SSBM Training 1: Marth's SH Double Fair

Super Smash Brothers Melee (SSBM) is hard. And it's hard to get started. I've read a lot of guides and tips. A lot of the info is very helpful. But I think most of it is way too advanced for most players.

I'm not very good at SSBM, but I think most people are probably a lot worse. No offense. I've played games from a young age, I've played a lot of games, I've played a large amount, and I've been very very good at some games. And I started playing Smash before SSBM came out. Not very well, but I've been familiar with Smash for a long time, and followed it much more closely than most fans.

I've been practicing SSBM. Mostly tech skill, alone. I like the game, I like understanding how it works, I like seeing how hard it is and facing a challenge, and I like having a better understanding of what the pros I watch in tournaments are doing, what it's like for them.

I have figured out some ways to practice that are more basic than are usually taught, and I think they could really help people. For example, people say to practice Marth's SH (short hop) double fair (forward air attack). But I can't do that. It's really hard. To some people, it's just the basics. But to me, it's an advanced skill that's going to take a lot of work. My hands have sped up a lot from practice, but I still have a long way to go to SH double fair.

So how do you work your way up? What's in between nothing and SH double fair? My main point in this post is to show you how to break down a technique, like SH double fair, into a bunch of intermediate steps you can practice one by one. Even something pretty simple can be divided into a lot of different things to practice, instead of just being all-or-nothing.

(And for my regular philosophy audience, take note: you can apply similar methods to many other topics outside of gaming. Treat this as a detailed concrete example which illustrates an important philosophical method, and see what you can learn about philosophy.)

- SH

Start with SH alone. To SH, just hit jump and let go fast (before you're in the air). Don't feel bad if you suck at it. I would stand there and hit jump and do nothing else, and Marth would full hop. It took me a ton of practice just to SH. Actually, first I learned to SH Peach, who has an easier one than Marth. Marth is 3 frames, Peach is 4, Fox is 2. Almost all the characters are in one of those three categories. If you have trouble, practice with a 4 frame SH character first. Here's the list of how many frames each character has for short hopping (smaller numbers are harder, meaning you have to let go of jump faster).

One of the cool things I found is, after I practiced Marth's SH a lot, even when I still wasn't very good at it, then when I went back to Peach she became easy. And then once I practiced Sheik's 2 frame SH, and went back to Marth, then Marth felt easier. But you can't move up too early, just starting with Sheik wouldn't have done me any good if I can never get it at all.

- SH While Distracted

As an aside, let me say that being able to stand still and do a SH, and being able to do it while playing the game against an opponent, are different things. As one example, once you can SH ok, try to run forward and SH. You'll miss some because of the distraction. Once you get better at that, try shield stop SHs. That means you dash forward, then very quickly hit shield, then very quickly after that, short hop. Even once I was good at SHing in place, I couldn't do shield stop SHs without some practice. Learning to link together the things you practice makes them harder.

The point is, don't get frustrated if you thought you could SH, but then you try to do SH and something else, and suddenly you can't SH. It's going to happen. It's no big deal, you just need more practice until your ability to SH is less barely and more solid.

- SH Nair

Once you can SH, try to SH Nair (neutral air attack, meaning A with no direction). Hit jump then A. You'll probably miss some SHs from trying to hit A also. Don't worry, practice, you can learn this.

Now to the main point: if you jump and then hit A fast enough, you will land without going into a recovery animation from the nair. The best way to see this is get the 20xx Hack Pack and turn on the flashing red and white for failed and successful L cancels. If you SH nair and you hit A slowly, you will see Marth flash red. If you do it fast enough, Marth will not flash any color.

When I started, I couldn't do this. Marth would flash red. Maybe I could get it 10% of the time. But, again, you practice and you get better. This is a hell of a lot easier than SH double fair. It's a smaller step forward. This will get your hands faster while being a smaller and more achievable goal.

- SH Fair

Next, try to SH fair. If you do this quickly, Marth won't flash red. You have to be a little faster than with SH nair. (If you don't have 20xx hack pack, you'll have to try to watch Marth and visibly see the difference between whether he does his recovery animation from landing during fair, or not. Which is a skill that takes practice. You can learn it early if you have to, but I'd really recommend getting the 20xx pack.)

- SH Uair

Next, try to SH uair (up air attack). Again, you'll have to be a little faster. You'll also have to learn to press the dstick (directional stick, the joystick used for moving) lightly so you don't double jump.

- SH Bair

If you can go even faster, you can do a SH bair (back air) with Marth and land without flashing red. If you do it successfully, Marth will turn around (so this one is easy to tell if you succeeded even without the 20xx Hack Pack).

- C Stick

Then go back through and practice all of these using the cstick (the little yellow joystick) instead of A. (Except not nair, you can't nair with cstick). Again this makes it harder. But it's possible, and with practice your hands will get faster. (As I write this, I can just barely bair with c-stick on a small percentage of attempts. And one really interesting thing I noticed is I can do it a lot easier to the left than the right. After hitting jump, I can press cstick left faster than right. The only reason I can tell the difference is because when doing the SH bairs, that tiny difference actually affected my results because I was so borderline on being able to do it at all. I think that's pretty cool to find that out, and gives me useful information, and potentially something to practice. For example, once I can start to do some SH double fairs with cstick, I'll have to practice to the left first which will be easier so I can have success sooner. And once I can do that a little, I'll have to practice to the right also. Doing it to the left first will be a little easier, another step I can practice before doing it to the right.)

- SH, Fair, Double Jump

Next, try to short hop fair, then as soon as you start the fair, start mashing jump. If you're fast enough, you'll double jump instead of landing. You can also try to learn to press jump at the right timing instead of mashing.

