Archive for the 'Blogging' Category
Curiously for a sometime political animal, I was not all that wrapped up in the Iowa caucus. There are several reasons for that; one of them being that I just think it is a waste of emotional energy picking a favorite too early, another being that in the words of old Bobby Bare song “No matter how good they look at first, There’s flaws in all of them. That’s why on a scale of ten to one, friend – There ain’t no ten!” They’re human, every one of them – and every damn one has flaws, which will be put under a magnifying glass. Those who have been under a magnifying glass will have the magnification dialed up by a magnitude of a hundred, though.
Cross-posted from zenpundit.com
Time for a bit of lighthearted, blogging fun.
I spend a lot of time reading and writing and I do so primarily within a specific environment – my home office. The space reflects the man, to some degree.
Surveying my office space here at home, I noticed that my desk has begun, like a coral reef, to accrete various objects, oddments and curious like a layer of bric-a-brac sediment. Some objects change, others stay forever. Exclusive of papers, books, printers and a computer, here’s what my desk holds:
Read the rest of this entry »
Canon products seem to be on sale these days. I don’t know if that’s because business is slow or if dealers are clearing out inventory before new models come in but there is some kind of big sale going on. If you want to buy a new Canon camera or lens now is a good time. I have experience with the following Canon cameras and recommend them:
This Canon PowerShot is a great deal and a good choice if you are looking for a gift or inexpensive, compact camera. You can buy them now for as low as $110 (the price seems to vary with color) from Amazon by clicking the link above. I mention this because I bought one of these cameras as a gift a few months ago at a higher price and wasn’t dissatisfied. It’s a decent camera, simple to use. It does not seem to allow manual operation, if that matters to you. There are some negative reviews on Amazon but the camera seems fine to me, and at the current price you can’t go wrong.
This higher-end Canon PowerShot is being sold for $230, today only. The current going rate is around $300. There’s a new model (S100) coming out that should be better, but it costs a couple of hundred more and is not widely available yet. The S95 is popular with photo enthusiasts and gets good reviews. I’ve tried one but didn’t use it extensively; it seemed excellent for a point and shoot. As with the camera I discussed above, at this price you can’t go wrong (I ordered one).
[UPDATE: As soon as I posted this it became clear that the $230 price is no longer available. Sorry about that. It looks like Amazon sold out at the sale price. It is possible that Amazon will have more of these cameras available at the low price, so if you're interested it might make sense to check back later today and perhaps during the coming weeks. This price seems to come and go. I suspect it will come back eventually, if only as the new model becomes available.]
The Canon 5D Mark II is one of the best high-end DSLRs, certainly the best bang for the buck, and it’s being sold at its lowest price ever. This camera + lens kit is the way to go if you don’t already have Canon lenses. The 24-105mm lens that comes with the kit is a very high quality pro-level zoom that is excellent for general photography, and you get a great deal on it if you buy it as a kit with the camera body. And the current Amazon price for these kits is $500 less than they were going for a few months ago.
(The camera body alone is also being discounted, but not by as much (the price for the body is slightly cheaper at B&H, which is a very good place to buy photo equipment). UPDATE: The Canon 5D Mark II body is available from B&H for $1999.95, including a memory card and some software, by clicking this link.
Many of the popular Canon DSLR lenses are also on sale at very good prices.
To paraphrase a great man, Chicago Boyz earns referral fees at no cost to you if you buy anything on Amazon via our links. Even if you have no interest in cameras but you want to buy books, tools, underwear, or anything else, as long as you enter Amazon’s site by clicking on one of our Amazon links we will get a cut. Thanks.
I’ve long been kicking around the notion of a German translation of my books, especially the Adelsverein Trilogy – since that story has to do with German immigrants to the Texas frontier, and the Wild, Wild West as a concept is madly popular in Germany, and has been so for decades, if not centuries. Yeah, I know – weird concept, but it is true. I’ve fielded the occasional email from readers asking if there were such, as they have friends who don’t speak English but would just love-love-love to read the Trilogy in German. Early on, I had kind of hoped that I would get some interest from a German publishing house wanting to clean up from all those Karl May fans, but that hasn’t happened, not so far.
