Quote of the Week: On the Bright Side…

‘What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.’

–Seneca

This is why I don’t turn to philosophy to cheer me up when I’m on one of my mood swings. This might also be why my mood swings are so bad.

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A Question

Who is it that still does not understand this mundanely vicious cycle of curfews/blockades/other form of economic (at best) or physical deprivation–> popular outrage/support for separatists/anti-government sentiments–>Emboldened and newly capable extremists/ separatists/terrorists/ “freedom fighters”, if you wish–>more attacks on the state/the outsider group of choice/other suitable targets, usually meaning white people–>more curfews etc?

Everyone who has any sort of power over any of these decisions should be made to go through the Analog Circuits course here in IIT Madras; 4 months with Shanthi/Nagi should thoroughly drill in the concept of positive feedback.

Yes, I know I’m oversimplifying. I know riots kill people, and curfews presumably result in less damage overall.  I don’t know what we should do instead. But I find this situation, at least the way it is reported, a little ironic:

“No separatist leader would be allowed to paralyse life across the valley and cause adverse effect on education of children, commercial activities and the livelihood of people,” an administration official said.

PS: Am I going a little too crazy with the links etc? Zemanta makes it really tempting.

Unicorn Waltz

Wrote a poem in about 20 minutes on, well, unicorns. I’m too scared to put it up here. It’s on my deviant art page.

(Not my pic: from modcult.org)

(Not my pic: from modcult.org)

I’m not not putting it up here because people will think I’m a bad poet- I don’t write poetry anyway, except for yesterday’s sudden impulse, so I don’t have much ego associated with it. I’m uploading it at all only because of some possibly ridiculous commitment to intellectual honesty. It’s about KILLING unicorns. In some amount of graphic detail. I’m too scared to put it up because I’m scared of what I wrote.

Yes, inspired by Questionable Content/Deathmole. The comic, that is…I haven’t heard the songs.

Credit Crunch: The Fairytale Version

Go here for details, but this is the full story:

Once upon a time, there was a blameless girl called Consumerella, who didn’t have enough money to buy all the lovely things she wanted. She went to her Fairy Godmother, who called a man called Rumpelstiltskin who lived on Wall Street and claimed to be able to spin straw into gold. Rumpelstiltskin sent the Fairy Godmother the recipe for this magic spell. It was written in tiny, tiny writing, so she did not read it but hoped the Sorcerers’ Exchange Commission had checked it.

The Fairy Godmother carried away armfuls of glistening straw-derivative at a bargain price. Emboldened by the deal, she lent Consumerella – who had a big party to go to – 125 per cent of the money she needed. Consumerella bought a bling-bedizened gown, a palace and a Mercedes – and spent the rest on champagne. The first payment was due at midnight.

At midnight, Consumerella missed the first payment on her loan. (The result of overindulgence, although some blamed the pronouncements of the Toastmaster, a man called Peston.) Consumerella’s credit rating turned into a pumpkin and Rumpelstiltskin’s spell was broken. He and the Fairy Godmother discovered that their vaults were not full of gold, but ordinary straw.

All seemed lost until Santa Claus and his helpers, men with implausible fairy-tale names such as Darling and Bernanke, began handing out presents. It was only in January that Consumerella’s credit card statement arrived and she discovered that Santa Claus had paid for the gifts by taking out a loan in her name. They all lived miserably ever after. The End.

Bonus: Explaining CDS is slightly harder, but I think that’s the real point of the story 🙂

Billy wants to buy a pack of baseball cards. However, baseball cards are a dollar and Billy doesn’t have a dollar. So Billy goes to his best friend Jamie and says, can I borrow a dollar? Jamie says, sure, but only if you pay me a dollar and a nickel back. Billy says okay, because he plans to sell the cards for two dollars. Jamie writes an IOU because he only has a quarter.

Jamie isn’t sure that Billy can pay him back, so he decides to sell a credit default swap. Jamie goes to Sally and says, I owe Billy a dollar and Billy owes me a dollar and a nickel back. Can I give you a penny a day in exchange for you signing your name on the IOU I gave Billy? Sally doesn’t know Billy, so to her this proposal looks like a bargain. Besides, Sally just got ten dollars for her birthday so even if Billy can’t pay back she can easily cover Billy’s debt. Repeat this process 70 trillion times.”

