August 30, 2014

This is every Alaska real estate venture ever

That silence you hear? That's the sound of Atlas shrugging.


Thanks for that information - I think

“This might be a good lesson for us today,” Dr. Disotell said. “Long-term stability still means you can disappear. After 4,300 years, bam, you’re gone in decades.”


August 27, 2014

Well, no...

Civ 5 Memories

Well, that was a great summer, one of the best I've ever had.  Night after night, in Palo Alto, Paris, Amsterdam and Midland, Texas, I sat bathed in the soothing glow of my laptop screen, planning, negotiating, and sometimes fighting, through the history of a dozen civilizations that never were.

The game is the same as it ever was:  you build structures, you move units around, the AI makes ridiculous demands.  Friends betray you, enemies taunt you, and more often than not you quit sometime around 1969 as the exotic becomes familiar and the complexity slows each turn to a crawl. And then, enchanted by the possibilities, you start a new game, only this time you'll attack everyone like a crazed wolverine, no wait, you'll swear to never fight no matter what, or better still, you'll wait to declare war until everyone else is a basket case, ensuring global domination for generations to come.  And off we go, the new plan certain to fail in the face of capricious counterparties and endless contingency.

Civ 5 looks nice, even on my slightly retro equipment:

Game designer Jon Shafer has been, with benefit of hindsight, critical of some of his design choices, but this in most cases is unwarranted.  One particular decision transformed Civ 5 into a game where, for the first time, strategy and tactics really matter:
In this iteration of the series, tactical gameplay in combat is encouraged in place of overwhelming numerical force, with the introduction of new gameplay mechanisms. Most significantly, the square grid of the world map has been replaced with a hexagonal grid, a feature inspired by the 1994 game Panzer General, according to lead designer Jon Shafer.  In addition, each hexagonal tile, including city tiles, can accommodate only one military unit and one civilian unit or one great person at a time, forcing armies to spread out over large areas rather than being stacked onto a single tile. This has the effect of moving most large battles outside of the cities, and forces increased realism in sieges, which are now most effective when surrounding the city tile because of bonuses from flanking.
Wars are no longer simply matters of attrition, or racing to gunpowder.  Unbalanced armies will lose to slightly less modern armies properly supported with ranged units.  Attacks on cities that are not supported by serious siege equipment will almost always fail - in my final campaign I watched Queen Elizabeth and Theodora of Byzantium each lose two entire armies in frontal assaults on a well-defended and heavily-Wondered Berlin.

Trade routes, religion, puppet states...the game has it all.  It is a joy to play, and thanks to serious artistic and musical work, a joy to look at and listen to as well:

So many great memories:

  • Evil George Washington commits to the ideology of order to challenge my upstart Zulus' commitment to liberty.
  • Sacking Byzantium.  ****, would pillage again.  Like the man said...  "I...  I... I... feel something so right, doing the wrong thing..."
  • As the Ottomans, slapping the shit out of Bismarck, repeatedly, according to this formula:
    • Bismarck attacks a weaker neighbor because what else is Bismarck going to do.
    • I wait two turns, then declare war on him.
    • My Ottoman Janissaries, supported by cannon, decimate the medieval units defending his rear.
    • He makes peace by surrendering a city.
    • And then we do it again, all the way to Berlin.
  • Fucking psycho George Washington acting all nice for 1000 years, then going postal because I was crowding his manifest destiny.  Before it was over, every hex of his empire that could burn, was burning.  That'll teach him, the fucking fucker.  Fucking George Washington, man, what a fucking dick.
  • As Anne of Austria, building the largest empire in the world without ever engaging in armed conflict, thanks to some lucky trade routes and her hilariously imbalancing superpower, "Diplomatic Marriage", or as I prefer to call it, vaginal Finlandization.
  • The moment of revelation when I realized that, as Enrico Dandolo of Venice, although I could not create new cities, there was nothing to stop me from seizing them, thanks to abundant close-range fire support from my Grand Galleass units.  Serenissima, my ass.
There are some issues, notably AI that, as Shafer has correctly confessed, is so situation-dependent that consistency of character is lost.  On the other hand, is that so wrong?  Gandhi was a nice man who won with niceness against a (relatively) nice opponent.  In another context, would he have been so nice, or would he have adapted his tactics to the situation?  The game ends up posing a fairly deep question:  is the observed behavior of a civilization - say German aggression 1870-1945 - better attributed to situational factors, or to the character of a specific leader?  I don't know, but, as unrealistic as the AI behavior might feel, I can't say it's ahistorical.  Who would have thought the 4th Crusade would end the way it did, with the destruction of the finest city in Christendom by a Christian army?  Yes, it's random, it's frustrating, it's situational...and so is pretty much all the history that has happened so far.