Read the rest of this entry »
We live in a fairly OK suburban neighborhood on the north-east side of town – working class to middle-class, well-kept small house, with lots of military and retired military, being convenient to Randolph AFB, Fort Sam Houston and Brooke Army Medical Center; mostly owners and not many rental units. A solid, but not upscale neighborhood, which we know very well through having lived in and taken a lively interest in since I bought a house in 1995. We walk the dogs, and even before we had dogs, I used to jog a course taking me through most of the streets – it’s an OK neighborhood and we know it well. And San Antonio and Texas generally is doing all right, employment-wise, in comparison to many other places, but even so, I am developing my own way of following the current economic picture; the numbers of disposable pets.
Read the rest of this entry »
That is the way of it, when a great question falls into the public debate, or at least, that’s how it will look to the outsider. The extremes on either side bash away energetically at each other, the op-eds and the commentaries are reeled out like so many furiously unfurled rolls of toilet paper, until either the issue is resolved definitively, or everyone is quite tired of it — or some great event crashes in unexpectedly and renders the whole thing absolutely moot.
Read the rest of this entry »
I was always a bit cynical about the major media news organs, thanks to twenty years in military public affairs, and the related field of military broadcasting. That is, I didn’t expect much of the poor darlings when it came around to dealing with matters military. The military and all its works and all its strange ways were terra incognita to all but a handful of mainstream media personalities and reporters, all during the 1970s, the 1980s and into the 1990s. Stories of media misconduct were fairly common among us; attempted checkbook journalism, howling misstatements of fact, generalized anti-military bigotry, pre-existing biases just looking for a whisper of confirmation … all that and more were the stuff of military public affairs legend. I expect that most media reporters and editors just naturally expected military personnel, pace Platoon and other Vietnam-era movies, to be drug-addled, barely competent, marginally criminal, knuckle-dragging morons. The air of pleasurable surprise and relief almost universally displayed by various deployed reporters during the First Gulf War, upon discovering this was not so – that in fact, most members of the military were articulate, polite, competent professionals – was one that I noted at the time, and found to be bitterly amusing.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Lexington Green on 31st October 2011 (All posts by Lexington Green)
A few months ago I wrote that I was going to stop obsessing about the presidential election.
Dan correctly called bullish*t.
But, I am now thinking more and more that (1) the time and energy spent thinking about the presidential election is wasted, and time is too precious to waste, and there is too much else that must be done, and (2) even if you must pay attention to politics, the down-ticket races are the ones that will matter, and it is possible to get involved and make a difference in those races, and I encourage everyone to do so.
So, no kidding, this time for sure, I am done with this presidential election.
I put my hands over my ears, close my eyes, and go ya ya ya ya ya ya ya really loud.
At least until way, way closer to next November.
Is this true? Do younger people now mostly use Facebook, Twitter, phone P2P apps etc?
Chicagoboyz seems middle-aged; the median age of contributors and commenters here appears to be fifty-something. (Perhaps the age distribution of readers who don’t comment, which is most readers, skews older or younger, but it’s difficult to know.)
Why is that? This blog has been around for about ten years. That’s a significant chunk of time in anyone’s life. There has been turnover among contributors but those of us who have been here since the beginning are now ten years older. Maybe blogs, or at least blogs that are both 1) around for a while and 2) don’t expand into large enterprises age with their contributors. Blogs, including group blogs, are personal and it’s plausible that the people who read a blog tend to have something in common with the writers. Maybe there’s a cohort of readers aging with the writers, or maybe writers as they age tend to attract older readers. My guess is that it’s a combination, mostly the latter.
So, is blogging the new TV news, something that mainly older people engage in as either writers or readers? Are older people more likely to blog and comment on blogs because they have free time? Or is reader/writer age an irrelevant variable?
Feel free to discuss in the comments.
BTW, here’s a poll:
Posted by Lexington Green on 1st September 2011 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Any GOP Member who does NOT yell “you lie!” at least once during Obama’s “jobs” speech should be given a primary and run out of town.
(Occasionally tweeting lately, fwiw.)
Posted by Lexington Green on 1st September 2011 (All posts by Lexington Green)
“A society that puts equality – in the sense of equality of outcome – ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality or freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom. On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up with both greater freedom and greater equality.”
Bring Milton back to ChicagoBoyz!
Image from here.
