Monday, July 30, 2007

What a Day!

It happens very rarely, but occasionally something happens to make me a little less misanthropic for few hours. I had 2 such occurrences today, so this week has reached its high point.

First, here's Mark Steyn's column on the two Oregon seventh graders who find themselves charged with sexual abuse after slapping girls on the butt. Incidentally this makes pretty much everyone I was a graduate assistant with a sex offender.
The second paragraph made my day:
Messrs Mashburn and Cornelison are pupils at Patton Middle School. They were arrested in February after being observed in the vestibule, swatting girls on the butt. Butt-swatting had apparently become a form of greeting at the school – like "a handshake we do," as one female student put it. On "Slap Butt Fridays," boys and girls would hail each other with a cheery application of manual friction to the posterior, akin to a Masonic greeting.

And then there was this:
a story on a camp in Russia where the young are encouraged to procreate for the motherland. Quite frankly Russia needs fresh blood big time. The camp sounds pretty cool to me aside from the fact that apparently it is run by Putin for the purposes of strengthening his own grip on power.

Maybe the Kremlin should start the process of increasing Russia's birthrate by encouraging women not to get abortions. The last data I saw, and I'm sure it hasn't changed, is that there are more abortions in Russia than live births. If that is not a microcosm of Russia's state of affairs I don't know what is.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter

Apparently I'm the only one in the blogosphere, including the economics blogs, who didn't spend all weekend reading the final installment of the Harry Potter series. I have no desire to read any of the books, but I have seen one of the movies and wasn't terribly impressed. I guess I'm even more uncool than I thought. I guess there is some redeeming social value to Potter, given that the books have gotten some kids to read.

I have threatened on several occasions though to write my own anti-Potter series. The first book will be called Henry Pothead and the Lost Roach Clip. The second book will be Henry Pothead and the Cracked Water Bong.

Correction: I claimed previously that I hadn't read a novel in about 6 years. I actually read In His Steps by Charles Sheldon in the last year. It is a novel that sparked the What Would Jesus Do? movement.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Things to Unlearn from School

Here's a nice post and response on 3 Things to Unlearn from School:
1) The importance of opinion.
2) The importance of solving given problems.
3) The importance of earning the approval of others.
And from the response:
4) Parroting back something even though you don't understand it.

I agree fairly well, especially with 1 and 3. Your opinion matters much less than what the consequences would be if your opinion were widely adopted or implemented. To determine the consequences, you need to have factual and empirical backing, not just an "I feel..." statement. Most of the opinions on a college campus are of the "I feel..." variety whether the speaker knows it or not. I addition, what you think is much less important than what is.

Something else that bothers me in that vein is confusing opinions with policy prescriptions. If I say that I don't like to hunt, it does not necessarily follow that I want to ban hunting, I just don't like to hunt.

As regards 3, seeking the approval of others can lead you into repeating the company line as opposed to offering new ideas or rocking the boat when the boat needs to be rocked. I'm not sure how you combat that one without fundamentally altering the way grading is done and most people don't develop a taste for being the devil's advocate or for being hated.

Original post:

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Novel Reading Material

For the first time in the last 6 years, I read a novel. It's the first novel I've read in probably 10 years or more that I read on my own. (The last novel I read was The Killer Angels by Shaara for a history class my freshman year in college.)

I finished Boomsday by Christopher Buckley several days ago. The main plot surrounds a blogger who advocates that baby boomers kill themselves at age 70 (know as voluntary transitioning in the book) to cure the solvency problems facing Social Security. This proposal is picked up by an opportunistic U.S. Senator who's running for president and all sorts of fun happens around this.

Overall I don't regret reading the novel. Chris Buckley is a good writer of political fiction (his Thank You for Smoking was made into a movie a year or so ago) and Boomsday was clever in spots and kept my attention. However, after finishing it I didn't feel nearly as satisfied as I am after reading some empirical study of Social Security solvency. I somewhat enjoyed the novel, I just didn't feel intellectually enriched for having read it.

I think I'll stick to non fiction. However, I will one day read some of Ayn Rand's fiction.