Battlepanda: June 2007


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Friday, June 29, 2007

At the intersection of Nerd Ave. and Geek St.

This is a very clever Flickr set of fake Magic: The Gathering cards, featuring presidents, ancient Romans, and (my favorite, of course) philosophers.

In addition to Nietzsche, there's Machiavelli, Hobbes, Kant, Kierkegaard, Marx, Mill, Heidegger, Carnap, Popper, Wittgenstein, and Quine.

(Via Julian Sanchez.)

Schnauzer and Shiba blogging

Oh, if they can only be this friendly all the time!

Monday, June 11, 2007

So what does a "Brock" look like?

Researchers at Miami University have found that certain names have predictable subjective associations with certain facial features.
For example, when people hear the name “Bob” they have in mind a larger, round face than when they hear a name such as “Tim” or “Andy.” Robin Thomas, associate professor of psychology, and colleagues not only show that this link exists, but they also show that if people try to learn face-name pairs that go against their expectations, they have a hard time doing it.


Participants were asked to create faces appropriate for 15 specific names using face construction software, similar to programs used by the police in eyewitness identification. A second group of participants generally endorsed the faces as fitting the names: Most predictable name-face matches were Bob, Bill, Brian and Jason. “These prototype faces that seem to exist for different names are not just idly occupying space in our mind, but have implications for how easily one learns the names of individuals,” says Thomas.

"An entire lecture hall of students chose the bearded man as Tim and the round-faced man as Bob."

(Via Metafilter.)

Things that make me happy

In a comment to a post at Majikthise, Neil Sinhababu quotes a poem, describing it as "a favorite." It's a poem I wrote back in grad school, while I was taking a class whose texts were Word and Object; Fact, Fiction, and Forecast; and Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. The nonsense words in the poem come from the first two of those books, and from related articles. I regret being unable to work the nonsense word "quus", from the third book, into the poem.

I'm so happy that I'm the author of one of someone's favorite poems. As a fellow utilitarian, I'm sure Neil will be happy to have increased my hedonic count so easily. And if he is, I'll be happy to have increased his hedonic count. Hurray, hedons for everyone!

Also, Eureka Springs, AR, home of the seven-story Christ of the Ozarks, has announced that it will be issuing certificates of union to gay couples.

The Eureka Springs City Council voted unanimously in May to set up the register, which will be kept in the clerk's office. Couples who are 18 and older and pay a $35 fee will receive a certificate noting their partnership.

"I know there have been a whole lot of people watching and I've gotten tons of e-mails that say they were waiting for this and that they will be planning a trip in as soon as this is implemented," said Mayor Dani Wilson. "Daily, we get calls of people wanting to know, 'Can I sign up now?' "

The scenic village, in far northwestern Arkansas near the Missouri border, has a population of 2,300 but issues more than 4,000 wedding licenses a year. Couples are drawn here for ceremonies at the Fay Jones-designed Thorncrown Chapel, the foot of the Christ of the Ozarks statue, the botanical garden at the Blue Spring Heritage Center or St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church, where guests enter via the bell tower, among other locations.

Hurray for Eureka Springs!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Next time you're stuck behind a schoolbus...

Just be grateful that you're not stuck behind a temple procession.

This is a procession of the goddess Matsu. She is a little brown statue in the sedan. The procession stops frequently in front of shops, where the chair carriers turn perpendicular to the traffic and run backwards and forwards toward a shop, making as if to ram the chair into the store, but of course never actually doing so. Being a bad Taiwanese, I do not know the significance of this.

Some sneaky drivers try to sneak through past the chair as it seesaws back and forth.

This should give you some idea of the traffic buildup behind the parade. This is Roosevelt road, one of Taipei's main arteries.

Matsu definitely have a posse.

Some are big and have a hard time figuring out where to go.

Some are little.

Frequent juice breaks are a necessity.

Who say you can't look cool while riding a motorbike at two miles per hour?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Is our children learning philosophy?

Prof. Peter Smith of Cambridge wonders whether introductory philosophy classes are counter-productive.
I remember Geoffrey Hunter (the author of the rather good Metalogic) telling me years ago that at the beginning of his intro logic course, having explained the idea of a valid argument, he gave out a sheet of examples to see which arguments beginners naively judged to be valid and which not. Then, at the end of the course, he gave out the same example sheet, asked which arguments were valid ... and people on average did worse.

Well, you can see why. Students learn some shiny new tools and are then tempted to apply the tools mindlessly, so e.g. faced with inferences involving conditionals, despite all your warnings, they crank a truth-table, and out comes a silly answer.

Likewise, students uncorrupted by philosophy could of course reel off a list of scientific theories that have been seriously proposed in the past but which -- they'd agree -- have been shown to be wrong (the phlogiston theory of combustion, the plum pudding model of the atom, and so on and so forth). But teach students some philosophy of science and ask them if you can falsify a theory and they now firmly tell you that it can't be done (merrily arguing from the flaws of Popper's falsificationism to the impossibility of showing any theory is false). Sigh. Of course, the same students will -- in another answer -- also tell you that scientific realism is in deep trouble because of the pessimistic induction from all those false past theories ...

We try not to addle our students' brains, but I fear we do.

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Slouching Towards Hypocrisy

Former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, a leading advocate of "tort reform," is suing the Yale Club in New York City for one million dollars, plus punitive damages.
Judge Bork was scheduled to give a speech at the club, but he fell when mounting the dais, and injured his head and left leg. He alleges that the Yale Club is liable for the $1m plus punitive damages because they "wantonly, willfully, and recklessly" failed to provide staging which he could climb safely.