Well, actually, it is not that new. For some years I edited the journal of the Conservative History Group, called (somewhat unimaginatively perhaps) Conservative History Journal. Soon after I took that over, I set up a blog that was dedicated, more or less, to conservative history as I always thought the small ‘c’ was more important than the big one. The same applied to the journal itself.
For various reasons to do with changes in the Conservative History Group, editing of the printed journal has now been taken over by the new Director of the group and I have decided to concentrate on the blog. A friendly geek turned it into more of an online magazine (though a few tweaks are still needed) that will incorporate the old blog, written by Tory Historian and other articles, short and long, written by me and, I hope, other contributors.
One of the first blog postings in the new format will be of special interest to CBz readers: an brief account of a very useful new pamphlet, published by the Adam Smith Institute, a condensed version of The Wealth of Nations. I shall be reviewing it for my blog and, I hope, the Salisbury Review but, in the meantime, this gives and indication of its quality and all the necessary links.
That expression became something of a family joke, as I came around, by easy steps, from being a teller of tall tales, an intermittent scribbler, an unrepentant essayist, a fairly dedicated blogger … to being – as my daughter put it – a real arthur. Yes, a “real arthur” in that I have a number of books, ranging free in the wilderness of the book-reading public. Not that I am in any danger of buying the castle next-door to J.K. Rowlings’, and my royalty checks and payments for consignments and direct sales dribble in but slowly. Slowly, but steadily, which is gratifying. Readers are buying my books, as they find out about them in various ways; through internet searches, through word of mouth, and the odd book club meeting, casual conversation and interviews on blogs and internet radio stations. It has been my peculiar good fortune to have come about to being “a real arthur” just when the established order of things literary was being shaken to the foundations, so I did not waste very much time fighting it and trying to smuggle my books past the toothless old dragons of the literary-industrial complex, defending the crumbling castle of Things That Once Were. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Charles Cameron on 30th August 2011 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- war, reading lists ]
Not exactly delighted by the reading list recently provided by the inbound Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Carl Prine at Line of Departure will be offering a “weekly discussion about how one might know one’s self” – Sun Tzu suggests that such knowledge is of value to the professional soldier — via texts other than the “middlebrow books of a recent vintage, pulp paperbacks” of the Army’s recommended readings.
Today he opened with an essay on the First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon, and quoted the final paragraph from Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man:
And here I was, with my knobkerrie in my hand, staring across at the enemy I’d never seen. Somewhere out of sight beyond the splintered tree-tops of Hidden Wood a bird had begun to sing. Without knowing why, I remembered that it was Easter Sunday. Standing in that dismal ditch, I could find no consolation in the thought that Christ was risen. I sploshed back to the dug-out to call the others up for “stand-to.”
I could only respond with a passage that I first encountered, likewise, on a blog – Pat Lang‘s Sic Semper Tyrannis – from Sassoon’s friend and fellow poet of the Great War, Wilfred Owen:
For 14 hours yesterday, I was at work-teaching Christ to lift his cross by the numbers, and how to adjust his crown; and not to imagine he thirst until after the last halt. I attended his Supper to see that there were no complaints; and inspected his feet that they should be worthy of the nails. I see to it that he is dumb, and stands mute before his accusers. With a piece of silver I buy him every day, and with maps I make him familiar with the topography of Golgotha.
And I think to myself how much more power there is in either one of those paragraphs, than in that quip about “no atheists in foxholes”.
* * *
It’s not a matter of one of those “God or no God” debates in which some clergyman might triumph over some atheist, or vice versa, on TV or at the town or village hall. It’s a matter of cultural riches, of having a reference base of image and story that’s strong enough to express the horrors of Passchendaele or the Marne in a way that speaks to the hearts of those who were not there — and of those who will find themselves there, all too really, in other times and other lands.
It’s about narrative deep enough to go with you to Golgotha and back. It’s about the words, and about the furnace.
Prine himself puts it like this:
I care only of your soul and how it might be fired in the smithy of this blog and then hammered by your experiences in the coming years.
Our culture is the smithy.
