California Impressions

As a lifelong film buff, California has, to my mind, a rather mythical air. Not because that’s where films are made, but because, by and large, that’s where they’re set. Walking around California, therefore, feels rather like walking around in a movie, if you know what I mean. Arriving amid the palm trees, Spanish-style buildings, and mountains, I feel like John McClaine; “****ing California…”


Thus, though I go in with a prejudiced opinion of blue states (overtaxed and undercivilized), I also went in with a keen interest to actually see the place, or at least as much as a three day trip with no car would allow. My impressions thus far are:

-It’s very beautiful. The weather is more overcast than I expected, but the landscapes are lovely, and it’s nice to see real (though modest) mountains. I am also rather partial to Spanish-style construction. I should definitely like to come back to visit more thoroughly.

-It’s expensive. I checked out some apartment listings; the cheapest one was $900/month, and I’m told that’s very cheap for this part of the country. Plastic bags cost an extra ten cents. Again, “****ing California…”

-There seems to be a lot more effort put into the design of the place, which I appreciate. For instance, on the way out of San Diego, there are just these kind of towers on the off-ramps. Pretty cool.

-The San Diego train/bus station is a converted Church, which is a little sad, though certainly preferable to just having a bland box of building. The ‘SAN DIEGO’ sign on the roof is kinda tacky, though.

-There’s definitely a sense of “We’re CALIFORNIA!” A self-conscious desire on the part of the location to live up to its image. California could not be any more California, if you know what I mean, and it’s well aware of the fact. There’s a whole style and tone to the place that is definitely its own, though in something of the self-conscious manner of a theme park (though nowhere near to the extent of, say, Las Vegas). In any case, the sensation is much more of being in a different country than in just being in a different part of the same country.

My overall impression is that Southern California is basically a giant movie set, complete with hyper-leftist directors and stars. Certainly a cool place to visit, but I doubt I’d care to live there.

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. 


Confessions of an Unemployed College Graduate

Today’s post is up at The Federalist.

A sample:

My experience is not unique. There are thousands of college graduates in my shoes today. In fact, I’m better off than most: thanks to my wonderful parents, I don’t have any student debt weighing me down. I was also fortunate that the school I went to included a Great Books program, which is where I first truly learned to think.


Having learned that particular skill, I’ve concluded it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to go to college. Oh, I’m grateful for many things—the aforementioned Great Books program, the friends I made, and so forth. But looking back, I can’t avoid the conclusion that if I had learned to think a little sooner I would have realized that I shouldn’t have gone to college at all when I did.

I would have been better off going into the military or getting a job right off the bat. That way I would have had the kind of skills necessary to find the kind of jobs I want. College, for me, was unnecessary. Many people have to go into debt to attend a school where, instead of teaching you to think logically, they teach you how much the world owes you. It’s a liability.

Read the whole thing here!