Quotulatiousness

February 20, 2018

QotD: Kindness

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

Be kind. Mean is easy; kind is hard. Somewhere in eighth grade, many of us acquired the idea that the nasty putdown, the superior smile, the clever one liner, are the signs of intelligence and great personal strength. But this kind of wit is, to borrow from the great John Scalzi, “playing the game on easy mode.” Making yourself feel bigger by making someone else feel small takes so little skill that 12-year-olds can do it. Those with greater ambitions should leave casual cruelty behind them.

Megan McArdle, “After 45 Birthdays, Here Are ’12 Rules for Life'”, Bloomberg View, 2018-01-30.

January 23, 2018

The unintended consequences of Ontario’s steep minimum wage hike

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Economics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh on the unpredictable outcomes of Ontario’s recent minimum wage increase:

In Thursday’s edition of this paper, Marni Soupcoff wrote an entertaining column about how Ontario’s fairly aggressive minimum wage increase had suddenly raised the costs of labour-intensive goods and services for consumers — the ones, that is, who don’t benefit themselves from a minimum wage increase. Child care, which is a very pure purchase of labour, is the example that is being exasperatedly discussed this week. The headline did not have “duh” in it, but that was the spirit of the thing.

Soupcoff pointed out that this not only could have been foreseen; an explicit warning of it was given in the pages of the Toronto Star, by the paper’s social justice reporter Laurie Monsebraaten. Our Financial Post section could perhaps easily be called the Social Injustice Gazette, but anyone at FP who got such an early jump on an economics story would be rightly pleased with himself.

Soupcoff’s major point was that the broad-sense law of supply and demand is not some plutocratic swindle devised by the Monopoly Man and his fatcat pals; even believers in “social justice” have to take it into account, as they take gravity into account when they are moving an old couch to a charity shop or sending cosmonauts into orbit. This is obviously right as far as it goes, but the words “supply and demand” are not enough, on their own, to predict the precise market response to a change in a price control — which is what the minimum wage is.

That, perhaps, is the true key point amidst all the various ideological struggles currently in progress over minimum wage levels, which are being yoinked upward in Alberta as well as in Ontario. A minimum wage is a price control. The minimum wage is not really so much a labour standard as it is the abolition of labour bargains that feature a nominal wage below the minimum. And price controls are a blunt instrument. Most economists, whatever their political orientation, instinctively resist them.

The incidence of a price control — the precise place upon which the economic burden of it falls — is not, in fact, foreseeable without other information. In the market for hired child care, for example, it could turn out, with time, that the real effect of increasing a minimum wage is that some parents drop out of the labour market and tend to their own children. It’s just not what one would actually predict, because the need for professional child care is something that a family tends to plan for well in advance, with a longer time horizon than any government’s. (Also, we haven’t invented dependable babysitting robots yet.)

Women, in particular, organize lives and careers around whether they expect their own labour force participation to be able to cover care expenses. Indeed, couples adjust family size for these expectations. We can even imagine circumstances in which a province’s extreme, credible commitment to a very high future minimum wage influenced birth rates.

January 17, 2018

QotD: The true purpose of public education

Filed under: Education, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The most erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and so make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else

H.L Mencken, The American Mercury, 1924-02.

December 24, 2017

The Dangerous Toys of Christmas: Debunked!

Filed under: Media, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

ReasonTV
Published on 22 Dec 2017

Author Lenore Skenazy says today’s holiday toys are so risk averse that there’s almost nothing left to warn about. But still, the warnings come every year from consumer groups.

——–

Are you sick of being warned about anything and everything when it comes to the holiday season?

Me too. That’s why I’m ready to throw an icicle at a group called World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH). Every year since 1973, they’ve published a paranoid list of the “10 Worst Toys” at Christmastime.

These warnings may have been necessary back in 1973 when companies were still selling toy ovens that could smelt ore and chemistry sets that could actually blow things up.

In fact, the toy world was littered with bad ideas — from the Cabbage Patch Kid dolls with mechanical jaws that chewed everything — including chunks of hair from kids’ heads — to lawn darts — sharp metal things you’d toss at your friends’ toes that caused over six thousand injuries.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission eventually banned those items — and it’s hard to disagree with them — but today’s toys are so risk averse, so super safe, that there’s almost nothing left to warn about. But still the warnings fall like cookie crumbs onto Santa’s beard.

