Weird Day

Dog in surgery today to remove the broken tooth.  Poor thing was doped on Tramadol last night and spent the evening wandering around the house confused.

She should be home tonight, she's young and in good shape so 15 minutes under should be a breeze for her.

A friend had his car towed last night from outside his house.  There's a weird Seattle statute that cars left for more than 72 hours without moving can be towed.  We live in a pretty suburban part of the city and typically the only way this could have happened is if his neighbours complained.  it's a newish Toyota Truck, I'm wondering if his new neighbours didn't realize it was his too.  I've suggested he ask them if they say anything as he thought it was stolen.  Either they'll come clean or not.


In a discussion elsewhere about economics I was getting caught up over an assertion that economics is currently too primitive a 'science' to be useful.

I disagreed.  I think actually we're getting to a point where we have economic theory and models that do a pretty good job of modeling complex macro-economic situations and we have a tool box that includes some fairly well understood methods of dealing with different problems.  That's not to say that we won't hit a new set of economic conditions that we'll need to adapt to (secular stagnation being a worrying example) but on the whole we've a fairly good set of historical information and models that do a very good job of telling us that if we do X or Y then Z will happen.

It's not a 'science' like, say physics, but there are some parallels.  Keynesian economics is no more dead than Newtonian physics just because we have Special Relativity.  You just have to know what circumstances in which to use the correct models to get the expected outcome.  Modern economics actually does a pretty damn good job with explaining the mess of the last few years and explaining how to deal with it and also explaining why we don't have German style hyperinflation.

It's also a lot like engineering.  Most engineering is actually models based on observational evidence that kinda, sorta, maybe explains whats going on.  The only significant difference is it's really easy to model fluid flow in pipes and repeat, but a lot harder to do that with economies and see what happens next.

The core problem then actually is political.  Politicians like to claim that economics is wrong, or that there are competing theories at work, whereas, really, there's a lot of consensus and looking at the data there's a lot of very clear models that just work.  But then, people get involved.  And as we've seen.  People are a problem.

Anal Expression

Something dog owners learn about.  After attempting to do it myself, I realized that the simplest thing to do would be to take him to a professional.  Made for an interesting day.

I have been known, on occasion, to argue with cranks on the interwebs.  There's a lot of them, and many of them push my buttons.  Although I think I managed to give up Rand Simberg a few years ago, to be honest, he stopped being entertaining and just became sad.

Mostly though, these are people I don't know, or at least don't know well, that changed at the weekend when I got into an argument with an old co-worker about UKIP.  For non-Brits, UKIP is an emerging 'new' force in British politics.  In fact, they're essentially the Euro-skeptic wing of the Conservative Party with a bunch of loons and cranks who don't feel at home in the current Conservative Party due to, er, stuff... mostly about dark skinned people and gays.

The former co-worker was explaining how Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, was going to be the next and a great British Prime Minister, I immediately assumed he was trolling me - but was shocked to find that he wasn't.  It got worse.  He was 'saddened' that I was so out of touch that I didn't see how over run with foreigners Britain was and how immigration had to stop.  He chided me for living in a real country with strong immigration laws which wasn't being ruled from abroad.

It was, frankly, a bit of an eye opener.  Firstly, given that he earned a living working on a Finland based account for a Swedish company which used Polish and German engineering, I'd have assumed he was a bit more nuanced about the benefits of trade.  Secondly, as the child of an immigrant, yes people, Ireland is a separate country, honest, and being married to one, I take exception to being lectured on immigration policy.  It must be noted that Farage of UK has, I believe a French wife.

I did point out to him that not only was US immigration a serious issue here, but that companies like Microsoft were setting up development centers in Canada because they couldn't get visas for their engineering staff anymore.  I also mentioned that I think he'd find a certain Clivden Bundy and friends *do* think they're being governed by a foreign power, just one in Washington DC and not Brussels.