The greatest achievement of this game is the subtle ongoing process of education, cultural imperialism if you will.  Civilization, after all, is not war, it is the opposite.  Great works of art, music, and writing are respected, sampled, displayed.  Wonders confer not only game effects, but aesthetic effects as well.  And, sometimes, however briefly, we're in danger of actually learning something...

Great game.

"I've got your neutral field right here."

August 26, 2014

TMQ is wrong

Gregg Easterbrook, who writes with the certainty of God and the cold factual accuracy of Cecil B. DeMille, expresses the view that in a playoff series "luck might determine the victor in any one game; after seven games, the best team almost always wins."

Hahahaha, whatta maroon.  What an ill-informed, uneducated, and unnecessarily verbose person.  Hmm, wonder what else he has to say this week...(returns to reading TMQ).

Anyway, the correct answer is here.

GOP Leading Among Elderly Youth Demo

Onion vid.

August 24, 2014

Good plan

The army was abolished soon after the Austro-Prussian War, in which Liechtenstein fielded an army of 80 men, although they were not involved in any fighting...


August 23, 2014

It needed to be said


It's striking that President Obama...seems oblivious to this torrent of white killing. To be fair to the White House, however, it would be uniquely difficult for Obama to address this delicate issue. The real tragedy is that none of Obama's 43 white predecessors have addressed it either. Indeed, looking back on America's political iconography, there are disturbing trends toward the glorification of white violence. Peer inside the US Capitol building, and you'll find a monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis — the leader of an insurgency that caused an unprecedented quantity of violent white deaths.


August 22, 2014


Is There Such A Thing As A 'Good Psychopath'?

This fellow nominates Churchill...


Well, Then.

Sci American quick interview: 

Horgan: Do multiverse theories and quantum gravity theories deserve to be taken seriously if they cannot be falsified?

Rovelli: No.

Adorable Kittens of the Great War

Via Paul Krugman, please see this collection of photos of cats serving in WWI.

August 21, 2014

Further Updates Unnecessary

Study: 79% of Statistics Now Sobering.

August 18, 2014


Thanks to @NewsPointers for pointing us to this phenomenal Onion piece.
You don’t want violence, of course—no one does. But sometimes when you’re out there, in the middle of longstanding policies denying minority men and women the most basic human rights, you must take decisive measures. We train our officers to behave professionally and respectfully toward the communities that they serve. But no matter how much training and experience they may have, they are human beings who, in the bedlam of decade upon decade of racist enculturation and deeply institutionalized systems of inequality, may be involved in a tragic situation.

Um, wow.  Don't give up on the youth of America just yet.

Well, bye

Twitter is altering the timeline of a small number of users, so that they see tweets from accounts they don’t follow.


They're Onto Us!

This would be one of the better plots to start the revolution, if only it had been a plot to start the revolution.

August 14, 2014

A machine for wanking in?

Perhaps the most bizarre episode was the grey concrete building ‘designed’ by Walter Gropius which became, for  years, the home of the Playboy Club in the UK.


Now for a public service message from the students of Howard University


I can't believe they let this get out

No Plans for Canada Invasion, Pentagon Leader Says


August 12, 2014

Let me set the record straight: I Am The Greatest

The Eisengeiste Fantasy Football League enters its 8th season the fall. As the reigning champion, I've had to put up with some pretty outrageous trash talk from a certain someone who will go unnamed but I'll have you know he didn't even make the consolation round last season.

If we awarded diamond-encrusted championship rings, I'd be cordially inviting him to kiss one of mine.

Instead, I will set the record straight.

Greatest Eisengeiste Franchise of All Time

Laird of Madrona

Championships: 2 (2009, 2013)
Eisen-Bowl appearances: 4
Championship round appearances: 6
Worst finish: 6th place (2012)

Second-Best Eisengeiste Franchise

Sum of All Monkeys

Championships: 2 (2007, 2010)
Eisen-Bowl appearances: 2
Championship round appearances: 5
Worst finish: 7th place (2011)

Third Place

Viceroy De Los Osos

Championships: 1 (2012)
Eisen-Bowl appearances: 3
Championship round appearances: 4
Worst finish: 9th place (2013, 2011)

A More Relaxing Air War

B-17 White noise generator offers you all the peaceful,  imaginative relaxation in our crazy modern world that World War II can offer.