It is this zero tolerance for “risk” that WATCH and other consumer groups exploit every Christmas. Among its top 10 dangers this year are the popular fidget spinners.

Also on this year’s list is the Wonder Woman Battle Action Sword, which, the WATCH team says, encourages young children “to bear arms” — as if you get a Wonder Woman toy and immediately deploy to Yemen. They also say that the “rigid plastic sword blade has the potential to cause facial or other impact injuries.” Yeah … and so does a fork. In fact, so does a candy cane, if you suck it to a sharp point.

Even an innocent looking Disney-themed plush toy did not escape WATCH’s nannying notice. The group warns that the toy could be dangerous due to “fabric hats and bows that can detach, posing a choking hazard.”

That’s a lot of coulds, especially considering the Consumer Product Safety Commission notes on its website that it has had ZERO reports of injuries.

The Toy Association, which is an industry trade group, says WATCH’s dangerous toys list is “full of false claims that needlessly frighten parents and caregivers.”

It’s obvious that toys that explode and toys that are just plain dumb — a boomerang made out of razor blades — are bad. But if they only worked a little harder, I’ll bet WATCH could stop kids from playing with toys. Any toys. Ever.

You want a really great gift for the kids? How about they wake up Christmas morning, unwrap the giant package under the tree to find their very own product liability lawyer? Wind him up and watch him sue all the other toys. Hours of fun!

And when the kids get bored, they lock him in the toy chest, and go play with a great toy. A stick.

Written by Lenore Skenazy. Produced by Alexis Garcia and Paul Detrick. Camera by Jim Epstein, Alex Manning, and Paul Detrick.

Repost – Hey Kids! Did you get your paperwork in on time?

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

If you hurry, you can just get your Santa’s Visit Application in before the deadline tonight!

December 17, 2017

Thomas Train Stunts

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

5MadMovieMakers
Published on 4 Dec 2017

Thomas the Tank Engine goes pro skater and pulls off some sick jumps with his train friends. Filmed with an iPhone SE at 120 frames per second.

December 14, 2017

The Last Closet: the Dark Side of Avalon

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Just saw this on Facebook:

Marion Zimmer Bradley was a bestselling science fiction author, a feminist icon, and was awarded the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement. She was best known for the Arthurian fiction novel The Mists of Avalon and for her very popular Darkover series.

She was also a monster.

The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon is a brutal tale of a harrowing childhood. It is the true story of predatory adults preying on the innocence of children without shame, guilt, or remorse. It is an eyewitness account of how high-minded utopian intellectuals, unchecked by law, tradition, religion, or morality, can create a literal Hell on Earth.

The Last Closet is also an inspiring story of survival. It is a powerful testimony to courage, to hope, and to faith. It is the story of Moira Greyland, the only daughter of Marion Zimmer Bradley and convicted child molester Walter Breen, told in her own words.

While I was never a fan of MZB, I was still shocked to hear about her private life. I haven’t read the book, but I have no reason to believe it’s not completely true.

November 16, 2017

15 British Sweets Everyone Should Try – Anglophenia Ep 22

Filed under: Britain — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Anglophenia
Published on 7 Jan 2015

From Cadbury Flake to jelly babies, Siobhan Thompson shows us the British candies we should all try at least once.

October 25, 2017

The new “movie plot threat” – The Revenge of the Return of the Bride of the Sex Trafficking Mafia

Filed under: Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The rising moral panic over sex traffic gets a well-deserved takedown by Lenore Skenazy:

We are in the midst of a massive mommy moral panic. Across the country, mothers are writing breathless accounts on Facebook of how sex traffickers nearly snatched their children at Target/Ikea/the grocery store.

While at Sam’s Club, one such post explains, “a man came up to us and asked if the empty cart nearby was ours.…He was an African American with a shaved head.…It seemed like an innocent encounter.” Innocent, that is, until the mom and kids headed to Walmart and there was the guy again, “feverishly texting on his phone but not taking his eye off my daughter.”