All in all, it is very disheartening.  It's one thing to see disaffected poor working class people getting riled up by 'them' and 'us' propaganda, it's quite another to see somebody who is firmly middle class, relatively wealthy and who has benefited dramatically from the EU getting in on the act to.  Having watched Farage at work, he is very good at distilling complex arguments into a soundbite, safe in the knowledge that there's no single, easy, way to refute what he just said as being the turgid pile of bollocks it invariably is.

He likes to talk about Europeans coming to the UK in vast numbers, even though the numbers appear to be anything other than 'vast', while ignoring the rather large numbers of Brits who've made their homes in Europe.  If the UK becomes unfriendly to live in and starts requiring visas, why shouldn't Europe counter with visas for Brits?  I certainly would.

He also makes the oft used argument that the UK could have the same trading agreements but be outside of the actual EU like Switzerland or Norway.  Firstly, assuming that the EU would even allow that, and reading current complaints about Switzerland, that seems unlikely, that ignores the issue that both Switzerland and Norway actually have to obey most of the rules and regulations that the EU puts in place anyway.  Exactly what Farage complains is destroying the fabric of Britain.

Finally, UKIP describes itself as Thaterite and Libertarian.  And like many Libertarians they seem to have a really nasty authoritarian streak which always seems to suggest to me that they want personal freedom and responsibility for them and the stuff they believe in but not for anything else.  Reading about some of the UKIP supporters and their actual opinions on rape, homosexuality and a raft of other issues that really should be libertarian, I'm left thinking sadly, that in times of economic hardship Europeans, Brits included really do like somebody who can make their problems seem to be down to somebody else.

I really wish that on both sides of the Atlantic, people were more interested in politicians who told you what you needed to hear and not what you want to hear.

The Importance of Being Stupid

There's an old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  I'm rather feeling that about the US GOP, and many others, and their attitude to the magical elixir that is tax cuts.  To quote Homer J Simpson, "is there nothing they can't do?"

Presented, for your consideration is this from Kansas and Missouri.  Basically the great state of Kansas decided that they had to cut taxes, so cut they did.  The idea being, that lower taxes would spur growth because people would have more disposable income and therefore money would 'trickle' down - etc... good old Supply Side economics.

So here's the thing, even after 30 odd years of trying this on a national level, the data is pretty mixed, and by mixed I mean, it's highly suggestive that it simply doesn't work.  Reagan's miracle actually didn't do all that much, despite the hype, his levels of job growth weren't that much more than had happened under Carter, and his tax cuts were more of a tax shuffle.  Not to mention, the fact that by relaxing credit rules, they fueled the boom that had people mistaking more debt for more wealth that led to the mess we just lived through.

Anyway, fast forward to Kansas in 2014, where the net result of the tax cuts is a $90m+ shortfall this April, on top of a larger one last year and now a downgrading of their debt on the basis that without more revenues the state is going to go into a death spiral.  Oh and guess who bails out states like that?  Yes, you and me.

Anyway, to compound this stupidity, the great state of Missouri decided to follow suit, and cut taxes too.  The Republican Governor vetoed this on the grounds that he didn't want to be part of driving the state's economy into the ground, only to be over ruled by the state legislature.

And, here's the kicker.  How much money does this actually save per year for the average Missouran?  Oh, right, $50-$70 dollars.  Yup.  They'll be able to buy a whole extra tank of gas, or a cable for the AppleTV they can't afford either.


Good piece on writing here....

Author Chris Gerrib writes an excellent piece comparing two Hugo nominated Short Stories in terms of how they approach the nature of the story and then tell it.

Having read one of the stories and bounced, hard, off the other one (for many of the reasons he points out) I'm in full agreement.

The falacy of the competent man and selling

Over on the_other_place, there's another libertarian discussion ongoing about drug trials and that the FDA is too slow and should get out of the way.  It's a beguiling concept, that the individual knows what's best for them and should be able to take the drugs they think can help them.

The flip side of this are the drug trials people I've met who are very cautious because they're fully aware that human physiology isn't just stranger than we imagine but, on the whole stranger than we can imagine and things go wrong in trials all the time.  Plus people are genuinely lousy at risk perception and can be easily conned into doing things that are bad for them.  I watched the Wolf of Wall Street at the weekend and then went and checked the back story.  Basically, amoral fuckwit finds out how much money he can make selling worthless stock to people he can con and gets very, very, very rich doing it.