Once you can do that (I can only do it 10% of the time as I write this), try to SH fair with cstick and then get the double jump (I can't do that yet).

- FH Double Fair

Practice doing full hops and then doing fair twice. The point here is to learn the timing for how soon you can do the second fair after the first one. It's not something that's hard, but you do need to practice and learn that timing. Practicing it separately will be helpful. You should also practice other aerials this way just to learn really accurately when you can do a second one. Learning how long your moves last is important and worth practicing for each move individually.

- SH Double Fair

Then, finally, after you progress through all those steps, you can work on SH double fair. That means you do a SH, then you do fair twice before you land. To succeed at this, you need to do the first fair extremely fast after jumping, even faster than any of the things you practiced above. Then you have to do the second fair with good timing as soon as it's possible.

To do a SH double fair correctly, you need to be 6 frames faster than SH, fair, double jump. Fair can hit the opponent on the 4th frame through the 7th frame. Double jump comes out in 1 frame (I think). So suppose you SH, fair, and then you double jump on your last frame in the air. To do a second fair instead, you'd need to be 6 frames faster so you'd have 7 frames of airtime left instead of 1. Then you'd be able to replace the double jump with the second fair and have enough time for it to fully complete the part of the move that can hit the opponent.

The point here isn't just to teach you to SH double fair with Marth. The bigger point is to show you how to practice things step by step and work your way up, a little at a time. Instead of failing to SH double fair over and over, it's better to gradually start with something a lot easier and then keep progressing to slightly harder things. It's a lot more fun to practice when you're learning new things, successfully, as you go along.

Whatever you want to learn, for whatever character, try to figure out a series of small steps that can help you build up to it. Commonly people recommend pressing the buttons slowly at first and then speeding up. That is great advice but there's other ways to practice too.

All the information in this post, I basically had to figure out myself (except the frame data). No one told me to try practicing bairs fast enough I would turn around. But I find it really helpful as an intermediate step. I hope some Marths find this helpful, and also everyone understands the method of creating a gradual progression of small steps to practice. Most melee training information doesn't cover little things this basic, like I never ever heard anyone say "practice doing SH fair fast enough you land without going into recovery from attacking", but I think it's a really useful idea. So hopefully this will encourage a lot of really new players who are struggling. By breaking things down into smaller steps like this, you'll be able to see your progress and succeed one step at a time.

For part 2 at my blog, click here. It provides another example with the same philosophical point.

For all parts beyond 2, and some people's helpful replies, see my thread at Smashboards.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

Israel and Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:
Today the Cabinet will be briefed on the security challenges developing around us, first and foremost Iran's attempt to increase its foothold on Israel's borders even as it works to arm itself with nuclear weapons. Alongside Iran's direct guidance of Hezbollah's actions in the north and Hamas' in the south, Iran is trying to also to develop a third front on the Golan Heights via the thousands of Hezbollah fighters who are in southern Syria and over which Iran holds direct command. The fact that Iran is continuing its murderous terrorism that knows no borders and which embraces the region and the world has, to our regret, not prevented the international community from continuing to talk with Iran about a nuclear agreement that will allow it to build the industrial capacity to develop nuclear weapons.

... The agreement that is being formulated between Iran and the major powers is dangerous for Israel and therefore I will go to the US next week in order to explain to the American Congress, which could influence the fate of the agreement, why this agreement is dangerous for Israel, the region and the entire world.
This is very important. Obama wants Israel to be destroyed, and is actively pursuing that agenda, and most Americans don't recognize it. And Obama is far from alone in this matter.

I look forward to Netanyahu's speech and seeing the reactions. Maybe he can talk some sense into America. I really hope so.

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Anti-Deviance Strategy

Most statements which are sufficiently deviant (from cultural norms) are assumed to be jokes by default. This is a way of protecting everyone from admitting that serious disagreements exist.

For example, if you say, "Thank you so much, you've persuaded me and I've learned a lot. I will completely rethink all my values and take on board the moral values you've shared with me." that reads as likely sarcasm because it would be much more rational than typical people in our culture.

And if you sound significantly less rational than the typical person, it again doesn't read as serious. For example, "I hate you for trying to use logic to share ideas with me that you think would help me. I'm very mad that you could be so arrogant as to think you could know anything useful to me. Did it ever occur to you that I don't want to think?" People will assume someone doesn't really mean that and is just making a joke, perhaps an exaggerated parody to imply the other guy is wrongly treating him like the person in the parody.

Statements which are reasonably normal are taken at face value, but statements which are deviant are frequently not treated as real statements in the usual way. This is a way of denying the existence of deviance and generally suppressing disagreement and pretending it doesn't exist. It's a strategy which helps people irrationally refuse to consider many disagreements and criticism.

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Comments on Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics by George Reisman. Part 1

Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics is free at this link.
The theory of marginal utility resolved the paradox of value which had been propounded by Adam Smith and which had prevented the classical economists from grounding exchange value in utility. “The things which have the greatest value in use,” Smith observed, “have frequently little or no value in exchange; and on the contrary, those which have the greatest value in exchange have frequently little or no value in use. Nothing is more useful than water: but it will purchase scarce any thing; scarce any thing can be had in exchange for it. A diamond, on the contrary, has scarce any value in use; but a very great quantity of other goods may frequently be had in exchange for it.”

