January 6, 2018

Don't argue, or I will use my cold engineering heart to build a SolidWorks project that will make your mother cry like a shoeless hobo.

Don't argue, or I will use my cold engineering heart to build a SolidWorks project that will make your mother cry like a shoeless hobo.

Sam Smith is a great writer.

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January 2, 2018

Bildung and Sitzfleisch

In Germany, the keyword is almost untranslatable: Bildung, which means education in the form of personal cultivation and improvement. That idea, expressed in different languages in different nations, tied this rising class together across national borders. Self-improvement differentiated them from the decadent 1 percent.

For example, listening to music became an educational -- rather than entertaining -- experience. The eighteenth century's classical chamber music functioned as a pleasant soundtrack for aristocratic soirees. At concert halls, the nobility would canoodle in their boxes, only half paying attention to the performers.

But when the rising capitalist class attended concerts, they did not gab away in a convivial fashion: they sat still and demanded silence, in order to concentrate on the music.

German Victorians coined the term Sitzfleisch -- sitting flesh -- to describe the muscle control required for sitting absolutely still during a concert performance. Even coughs and sneezes had to be stifled, lest they break anyone's concentration and derail self-improvement.

The quest for Bildung saturated daily life as well. Wealthy young women, who could not hope for any career beyond wife and mother, learned at least one other language and took piano and singing lessons. Men often spent their evenings attending lectures or participating in civic organizations.

For this dedication to pay off, however, these enriched Victorians had to display it, making their difference from both the wealthier and the poorer obvious to all.

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December 20, 2017

Is Sun Tzu's "The Art of War," one of Trump's inspirations ?

One of Trump's inspirations, judging by how often he used to tweet passages from it, is Sun Tzu's "The Art of War," which contains some instructions about how to maintain such loyalty.

"If soldiers are punished before a personal attachment to the leadership is formed," it says, "they will not submit, and if they do not submit, they are hard to employ." When it comes to voters, Trump turns out to have followed this advice quite closely. While promising them, at great length, the rebirth of the coal industry and the instant replacement of Obamacare, he instilled in them an enduring personal attachment.

And that bond has allowed him to characterize the incomplete realization of those promises as failures of the political machine he swore to combat, rather than as examples of his own inadequacy.

-- Sasha Chapin, author of the forthcoming book "The Perfect Information Game."

December 8, 2017

A.I. learns by repetition and association

A.I. works by taking large volumes of information and distilling it down to simple concepts, categories and rules and then predicting future responses and outcomes. This is a function of the beliefs, assumptions and capabilities of the people who do the coding.

A.I. learns by repetition and association, and all of that is based on the information we -- humans who hold all the racial and often, specifically, anti-black biases of our society -- feed it.

-- Bärí A. Williams.