Men’s Rights?

[UPDATE: I no longer hold with most of the opinions expressed on this page, although I won’t entirely disown it. So this post is still here merely to serve as a record. After all, that’s what most of the posts here are for.]

Via Bryan Caplan who quotes from Tyler’s book. The article is aptly titled, “Men’s Rights? Stop Laughing!!!”

A Dr. Rangel, a well-known blogger and MD, offered this recipe for impressing a woman:

Wine her, Dine her, Call her, Hug her, Support her, Hold her, Surprise her, Compliment her, Smile at her, Listen to her, Laugh with her, Cry with her, Romance her, Encourage her, Believe in her, Pray with her, Pray for her, Cuddle with her, Shop with her, Give her jewelry, Buy her flowers, Hold her hand, Write love letters to her, Go to the end of the Earth and back again for her.

Just imagine substituting “him” for “her” in this passage, and telling women to do it.  “I want to be his girlfriend, not his slave” would be a reasonable response.

What is Robin’s lesson?  Men take a lot of abuse in our society, but rarely complain about it.  Why not?  Because when men complain, they look weak and get mocked.

Paranoid?  Consider:  You hear that a woman’s husband is cheating on her.  Your likely reaction: Sympathy.  OK, what if you hear that a man’s wife is cheating on him?  Your likely reaction: Poorly suppressed laughter.

Similarly, how do you react when you hear that a man’s wife “won’t let him” do something?  “Ha ha, he’s whipped.”  What if you heard that a woman’s husband “won’t let her” do something?  “How awful – how can she live like that?”

We usually think that people who complain have a raw deal.  What Robin points out, though, is that the people with the rawest deals don’t complain because the world won’t listen.

Any thoughts? I completely agree, for the record, except for the fact that I don’t think MOST of my friends would laugh at the man who’s wife is cheating on him. *I do suspect-hell, am pretty sure- that some would, though, whereas nobody does anything but sympathize with the woman who is being cheated on. You can point out that this is a relatively new development, and that the flip side is far worse for women in societies where they ARE discriminated against, but that doesn’t change the facts here, or the conclusion it suggests about most of the developed world.

PS: I was looking for a better title for this post and (on a tangential path) I was wondering, whats the latin root for men? I ask, because misogynists hate women, but misanthropes hate mankind in general i.e. all humans…ok, latent sexism there, but is that the only reason, or is there a better equivalent? I’m pretty sure I saw something a while back, but I can’t seem to remember it now.

*Apparently not. See the comments. Yet another reminder that we need to be careful about possible selection biases, points of view and emotional attachments when trying to decide a logical question.

Quizzes, Batman and Fight Club

Just to get it out of the way, quizzes so far were OK. Not too good, not too bad, in the very mathematical sense of getting average scores. Which is of course bad in the “life goal” sense of getting good grades. Is that a triple or quadruple alliteration?

In honour of The Dark Knight (finally) coming to the OAT this wonderful Saturday, and me (FINALLY!!!) seeing it on the big screen, I present to my (very,very) patient readers the following rather verbose posts(a little bit, and not really in a bad way; the blog’s NAME is “Overthinking it”, so I graciously forgive) on the Philosophy of Batman, specifically the Dark Knight, but, as you will see, ranging to a whole lot of unexpected topics. Do read the comments,too, if you’re into it.

