Archive for December, 2016

Serious Writing

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

MP describes serious writing:

There’s a specific point when the hymen finally breaks and the girl goes from coyly wallflowering to competing with the other sluts for the middle of the room and all that sweet sweet cock & male gaze to be found there. In the case of writing and writers this same exact moment is directly observable by the adults because the author moves past producing defensible generalities their inner mother wouldn’t protest to actually stating their mind, personally and in places nonsensically – let all take umbrage who will. This is perhaps counterintuitively but nevertheless a step forward in their writing, because once the individual gives up on defending their imaginary “fortress” of sweet self delusions, actual competence, ability and skill can sneak in – always on the painful basis of tissue rupture, popped balloons and disabused dreams. Nobody (sane) said that maturation is going to be pleasant. The only statement is that maturation is unavoidable, not good, desirable, or even meaningful to the infantile mind ; otherwise defloration is supposed to hurt, specifically because the protective skins are in the way of actual realisation.


Sunday, December 25th, 2016

Taleb’s “Intellectual Yet Idiot”

The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited. He thinks people should act according to their best interests and he knows their interests, particularly if they are “red necks” or English non-crisp-vowel class who voted for Brexit. When plebeians do something that makes sense to them, but not to him, the IYI uses the term “uneducated”. What we generally call participation in the political process, he calls by two distinct designations: “democracy” when it fits the IYI, and “populism” when the plebeians dare voting in a way that contradicts his preferences. While rich people believe in one tax dollar one vote, more humanistic ones in one man one vote, Monsanto in one lobbyist one vote, the IYI believes in one Ivy League degree one-vote, with some equivalence for foreign elite schools and PhDs as these are needed in the club.

More socially, the IYI subscribes to The New Yorker. He never curses on twitter. He speaks of “equality of races” and “economic equality” but never went out drinking with a minority cab driver (again, no real skin in the game as the concept is foreign to the IYI). Those in the U.K. have been taken for a ride by Tony Blair. The modern IYI has attended more than one TEDx talks in person or watched more than two TED talks on Youtube. Not only did he vote for Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison because she seems electable and some such circular reasoning, but holds that anyone who doesn’t do so is mentally ill. The IYI has a copy of the first hardback edition of The Black Swan on his shelves, but mistakes absence of evidence for evidence of absence. He believes that GMOs are “science”, that the “technology” is not different from conventional breeding as a result of his readiness to confuse science with scientism.

Typically, the IYI get the first order logic right, but not second-order (or higher) effects making him totally incompetent in complex domains. In the comfort of his suburban home with 2-car garage, he advocated the “removal” of Gadhafi because he was “a dictator”, not realizing that removals have consequences (recall that he has no skin in the game and doesn’t pay for results).

The IYI has been wrong, historically, on Stalinism, Maoism, GMOs, Iraq, Libya, Syria, lobotomies, urban planning, low carbohydrate diets, gym machines, behaviorism, transfats, freudianism, portfolio theory, linear regression, Gaussianism, Salafism, dynamic stochastic equilibrium modeling, housing projects, selfish gene, election forecasting models, Bernie Madoff (pre-blowup) and p-values. But he is convinced that his current position is right.

The IYI is member of a club to get traveling privileges; if social scientist he uses statistics without knowing how they are derived (like Steven Pinker and psycholophasters in general); when in the UK, he goes to literary festivals; he drinks red wine with steak (never white); he used to believe that fat was harmful and has now completely reversed; he takes statins because his doctor told him to do so; he fails to understand ergodicity and when explained to him, he forgets about it soon later; he doesn’t use Yiddish words even when talking business; he studies grammar before speaking a language; he has a cousin who worked with someone who knows the Queen; he has never read Frederic Dard, Libanius Antiochus, Michael Oakeshot, John Gray, Amianus Marcellinus, Ibn Battuta, Saadiah Gaon, or Joseph De Maistre; he has never gotten drunk with Russians; he never drank to the point when one starts breaking glasses (or, preferably, chairs); he doesn’t even know the difference between Hecate and Hecuba (which in Brooklynese is “can’t tell sh**t from shinola”); he doesn’t know that there is no difference between “pseudointellectual” and “intellectual” in the absence of skin in the game; has mentioned quantum mechanics at least twice in the past five years in conversations that had nothing to do with physics.

He knows at any point in time what his words or actions are doing to his reputation.

Occupations of Some Notable Philosophers and Scientists

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

Aristotle: unknown (to me): tutor to Alexander of Macedonia

Plato: investments/inheritance

Thales: monopolized olive oil production

Socrates: stonemason, investments, soldiery, money from patrons or friends.

