Niceness is Fun #16

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Niceness is Fun #19

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Various Short Thoughts

-There’s a difference between making a moral argument and a factual argument. If you want to argue that, say, the death penalty is immoral, well and good; we can have a debate on the point because arguments can be made on either side. But if you want to argue that the Bible forbids the death penalty, then there’s no debate: you’re simply wrong, because, as a mere matter of fact, it doesn’t. The same can be said for slavery, war, and so on.

-I don’t know if it’s callous of me or not, but whenever I hear of big sex scandals like the one current rocking Hollywood, my reaction is always “what did you think was going to happen?” For the past century or so, all the ‘best people’ have been championing what they call ‘sexual liberation.’ What about the record of human experience made you think that removing almost all social and legal checks on mankind’s most fickle, voracious, and unreasoning appetite, while simultaneously minimizing standards of interpersonal courtesy and decorum would turn out differently? That’s not to take away any of either the guilt of the perpetrators or the innocence of the victims, of course, but to add a bit more blame to the mix. This is what your new, liberated world looks like.

-Actually, “what did you think was going to happen?” is a pretty good response to most of our current social, economic, and political problems.

-On that note, something we need to relearn is that morality is a continuous whole: you can’t cut out or compromise on any one part without doing damage to the entire structure. Every aspect of our lives effects every other aspect, so that dishonesty, cowardice, or weakness in one will cause deterioration in the others. This doesn’t mean all sin is equal, but it does mean that all sin is bad and has a cumulative effect on our character. This is something everyone used to know (“he who is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones”), but which we today have forgotten.

-By the way, one modern work that does get this and explicitly makes a point of it? You guessed it; My Little Pony.

-I notice, incidentally, that ‘sexual liberation’ tends to go hand-in-hand with Marxist thought. I also notice that the ‘fruits of lust,’ as described by St. Gregory and St. Thomas, are…revealing.

“Blindness of mind, thoughtlessness, inconstancy, rashness, self-love, hatred of God, love of this world and abhorrence or despair of a future world.”

Not only do these pretty fairly describe the modern world, but they also are exactly what a Marxist / materialist philosophy would consider desirable for the majority of men. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing an essay exploring this in detail, though I think to do it right would require more research than I’m currently able to devote to it. I put it here for your consideration.

Choose the Means, not the Ends

Here’s a typically insightful article on the Affordable Care Act (so-called) by Joseph Moore, the proprietor of Yard Sale of the Mind. I highly recommend reading the whole thing, but the opening paragraphs are, I think, the most interesting:

As is characteristic of virtually all political decisions, in health care policy, we cannot choose ends. We can only choose means. We are not choosing and cannot choose between Wonderful Affordable Health Care for All (WAHCA) (1) and Misery For All But The Rich. All we can do is chose to support or oppose a particular next step, in this case, continuation or repeal/fundamental modification of the Affordable Care Act.

The ACA is not, in itself, WAHCA. Do not go on until you, dear reader, grasp this. Voting for the ACA was not voting for WAHCA. Passing the ACA did not achieve WAHCA. WAHCA is an *end*. The ACA is a *means*. We all may *hope* that  the ACA results  in better, cheaper health care – but that depends entirely on those pesky details of *how it works in practice*. You know, those details we had to pass the bill to see.

I think this one distinction would, if understood, eliminate a goodly part of the confusion and hostility that currently grips so much of the American electorate: We don’t choose ends, we choose means. We may agree on the end without agreeing on the means.

This, by the way, is one of the reasons that the ends do not justify the means: the means are real and immediate, while the ends are only speculative. Over the last century some hundred million people were murdered in order to bring about a utopia that never came. The people were real; the imagined utopia of Karl Marx was never more than a dream (and not a particularly likely one at that). To sacrifice freedom for some imagined end of prosperity or safety or (worst of all) equality is a fool’s bargain: the thing you sacrifice is real; the end is only speculative. Indeed, often your only guarantee that the end you are bargaining for is the one intended is the word of someone you have no reason to trust.

Anyway, read the whole thing for a sober breakdown of how and why the ACA isn’t WAHCA, probably will never lead to WAHCA, and may not even have been intended to lead to WAHCA.

On The Memory Problem

I am not very computer literate. I can do a little coding and navigate my way around my Mac, but the more I learn about computer issues, the more tangled and incomprehensible it seems to me.

But this article, by the insightful Tom Simon of Bondwine Books is less about computer issues than it is about human nature, which is a subject I find much more interesting. For, though it is infinitely more complicated than computer design, there aren’t as many over-complicated words and acronyms associated with it.

The article is a retrospective on the early days of home computers, when 16 kilobytes of RAM was a heady dream believed only by a few. I recommend reading the whole thing, but the key point is here, presented without further comment, because it really says everything that needs to be said.

Ted Nelson wrote a column for ROM, called ‘Missionary Position’: a mildly daring thing to do in 1977. In one of those columns, he addressed himself to the ‘Memory Problem’. The early microcomputer hobbyists had to work on machines with painfully tiny amounts of RAM – usually 4 or 8 kilobytes; 16K was a dream of sybaritic luxury. Of course they imagined that all their programming difficulties would be solved if only they had enough memory. Nelson, who had been working on mainframe computers for decades, rudely disabused them of this notion. As he put it, the Memory Problem is fundamentally like the Time Problem, and the Money, Sex, and Quiche Problems: there is never any such thing as enough.