The only explanation, the classical economists concluded, is that while things must have utility in order to possess exchange value, the actual determinant of exchange value is cost of production. In contrast, the theory of marginal utility made it possible to ground exchange value in utility after all—by showing that the exchange value of goods such as water and diamonds is determined by their respective marginal utilities. The marginal utility of a good is the utility of the particular quantity of it under consideration, taking into account the quantity of the good one already possesses or has access to. Thus, if all the water one has available in a day is a single quart, so that one’s very life depends on that water, the value of water will be greater than that of diamonds. A traveler carrying a bag of diamonds, who is lost in the middle of the desert, will be willing to exchange his diamonds for a quart of water to save his life. But if, as is usually the case, a person already has access to a thousand or ten thousand gallons of water a day, and it is a question of an additional quart more or less—that is, of a marginal quart—then both the utility and the exchange value of a quart of water will be virtually nothing. Diamonds can be more valuable than water, consistent with utility, whenever, in effect, it is a question of the utility of the first diamond versus that of the ten-thousandth quart of water.
I don't think this is a very good explanation, because it doesn't explain why people don't pay a lot more for their first gallon of water. People do value their first gallon of water per day highly, and would pay a lot for it if they couldn't buy it cheaper.

For context, let me say that the book is packed full of great explanations. This part stood out for comment due to being an exception.

I think the actual reason water is cheap is high supply (relative to demand). (Or it would be if there was a free market for water. I don't know how the actual water market works. In real life there may be government controls. But the point here is abstract discussion of how markets work, not about the real US situation.)

In a free market for water, if someone tried to charge me a lot for my first gallon of water per day – say, 75% of the value to me, so we'd both benefit – the reason I wouldn't buy that water is because his competitor would sell it to me cheaper (and still make plenty of profit), because water is sufficiently plentiful and cheap to bring to market. Not because the marginal value of my 1000th gallon of water per day is only a tiny amount of money and I'd go without more water before paying a lot for that 1000th gallon.

I think a lot of other readers would have a similar objection, which is a problem even if for some reason Reisman's completely right here. At this point, I don't particularly suspect I have a substantial disagreement about economics with Reisman, I think he just did a bad job of explaining this topic in this small, early part of the book, but I'm expecting (or hoping for) some better explanations of this later.
Very soon thereafter, the whole Circle Bastiat, myself included, met again with Ayn Rand. We were all tremendously enthusiastic over Atlas. Rothbard wrote Ayn Rand a letter, in which, I believe, he compared her to the sun, which one cannot approach too closely. I truly thought that Atlas Shrugged would convert the country—in about six weeks; I could not understand how anyone could read it without being either convinced by what it had to say or else hospitalized by a mental breakdown.

The following winter, Rothbard, Raico, and I, and, I think, Bob Hessen, all enrolled in the very first lecture course ever delivered on Objectivism. This was before Objectivism even had the name “Objectivism” and was still described simply as “the philosophy of Ayn Rand.” Nevertheless, by the summer of that same year, 1958, tensions had begun to develop between Rothbard and Ayn Rand, which led to a shattering of relationships, including my friendship with him.
That Rothbard letter can be found here. I think it may be Rothbard's most interesting writing.

I agree with Reisman that Atlas Shrugged should have persuaded the whole country in about six weeks. That it didn't is one of the largest and most important unsolved philosophical problems. (Note I'm thinking of this problem broadly. Why didn't Popper's work persuade much of his audience? Szasz? Deutsch? I consider those the same issue. Atlas Shrugged is the best, but there's a lot of good work which should have persuaded a lot of people but has only had limited success.)
13. Cf. Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty (New York: Macmillan, 1973). In that book, Rothbard wrote: “Empirically, the most warlike, most interventionist, most imperial government throughout the twentieth century has been the United States” (p. 287; italics in original). In sharpest contrast to the United States, which has supposedly been more warlike even than Nazi Germany, Rothbard described the Soviets in the following terms: “Before World War II, so devoted was Stalin to peace that he failed to make adequate provision against the Nazi attack. . . . Not only was there no Russian expansion whatever apart from the exigencies of defeating Germany, but the Soviet Union time and again leaned over backward to avoid any cold or hot war with the West” (p. 294).
I already had a very low opinion of Rothbard. He has a lot of really awful views, such as anti-semitism and children-as-property. I didn't know this specific thing. (Some of his writing about economics is actually pretty decent.)
It is the division of labor which introduces a degree of complexity into economic life that makes necessary the existence of a special science of economics. For the division of labor entails economic phenomena existing on a scale in space and time that makes it impossible to comprehend them by means of personal observation and experience alone. Economic life under a system of division of labor can be comprehended only by means of an organized body of knowledge that proceeds by deductive reasoning from elementary principles. This, of course, is the work of the science of economics. [emphasis mine]
I strongly disagree with this epistemology, which thinks you have some foundations and deduce the rest. See Karl Popper or my other writing for details.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Twitter Threading is Terrible

Here is a conversation I had on Twitter, in order. This is fine:

And here's my main Twitter feed. Notice how Twitter has taken the same conversation, shown it as four separate parts, which are out of order and incomplete. And Twitter put things together which don't go together (my reply to @Spiff is linked to @asymco's tweet). It's extremely confusing and terrible.

I've noticed other major problems with Twitter threading too. (Threading is how it puts together multiple tweets into one conversation. An example of an OK method is chronological order, like my first screenshot. Split into parts, out of order, with some messages omitted, is an example of a very bad method.)

No Context

Often I view a tweet which replies to something, but when I click through to details I cannot see what it replies to. Ugh... Twitter please get your act together. (Or better yet, someone make a better website and replace Twitter. Thanks in advance.)

Here is an example. Ann Coulter replies to someone talking about a school censoring "this word", and suggests "raghead" instead. But what word was it? I don't know and there's no reasonable way to find out because Twitter's threading is broken: it doesn't show me the prior tweets in the conversation.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Proposal to Alter Graph Misleadingly

The graph @asymco tweeted is normal enough. Focus your attention on the reply from @Spiff.