Spinoza: lens grinder

Nietzsche: professor (For at least some of his life - also lived with his mother)


Friday, December 23rd, 2016

An excerpt concerning the meanings of words and to whom and how well.

mircea_popescu: now - translation operates not on the object code (ie, the string quoted, or a string quoted) but on the whole program : any string plus ~the totality~ of conceptual content of the brain that produced it.

mircea_popescu: because no, words don’t "have meanings". your meanings for ANY WORD are a function of ALL THE OTHER WORDS YOU KNOW. which is why my definitions regularily blow out english dictionaries, wikipedia and other sources of “wisdom” out of the water - i know more words, and in this knowledge i know all the words i know better. infinitely and irreproducibly so.

From the same conversation and regarding Aristotle:

asciilifeform: then i ask for coherent picture of subj in some current living language – and no dice

asciilifeform: why’d that be ?

mircea_popescu: because aristotle belongs to a dead language.

asciilifeform: but euclid, evidently – not

asciilifeform: ‘portable’

mircea_popescu: aha. however fellow was marginal in his language.

mircea_popescu: as generally happens, mongols will comprehend the bums better than the middle class.

asciilifeform: folks who ‘can’t be translated into idiot mongol’ are guilty until proven innocent of playing glass bead games with words and pulling one another’s cocks

mircea_popescu: suppose you excavate tomb in valley of queens ; suppose you find live, talking, cogent queen in there. suppose you take her to the shelf of items, and give her a questionnaire. she is to select “dildo spatula or hat” for each present item.

mircea_popescu: is she going to be disqualified from queenhood if she fails this multiple choice test ?

asciilifeform: how do you disqualify queen from a vanished throne ?

My gleanings from this conversation reflect somewhat my own experience studying Attic Greek and then being asked why by pretty much anyone who happens to find out, and having no way to answer because… the asker doesn’t know Greek.


Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

I recently made the assertion to a friend that both Universities and MOOCs are failing. I don’t have much to back up this assertion, especially about MOOCs, other than some impressions.

MOOCs in general seem to be a naive attempt to either recreate the ability to take cool but non-essential electives online that one would normally take as part of a university undergraduate program or to be “modern” correspondence courses - similar to what I did during the summer in high school with my useless US government course.

None of these address what I see as the main failure of the collapsing university system, that being a failure of credibility.

Evidence of this failure is the Chinese use of the US university system for merit washing, through all sorts of exam and homework frauds that my wife personally witnessed at UC Berkeley.

There is this illusion that an instution can grant any sort of credibility. In fact only individuals can. The remnants of this are recommendation letters typically used to gain entrance to university programs. What goes on now, with Instutitions (corporate) considering only candidates for jobs who come from other Institutions (educational) is absurd and has resulted in complete impotence.

Competence can only come back once what matters is individual recommendations about individuals, educated in whatever manner individuals deem appropriate.

Additional evidence of the failure of University is that I have to great benefit updated my spam filter to send all traffic from .edu domains to the spam folder.

Virtues and Vices Translation Attempt #4

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016


μικροψυχίας: meanness of spirit (n. gen.)
τιμὴν: honor, worship (n. acc?)
ἀτιμίαν: dishonor, disgrace, loss of civil rights (n. acc.?)
χαυνοῦσθαι: (passive?) be made flaccid, relax, or maybe middle
ἐλαχίστην: smallest (adj. fem. acc)
ὀδύρεσθαι: to lament, to bewail
δυσφορεῖν: to be impatient, angry, vexed
ἄτην: bewilderment, infatuation
ἀπότευγμα: failure
ὑπεξαίρεσθαι: lift up, lift off the earth


μικροψυχίας δ᾽ ἐστὶ τὸ μήτε τιμὴν μήτε ἀτιμίαν μήτε εὐτυχίαν μήτε ἀτυχίαν δύνασθαι φέρειν, ἀλλὰ τιμώμενον μὲν χαυνοῦσθαι, μικρὰ δὲ εὐτυχήσαντα ὑπεξαίρεσθαι, ἀτιμίαν δὲ μηδὲ τὴν ἐλαχίστην ἐνεγκεῖν δύνασθαι, ἀπότευγμα δ᾽ ἄτην καὶ ἀτυχίαν κρίνειν μεγάλην, ὀδύρεσθαι δ᾽ ἐπὶ πᾶσι καὶ δυσφορεῖν

Reordering and Translation:

μικροψυχίας δ᾽ ἐστὶ τὸ δύνασθαι φέρειν μήτε τιμὴν μήτε ἀτιμίαν μήτε εὐτυχίαν μήτε ἀτυχίαν,
It is of small mindedness to be able to bear neither honor nor dishonor nor fortune nor misfortune,