August 11, 2014

Stopped reading there

On September 8th, the USC Schwarzenegger Institute is convening a select group of California leaders for a discussion on climate change...

August 10, 2014

Let's get after these bloated spendthrifts

August 09, 2014

It's ok because it's free and you are unimportant

That's as far as I got on this pro-Google snooping piece.  I'm sure this will be reviewed when their free cash flow growth levels off.  That's when they got Microsoft.  But yeah, the TOC is binding.

Reminds me of the old SNL bit about Donald and Ivana divorcing...

Ivana: I won't do it.
Donald:  Actually, under the terms of our prenup, you have to do it.
Ivana:  Ok,  I'll do it, but I don't have to like it.
Donald:  Actually, under the terms of our prenup, you do have to like it...

He stomped Hitler's hat

Well, what else was he supposed to do with it?


August 06, 2014

Aaaaaannd.. There goes the Tenderloin

I didn't read this NYT article on the hip new neighborhood of the Tenderloin. I've seen this article a dozen times before, about every neighborhood I've ever lived in since becoming an artist, and it always ends up with the essentially the same last line: "Now you have to leave to make way for the new Pottery Barn."

August 04, 2014

Success is assured!

Nothing could possibly go wrong with this venture.

Ottoman Empire Vs. Petty Bourgeosie in NYC

Last perfumed pillow of the Ottoman Empire faces an eviction notice from a $390 a month rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan. 

August 03, 2014

Additional Lamarckian themes

Still looking for a good book in English that describes Lamarck's scientific work.  Not much success on that front.  Here is an article suggesting that the discredited idea for which he is most famous - the inheritance of acquired characteristics - might have some basis in fact after all.

This article from Cal Berkeley's Museum of Paleontology says "Lamarck can be credited with envisioning evolutionary change for the first time."

Suck it, haters

(The same article also says Buffon had an even earlier read, but I think Buffon is a little like Tobin in financial economics - if you properly credit him, he'd probably have four Nobels instead of just the one.  But at some point you have to let someone else play.)

I'd said that Lamarck developed his views from analysis of skeletal structures, and walking through a museum full of skeletons it seemed obvious how he must been thinking:

After the "holy shit" part

Cuddly, friendly triceratops

But there are two problems with that:  First, Lamarck predates most of the samples in the museum.  Second, the Berkeley site and Wikipedia say it was his pioneering work in plants and invertebrates that formed his thinking, not skeletons.  Oh.

So what did that look like?  What is he looking at that makes him think, "hey, these organisms are evolving over time"?

Well, his works are lavishly and beautifully illustrated, so much so that people tear them apart and sell them on Etsy.  But which of these marvelous pictures was he looking at as it dawned on him that creation was not static, complete, perfected?

It's hard to get an answer to this because so much crap has been written about him.  Lamarck is pure crackpot fuel.  There are two kinds of people who hate Darwin:  religious nuts, and The French.  Both find Lamarck appealing, and both have written many words praising Lamarck for his support of their religious and/or patriotic agendas.

But it turns out there is - or was - a book.  Intellectually honest and well-regarded, it is of course out-of-print and hard to obtain.  (Goes to Amazon.)  My copy is supposed to arrive August 6th, so more on this story as it develops.

49ers sure to win

Seattle handled business, earned home-field advantage, and that was a major reason they held on and won in the NFC championship game. They deserved the championship. That doesn't mean the 49ers wouldn't have won that game on a neutral field, however.


August 02, 2014

This alone is Hall of Fame-worthy

On a large screen behind the bar, ESPN was broadcasting a tweet from the Cleveland Browns’ jet-setting rookie, Johnny Manziel, referring to [LeBron] James as “my guy.” 

“Who the fuck is Johnny Manziel?” [Andre] Reed asked. “LeBron ain’t your guy! You’re not ‘Johnny Football.’ You’re ‘Johnny Rookie Bitch.’ ”

That last part works particularly well when read aloud, at a slightly slower-than-normal pace, preferably by Samuel L. Jackson.


This is excellent