Judge Bork has been a leading advocate of restricting plaintiffs' ability to recover through tort law. In a 2002 article published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy--the official journal of the Federalist Society--Bork argued that frivolous claims and excessive punitive damage awards have caused the Constitution to evolve into a document which would allow Congress to enact tort reforms that would have been unconstitutional at the framing.
(Via LGM, from whose comments section I shamelessly stole this post's title.)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Precious Bodily Fluids

By Angelica Oung
Thursday, Jun 07, 2007, Page 2

There's no basis to the folk belief that "running out of semen" could have fatal consequences, a local urologist said.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Nice Guys, Taiwanese style

Not only do they have "Nice Guys" in Taiwan, they have a whole internet-based subculture dedicated to nice-guys and their travails. For the uninitiated, when I'm talking about Nice Guys here I'm not using the term as a synonym for "decent person", I'm referring to a perculiar kind of pathology in which a diffident man feel likes he deserves to be with the One Hot Girl because he's soooooo nice to her.

Here's a Taipei Times article from last year detailing the "Nice Guy" phenomenon here that is pretty much a parallel of the kind of "Nice Guys" Marcotte and Majikthise have observed in the field. It seems though that Taiwanese nice guys seem to be even more lacking in the self-awareness section. Here is a poem that pretty much pinpoints the moment where frustration and insecurity gives way to naked misogyny in awful free verse.
【A good man 】
You called me in that anxious emotion,
So I came to your house with no hesitation.
Soon I found that you just needed a low-priced repairer
To help you fix your expensive computer.
For I was a woeful good man,
I did not even complain.
Yet you were such a bitch!
While I repaired it, you with other bad men played sandwich--
Finally I decide to let you know my mind,
Whereas you mercilessly hand me a Good-man Card.
I am a good man, always make my hot face
Nestle to your cold ass--
The subculture these Nice Guys or "Good men" belong to (or is loosely affiliated with) is called "Otaku", although there seems to be some controversy over which subgroups can truly lay claim to the term. A glimpse of the ideal male-female relationship as conceptualized by the Otaku is distubing:
For Akiba-types who can't make the pilgrimage to otaku town, Fatimaid is the place to be. A direct copy of Akihabara's meido cafes, in this fantasy escape, young women wearing French maid costumes pamper customers with exaggerated humility and carefully scripted dialogue — just like the heroines in maid romance anime and comics. "Welcome home, master," says a maid, greeting a guest.

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Notes from a Weird Island : Combat grandmas

Report from the China Times (translation by me):
Age is no barrier to jealousy! A seventy-one-year-old woman surnamed Chan (詹), suspecting an inappropriate relationship between her husband and a seventy-six-year-old woman surnamed Chang (張), took a wooden stick to Chang's residence for a confrontation. Chang retaliated using a hammer, a can of pesticides and with bites. Both women sued each other for bodily harm.

The judge ruled that Chan forcibly entered another's residence without cause, inflicted bodily harm and destroyed eight bottles of preserved kumquats, fining her NT $13,000. Chang was found guilty only of bodily harm, and fined NT $3000.

It is understood that Chang frequently gave food to Chan's husband, leading to the suspicions on Chan's part. According to the verdict, the morning of December 25 last year, Chan and a unnamed man went to Chang's residence in Dongshan county, Yilan, and broke into the house.

The two women got into a argument that turned viiolent. The man with Chan grabbed Chang's arm as Chan beat her rival in love with a stick. Chang in turn fought back with a hammer. By the end of the fight, Chang had sustained minor injuries to her head, right knee and back while Chan suffered injury and bruises to her hands. Chang's eight jars of preserved kumquats were broken.

Both women denied attacking the other. Chan said that she was alone when she went over to Chang's house. She said she told Chang to stop pursuing her husband. Chang responded by spraying her face with pesticide and hurting her hands with a hammer.

The older Chang said that she used the pesticide in self-defence and that the man with Chan held her so that Chang could hit her. She admits to wielding a hammer but maintains that she did not use it on Chan, and that she only bit Chan once.

The presiding judge pointed out that police picture showed a chaotic scene with furniture in disarray and broken jars of preserved kumquat everywhere.
I wish I would be energetic enough to rumble with my rivals in love in my seventies. What's their secret? Preserved kumquat?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Taipop blogging: Jay Chow *hearts* mom

You didn't know you needed blogging about Taiwanese pop music in your lives? Oh well.

Jay (a superstar here in Taiwan) goes back in time and finds his former self in his childhood bedroom and delivers some big-brotherly advice. The problem is, the advice is all about how little Jay should listen to mom and stay inside and learn his ABCs while everybody goes out and play.

"Little one, have you ever wondered why you have to learn to draw and play the piano while others read comics? Or why you have to memorize your ABCs inside while everybody else plays outside? When you grow up you will understand why you run faster than everyone and fly higher than everyone. Everyone will be reading the comics you draw and everyone will be listening to the songs you write. (listen to your mother etc etc)"

A more pernicious and false defence of Taiwan's buxiban/gotta get ahead culture I have never heard. Stay inside and read your ABCs and you'll end up being a rock star? The definition of success as stepping over everyone elses fingers? I love my mom as much as anyone but this is crap.

As a bonus, here is a song that makes me cringe every time I hear it. Worst use of the "blankety blank in the house" device ever.