20% per annum over the last three to four years.

Quick Review: PNY SDXC 256GB Card

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I had been looking to upgrade the Lilliputian drive space on my Late 2010 MacBook Air — it has the 128GB SSD and is very fast and effective, but has always made storage an issue. From the jump, I got a 64GB SD card for the machine as overflow for pictures and the others things that quickly gum up a computer’s memory. I tied it to a wireless 2TB drive…but that doesn’t come with me outside of the house, and the 64GB…well half that gets eaten up in pictures, the other in music.

I was on the cusp of a $170 SSD upgrade to a 256GB stick, then realized, I could just as easily drop a similar-sized SDXC card in the side of the machine for half the price. I settled on the PNY SDXC card with 256GB — effectively trebling my “hard drive” space.

Installation was simple: put it in the side of the Air, bring up Disk Utility and “erase” the card, setting it up for OS X Extended (Journaled). This took about two minutes. The PNY runs at at advertised 90MB/s, and that seems about right.

It took about a third the time to load the 50GB or so of material from the old SD card, plus my 35GB of music from the iTunes drive. So far, reading and writing is about as fast as hitting the laptop’s SSD. The only time there’s a lag is when you first hit the SD card after a bit of a wait or sleeping the computer. Once you start using it, no noticeable issues.

Total cost $80 to treble the “hard drive” space, and it allows you to pull the card and any important or sensitive information if you are traveling with the laptop. Bonus when going through airport security. There’s also the plus that you can use it on any other laptop (if you leave it in FAT format.) As for longevity: the first SD card is still going strong after 6 years — fist in an old Dell machine, then 4 years in the MacBook…so at least as long as the average laptop’s service time. The only real issue is that the card sticks out of the side of the laptop, and could be at risk for preakage, but it hasn’t happened in the time I’ve had it, and I’m not the kindest person to his laptop when traveling.

If you’ve got a MacBook Air 13″ with the 128GB SSD, this is a no-brainer for upgrading the machine on the cheap.

Panicking About the “Rise of Robots”

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Martin Ford, a “Silicon Valley entrepreneur” and the usual sort of progressive grumbler that complains about the capitalism that made him wealthy, has been on a tear in the news and with his latest book Rise of Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future about the rise of automation in the workplace.

It’s been about 600 years since people started having the vapors over automation taking their jobs — from the saboteurs of 15th Century Holland, to the Luddites of the early 18th Century, to the labor unions and the science fiction dystopias of 20th Century, we’ve been told that automation — the use of labor saving devices, would steal jobs and impoverish, well, everyone. Panic! Run for your jobs!

Except that’s not what’s happened.

At every turn, the addition of automation has changed the work force, not constricted it. The creation of mechanical labor-saving devices creates whole systems around their construction, sale, usage, and maintenance, all while freeing people from (at least one form of) drudgery, enriching laborers in general, and freeing them to focus on other endeavors.

Ford, however, assures us that this time the end is well and truly neigh! His reasons:

1) Super-smart Oxford academics inform us that “47%” of US jobs are in danger of automation! Half of us will be out of work!

Problem 1: The work of Carl Frey and Michael Osborne is, by their own admission, subjective. It’s a thought piece with no justification or proof for its assertions, as doomsaying predictions are 90% of the time. (A shocking percentage I wouldn’t have believed, if I hadn’t just made it up…kind of like Frey and Osborne.)

2) Ford sees stagnant wages and rising inequity of income and promptly blames this on evil capitalism.

Problem 2: What he doesn’t see are several trends that explain portions of this — like the collapse of the dollar, certification inflation (where the degree you had 30 years ago is now worthless because a large cohort of college students from the last 20 years got the same piece of paper), a shift in the type of labor — from industry to information, and the creation of a global market where competition against cheaper labor pushes labor prices down in some industries (like his own tech sector.)

3) Computers are getting cheaper, more powerful, and smarter AI is helping them to do things that only science fiction writers would buy into last century. Google language translation apps and self-driving cars particularly forge the fear of Skynet in him.

Problem 3: They are…and the sorts of things they can do well will certainly improve, but lets address the two examples above first: Translation programs, right now, are pretty hit or miss, but improving. This is not going to put humans out of jobs in most places where translation requires the understanding of non-verbal queues, of slang, etc. Could they eventually reach the point where we have language-saavy androids officiously doing translation for useless UN politicians? Sure…but it’s unlikely. As for self-driving cars, there will be a big rush — I suspect — to roll out Google Taxi or whatever until the first really disastrous accident. Because machines fail sometimes. But say they don’t — how much more work could you get done, or how much more meaningful time with your family could you have during a commute if you didn’t have to worry about the texting old person (and yes, they are the largest demographic to text and wreck…look it up or have your Google data miner do it) going 10 miles under the speed limit..?

Ultimately, Ford’s screed is less about robotics and automation than it is about how awful income inequality is, and how evil capitalism and their robot minions will create a perpetual underclass of people that can’t get work. It’s a great premise for a science-fiction movie…but we’ve seen that movie before. Here’s how creative destruction really works…

Example the first: The creation of the cotton gin made it much easier to pull cotton from its husk than prior to the machine’s invention. It allowed textile manufacturers to make more cotton for more and cheaper clothing. It destroyed a particular job — separating cotton, but it made for other labor…namely picking cotton, and most likely led to the survival of slavery in the United States into the mid-1800s. But it also meant more people — mostly women, who could not find employment that didn’t involve lying on their backs or cleaning and cooking — to work on clothing manufacture.

