7 Quick Takes (4/5/13)

— 1 —

While we’ve been discussing ways to tweak the comment sections chez moi, regular commenter Gilbert has put together a hacky fix to make comments a little easier to read (new comments are highlighted, comments are collapsible, etc).  You can read how to install it yourself at his blog.

— 2 —

Via TYWKIWDBI, a video on how marbles are made.  (The second method is the one I learned in college!)


— 3 —

This is the best solution I’ve heard in a while for the tendency of journalists to overreport women’s clothing choices:

I think we need a variant of the comic-book Hawkeye Initiative. How about the McCain rule? If you wouldn’t say it about John McCain — don’t say it about Hillary or Michele or Michelle or Kamala. “And before we finish introducing war hero and veteran public servant Senator McCain, allow me a moment to comment on his raw physical magnetism. Hottie with a legislative body, right there!” “Senator McCain, looking especially fetching in a variant on his usual two-piece suit ensemble, bestowed smiles on all around him.” “Senator McCain’s Haircut: Three Tips To Achieve The Look.”

…I admit it’s hard. We have a self-imposed “Reverse Mallard” problem. If you’ve looked at the ducks for any period of time, you notice that the males are awash in color and the females all sport a conservative dun. In public fashion life, the opposite is true. Men’s attire looks, broadly speaking, the same. Women’s attire is colorful and tailored and has all kinds of bells and whistles on it that make for much more colorful commentary. Even efforts to evade this natural discrepancy by wearing the blandest thing possible don’t always get you out of the weeds. Hillary’s pantsuits became a discussion all their own. (“I thought this was what you wore to indicate you didn’t want people to discuss what you wore,” the staid ensembles grumbled.) But that doesn’t make it right. My usual answer is that men need to start wearing colorful, pointed shoes and knee-breeches again, in the simple interest of equity of color commentary. Dress everyone as 18th-century pirates! Bring back broadcloth and brocade! I think they would look very fetching on Senator McCain.

— 4 —

From the annals of strange appropriations of religion by popular culture:

The European Commission has ruled that membership of chess clubs and national chess federations can be classed as religious worship under the currently applicable laws covering member countries of the European Union (EU).
The test case was brought by the Latvian Chess Federation, home of former world chess champion Mikhail Tal. Local chess clubs in the country had failed to qualify for EU grants, since the EU does not classify chess as a sport.

Turns out this one was an April Fools’ joke and I am easily deceived!

— 5 —

From the annals of strange appropriations of popular culture by religion:

A new play written by a Russian Orthodox priest depicts Harry Potter discovering he has been baptized and then battling Voldemort with the help of Saint Cyprianus

— 6 —

Two new posts up at the CFAR blog this week (one of them has an assassination attempt):

Warm, Fuzzy Rationality

It’s easy to imagine that a perfect rationalist would have learned nothing from the meeting that Grant set up. After all, a good rationalist wouldn’t need an emotional prod to internalize information. This sounds a lot like the trope of the Straw Vulcanwho distrusts emotional cues as illogical.

Sometimes, people are surprised to look over our sample schedule and see that CFAR offers some ‘soft’ classes about emotional awareness and social dynamics. But we see those domains as just as relevant as decision theory and Bayes theorem. It’s all about understanding the world you live in (which includes you-as-you-are!) and how to act effectively with the tools you’ve got.

Elementary Skills, My Dear Rationalist

It’s the ability to notice her confusion that saves our detective and lets her live to sleuth another day. But for most of us, our slip ups as a rationalist are a lot less dramatic. And that can be worse.

At least a mysterious assassin has the manners to concuss you in a clear, noticeable way. A false belief that slips beneath your notice will keep influencing you and leading you astray without you even noticing you’re under attack. So your confusion-detector needs to be even subtler than that of our brave protagonist.

— 7 —

A dear friend of the family passed away this week, and I’d like to share the obit with your guys because Stan Isaacs was such a mensch.

Isaacs was born in Brooklyn in 1929, when the borough was already haunted by Howard Cosell, Marty Glickman, and Roger Kahn. It would be important later that young Isaacs was a Giants — not a Yankees — fan. At first, Isaacs had trouble finding a paper that would stay open. He worked at the New York Star, then The Daily Compass, a liberal paper that put him the same newsroom as I.F. Stone. The Compass didn’t have enough sportswriters to make for a respectable-looking page, so Isaacs filed both under his own name and the byline “Gary Fiske.” When City College of New York won 1950 NCAA and NIT titles, the Garden sent “Fiske” an inscribed cigarette lighter.

Also he stole the Brooklyn Dodgers pennant from the LA stadium since he thought California had no right to what Brooklyn had won.


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  • I mean, chess does have bishops.

  • Theodore Seeber

    Pirates, for the most part, were the homeless of the oceans. They dressed flamboyantly because frequently, the only clothing they had came from plundered ships and female passengers.

    • kenneth

      The homeless of the oceans! I like that. This might be a partial solution to our own homeless problem. Outfit a fleet of Nelson’s Navy in replica, a bunch of 74’s and frigates, recruit our best able-bodied homless men how to sail and fire a 36-pounder. Give them some letters of marque and turn them loose on the Somalis and any foreign flagged cruise ship that isn’t competent enough to keep its engines running.

      • grok

        Amen, and sign me up! Lobscouse and spotted dog here we come!

  • Regarding the European Commission and Chess:

    Don’t you find it rather touching to behold
    The game that came in from the cold
    Seen for what it is — religion plus finesse
    Countries, classes, creeds, as one in
    Love of chess

    –from “Opening Ceremony”, from the musical Chess (which is one of my favorites).

    • Arizona Mike

      I love that musical.

  • Dan

    Well, at least the chess thing is in fact an April Fools’ Day joke. I’m not sure what’s going on, am I too pessimistic about higher bureaucracies or are they really just so odd that the story is actually plausible at first glance?

  • grok

    Re #5, Hmm… the wikipedia article on Cyprianus is kind of interesting:
    “Saint Cyprian of Carthage was a bishop and martyr in early Christianity. In the Middle Ages, a variety of legends attached to his name, including a tradition that he practiced magic before his conversion, and as such was the author of a magical textbook.”

    And to my mind there is perhaps something a little bit magical (in the sense of presenting an illusion) about Jesus in today’s gospel from John
    in that his disciples fail to recognize him (again) until he miraculously fills their nets with fish.

    Magic vs. Miracles- perhaps a fine line sometimes. As Galadriel says in LOTR:
    “And you?” she said, turning to Sam. “For this is what you folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same word for the deceits of the Enemy. But this, if you will, is the magic of Galadriel. Did you not say that you wished to see Elf-magic?”

  • Darren

    #3 – Seconded, the McCain rule and the Hawkeye Initiative.