The reason some of the revenue data looks compressed on the current revenue scale is because it is. Trying to change that is trying to mislead viewers.

What @Spiff proposes is an example of How To Lie With Statistics. He's intentionally trying to make the graph look different than it normally would to meet an agenda of his and give the viewer a different impression.

His tweet may seem innocuous but it's really bad. He's a bad scholar wannabe. Stuff like this is not OK. Bar graphs for typical quantities should use a linear scale, starting at 0, unless there's a damn good reason to do otherwise. If you do something else, the bars are no longer proportional to each other in the intuitive way, so it misleads viewers.

For example, suppose the graph started with revenue at $50,000,000 instead of 0. Then all the bars would be shorter. This would make the smaller bars shorter by a large percentage, and make them look even shorter compared to the big bars. That'd be really bad! When someone looked at it and thought "this bar is twice as big as this other bar", that would no longer be a valid way of reasoning due to not starting at 0.

Or suppose the graph used a log scale like @Spiff proposed. A log scale mean the revenue would be labelled like $0, $1, $10 $100, $1000, instead of like $0, $10 million, $20 million, $30 million, etc... See how misleading that could be? What it means is, again, when someone compares the sizes of the bars he gets the wrong idea. When he thinks, "This bar is about 20% higher than the bar before it", he's being played for a fool.

Don't play people for a fool. Don't try to trick them. Don't have an agenda for how you want your graph to look and then adjust things to achieve it. Just make a simple graph that makes sense and then leave it alone and let it speak for itself. Tinkering with your graph as @Spiff proposes is dishonest (or clueless and still harmful).

Scholarship, please.

Update: @asymco says:
Share prices are frequently graphed using log scales by default. I don't condone the practice.
I'm sad to hear how common bad scholarship is. That's terrible. But I'm glad @asymco understands this and does a better job. Thumbs up to him! Here's @asymco's blog which I read regularly.

Update 2: @Spiff now agrees with my point about log scales (I think).

Update 3: Here is an example of a very bad article advocating bad use of log charts. It looks mainstream and has a tone of sharing uncontroversial knowledge.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reading Resources

Many people say they are too busy to learn much, or learn well. And don't have time to read books.

These same people typically don't know how to speed read. Why not? If time is the issue, why not learn speed reading and then read more? Because they are lying and the real issue is they don't want to read or learn.

Regardless, I want to discuss some aspects of how speed reading works.

The most powerful form of speed reading is RSVP. It's easier to see what it is than explain – click here. You see 1 to 5 words at a time and the computer updates them quickly.

It's very reasonably achievable to read twice as fast with RSVP compared to regular book reading. So you can read a book in 3 hours instead of 6 hours. You don't have to read many books to pay back the time invested in learning to use RSVP. Actually the time investment is pretty near zero – the best way to learn RSVP is to start using it at speeds only a little faster than your normal reading (and I'd recommend 3-4 words appearing at a time to start with, not 1), and work your way up as you practice. Since you learn while reading, it doesn't cost you any time if you were going to read anyway. It starts saving a little time right away, and a lot more later.

Reading costs resources other than time. For example, if you use RSVP to read twice as many books, and you buy your books from Amazon, you'll have to pay Amazon twice as much money. But books are cheap, I hope you'll forgive this "problem" with RSVP.

Using RSVP software requires e-books. If you have a paper book, you can't read it with RSVP. This is the biggest difficulty with RSVP due to DRM. E-books like Kindle books are easy to get and exist for many, many books. And they are typically cheaper than paper books. The problem is when trying to prevent you from giving copies of the book to your friends (or strangers), they also try to prevent you from reading the book in anything but their official software (which doesn't support RSVP). To read a book with RSVP, you need it without copy protection. So you have to read from a limited pool of free books, or use torrents or book download websites, or use software to remove the DRM. This is not hard, but unfortunately you can't just get started reading any book from Kindle in 5 minutes. It might take you a couple hours to set up DRM removal software, or half an hour to find a book downloading website or get a torrent program.

Buying e-books and removing the DRM so you can read them in your own choice of software is completely reasonable and moral. If you don't distribute the books to others, you aren't doing anything wrong. You pay for the book, and then read your book, that you own, with the software of your choice. That's it. What's wrong with that? Nothing. It also offers the best selection of books available. People should learn how to do this. It isn't very hard.

Mental Energy

So with RSVP you read a book in 3 hours instead of 6 hours. Is that harder or easier, once you know how? Easier. It leaves you less drained, less fatigued, less mentally tired. But how much easier? Since you spend half as much time reading, does that mean it takes half as much mental energy? No. For every hour using RSVP, you get more mentally tired than one hour of regular reading.

With RSVP, you get less mentally tired per page read, but more tired per minute of reading.

A rough estimate is that while you're saving 50% for time, you're only saving 25% for mental energy.

Say regular reading finishes 100 words in 100 units of time and uses up 100 units of mental energy. Then RSVP would read 100 words in 50 units of time and use up 75 units of mental energy. This is a good thing.

Busy People

Let's hypothetically suppose that RSVP used up 125 mental energy units instead of 75. Then you'd be saving time but spending more mental energy per word. Would that be good?

Certainly not for everyone. But for a lot of people, RSVP would still be very useful in that scenario. People who are low on time would still use RSVP to save time. They'd be effectively trading some mental energy for some time. They'd be converting one resource (mental energy) into another (time). If they are low on time, doing a conversion to save time is useful.

Most people, including most "busy" people, only use a fraction of their mental energy each day anyway. They've got a lot to spare. (Many will lie and say otherwise. The issue is not that they are too mentally fatigued to think more, it's really that they don't like thinking, so they say they are mentally fatigued to excuse their choice not to think much.)