ἀλλὰ τιμώμενον μὲν χαυνοῦσθαι, μικρὰ δὲ εὐτυχήσαντα ὑπεξαίρεσθαι
but being honored to relax on the one hand, on the other hand having been a little lucky, to be lifted off the earth,

μηδὲ δὲ δύνασθαι ἐνεγκεῖν τὴν ἐλαχίστην ἀτιμίαν,
nor to be able to bear the smallest dishonor,

δ᾽καὶ κρίνειν ἀπότευγμα μεγάλην ἀτυχίαν, ὀδύρεσθαι δ᾽ ἐπὶ πᾶσι καὶ δυσφορεῖν.
and to judge a failure to be great misfortune, to bewail and to be vexed about everything.

Pathological Altruism

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

This is when an act of intended altruism in fact causes harm to the recipient of the altruism. This is associated also with “virtue signaling,” in which an individual receives the social benefits of having been altruistic merely for holding and expressing an opinion without having to bear any cost.

Virtues and Vices Fragment 3

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016


πλεονεξία: greediness, assumption, arrogance
ἀδικίας: wrongdoing, injustice


ἀδικίας δ᾽ ἐστὶν εἴδη τρία, ἀσέβεια πλεονεξία ὕβρις

Reordering and Translation

ἐστὶν δ᾽ τρία εἴδη ἀδικίας, ἀσέβεια πλεονεξία ὕβρις
There are three forms of injustices: sacrilege, arrogance, and aggression.

Virtues and Vices 2

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Translation of a Fragment from Virtues and Vices

κακία: badness

λογιστικοῦ: skilled

ἀφροσύνη: folly, thoughtlessness

θυμοειδοῦς: high-spirited

ὀργιλότης: irascibility

δειλία: timidity, cowardice

ἐπιθυμητικοῦ: desiring, coveting

ἀκολασία: licentiousness, intemperance

ἀκράτεια: want of power, debility

ὅλης: whole, entire, part

ἀδικία: wrongdoing, injustice

ἀνελευθεριότης: uncivil, servile

μικροψυχία: littleness of soul, meanness of spirit


ἡ ἀφροσύνη ἐστὶ κακία δ᾽τοῦ μὲν λογιστικοῦ, τοῦ δὲ θυμοειδοῦς ἥ τε ὀργιλότης καὶ ἡ δειλία, τοῦ δὲ ἐπιθυμητικοῦ ἥ τε ἀκολασία καὶ ἡ ἀκράτεια, ὅλης δὲ τῆς ψυχῆς ἥ τε ἀδικία καὶ ἀνελευθεριότης καὶ μικροψυχία

Reordering and Translation

ἡ ἀφροσύνη ἐστὶ κακία δ᾽τοῦ μὲν λογιστικοῦ,

the badness of the rational is thoughtlessness,

ἥ τε ὀργιλότης καὶ ἡ δειλία τοῦ δὲ θυμοειδοῦς,

of the high-spirited [it is] irascibility and timidity,

ἥ τε ἀκολασία καὶ ἡ ἀκράτεια τοῦ δὲ ἐπιθυμητικοῦ,

of the covetous [it is] interperance and want of power,

ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς ἥ τε ἀδικία καὶ ἀνελευθεριότης καὶ μικροψυχία.

of the spirit [it is] injustice and and uncivility and meanness of spirit.


Diverse casts and condescension regarding the preference of them

Friday, December 9th, 2016

I watch old movies (you know, from the 80’s) – more than I used to before Netflix and Amazon gave me access to them that I didn’t have before (except perhaps in video stores - but the scale and selection was much smaller - and well - the movies that were new at the time in video rental stores I now consider old). I’ve noticed a trend towards more racial and gender diversity of casts. White women, and black men and women now more frequenly play major roles that would have been occupied by white men. It is more unusual than not in my experience of most new movies for the president to be diverse, rather than a white guy, unless he’s evil. It is striking, watching older movies from the 90s, 80s, and earlier how white they are compared to new films and shows.
So let’s say someone says this:

"I would prefer to see more people like me in movies." 

If a white man were to say this, he would be considered to be small minded and perhaps even racist. Surely one should be able to enjoy cinema regardless of the arbitrary matter of who is what race or sex, and what their role is in the film? But if in fact the details of the race and gender of the person playing any individual role were irrelevant to an audience’s enjoyment of the flim, American films would be just as enjoyable if acted out by an all female cast, or an all Indian cast, or an all Mexican cast. Accepting this then surely most American films would be filmed in Bollywood where the labor is cheaper.

And yet they’re not.