  1. The Philosophy of Batman

  2. The Philosophy of Batman: Literary Theory Edition

  3. The Philosophy of Batman: Political Sociology Edition

  4. The Philosophy of Batman: Schopenhauer Edition

  5. And for those who think the Joker isn’t really, REALLY scary, here’s The Joker’s Magic Pencil
  6. From Not a Blogger, about all the more non-academic terrorism symbols, is
    BatBush, Harvey Obama & Osama Bin Joker: The Politics Of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight
  7. Which serves as a fitting response(well, more or less) to something I had linked to earlier, on the now defunct Kuro5hin, which makes more or less the opposite case(this has some obviously over the top bits, such as the allegation that they sought to equate homosexuality and terrorism by having Heath Ledger, who acted in Brokeback Mountain, play the Joker-but it’s still an interesting read): Review: The Dark Knight

I think 7 rather long and scholarly articles should be enough for anyone, so I’ll stop with that. But while we’re on the subject of vigilantism and violence: how many people would join Fight Club if it came without the “let’s focus on it to the exclusion of everything else in life and destroy the present financial order, by blowing up a whole bunch of buildings” bit? I’m talking, a weekly meeting where you, well, fight as much as you want, when you want, no Queensbury Rules and no special “armour”, just a simple “say “stop!” to stop” rule. Please do reply in the comments. If no, also mention whether this is the very reasonable desire for self-preservation or the very idea of beating up arbitrary men that turns you off. Or if it’s something else entirely.

On Abortion

As a libertarian, I should already know what my position on this issue should be, but at least in this case it doesn’t seem that easy. Where “this case” refers to the Niketa Mehta case. Mostly because I see no good reason why this to-be child should be aborted -and at over 20 weeks it is a “to-be child”, not just a simple mass of tissue-, since clearly the money can be provided by some external agency and there is at least a reasonable chance of a productive life for the child. I can only bring to mind Voltaire’s maxim, paraphrased: “I do not agree with what you have to do with your body, but I’ll defend to the death your right to do it.

And the “but it’s NOT her body!!!” argument is dealt with fascinatingly in the extract reproduced below, from Lekhni‘s(no, not someone I know:found after 2 blogroll hops.) equally fascinating blog.

Abortion and the Niketa Mehta case | The Imagined Universe

2. If the foetus is an independent entity and an individual, can this individual live outside the mother? No, of course not. Foetuses born prematurely, i.e. before 37 weeks, may suffer complications even if treated in pre-natal intensive care. Absent pre-natal care, they cannot survive as their organs aren’t developed yet.

If we continue to take the position that the foetus is an independent legal entity (even though it cannot survive independent of its mother), then extending that argument, by requiring a mother to complete her pregnancy for a foetus she doesn’t want, we are forcing her to provide prenatal care (using her own body) which is not of her own choice, and for which she is obviously not being compensated either. The question is, is that a fair and just law?

Think about it, the only other persons whom the State forces to work without compensation are prisoners.

3. The issue of individual rights versus common good:

The other issue here is that the State is also, in essence, controlling a part of the woman’s body itself. It is claiming that it has overarching authority to decide on a part of the woman’s body. This is the scariest part. Where do an individual’s rights begin and the State’s rights end?

If the woman delivers the baby and immediately gives it up to the State for adoption, what she has done, in a way, is to rent her womb to the State.

If the State can force a woman to use her uterus to carry a baby she does not want, where can this slippery slope lead to? Can we, then, see any of the following scenarios happen in the future?

1. Can prisoners (especially those imprisoned for life) be forced to donate blood or body organs (one kidney, portion of liver) to save the life of a patient in a government hospital?

2. Can women prisoners be forced to rent their wombs to act as surrogate mothers? Or can the State attempt to harvest eggs from prisoners?

These arguments may seem far-fetched right now. But I can see arguments beginning with “common good” being made for each of them. Argument #2, for instance, can be made in countries with low fertility rates and declining populations, while Argument #1 can be made anywhere.

My conclusion: Women are rational creatures. No woman wants to abandon a foetus unless there is some compelling reason for her to do so.

Death by Blogging

I think this was picked up on xkcd a little while back, but I thought I might rehash it anyway. For me, the more immediate danger is “cup by surfing”.

Sorry about not keeping the promise about the fantasy post, I promise I’ll put it up soon, no matter how many little girls go “ewww!”. Anything really original may have to wait till after the exams,though.

In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop – New York Times

A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed
with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under
great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock
Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment………..

………..Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.

The pressure even gets to those who work for themselves — and are being well-compensated for it.

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