But real RSVP saves both time and mental energy. That makes it such an amazing deal. It'd ridiculous that very few people use it. This is a good example of how people make huge mistakes which makes their quality of life dramatically worse.

The only real reason not to use RSVP is if you don't read. Which would be a big mistake, but for different reasons. Thinking and ideas are important! But I won't go into that here. If you want an explanation, you can read Philosophy: Who Needs It or ask at the Fallible Ideas Email Discussion Group.

Different Types of Mental Energy

There's different types of mental energy. If you get tired from reading and are too mentally fatigued to read more, you can usually still do something else, including listen to an audio book. But they aren't totally different: if you can normally comfortably read for 5 hours in a row, but first you get really tired from playing chess for 10 hours, you'll find you run out of reading mental energy faster. All that chess used up the majority of your reading energy. All sorts of different types of mental energy are linked significantly but not entirely – using one uses a lot of the other, but running out of one often doesn't completely run you out of the other.

One consequence is that if you're using mental energy for other parts of your life, and you add in some reading, this is not a zero sum game. Every bit of mental energy going to reading does not mean less mental energy for other tasks. Maybe two thirds of the mental energy for reading has to be subtracted from other tasks, but one third is a bonus.

Audio Books

Audio books make speed reading even more convenient than text books. Lots of audio book software already has an option to turn up the speed. Unfortunately a lot of software only lets you listen at 1.5x or 2x speed, even though a skilled listener can listen at 2.5x or 3x. (A lot of audio books are read very slowly, significantly slower than regular slow text reading.) Please be careful because some software labels 1.5x speed as "2x" and 2x speed as "3x". This mislabelling includes the software from Apple and Amazon (Audible). You can easily test this by playing something at "2x" for 1 minute (using a clock) from the beginning, and then see how far along you are – 90 seconds or 2 minutes in.

Audio book selection is limited, but this can be fixed with text-to-speech software such as Voice Dream Reader. (I use the "Paul" voice.) Text-to-speech software now works extremely well. The only problem is if you buy a book on Kindle with DRM, you can't read it with your own choice of software, like we talked about before. That means no RSVP and also no text-to-speech. Unless you remove the DRM, which isn't that hard.

Some people worry that text-to-speech software is harder to understand than human speech. This may have been true in the past, but it is not true today. Actually, text-to-speech is better and easier to understand at high speeds because it's 100% consistent about pronunciation and pacing. Not every single word is pronounced correctly, but most are, and they are always pronounced the same way, and you can still understand it (and if you're really bothered, you can tinker with it and fix how it pronounces words).

How do audio books compare to RSVP and regular reading? Using the same numbers as before where regular was 100/100/100 and RSVP was 100/50/75, audio book speed reading would be 100 words in 75 time using 40 mental energy (audio books without turning up the speed would be more like 100 words in 150 time using 35 mental energy, there's really no good reason to do that. once you're good at this, if you're tired you can just turn the speed down from 2.5x to 2x or something like that, and it feels very easy, there's no reason to use 1x speed).

Audio books are a great way of reading, even though they are slower than RSVP, because they are less mentally draining and still pretty fast. And it's basically free to learn to listen to audio books at higher speeds: just turn it up a little at a time and you'll learn while reading without any separate practice or training or lessons.

The other great thing about audio books is you can easily mulititask. You can easily listen to an audiobook while walking somewhere, while on public transit, while driving, while exercising, while showering (with speakers instead of headphones), or while eating. It works with some other activities too, such as playing video games, though that can require some skill if it's a hard game. Whereas to multitask an audio book with exercise basically requires no skill, anyone can do it right away.

TV and Movies

TV and movies can be watched at higher speeds to save time. Again you can learn this gradually while doing it, so it's basically a free skill that saves a huge amount of time for zero downside. The speed you can watch something depends on factors like how fast they talk and whether they have accents. But once you are good, you can watch most TV and movies using from 2x to 2.5x speed, while being completely comfortable and relaxed. And getting up to being comfortable at 1.5x speed comes pretty quickly and is still fast enough to save a lot of time.


Another advantage of speed reading, speed listening and speed watching is that it increases the amount of interesting stuff you engage with per minute. It makes the book or show effectively have denser content, so it's more interesting. All the good parts are packed closer together. This is especially valuable if you need to read something for a school class but it's kind of boring. It makes stuff less boring, more interesting. It's also great if you're bored and have trouble finding enough interesting stuff, because it will change some books and shows from too boring to worthwhile.


There's other types of speed reading, but I think most of them are inferior to RSVP and there's no reason to use them. Most other methods of speed reading are designed to work with paper books, but the fact is software is more powerful and superior to paper books. And a speed reading method that utilizes software (RSVP) is superior to one that doesn't.

However, there is a notable form of reading, which is sort of speed reading, which is great. It's called skimming. If you don't need to read every word, don't! This can be a lot faster than even RSVP if you can skip over half the text. And there are plenty of reasons to take a look at something but not read all of it. That's really useful. You might want to see what it is and see if you're interested, but instead of just reading the beginning you skip ahead. A great way to get a sense of a book is to go to a chapter that sounds interesting, read a few paragraphs, skip a few pages, read a few paragraphs, skip a few pages, etc. It's better to adjust what to skip, when, depending what you read though, don't just turn pages thoughtlessly.

RSVP turned up to a really high speed has some similarities to skimming. Both are really fast, and in both cases you miss stuff. What are the main differences? With very fast RSVP, you don't miss any sections of text. Say you're trying to find out if the author addresses a particular counter-argument. He might do that in one paragraph somewhere in the middle of the chapter. If you skim, you could easily miss that paragraph. If you use very high speed RSVP, you'll see every paragraph and you won't miss it. If you're reading too fast you might not understand it, but you'll see the topic and stop and then read that paragraph again.

