July 26, 2010

Verily, it is to LOL, forsooth!

Filed under: History, Humour — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 18:30

Period Speech

The unwillingness to disbelieve

Filed under: China, Economics, India, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 15:03

Mike Elgan debunks the latest “mind-crogglingly cheap computer for the masses” announcement:

“India unveils $35 computer for students,” says CNN.com. “India unveils prototype for $35 touch-screen computer,” reports BBC News. “India to provide $35 computing device to students,” says BusinessWeek.

Wow! That’s great! Too bad it will never exist. That this announcement is reported straight and without even a hint of skepticism is incomprehensible to me.

[. . .]

India itself doesn’t build touch screens. They would have to be imported from China or Taiwan. The current price for this component alone exceeds $35. Like touch screens, most solar panels are also built in China. But even the cheapest ones powerful enough to charge a tablet battery are more expensive to manufacture than $35.

Plus you need to pay for the 2GB of RAM, the case and the rest of the computer electronics. Even if you factor in Moore’s Law and assume the absolute cheapest rock-bottom junk components, a solar touch tablet with 2GB of RAM cannot be built anytime soon for less than $100.

More to the point, no country in the world can build a cheaper computer than China can. The entire tech sector in China is optimized for ultra-low-cost manufacturing. All the engineering brilliance in India can’t change that.

There’s also the point that government bureaucracies and university engineering departments are not designed for or experienced in the mass production techniques that any of these “ultra-cheap but powerful” computing initiatives all require. Have you ever heard of a government that could keep their hands (and political priorities) out of the critical decision of where this wonder device would be assembled, tested, packed, and distributed? The “industrial policy” wonks would need to get intensely involved in such a decision and the location would have to meet diverse electoral and financial requirements (note that the economics of the project won’t even make the top five priorities in the process).

Awarding the contract to just one area would be unthinkable: the benefits must be seen to be helping areas that elected the current government and emphatically not going to opposition ridings. The horsetrading over that alone would consume any possible price advantage such a scheme might have over ordinary computers and software bought commercially.

McGuinty’s governing style on display again

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:05

New rules on young drivers to come into effect very soon:

Starting on Aug. 1, this coming Sunday, drivers under the age of 22 in Ontario must have a blood alcohol reading of zero, regardless of what level of licence they possess or how many years of driving experience they have. This is a major change to Ontario’s system of licensing drivers. Twenty-one-year-old drivers, who may be fully licenced and mature and experienced, will be breaking the law if they have a beer a few hours before driving to the grocery store.

And our friendly Ontario government has announced this change in the dead of summer, on a Monday before a long weekend, and given the people of Ontario exactly six days to find out they might be about to break the law. Surprise, kids! You’re a drunk driver now!

[. . .]

How many times does the McGuinty government plan on making mistakes like this this summer? First there were the maddening rule changes surrounding the G20 fence, which weren’t announced and apparently didn’t even exist at all. Then there was the eco-fee debacle, where Ontarians were hit with a tax they weren’t told was coming into effect, with predictable public outcry. But those things may pale in comparison to the completely justified outrage if this government starts suspending licences this weekend. If there is reason to think that this measure will save lives, then I’m all for it, but for heaven’s sake, you have to give people more than six days’ notice.

(Calls placed to the Ministry, and to the office of the Minister herself, were met with total confusion this morning. When asked how the rule change was enacted — through legislation that had been quietly passed, through an order-in-council or through a simple administrative amendment — a Ministry spokesperson claimed not to understand the question.)

Every time the Ontario government does something like this you have to assume either they’re afraid to take any advance heat for new laws and regulations or that they want to ambush as many unsuspecting breakers-of-new-unpublicized-rules as they possibly can. Either way, it’s no way to run a government and retain the support of the governed.

Pat Condell gets sunny and positive

Filed under: Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:03

The American class system

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Education, Government, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 09:01

Unlike the British class system, which notoriously has three classes, the American system has only two:

. . . the United States today is divided into (a) a ruling class, which dominates the government at every level, the schools and universities, the mainstream media, Hollywood, and a great deal else, and (b) all of the rest of us, a heterogeneous agglomeration that Codevilla dubs the country class. The ruling class holds the lion’s share of the institutional power, but the country class encompasses perhaps two-thirds of the people.

Members of the two classes do not like one another. In particular, the ruling class views the rest of the population as composed of ignoramuses who are vicious, violent, racist, religious, irrational, unscientific, backward, generally ill-behaved, and incapable of living well without constant, detailed direction by our betters; and it views itself as perfectly qualified and entitled to pound us into better shape by the generous application of laws, taxes, subsidies, regulations, and unceasing declarations of its dedication to bringing the country — and indeed the entire world — out of its present darkness and into the light of the Brave New World it is busily engineering.

This class divide has little to do with rich versus poor or Democrat versus Republican. At its core, it has to do with the division between, on the one hand, those whose attitudes are attuned to the views endorsed by the ruling class (especially “political correctness”) and whose fortunes are linked directly or indirectly with government programs and, on the other hand, those whose outlooks and interests derive from and focus on private affairs, especially the traditional family, religion, and genuine private enterprise. Above all, as Codevilla makes plain, “for our ruling class, identity always trumps.” These people know they are superior in every way, and they are not shy about letting us know that they are. Arrogance might as well be their middle name.

You’d have to say that they’re still following his guidelines

Filed under: Africa, Books, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:10

In an issue of Granta several years back, Binyavanga Wainaina provided some highly detailed guidelines for western writers to use in their work about Africa. Based on the results, you’d have to say that his guidance has been taken to heart by most novelists, journalists, and television personalities:

Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.

Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; monkey-brain is an African’s cuisine of choice, along with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat. Make sure you show that you are able to eat such food without flinching, and describe how you learn to enjoy it — because you care.

H/T to Gerard Vanderleun for the link.

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