I left the following comment at zenpundit :
“I don’t touch ink or paper
This hand never grasped a pen
The greatness of four ages
Kabir tells with his mouth alone”
Tom Tom Club (Wordy Rappinghood) says,
“Words in paper, words in books
Words on TV, words for crooks
Words of comfort, words of peace
Words to make the fighting cease”
And Asia Times writes,
The channel broadcasts in Pashto language from 12 pm to 3 pm in the afternoon and 6 pm to 8 pm in the evening. The programs include jihadi taranay (jihadi motivational songs….
And drones the size of bees, some day
And mobiles crossing the Kush; they play
Tribal songs for jihadi alms, a call-to-arms
On 11/11 our cell phones say:
And Americans can talk endlessly about the importance of democracy, but they never thought to explain to the chiefs why they came back to Afghanistan. They arrived with suitcases full of cash to buy help – but they never told the chiefs that they were there because the way al Qaeda attacked the US on 9/11 meant that many Americans couldn’t find so much as a fingernail of their massacred relatives to bury because the bodies were ground to dust.
Not to be able to bury one’s dead or even a piece of one’s dead — knowing THAT would have meant a great deal to the chiefs and those in their tribes. But the Americans never explained, never even cried, never showed emotion. THEY NEVER ACTED HUMAN; they never interacted with the Afghans in ways that are the same for all — not only all humans but all mammalian creatures. In other words, they displayed not a whit of common sense.
What do you talk about when you first sit down with a man whose life has been circumscribed by war and who knows nothing about you and your tribe? The answer is you tell me of your battles, I’ll tell you of mine and in this way we establish a commonality of experience.
You transform the rug or patch of sand you’re sitting on into the terrain of the battle, and you use sticks and stones or teacups as place markers for the troops to show how the battle was fought. In this way, you demonstrate that the battle is truly in your heart, that it means enough to you that you can bring it alive for another.
If you don’t show what’s in your heart, then you haven’t established a basis for developing a mutual understanding, so then there is no way to move off the dime. Only when you’ve demonstrated by your stories of war that your tribe also shed much blood for independence, can you move on to explaining stuff about government. You can explain that you were losing too many of your sons in battle so you devised a type of government that would help defend your freedoms and with less bloodshed. And so on.
– Pundita, “Americans, who are you?
Contra Pundita, I bet this has been done sporadically between some who are working together as NATO attempts to build an Afghan Army – one able to protect its borders and serve as an irritant to transnational groups in the region. Many stories have yet to be told….
Posted in Afghanistan 2050, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Americas, Anglosphere, Blogging, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, Poetry, USA | 6 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 24th August 2011 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Elections get me obsessive.
The Internet — with its perpetual incoming tide of news and commentary — is my crack pipe.
But there are way too many important things going on in my world to waste a lot of energy and focus and time on an election I can do nothing to influence.
So, yeah, my plan is to read, and be aware, but don’t be obsessive.
Let’s see how I do.
It will be hard.
Posted by Lexington Green on 20th August 2011 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Mead has been on a roll lately. If you have not been reading his blog, start doing so.
Like anything long lasting, blogs have their ups and downs, their great streaks and their doldrums.
Right now Mead has the best blog going. He had a great series of longer pieces, then he recently started adding shorter, more “traditional” blog posts mixed in with the long ones.
Mead has all his well-established smarts and knowledge. But recently he seems to be possessed by the zeal of a convert. He has the sharp edge of someone who is sick of the lies and won’t tolerate them anymore. He will probably go to his grave claiming to be a liberal and a Democrat. But he has seen through it all, and he is brutal, as well as funny.
UPDATE: Wow. Cool. I just noticed I am on his blogroll. I swear, there is no corrupt bargain here.
UPDATE II: In case you have not read it in a while, please recall that Mr. Mead is the one who came up with the idea of Jacksonian America, which he first described in this article. This essay bears re-reading. It is a chapter in his excellent book Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World. Another book by him which is very good is God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World, which is a big step toward the comprehensive history of the Anglosphere that Jim Bennett is going to write one of these days. Also, Mr. Mead’s capsule book reviews in Foreign Affairs are always good, and I have bought several books based on his recommendations and have not been let down.
Posted by Lexington Green on 30th May 2011 (All posts by Lexington Green)
I have so much I should be doing I keep clamping down so I don’t have a panic attack.
But, its Memorial Day and I am taking it easy. I have been going to read Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities for a long, long time. And I finally bought the highly praisedrecent translation last year. As a devotee of all things literary pertaining to the final years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (e.g. the three masterpieces: The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth, and The Snows of Yesteryear by Gregor von Rezzori and the World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig), Musil is long overdue.