If you ever want to say something like, "the author doesn't cover topic X" you need to read every sentence, even if very quickly so you don't understand every detail perfectly. But most of the time you don't need to say things like that, and it's no big deal if you miss something, so skimming is great.

I think both skimming and very fast RSVP are underrated. People will try too hard to finish the whole book, or something like that. But a lot of books you can just quickly go through the best parts, look for parts of particular interest to you, etc, and miss a bunch, and you get more value for your time/effort than if you read the whole book.

Books don't have a totally consistent level of quality, and not all the material is equally interesting to you. For most books, the less good parts are not as worthwhile to read for you as just reading one of the better parts from another book (even if that second book is, overall, less good or less interesting to you). Since you aren't going to read all the interesting books – you won't run out – don't hesitate to go through a book quickly. If you can get 75% of the value from the book in 50% of the time, that's absolutely wonderful and you should be thrilled and move on to the next book and do the same thing with it too.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fun Bastiat Passage

I started reading the French economist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850). So far it's enjoyable – he's good at economics and has a fun writing style (even though it's a translation and he wrote a long time ago). This part struck me as particularly fun: The Bastiat Collection, Part 1, "That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen", Chapter 7, "Protectionism" begins:
Mr. Protectionist (it was not I who gave him this name, but Mr. Charles Dupin) devoted his time and capital to converting the ore found on his land into iron. As nature had been more lavish toward the Belgians, they furnished the French with iron cheaper than Mr. Protectionist; which means, that all the French, or France, could obtain a given quantity of iron with less labor by buying it of the honest Flemings. Therefore, guided by their own interest, they did not fail to do so; and every day there might be seen a multitude of nail-smiths, blacksmiths, cartwrights, machinists, farriers, and laborers, going themselves, or sending intermediaries, to supply themselves in Belgium. This displeased Mr. Protectionist exceedingly.

At first, it occurred to him to put an end to this abuse by his own efforts: it was the least he could do, for he was the only sufferer. “I will take my carbine,” said he; “ I will put four pistols into my belt; I will fill my cartridge box; I will gird on my sword, and go thus equipped to the frontier. There, the first blacksmith, nail-smith, farrier, machinist, or locksmith, who presents himself to do his own business and not mine, I will kill, to teach him how to live.” At the moment of starting, Mr. Protectionist made a few reflections which calmed down his warlike ardor a little. He said to himself, “In the first place, it is not absolutely impossible that the purchasers of iron, my countrymen and enemies, should take the thing ill, and, instead of letting me kill them, should kill me instead; and then, even were I to call out all my servants, we should not be able to defend the passages. In short, this proceeding would cost me very dear, much more so than the result would be worth.”

Mr. Protectionist was on the point of resigning himself to his sad fate, that of being only as free as the rest of the world, when a ray of light darted across his brain. He recollected that at Paris there is a great factory of laws. “What is a law?” said he to himself. “It is a measure to which, when once it is decreed, be it good or bad, everybody is bound to conform. For the execution of the same a public force is organized, and to constitute the said public force, men and money are drawn from the whole nation. If, then, I could only get the great Parisian manufactory to pass a little law, ‘Belgian iron is prohibited,’ I should obtain the following results: The Government would replace the few valets that I was going to send to the frontier by 20,000 of the sons of those refractory blacksmiths, farriers, artisans, machinists, locksmiths, nail-smiths, and laborers. Then to keep these 20,000 custom-house officers in health and good humor, it would distribute among them 25,000,000 francs taken from these blacksmiths, nail-smiths, artisans, and laborers. They would guard the frontier much better; would cost me nothing; I should not be exposed to the brutality of the brokers; should sell the iron at my own price, and have the sweet satisfaction of seeing our great people shamefully mystified. That would teach them to proclaim themselves perpetually the harbingers and promoters of progress in Europe. Oh! it would be a capital joke, and deserves to be tried.”

So Mr. Protectionist went to the law factory. Another time, perhaps, I shall relate the story of his underhanded dealings, but now I shall merely mention his visible proceedings. He brought the following consideration before the view of the legislating gentlemen.
And the proposal was a variation of the broken window fallacy. Or as Bastiat usually talks about it, the issue of the seen and the unseen. All the commerce in the French iron industry resulting from protectionism is seen when evaluating the proposal. The lost commerce in other industries, due to people having to pay more for iron – and therefore buying less of other things – is not seen.

If you're interested, read the rest of the chapter, and perhaps more, in the free book.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jihad Watch and Pamela Geller Misquote Obama

Jihad Watch has run this headline:
Obama: Iran has “no aspiration to get a nuclear weapon” because “it would be contrary to their faith”
Pamela Geller has a similar headline:
Obama: Iran Won’t Pursue Nuclear Weapons Because It’s ‘Contrary to Their Faith’
I don't like Obama and don't normally defend him. But this is false, and scholarship comes first. Obama says enough bad things, there's no need to misrepresent what he said and take quotes out of context. It isn't helping anything. It hurts our cause to get things wrong.

The truth needs to come first, and attacking the left second. Attack them when they're actually wrong, not just as a universal policy. And pay attention to the truth so you know when they're wrong, instead of just assuming they always are. Please.

What Obama actually said was, paraphrasing: Iran claims to have no nuclear aspirations because it'd be contrary to their faith, and if Iran is telling the truth about this then they'll be happy to accept Obama's political deal.

Obama didn't say it'd be contrary to their faith for Iran to get a nuclear weapon, nor did Obama say Iran won't try to get a nuclear weapon. The Jihad Watch and Pamela Geller headlines make both of those false claims.