But Scott! Those women were exploited! Here’s a good question…if they had it so damned good on the farm, darning clothes, cooking, pumping out and raising kids, all while working in the fields with their husband and worrying that the crop might not be enough to survive or pay the landlord…why go to work in the “dark, satanic mills” of the city?

It also created jobs to build the gins. To market, sell, and transport the machines. To train people on them. To fix them. And those jobs were in demand, required specialized training, and paid better than the previous job hulling cotton.

That darned Industrial Revolution...making people richer!

That darned Industrial Revolution…making people richer!

Example the second: The automobile, from the start, had aspects of automation — namely the assembly line. Portions of the automobile were rolled from one station to the next to be constructed by laborers. They made good money…mostly so they could afford the product they were constructing. The car created jobs in mining, in metalworking, in mechanics, in marketing; it created entrepreneurial opportunities in selling cars, in fixing them. It created jobs for the roads that needed to be improved, for those people to pump gas into them (not to mention the just extracting oil and refining it.) It created licensing schemes and insurance schemes — all requiring people to work. Folks washed the cars. Created upholstery and aftermarket parts to improve performance, which required people to work in engineering fields….and most of these jobs, gave low skilled workers entrance into labor (the car washer or road navvie, say), or gave those who trained in this in-demand skills jobs that nearly always paid better than those they had previously had (engineerings, car construction hands.)

As the automobile manufacturing matured int he 1970s and ’80s, robots joined the assembly line, and destroyed certain jobs…but created others. Maybe you didn’t bolt the bumper on, but a worker checked the quality. Less manual labor, but you still got paid well. Others had to calibrate, fix, and program the machines. Those machines created jobs on other assembly lines where they built the machines.

The creative destruction of automation might “take jobs” from a select group, but it creates other opportunities, and often those jobs were more skilled, more specialized, and hence better paying than the ones before. If you lost our job and didn’t retrain for another, this is not a reflection on capitalism, or evil entrepreneurs (like Ford), but on the worker who cannot adapt to his surroundings.

Ford’s assertion that income inequality is the main ill of capitalism shows the usual lack of understanding of historical trends across time. Since the industrial revolution began, income throughout the developed world (and we have an excellent live-time case study in China’s labor force) rises across all quintiles of income. The rich get richer, and usually at a higher rate, but they are also the ones that rise capital and create the opportunities than employ others…rising their level of income and prosperity.

Let’s just look at the period that Ford is concerned with:

household-incomes-mean-nominal

The only quintile not seeing a rise is…none of them. The lowest quintile is pretty static since 1995, but if you are locked into an income of less than $20,000 a year, that’s not evil capitalist conspiracies doing it…you are making real bad decisions regarding your employment. Hell, if you work hard at McDonalds it’s really hard not to get promoted. All other quintiles showed steady improvement. the reason it doesn’t feel like it is that the government has been destroying the value of your money since we went off the gold standard in the 1970s (thanks, Nixon!)

That gives you this…

household-incomes-mean-realNote the drop in real income is not the poor…it is in the middle class — that nemesis on most political ideologies thanks to their having done a real day’s work and who have enough money to feel that the politicians should listen to them. (And they should.) Even the “rich” are taking a hit here.

It is the lack of understanding of the most basic of modern economic influences, and an ignorance of historical trends, that is why Ford’s evidence is so shoddy, and his premise is laughable. (Until the Terminators kill us all…)

Funnily, Ford misses the most likely big technology trend that will impact manufacturing — 3D printing:

The rise of the do-it-yourself manufacturing will hit those industries that can’t or won’t the demands of modern consumers for configurable,individualistic products. Even this technology will require people who can design and build 3D printers, who can program them and fix them. It will need people who conceive of products for people who do not want to take the time to build them for themselves…the same division of labor that has been driving economies since the days of the Sumerian city-states.

 

Texas: How Dare You Record Cops Doing Bad Things?

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Texas House Bill 2019 was introduced by Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) last week and would seek to make it illegal to record the activities of police officers within 100 feet of the activity, unless you are a member of an FCC recognized organization. Allegedly, this is to prevent obstruction of justice, but that’s complete “bullshit”, as they would say in Texas. The point is to prevent the public from see the police doing things they aren’t supposed to be doing. The “news” agencies are pliable, and more interested in access than truth in situations involving the guard dogs of the new aristocracy. It’s people with cell phones and YouTube accounts that are holding police feet to the fire.

And the politicians don’t like it.

The bill runs counter to a 2011 ruling in which the First Circuit Court of Appeals found unanimously that the people have the right to record police activities. As these public officials usually conduct their operations in the public sphere — where the government loves to tell us we have no expectation of privacy when complaints about ubiquitous surveillance come up — this certainly seems reasonable.

 

Despite What It Seems, War Is a Dying Political Paradigm

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From the excellent YouTube series by Kurz Gesagt:

I’d suggest the main reasons are democratization and fixed political borders.

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