So, I managed to evade the rest of the family and get a few minutes on the front porch with Musil and a stiff glass of lime, ice, tonic water and Tanqueray gin — which was in the back of the cabinet and forgotten until a few days ago.
Chicken and grilled veggies up next.
God bless America.
It is this single-minded pursuit of the irrelevant by the self-important that constitutes the greatest catastrophe of our time.
Of course, this week, the phrase “It’s not going to happen” clarified.
Jethro Gibbs’ laconic “Yah think.” (Foreign policy, domestic policy, life) works, too.
But the obvious may need saying – before it’s swamped by the irrelevant.
Posted by Charles Cameron on 21st May 2011 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted at Zenpundit -- apocalyptic movements, best readings, budget shortfalls, lack of support for scholarship in crucial natsec areas -- and with a h/t to Dan from Madison for the video that triggered this post ]
What with rapture parties breaking out all over, billboards in Dubai proclaiming The End and thousands of Hmong tribespeople in Vietnam among the believers, this whole sorry business of Harold Camping‘s latest end times prediction is catching plenty of attention. I thought it might be helpful to recommend some of the more interesting and knowledgeable commentary on Camping’s failed prophecy.
First, three friends and colleagues of mine from the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, about which I will have a further paragraph later:
Richard Landes of BU has a text interview here, and a TV interview here. His forthcoming book, Heaven on Earth, is a monumental [554 pp.] treatment of millenarian movements ranging “from ancient Egypt to modern-day UFO cults and global Jihad” with a focus on “ten widely different case studies, none of which come from Judaism or Christianity” — and “shows that many events typically regarded as secular–including the French Revolution, Marxism, Bolshevism, Nazism-not only contain key millennialist elements, but follow the apocalyptic curve of enthusiastic launch, disappointment and (often catastrophic) re-entry into ‘normal time’”.
Stephen O’Leary of USC wrote up the Harold Camping prediction a couple of days ago on the WSJ “Speakeasy” blog. He’s the rhetorician and communications scholar who co-wrote the first article on religion on the internet, and his specialty as it applies to apocalyptic thinking is doubly relevant: the timing of the end — and the timing of the announcement of the end. His book, Arguing the Apocalypse, is the classic treatment.
Damian Thompson of the Daily Telegraph is a wicked and witty blogger on all things Catholic and much else beside — the normally staid Church Times (UK) once called him a “blood-crazed ferret” and he wears the quote with pride on his blog, where you can also find his comments on Camping. Damian’s book, Waiting for Antichrist, is a masterful treatment of one “expecting” church in London, and has a lot to tell us about the distance between the orthodoxies of its clergy and the various levels of enthusiasm and eclectic beliefs of their congregants.
Three experts, three highly recommended books.
Two quick notes for those whose motto is “follow the money” (I prefer “cherchez la femme” myself, but chacun a son gout):
The LA Times has a piece that examines the “worldwide $100-million campaign of caravans and billboards, financed by the sale and swap of TV and radio stations” behind Camping’s more recent prediction (the 1994 version was less widely known).
Well worth reading.
And for those who suspect the man of living “high on the hog” — this quote from the same piece might cause you to rethink the possibility that the man’s sincere (one can be misguided with one’s integrity intact, I’d suggest):
Though his organization has large financial holdings, he drives a 1993 Camry and lives in a modest house.
Now back to the Center for Millennial Studies.
While it existed, it was quite simply the world center of apocalyptic, messianic and millenarian studies. CMS conferences brought together a wide range of scholars of different eras and areas, who could together begin to fathom the commonalities and differences — anthropological, theological, psychological, political, local, global, historical, and contemporary — of movements such as the Essenes, the Falun Gong, the Quakers, Nazism, the Muenster Anabaptists, al-Qaida, the Taiping Rebellion, Branch Davidians, the Y2K scare, classic Marxism, Aum Shinrikyo and Heaven’s Gate.
And then the year 2000 came and went, and those who hadn’t followed the work of the CMS and its associates thought it’s all over, no more millennial expectation, we’ve entered the new millennium with barely a hiccup.