It could only mean one thing, she wrote: “I have absolutely NO doubt that that man is a trafficker looking for young girls to steal and sell.”

And I have absolutely no doubt that she’s wrong. This is what security expert Bruce Schneier has dubbed a “movie plot threat” — a narrative that looks suspiciously like what you’d see at the Cineplex. The more “movie plot” a situation seems, the less likely it is to be real.

But it sells. A Facebook post by Diandra Toyos went wildly viral after she said she and her kids were followed by two men at Ikea. “I had a bad feeling,” she wrote. Fortunately, she “managed to lose them.”

Which, frankly, is what one does at Ikea, even with people one is trying not to lose. Nonetheless, the post ricocheted through the media. CBS told viewers that while experts found the scenario unlikely, “that doesn’t mean Toyos didn’t have reason to be concerned.”

Actually, it does.

October 17, 2017

QotD: The problem with modern education – an alien conspiracy?

Filed under: Education, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

So, what is going on?

Lots of things. Look, I’m a science fiction writer. It’s easy for me to say “There is a conspiracy by aliens, to make sure we never get to the stars. They infiltrated our education establishment and are destroying competence from within.

Except it’s not just education, and I don’t believe in aliens or that ALL of this is done on purpose.

But Sarah, you’ll say, some of it is, like Bill Ayers redesigning education as a means to bring about a biddable proletariat.

Oh, sure, that might have been how the dumbass conceived it. It’s not why it’s applied though. And dumbass? Yep. Bill Ayers, like most progressives is a clever fool who thinks society spins on words and theories, and not on basic “can do”. This is one of the reasons communist societies QUICKLY become hell on Earth. Because you can’t get rid of everyone who is competent without the rest of society collapsing. The ceiling doesn’t stay up when you remove the walls. People who’ve been educated beyond their competence don’t see that though.

Still, most people who APPLY his poisonous ideas aren’t frankly competent enough to know what they’re doing. No. They’re doing it for other reasons.

    Stupidity – the most powerful force on Earth.

    There are any number of people who’ll do whatever without thinking because someone in authority tells them not only that they should, but that “it’s the new way of doing things. All the smart people follow it.” And frankly they’re not competent enough to evaluate the “new way of doing things” so they settle for APPEARING smart.

    Rapid change.

    Even in the village, the teacher often floundered. They’d added pre-history to the curriculum, and she’d never studied it. So… her idea of pre-history was the Flintstones. I came home talking about cars made of stone (I wish I’d had a camera to take picture of dad’s face.) Mom and dad corrected it. NO BIG.

    If my kids are maleducated in the same way say, about computers, I can’t fix it. What’s more, I’m not alone. H*ll I found out the model of the atom I learned was superseded and that the physics I learned was not at all like what the kids learned (they thought I was nuts.) AND when Robert came home and told me “We’re sequencing DNA in lab. When you sequenced DNA–”

    No, it’s not a complete excuse, no matter what they tell you, but it is PART of it. Not in teachers not being able to keep up, but in parents or even grandparents no longer being able to fill in those deficiencies.

    The same applies to just about any type of work, btw, because the methods are so different now that the old codger who walked to the shop and corrected the new hires? He no longer can teach them anything.

    A belief in “natural” things and “natural” learning and that if it’s not fun, it’s not right. This apparently is the flowering of the student revolts in the sixties. It is certainly what is destroying marriage as an institution.

    You see, every marriage goes through rough patches. I probably have one of the happiest marriages in the world, but yeah, there were days, evenings, and sometimes entire months when I’d have traded the whole thing for ten cents and a pack of chewing gum. It’s just I knew it had been good and would be again.

    The same applies to learning. I don’t care how “gifted” you are at math or languages or even writing, you are not gifted enough to intuit the whole thing at our present level. NO MATTER HOW GIFTED YOU ARE, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO RECONSTITUTE AN ENTIRE SCIENCE OR ART WITHOUT LEARNING. And learning means some tedium, some memorizing and the inevitable patch that is difficult, even though everything else came easily.

    When the entire establishment goes over for “should be fun” you’re going to fail.

