9 Quick Takes (6/28/13)


--- 1 --- Terribly sorry for the lack of posting (and the tardy responses to the Turing Test players).  I took a trip back to the East Coast and promptly got sick when I returned.  On the plus side. a mere four months after I moved to Berkeley, I finally have furniture, so I thought I might give you an updated tour of my room.Or, at least the most important part. --- 2 --- My bookshelf starts off with Sondheim's two volumes of annotated lyrics (Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat, bo … [Read more...]

7 Quick Takes (6/21/13)

--- 1 --- The Monsters Inc prequel comes out today, and I've been super-dubious about it for a long time.  Pixar has broken my heart recently (especially with Brave), and the plot of scrappy underdogs bands together with popular enemy and wins college seemed a lot more cliche than the original story.  But then I read this io9 feature on some of the choices the animators made, and now I'm totally enraptured.  For example: "Monsterfication" is the word the design team used to describe the aest … [Read more...]

I’m all verklempt…

The Colbert Report Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,Video Archive And I really appreciated Alyssa Rosenberg's response to the video: [I]n eulogizing his mother on-air, Colbert, acting as himself rather than as his persona, subverted the genre he deconstructs for a living in a different way. Lorna Colbert deserves to be known, he argued, not because she was ludicrous, or a spectacle, or died in some horrendous way, but because she was loving, … [Read more...]

How much should you trust your empathy?

There are too many people in this crowd to empathize with

Recently, in The New Yorker, psychologist Paul Bloom took a shot at the idea that empathy is a necessary component of moral judgement or behavior.  In fact, the stirrings of our conscience, he says, can often lead us astray.  We tend to be more moved by the small problems near us than big problems far away.  It's hard to fire off mirror neurons if other people's norms and culture are different enough from yours that you can't read their expressions or anticipate their reactions.  And we tend not … [Read more...]

Learning by Perturbation

phases of matter

Last week, I wrote two blog posts about the danger of breaking promises and the downside of comforting yourself for doing necessary evils.  Both posts were written from a pretty Lawful (in the DnD sense) point of view, so I wanted to make sure I mixed in some other perspectives.  After the news broke about the NSA wiretapping, Moxie Marlinspike wrote an essay explaining why "We Should All Have Something to Hide" and thus are all threatened by increased surveillance.His essay ended up arguing … [Read more...]

The Ideological Turing Test — Freud Edition

sex and death

Well, the commenters -- and arguably culture in general -- seemed particularly interested what Freud termed the two essential drives: Sex and Death.  Thus, the two questions in this year's Turing Test will be focused on:Polyamory - Is there any reason that marriage (civil and or sacramental) should be limited to the union of two persons? If your answer depends on religious revelation, could people outside your tradition reasonably disagree, or does your argument depend on truths that almost … [Read more...]

The day I went to work with my dad, dressed as my dad


I love my professor parents, from whom I have inherited many wonderfully things -- both genetically and environmentally.  And I caught on early to how good I had it, as this conversation from when I was four or so shows: Me: Daddy, you have a big nose.Me: When I grow up, I want a big nose, too.Mom: (sotto voce) You may just get your wish. … [Read more...]