Well, guess what. It was at the CMS that David Cook presented early insights from his definitive work on contemporary millennial movements in Islam — and now we have millennial stirrings both on the Shia side (President Ahmadinejad et al) and among the Sunni (AQ theorist Abu Mus’ab Al-Suri devotes the last hundred pages of his treatise on jihad to “signs of the end times”)…
Apocalyptic expectation continues. But Richard Landes’ and Stephen O’Leary’s fine project, the CMS, is no longer with us to bring scholars together to discuss what remains one of the key topics of our times. When Richard’s book comes out, buy it and read it — and see if you don’t see what I mean.
And while it may not see Judgment Day or the beginning of the end of the world as predicted, what this week has seen is the end of funding of Fulbright scholarships for doctoral dissertation research abroad. But then as Abu Muqawama points out:
hey, it’s probably safe to cut funding for these languages. It’s hard to see Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or anywhere in the Arabic-speaking world causing issues in terms of U.S. national security interests anytime soon.
So the CMS isn’t the only significant scholarly venue we’ve lost to terminal lack of vision.
Posted in Academia, Blogging, Book Notes, Christianity, Education, History, International Affairs, Iran, Islam, National Security, Predictions, Religion, Rhetoric, That's NOT Funny, Vietnam | Comments Off
Browsing a bookstore on a rainy and strangely November-like day for April, I came across a display of novellas from Melville House Publishing. Slim, neat volumes with the book titles printed on each stark white cover page in primary colors and black. Irresistible to the book lover who is busy at work, a bit tired of blogging and blog commenting (and yet, I’ve left over ten comments here and elsewhere over the course of the entire weekend. Physician, heal thyself!), and who misses reading fiction.
And so, the novella. After the fantastic comments about postmodernism left at my last blog post, “A Lazy Sunday’s Blogging,” the following blurb seemed especially intriguing:
Part murder mystery and all jet-black satire, and based on a real life scandal, this edgy novella tells the story of Leopold Sfax, world-renowned as the creator of “The Theory” – a bizarre literary theory that grew from an intellectual folly to a dominant school of criticism that enslaved college campuses across the country.
To make the satire even blacker, Leopold Sfax, the world-renowned theorist, is hiding his past as a Nazi collaborator. No wonder he is a proponent of words and text divorced from the author….
….and all of this is in Gilbert Adair’s novella The Death of the Author. It is a very good book and I don’t agree with the tepid mini-review at Amazon by Publishers Weekly. Why are the Publishers Weekly mini-reviews at Amazon so generally off-base? To whomever at PW wrote “a narrative weighted down by the narrator’s unceasingly haughty academic rhetoric,” all I have to say is this: the book and its language is a satire of academics, academia, and postmodern language. That’s the reason for the haughty academic rhetoric. It’s part of the fun:
I proposed that, again in every text, there would fatally arrive what I called an aporia, a terminal impasse, a blank brick wall of impenetrability, an ultimatum of indetermination when its self-contradictory meanings could no longer be permitted to coexist in harmony and its fundamental “undecidability” would undermine for ever the reader’s most fundamental presuppositions.
It was, as it happens, at that last proposition that the long-suffering scoffers at the Theory were determined to draw the line - rather, it was by the window of opportunity offered by its theoretical incontinence and by the enormity of its affront to sheer common sense that they sought to infiltrate and invade the rest of the fortress. What? they squealed from Berkeley to Brown, and from Wesleyan to Columbia, is nothing to mean anything anymore? Hamlet, Faust, Moby-Dick, The Divine Comedy – that these possess not one meaning, fair enough, but are they then to possess so very many that it becomes meaningless for the reader to explore any of them? To which the screw-turners, nostrils twitching at the whiff of sulphur, would add: And Auschwitz? Dresden? Hiroshima? My Lai? All of them meaningless, indecipherable texts, saying the opposite of what we had always imagined they said? Wars as texts – go tell that, they protested, to the Marines, go tell that to the maimed, gassed, blinded, disfigured victims of civil texts and guerilla texts and one day, doubtless, the great nuclear text.
From a comment that I left here:
Human behavior has too many complex variables to be plotted out neatly in graphs and charts and equations, and besides, humans beings lie. To themselves and to each other.
So the data points you may enter into any equation will always be colored by human fallibility.