    Fear.

    People who are mal-educated and conscious of it don’t hire people who know more than they do. Okay, so some do, but not many and those people are exceptional. This is why the whole “The president can be a dumbass if he hires good advisors” always fails, as we have proof daily. People don’t want their subordinates to upstage them. Any of you who EVER corrected a boss knows exactly what I’m talking about.

    So, let’s imagine that this started with the student revolts (it started a little earlier, with the busy parents who came back from WWII not passing things on.)

    Those people hit the market place and hired people my generation who were LESS prepared than they were. They were AFRAID of being exposed. Then my generation hired people less prepared and then…

Sarah Hoyt, “The War On Competence”, According to Hoyt, 2016-03-04.

October 15, 2017

QotD: Developmental psychology

Filed under: Quotations, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Developmental psychology describes how children go from helpless infants to reasonable adults. Although a lot of it has to do with sensorimotor skills like walking and talking, the really interesting stuff is cognitive development. Children start off as very buggy reasoners incapable of all but the most superficial forms of logic but gradually go on to develop new abilities and insights that allow them to navigate adult life.

Maybe the most famous of these is “theory of mind”, the ability to view things from other people’s perspective. In a classic demonstration, researchers show little Amy a Skittles bag and ask what she thinks is inside. She guesses Skittles, but the researchers open it and reveal it’s actually pennies. Then they close it up and invite little Brayden into the room. Then they ask Amy what Brayden thinks is inside. If Amy’s three years old or younger, she’ll usually say “pennies” – she knows that pennies are inside, so why shouldn’t Brayden know too? If she’s four or older, she’ll usually say “Skittles” – she realizes on a gut level that she and Brayden are separate minds and that Brayden will have his own perspective. Sometimes the same mistake can extend to preferences and beliefs. Wikipedia gives the example of a child saying “I like Sesame Street, so Daddy must like Sesame Street too.” This is another theory of mind failure grounded in an inability to separate self and environment.

Here’s another example which tentatively sounds like a self-environment failure. Young children really don’t get foreign languages. I got a little of this teaching English in Japan, and heard more of it from other people. The really young kids treated English like a cipher; everybody started out knowing things’ real (ie Japanese) names, but Americans insisted on converting them into their own special American-person code before talking about them. Kids would ask weird things like whether American parents would make an exception and speak Japanese to their kids who were too young to have learned English yet, or whether it was a zero-tolerance policy sort of thing and the families would just not communicate until the kids went to English school. And I made fun of them, but I also remember the first time I visited Paris I heard somebody talking to their dog, and for a split second I was like “Why would you expect your dog to know French?” before my brain kicked in and I was like “Duuhhhh….”

The infamous “magical thinking” which kids display until age 7 or so also involves confused self-environment boundaries. Maybe little Amy gets mad at Brayden and shouts “I HATE HIM” to her mother. The next day, Brayden falls off a step and skins his knee. Amy intuits a cause-and-effect relationship between her hatred and Brayden’s accident and feels guilty. She doesn’t realize that her hatred is internal to herself and can’t affect the world directly. Or kids displaying animism at this age, and expecting that the TV doesn’t work because it’s angry, or the car’s not starting because it’s tired.

Scott Alexander, “What Developmental Milestones Are You Missing?”, Slate Star Codex, 2015-11-03.

October 14, 2017

Boy Scouts to admit girls as members

Filed under: Humour, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

On Facebook, John Ringo explains why the Boy Scouts of America is opening its membership to girls:

The Boy Scouts will now admit girls.

https://www.history.com/news/boy-scouts-to-admit-girls-to-their-ranks

One of the main (mostly angry) responses (mostly by women) is ‘Why is this necessary?’

They apparently are either blind or haven’t kept up with changes in the Girl Scouts.

Girl Scouts have eliminated almost all training and badges for ‘outdoorsy’ or essentially anything ‘unsafe’ (like, say, rafting.) No training in how to build a fire unless it’s already in a fire pit. (No training on how to build such a pit.) No training in, well, scouting, tracking, etc. They’ve basically cut everything ‘Scout’ about Girl Scouts and they’re now a full-on SJW front coupled with a fundraising group. God forbid you don’t make your cookie quota. ‘You want to hike? Hike your neighborhood and SELL MORE COOKIES!’