There's nothing all that magical about selling stuff to people, honestly, there's a very simple set of tricks you can use to get people to agree with you.  It's why the legislation on things like cool down periods is so essential.  Next time you're being sold to, watch for the open, leading questions "What will you use this for?", "How often do you think it could be useful?", "Why don't you try it out now?" And so forth...

See that?  You're already thinking about using the widget.  Then you switch to closed questions.  "Can you see yourself using this then?", "What colour would work for you?" and then "When would you like it?" or "How would you like to pay?"

You get people thinking about the thing, you get answering questions that have yes as an answer and then you ask them to take it and shut up until they buy.

Next time you buy a car you might spot some of these, they're taught in sales training courses all over the world and they're based on very sound principles about how people respond to things.

Selling drugs to a dying person?  Easy, you're just selling hope.

Which comes back to the fallacy of the Heinleinian Competent Man...  I'll leave it to the reader to have a think about the triggers that get one of those saying yes and the sales script for anything pretty much writes itself.

Ok, don't say I didn't try...

I gave Vox Day's Hugo nominated Short a whirl.

I also tried some of the other stories in the collection.  Sorry.  I couldn't do it.  It was just everything that I dislike about fantasy in a nutshell.

Apparently this means I'm missing the deep theological reasoning and logic in the story, but apparently it was buried under some dreadful prose.

I'm coming over with a Doctor, a cardiac physicians assistant and a nurse anesthetist.

They're curious about the NHS and curious about learning more, particularly the two PAs.  They were interested in meeting anybody who works in the NHS and also wondered if there were any training type events they might be able to see to get a feeling for the differences in the way their systems work.  Bill is especially interested in how PAs are being seen in the NHS - he's pretty senior and has a lot of freedom in terms of his OR and prescribing rights.

Does anybody know anybody who might be able to give them some inside info and maybe a quick tour of somewhere in London?

Actually, he said brightly, I quite liked them.

That's not entirely true.  The Wheel of Time thing does confuse me, and I'm not starting on a 1000 volume epic fantasy before the Worldcon.  Likewise, good for Mr. Correia for getting himself on the ballot, but I'm not going to be reading Book III in a fantasy series I suspect, mostly because I can't be arsed to read the other two first.  I'll probably read Parasite, but I've still got a strong feeling of antipathy towards Ms. Grant over her behavior a few months back and that, to my surprise, isn't going away, so most likely it'll be Ancillary Justice which was my first nomination too.

Dramatic Presentations - somebody on Facebook said they felt 'meh' about them all, I couldn't agree more.  I was SHOCKED that they overlooked Sharknado...  I mean really?  How could they.  I did like the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who and will be voting for that, and Gravity is the only Long Form on there that I could bring myself to vote for.  I do feel that Col. Chris Hadfield was robbed though.

The other categories, given I barely read short fiction these days it's always interesting to see what comes up and I'll have a read.  Which brings us to Vox Day and his nomination.  Yay!  We've proved the Hugo's aren't some vast Left Wing Conspiracy.  Super.  So we get to read some of his prose, which I'm assured is as excellent as his navel gazing in his blog.  At least  we can lance the boil surrounding the question of whether or not the man can write fiction that's readable.  I do hope he's coming to London though.

Finally, I have already had people complaining that there are no Fanzines in the Fanzine category and no fan writers in the fan writing category.  I suspect that definitions might be changing as the world gets more and more online and as more people get involved in the nomination process, then things which have an online footprint will get more traction than things that don't.  That would seem to be the reality of the teens, and arguably, just the trend since 1999...  frankly, there will be teenagers drinking LEGALLY in the bar at Loncon who certainly hadn't started secondary school the first time this was complained about, and I suspect if we looked hard enough at 1999-2001, we could argue that there will be teenagers drinking in the bar who hadn't started school the first time this complaint was made.

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