Contra Mozilla

Friday, October 30, 2015

Quote of the Day:Rowe's Rebuttal

Today's quote is passed along without further comment. First, some context, which is given by one of the hostesses from MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry:
HARRIS-PERRY: “I want us to be super careful when we use the language “hard worker.” I actually keep an image of folks working in cotton fields on my office wall, because it is a reminder about what hard work really looks like. But in the context of relative privilege, when you talk about work-life balance, the moms who don’t have health care aren’t called hard workers. We call them failures. We call them people who are sucking off the system.”
And now today's quote, a rebuttal from Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe:
To me, it sounds as though Melissa is displaying images of slavery or drudgery in her office to remind herself of what hard work really and truly looks like. That’s a bit like hanging images of rape and bondage to better illustrate the true nature of human sexuality. Whatever her logic might be, it’s difficult to respond without first pointing out a few things that most people will find screamingly obvious. So let’s do that.

First of all, slavery is not “hard work;” it’s forced labor. There’s a big difference. Likewise, slaves are not workers; they are by definition, property. They have no freedom, no hope, and no rights. Yes, they work hard, obviously. But there can be no “work ethic” among slaves, because the slave has no choice in the matter.

Workers on the other hand, have free will. They are free to work as hard as they wish. Or not. The choice is theirs. And their decision to work hard, or not, is not a function of compliance or coercion; it’s a reflection of character and ambition.

This business of conflating hard work with forced labor not only minimizes the importance of a decent work ethic, it diminishes the unspeakable horror of slavery. Unfortunately, people do this all the time. We routinely describe bosses as “slave-drivers,” and paychecks as “slave’s wages.” Melissa though, has come at it from the other side. She’s suggesting that because certain “hard workers” are not as prosperous as other “hard workers,” - like the people on her office wall - we should all be “super-careful” about overly-praising hard work.

I suspect this is because Melissa believes - as do many others - that success today is mostly a function of what she calls, “relative privilege.” This is fancy talk for the simple fact that life is unfair, and some people are born with more advantages than others. It's also a fine way to prepare the unsuspecting viewer for the extraordinary suggestion that slavery is proof-positive that hard work doesn’t pay off.

Now back to work!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

More Tabsclearing

Another day, another link dump.

Life this semester seems to be constantly hectic. And it doesn't look to get any easier next semester, either.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Surgeon General's Warning PSA

Warning: taking one of my classes may be hazardous to your grandparents' health. I'm not sure why, but I figure I should put the PSA out there given the large number of my students who have to attends funerals of various "family members" in any given semester.

In any given semester, about 8 grandparents will die (as measured by funerals) in any given 50 person lecture. Fermi problem: how many should we expect? I got 1-2, but to be fair the point of the Fermi problem is to get a ballpark estimate, so maybe 8 is not unreasonable.

Friday, October 16, 2015


I have a lot of open tabs in my browser, and not much time to discuss them right now.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Gene Wolfe Reviews Tolkien

The review is nearly a decade and a half old, but it was recently re-posted on John C. Wright's site, thus giving me (and you) the occasion to read it.

Some excerpts:
It is said with some truth that there is no progress without loss; and it is always said, by those who wish to destroy good things, that progress requires it. No great insight or experience of the world is necessary to see that such people really care nothing for progress. They wish to destroy for their profit, and they, being clever, try to persuade us that progress and change are synonymous.

They are not; and it is not just my own belief but a well-established scientific fact that most change is for the worse: any change increases entropy (unavailable energy). Therefore, any change that produces no net positive good is invariably harmful. Progress, then, does not consist of destroying good things in the mere hope that the things that will replace them will be better (they will not be) but in retaining good things while adding more.
And also:
Sam Rayburn, a politician of vast experience, once said that all legislation is special-interest legislation. Of our nation, and of the 20th century, that is unquestionably true; but it need not be. We have — but do not need — a pestilent swarm of exceedingly clever persons who call themselves public servants when everything about them and us proclaims that they are in fact our masters. They make laws (and regulations and judicial decisions that have the force of laws) faster and more assiduously than any factory in the world makes chains; and they lay them on us.

It need not be so. We might have a society in which the laws were few and just, simple, permanent, and familiar to everyone — a society in which everyone stood shoulder-to-shoulder because everyone lived by the same changeless rules, and everyone knew what those rules were. When we had it, we would also have a society in which the lack of wealth was not reason for resentment but a spur to ambition, and in which wealth was not a cause for self-indulgence but a call to service. We had it once, and some time in this third millennium we shall have it again; and if we forget to thank John Ronald Reuel Tolkien for it when we get it, we will already have begun the slow and not always unpleasant return to Mordor. Freedom, love of neighbour, and personal responsibility are steep slopes; he could not climb them for us — we must do that ourselves. But he has shown us the road and the reward. 
Go read the whole thing.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Big Government

There are, we are told, certain projects which are so big that only a large government can undertake them. Going to outer space, for example, is often cited as something that the government (e.g. NASA) can do but private individuals can not.

The odds-makers in Las Vegas now beg to differ.:
NASA may believe that it'll be the first to land humans on Mars, but don't tell that to Las Vegas betting houses. Popular Mechanics has asked Docsports' Raphael Esparza to set odds for the first organization to put people on Mars, and he believes that SpaceX stands a much better chance of reaching the Red Planet (5 to 1) than anyone else, including NASA (80 to 1). To put it bluntly, SpaceX has the money and the motivation that others don't -- NASA would be the favorite, but its budget cuts are holding it back.
Granted, SpaceX and other private pioneers of the space age get some of their funding from the government via grants--but if NASA can't do it on account of lacking money, whereas SpaceX can, it seems to me that there is more than merely government money at work here.

I support NASA's mission to explore space, and think that this is one of the more worthy things that our government is doing (especially our current government), but I also welcome the fact that individuals in the US may be able to do this--with or without NASA's help.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Dear Bill Nye

I was originally going to write a longer sequel to my previous post, "Dear Lawrence Krauss." It was going to be a bit longer than the original, because I can only do so many terse and dismissive posts in one week. However, it looks like Robert George and Patrick Lee have already written something which is more worthwhile than what I was going to write.

I'm a bit sick of seeing celebrity scientists of all stripes prostituting the field out to various bad ideologies. They only wreck the endeavor of science as a means of increasing knowledge and understanding--and with it awe and wonder--in the process. Indeed, they are subverting what may be the most important qualities of a true scientist: humility and reverence.