So the BSA basically felt so sorry for them they’re letting GRRRLS with COOTIES into the BSA! IKKY COOTIE GIRLS!

Both groups also have had a big fall-off in membership of late. So the Girl Scouts are flaming angry about it all. ‘How dare they steal our precious cookie tram… I mean precious girls?’

I’m guessing there’s going to be a big boost in Boy Scouts, though.

‘Fuck, yeah, dude! Woot! THERE’S GIRLS! Scouting just got AWESOME!’

‘Do they get to keep the skirts? Do they? Please tell me they’re keeping the skirts…’
🙂

(And, yes, I know they’re only in their own troops, work with me here…)

Boy and girl scouts saluting, American flag in background, circa 1960s. (Credit: H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images)

BAHFest East 2017 – Jerry Wang: BLANKIE: Baby LAb for iNfant-Kindled innovatIon and Exploration

Filed under: Humour, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

BAHFest
Published on Sep 24, 2017

Watch Jerry propose an ambitious research program to “make big science with tiny people.” By leveraging the unique morphological and neurological capabilities of babies, he aims to advance the frontiers of science and engineering with giant baby steps.

BAHFest is the Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses, a celebration of well-researched, logically explained, and clearly wrong evolutionary theory. Additional information is available at http://bahfest.com/

September 23, 2017

Roger Scruton – On ‘Harry Potter’

Filed under: Books, Britain, Media, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Conservatism Archive
Published on Sep 4, 2017

September 4, 2017

The mental health crisis on campus

Filed under: Education, Health, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In Spiked, Naomi Firsht shares the concerns of Jonathan Haidt about the rise of mental health issues at US universities:

The heightened vulnerability of college students has had a chilling effect on discussion in the academic world, and Haidt sees this in his day-to-day experience on campus. “There is a rapidly spreading feeling that we are all walking on eggshells, both students and faculty. That we are now accountable, not for what we say, but for how anyone who hears it might take it. And if you have to speak, thinking about the worst reading that anyone could put on your words, that means you cannot be provocative, you cannot take risks, that means you will play it safe when you speak… This is what I’m seeing in my classes when topics related to race or gender come up – which we used to be able to talk about 10 years ago, but now it’s painful and there’s a lot of silence.”

This is disastrous for academic life, as Haidt points out: “A university cannot function if people will not put their ideas forth, will not contest ideas that they think are wrong, will not stand up for ideas that they think are right.”
He is keen to emphasise that this is not a right-left issue. “Several people on the left are noticing that college students are less effective politically as activists, as progressives, when they have this morality and this ethos with such heavy concept creep.”

Haidt believes there is a mental-health crisis on campus: “I have never seen such rapid increase in indicators of anxiety and depression as we have seen in the past few years”, he says. But his suggested approach is unlikely to find favour with student communities fond of Safe Spaces and therapeutic puppy-petting. “If you think about it as a mental-health crisis”, he explains, “then you might be tempted to say: we need more help, more counselling, more protection for those who are suffering from mental illness. But if you look at it that way you will miss the broader pattern, which is that for 20 to 30 years now, Americans have been systematically undermining the development of resilience or toughness of their children.” Referencing the work of Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-range Kids, he concludes: “We have made our children too safe to succeed.”

In his forthcoming book Misguided Minds: How Three Bad Ideas Are Leading Young People, Universities, and Democracies Toward Failure, Haidt claims that certain ideas are impairing students’ chances of success. Those ideas being: your feelings are always right; what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; and the world is divided into good people and bad people. “If we can teach those three ideas to college students”, he says, “we cannot guarantee they will fail, but we will minimise their odds at success”.

So how can we resolve the problem of vulnerability among young Americans? Haidt says part of the solution must begin in childhood and will require parents to give their children daily periods of “unsupervised time”. “We have to accept the fact that in that unsupervised time there will be name-calling, conflict and exclusion. And while it’s painful for parents to accept this, in the long-run it will give them children that are not suffering from such high rates of anxiety and depression.”

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