Memory, bandwidth, and processor speed, like time, money, bureaucracy, and labour (and possibly also sex and quiche), are subject to Parkinson’s Law. C. Northcote Parkinson originally observed, ‘Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.’ In fact, work expands so as to consume all the available X, for almost any value of X. This knowledge is a vaccine against a wide range of disappointments in life; but there are always unvaccinated souls (in technical language, ‘suckers’) who are ready to be taken in. 

 

A Primer on Gun Suppressors

Here’s a good article in The Federalist arguing why law abiding gun owners might want to own a suppressor and why (as usual) Liberals don’t know what they’re talking about. The best part is when the author quotes a Washington Post piece that claims a YouTube video of a man firing a suppressed .22LR demonstrates that “silencers make high powered rifles have no more sound than a pellet gun,” a sentence that made me think of the words of that great entertainer, Kermit the Frog: “You know, it’s amazing, you are 100% wrong. I mean, nothing you said was right!”

A sample:

To put things into perspective, the sound of firing an unsuppressed AR-15 — the most popular rifle platform in America — is approximately 165 decibels, or dB. A jet engine from 100 feet away is approximately 140dB. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration bans employers from exposing employees to 115 decibels for more than 15 minutes per day without providing them sound mitigation or hearing protection measures. 

Physical pain and potentially permanent hearing damage begins to occur at 140dB. Eardrums will begin to rupture at approximately 150dB. If you fire an AR-15 without a suppressor and without any hearing protection, the overpressure generated by the gunshot will blow out your eardrums, as well as of those of anyone else in the near vicinity. If you were forced to defend your home from armed invaders and had to shoot one of them in a small hallway or bedroom, you and your family would suffer permanent hearing damage from the sound of the gunshot alone.

A decent suppressor for an AR-15 (.223/5.56mm) can reduce the sound of that rifle being fired by 30-35 dB. Thus, a quality suppressor can turn what would’ve been a 165 dB, eardrum-bursting gunshot into a mere 135 dB gunshot — roughly the same volume as a jackhammer you might see a construction worker using. Remember that pain and permanent hearing damage begins at 140 dB.

By all means, read the whole thing.

I notice when arguing with Liberal friends and family members that ideas culled from movies and other works of fiction inform a lot of their thinking. This isn’t limited to leftists either; fiction has an extremely powerful, and often unrecognized influence on the mind, which is part of its glory. But you have to be sure when discussing facts that you aren’t basing them on anything you’ve read in novels or seen on film, because facts are a secondary consideration of such things. We should make it a rule to never trust any fact offered in a work of fiction until we’ve verified it.

p22_silencer1

*Pew! Pew!*

 

 

 

A Christmas Concert

Merry Christmas to you all!

I beg leave to present for your enjoyment a brief Christmas concert made up of some of my favorite Christmas songs. Most of these are classics, but a few are more on the quirky side.

With that said, let us open with one of those classics: the great Bing Crosby sings Good King Wenceslas. What more needs to be said?

For our second number, we have a light-hearted romantic classic going out to all of you who are either spending Christmas with your loved ones or who may be secretly pining for someone who warms your heart. I present Let it Snow, delightfully performed by the super cute Isabella Garcia-Shapiro:

I think we need a bit of comedy to brush off all the warm-fuzzies that we got from that number. With that in mind, I offer a nice little song for all those who are spending tonight in public houses and other liquor-serving establishments: A Patrick Swayze Christmas, performed by Crow T. Robot, Joel Robinson, and Tom Servo.

That seems like a good segway into the darker side of Christmas: the people who simply can’t get into the mood. With that in mind, here is You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch, performed by Thurl Ravenscroft:

Building on that jolly number is a chilling little song offering warning and opportunity for the Grinch-like sinner. I present Marley and Marley, performed by Statler and Waldorf:

Returning a bit more to the serious side of things, here’s a melancholy number by a man who needs no introduction. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you A Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley!

Staying on the melancholy note, but striking a more hopeful strain is Burl Ives singing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s defiant song of hope in the midst of tragedy, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, reminding all of us who are suffering, lonely, and without hope that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”

I think that’s enough doom and gloom: let’s move into the glory of Christmas with a memorable rendition of Silent Night from the 1999 version of A Christmas Carol. The visuals are a little distracting, but the point they convey remains powerful, as we see poor men all across Christendom lift their voices in joy on this night of nights:

Our penultimate number is a gorgeous rendition of the triumphant Hark the Herald Angels Sing, performed by a flash mob (I couldn’t find out where or when, but it hardly matters).

Finally, let’s close out with my personal favorite: O Come All Ye Faithful, performed during Christmas Eve services at Westminster Abbey in 2013. Let the sounds of hundreds of faithful voices singing in one of the most beautiful churches in Christendom and the wellspring of the British Crown fill your hearts with the joy and love that comes from God as we welcome Him this Christmas night:

A Merry Christmas everyone!