Obama saying Iran claims something that may or may not be true, and Obama believing it himself, are completely different.

Obama was actually careful to emphasize that it was just Iran's claim. Obama used the phrases, "And if in fact what they claim is true" and "if that is true" and "But we don’t know if that’s going to happen." Three times in one paragraph, Obama made it clear that he was talking about Iran's claims which may or may not be true. Yet Jihad Watch ignores that and lies about what Obama was saying.

Here is the full paragraph that Jihad Watch is talking about, which Jihad Watch is well aware of (they included this text at the end of their article):
And if in fact what they claim is true, which is they have no aspiration to get a nuclear weapon, that in fact, according to their Supreme Leader, it would be contrary to their faith to obtain a nuclear weapon, if that is true, there should be the possibility of getting a deal. They should be able to get to yes. But we don’t know if that’s going to happen.
As you can see, in an epic scholarship fail, Jihad Watch and Pamela Geller grossly misrepresented what Obama said.

Update: I contacted Spencer and Geller by blog comments, twitter, and email. Except Spencer's email button is broken. My blog comment made it through moderation at Jihad Watch, but at Geller's site it isn't showing up and new comments on the post have been approved after mine, so I may have been censored (to make matters more confusing, her blog software is buggy and sometimes reports a post has different numbers of comments in different places, and my comment showed up on the sidebar as a new comment even when it wasn't visible on the post and the link didn't work). Spencer and Geller were at their computers tweeting and it's been hours, and it hasn't been fixed yet. This kind of thing is urgent because most readers see posts when they are new. So after waiting, I just tweeted David Horowitz too, and let them know with the Front Page Mag contact form. Someone better care. I'm going to lose a lot of respect for them if this isn't fixed. I will update again if anything happens.

Update 2: It's the next day and nothing has improved. I think my comment on Geller's cite was censored. My comment on Jihad Watch was flamed by two people. Nothing has been fixed. This is very sad.

Update 3: I've lost hope. No error correction. Very sad. David Horowitz and associates are now on my Scholarship Watchlist. Someone should fact check them with the same format I used for Ann Coulter (and also the regular way of checking things you find suspicious).

Update 4: When reading a new article, I noticed Geller's site says this above the comments:
Comments at Atlas Shrugs are unmoderated. Posts using foul language, as well as abusive, hateful, libelous and genocidal posts, will be deleted if seen. However, if a comment remains on the site, it in no way constitutes an endorsement by Pamela Geller of the sentiments contained therein.
My blocked post did not have foul language, and it wasn't abusive or hateful, and certainly not genocidal. So what happened to it? The site policy is a lie.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

David Deutsch's Anna Story

David Deutsch posted this story in January 2000 to the public Taking Children Seriously email list. The subject line was "academics". I later wrote my own Anna story. One criticism of DD's story is that it overvalues school, formal education and academics.

Eliana WestEmmer asked:
After visiting the "Puzzling Parenting" stuff, I went to the TCS site and read Sarah's wonderful article about math(s).

It got me wondering. I am imagining a kid, no -- a family of three kids. The kids are, um, 10, 12 & 15. The parents have resisted the urge to push academics on them. They have not done any academic math(s). They play video games, chat on the internet, build lego stuff, build tree-houses, etc.

Would somebody write for me a description of life from here on? Tell me a story, that includes the 15 year old becoming a scientist. I am just having trouble picturing them starting math so late... Would somebody help me with this idea?
And later:
The concern is genuine. Without knowledge, how do we come to be who it is we are "meant" to be? And is there not a point, developmentally, where it can be "too late"?
NO. I am sure it can't be "too late."

What I really want is a way to picture life from here for, say, the oldest one (15, was it?). Does she begin with fractions and decimals
Maybe. Probably not.
and work her way up to algebra, then calculus?
Calculus is almost certain to follow, rather than precede, algebra, yes.
Does she start at the local community college
Quite possibly.
in remedial classes?
No, in normal classes.
What does such a life LOOK like?
Well OK, if you really insist on knowing, I'll tell you. I know all the details except her name, so let's call her Anna.

Sometime this year, Anna's previous interest in Lego, treehouse-building, the internet and computer games will all come together and draw her attention to a major TV documentary about how stunts are arranged in movies. She will start building such stunts in the garden, each more ingenious than the last, using all sorts of props and filming them on a video camera. One day, a physics teacher will walk past and see her doing this. Calling to her to give her advice about how to balance a particular arrangement of planks, he will inadvertently cause her to fall fifteen feet onto the grass, fortunately causing only a broken toe.

Anna will have to wait three hours for treatment in the emergency room, which could have been excruciating (because the slightly addled person waiting on her left suffering from chronic whiteboard-marker poisoning will be a mathematics teacher eager to plug the gaps in her home education), but in the event, it will pass quickly because she will get into conversation with the fascinating person waiting on her right, a huge lady called Agnes. Turns out Agnes' ex-husband used to do stunts in Hollywood and she used to help him before she found out about some of the other stunts he pulled -- but that's another story. Anyway, now she owns three successful cafes in town and has just bought two more and wants to go up-market. She's been talking to an advertising agency about making a series of ads for the local TV. She hasn't liked any of their ideas so far, but soon finds that Anna is bubbling with great ideas for how to advertise high-class restaurants using movie-like stunts. Agnes will be surprised and delighted to hear that Anna actually has videos of several stunts she has arranged single-handed (with a little help from her little brothers) and will tell her her to drop by at her office next say.