What we want is to predict human behavior. We may be able to predict certain behaviors in very narrow circumstances but even that is fraught with difficulty. Why do people tend to buy a certain type of toothpaste or why do IEDs tend to be placed at certain times of day, etc? But even if we plot a graph and it fits a set of variables, we still don’t really know how or why we got the graph and whether it is related or a statistical fluke. For example, we may predict what toothpaste a category of persons likes to buy, but it’s a lot harder to predict why person A bought toothpaste B in country C at noon on a Sunday. Even if person A buys toothpaste in the same way every single time we have studied that person, maybe one day an old friend calls up out of the blue and says, “meet me for coffee.” No shopping that day.
Did your linear progression have the variable for a friend calling up out of the blue in it? Adam Smith’s “the invisible hand” and all of that.
Take for instance, historical examples of good and bad campaigns: sometimes two leaders within an organization just didn’t get along and that affected decision making. How does an equation explain such a human intangible?
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and predict behavior, it just means that we must understand the limitations of the tools that we use and be willing to reexamine the tools as experience dictates.
*I posted this previously, but in the late 90s the Sokol hoax was a push back from the scientific community (in this case, a physicist) against the use of post-modern literary theory to understand science.
There were several criticisms:
1. The post modern theorists didn’t really understand the scientific terms that they were using and were simply decorating their prose with scientific terminology in order to sound more impressive.
2. An analogy is simply an analogy. When you say something in human behavior is like fluid dynamics, it doesn’t mean that the equations for fluid dynamics can be used on human behavior. An analogy is not the same thing as, well, the same thing.
I believe the misuse of scientific analogies is discussed in the following:
By the way, all of this is not against using narratives or constructs to understand the world but against the misuse of science. That was the real center of the discussion.
Tell me what I’ve got wrong in the comments. Tell me a little something about human fallibility….
Posted by Charles Cameron on 28th March 2011 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
Okay, I’d say things are heating up. Here’s a screen grab from what we are led to believe is a recent video from Iran, made with government backing as described below the fold.
This does not bode well…
The Christian thriller novelist Joel Rosenberg (author of The Twelfth Imam) has a new blog post up, in which he cites a Christian Broadcasting Network story — which in turn refers to a video posted with some introductory materials on his blog by Reza Kahlili (author of A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran).
According to Kahlili, who has also posted the full video to YouTube, it is a half-hour long program sponsored by the Basij militia and the Office of the President of Iran, affirming the soon-return of the Mahdi.
And containing “inflammatory language” about King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (see subtitle above)? Can I say that?
For what it’s worth, the supposed “hadith” about the death of King Abdullah is discussed in some detail at The Wake-Up Project, so it’s definitely “in the air” — but I don’t recall seeing any references to it in Abbas Amanat, Abdulazziz Sachedina, or any of the lists of Signs of the Coming I’ve read, so my suspicion is that this is an opportunistic addition to the corpus rather than a reliable hadith.
Which brings me to my last point:
I am not posting these materials to encourage panic — that’s what terrorism strives for, and it is the very opposite of what I would wish to see. If anything, these stirrings of Mahdist sentiment should make us more careful and attentive to the serious scholarly work that has been done in this area. Jean-Pierre Filiu‘s book Apocalypse in Islam, which I reviewed for Jihadology, would be an excellent place to start.
There are plenty of other things going on that I would love to track, blog about or comment on these days, but for the next while I shall try to restrain myself and focus in on this particular issue and its ramifications:
- Contemporary Shi’ite Mahdist expectation
- The Iranian nuclear program in the light of Mahdist expectation
- Iranian attempts to use Mahdism to unite Sunni and Shi’a
- Mahdism and jihad
- The role of Khorasan in Mahdist rhetoric
- Christian apocalyptic responses to Mahdist stirrings
- Joel Rosenberg‘s book, The Twelfth Imam
- Joel Richardson‘s book, The Islamic Antichrist
- Glenn Beck‘s increasing focus on Iranian Mahdism
- The increasing influence of Islamic and Christian apocalyptic on geopolitics
This is a pretty complex and potent mix of topics, and while I’ll post some individual pieces of the puzzle as I see it, I shall also try to put together a “bigger picture” piece with the whole mosaic laid out.
Apart from that, I remain deeply committed to questions of chivalry and peace-making, and will continue to monitor developments and write what I can on those topics as time allows…
Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Anti-Americanism, Blogging, Christianity, International Affairs, Iran, Islam, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Predictions, Religion, Rhetoric | 5 Comments »
Posted by Charles Cameron on 20th March 2011 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ by Charles Cameron -- cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
My son, Emlyn, turns sixteen today.
He’s not terribly fond of computers to be honest — but he does follow xkcd with appreciation, as do I from time to time: indeed, I am led to believe I receive some credit for that fact.
So… this is a birthday greeting to Emlyn, among other things. And a round of applause for Randall Munroe, creator of xkcd. And a post comparing more reliable and less reliable statistics, because that’s a singularly important issue — the more reliable ones in this/ case coming from a single individual with an expert friend, the less reliable ones coming from a huge corporation celebrated for its intelligence and creativity… and with a hat-tip to Cheryl Rofer of the Phronesisaical blog.
Today, xkcd surpassed itself / his Randallself / ourselves, with a graphic showing different levels of radiation exposure from sleeping next to someone (0.05 muSv, represented by one tiny blue square top left) or eating a banana (twice as dangerous, but only a tenth as nice) up through the levels (all the blue squares combined equal three of the tiny green ones, all the green squares combined equal 7.5 of the little brown ones, and the largest patch of brown (8Sv) is the level where immediate treatment doesn’t stand a chance of saving your life)…
The unit is Sieverts, Sv: 1000 muSv = 1 mSv, 1000 mSv= 1 Sv, sleeping next to someone is an acceptable risk at 0.05 muSv, a mammogram (3 mSv) delivers a little over 50,000 times that level of risk and saves countless lives, 250 mSv is the dose limit for emergency workers in life-saving ops — oh, and cell phone use is risk-free, zero muSv, radiation-wise, although dangerous when driving. [I apologize for needing to write "mu" when I intend the Greek letter by that name, btw -- software glitch with the ZP version of WordPress.]
The xkcd diagram comes with this disclaimer:
There’s a lot of discussion of radiation from the Fukushima plants, along with comparisons to Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Radiation levels are often described as “ times the normal level” or “% over the legal limit,” which can be pretty confusing.
Ellen, a friend of mine who’s a student at Reed and Senior Reactor Operator at the Reed Research Reactor, has been spending the last few days answering questions about radiation dosage virtually nonstop (I’ve actually seen her interrupt them with “brb, reactor”). She suggested a chart might help put different amounts of radiation into perspective, and so with her help, I put one together. She also made one of her own; it has fewer colors, but contains more information about what radiation exposure consists of and how it affects the body.
I’m not an expert in radiation and I’m sure I’ve got a lot of mistakes in here, but there’s so much wild misinformation out there that I figured a broad comparison of different types of dosages might be good anyway. I don’t include too much about the Fukushima reactor because the situation seems to be changing by the hour, but I hope the chart provides some helpful context.
Blog-friend Cheryl Rofer, whose work has included remediation of uranium tailings at the Sillamäe site in Estonia (she co-edited the book on it, Turning a Problem Into a Resource: Remediation and Waste Management at the Sillamäe Site, Estonia) links to xkcd’s effort at the top of her post The Latest on Fukushima and Some Great Web Resources and tells us it “seems both accurate and capable of giving some sense of the relative exposures that are relevant to understanding the issues at Fukushima” — contrast her comments on a recent New York Times graphic:
In other radiation news, the New York Times may have maxed out on the potential for causing radiation hysteria. They’ve got a graphic that shows everybody dead within a mile from the Fukushima plant. As I noted yesterday, you need dose rate and time to calculate an exposure. The Times didn’t bother with that second little detail.
In any case, many thanks, Cheryl — WTF, NYT? — and WTG, xkcd!
Once again, xkcd nails it.
I’ve run into this problem myself, trying to use Google to gauge the relative frequencies of words or phrases that interest me — things like moshiach + soon vs “second coming” + soon vs mahdi + soon, you know the kinds of things that I’m curious about, I forget the specific examples where it finally dawned on me how utterly useless Google’s “About XYZ,000 results (0.21 seconds)” rankings really are — but the word needs to get out.
Paging Edward Tufte.
Happy Birthday, Emlyn!