Next day Anna will hobble along to Agnes' office above one of her restaurants, currently being re-fitted with the new up-market decor. Agnes will love the videos, and will commission Anna to design five stunts for the new series of ads, and execute them for the TV people. Anna will earn three thousand dollars for this, but think no more about it until six months later when the advertising agency will offer her a similar job, albeit for only $500. She will accept, because even though it's a lot of work and the materials alone will cost almost that much, she will enjoy it enormously. The following week, someone will let the agency down and they will phone around in desperation for anyone they know who can do a firework display. Anna will never have done such a thing, and technically it's illegal, but she will agree to step in to help them out. Not only will the display be a great success, but Anna will meet and fall instantly in love with ... the computerised timing device that the agency gave her to time the fireworks. She will ask if she can borrow it, and for the next year it will spend far more time in her garage than at the agency, for she will think of more and more ways to use it to do wonderful stunts, and also special effects. She will also start editing her movies on the agency's professional computerised editing system.

One day in the cutting room, she will meet a pro who is engaged in a science documentary. He will be a mathematics graduate -- who has forgotten all the maths he ever knew and will now be spending all his time filming animals mating. So they won't talk about maths but she will show him how to hide some of the more repulsive aspects of his footage using a difficult timed transition on the editing machine, and in return he will introduce her to his boss, whose next documentary will be about the NASA robots that will one day explore Mars. Anna will be hired as a technical assistant on that documentary, and will dazzle everyone with the exciting stunts she will think of to demonstrate how these robots will behave on Mars. The boss will offer her a permanent job on the team, but she will refuse, because while at NASA, she will also have helped one of the astronomers out with making a promotional movie designed to persuade the government to fund more infra-red satellites. The problem will have been how to display, in an eye-catching and persuasive way, the complex data that demonstrate why such satellites are better than ground-based telescopes. Anna will succeed at this so well that she will have persuaded herself too. She will spend the next two years working for one of NASA'a subcontractors, first in the publicity department, then designing user-interfaces for satellite ground stations, and then even some aspects of the satellites themselves.

All this will involve a lot of interactions between herself and astrophysics graduate students, but slowly the attraction of satellites will wear off, and she will realise that her real love is *theoretical* astronomy. She'll read a book about calculus, do a six-month adult-education course in physics to fill in the gaps in what she's picked up, and then apply to take an undergraduate degree in astronomy, complete it a year ahead of time and then be accepted for a PhD in quasar structure. At that point she will officially become a SCIENTIST.

Meanwhile she will have had two children with the NASA astronomer (who will have left astronomy to become an internet millionaire and failed miserably, but will by that time be blissfully happy again as a home maker), and she will worry that the children won't achieve anything in life unless they have a good grounding in the basics, especially mathematics, but for some unaccountable reason the ungrateful little wretches will be digging their heels in and refusing to listen.

-- David Deutsch

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mark Cuban Blog Comments

SEC sux

SEC lawyers harassing billionare and wasting his time by interrogating him in court trying to find out what a blog post is

with serious stakes

jfc :(

and the govt lawyer doesn’t get it. blogs posts too complex.

not bad. says fix for economy is entrepreneurship, not small tax policy adjustments

2012 cuban:
This administration has failed us in terms of transparency. Transparency , IMHO was a key feature of what I hoped for when I voted for Obama in 2008.
being an obama voter does put his “who cares about the tax rate” thing in a scarier light

like i could see Howard Roark not caring what the tax rate is

but when it’s cover for being left-wing then :((((((

and i do disagree with cuban that tax rate has no effect on behavior

it has limited effect on behavior b/c most ppl focus on specific life roles and stick with those, tax rate be damned

they are more interested in their social role than economic efficiency

but it matters for ppl who aren’t just single-mindedly paying huge sacrifices and costs in pursuit of an (often bad) goal

i like this one

Your business is at risk. For a lot of money. No matter what type of business you are in, you are susceptible to a patent infringement lawsuit. The worst part about this risk is that there is nothing you can do to protect yourself.
talks about that a bunch. argues his point. ends with this:
What can you do as a small business person to protect yourself ? Honestly, nothing beyond complaining to your Congressperson. The only option I have found is to buy into companies that aggressively sue over IP. It is a hedge against patent law. Put another way, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Sucks, but there aren’t any other options that I can see.
what do you think of this hedge strategy? :/

oh god Cuban’s understanding of economics is pretty bullshit
Shareholders , whether they own shares directly or through mutual funds or pensions do not live in a corporate vacuum. Their lives are impacted by far more than the share price of a stock. Every layoff in the name of more earnings per share puts a stress on the economy, on the federal, state and local governments which is in turn paid for through taxes or assumption of government debt by….wait for it.. the same shareholders CEOs say they want to benefit.
suppose that firing some people saved a company $1,000 but did harm to the economy of $100,000.

is that in the best interests of the shareholders?

yes b/c that harm to the economy is divided over a hell of a lot of people, while the benefit to the company is divided over way fewer people. (more than 100x fewer).

if i own 1% of the company, and i'm 1 person out of 300,000,000 in the US economy, then i'm up $10 - $0.03 = $9.97. And look at how little difference the damage to the general economy made to me.

you can try to argue some other factors affect the math a little bit. sure. but the math isn't even close. since it's not a close call at all, small adjustments won't change the result.

running your company to make sacrifices for the general good is not self-interest. it’s altruistic suicide.

and that's even with exaggerated made up numbers that are super favorable to what Cuban is saying.

with real numbers, it’s more like you fire someone to improve your company and that’s a good thing. your company does better so it does more business with other companies and it’s an overall win in addition to being a win for your company individually.

it’s good for the person being fired, too. who the hell wants to work a job where they are creating less value than their salary? who wants to be lied to that they are creating value when actually they are a leeching moocher who is destroying value by going to work everyday? all those hours they spend working, and their boss decided to be “nice” by lying to them that they were being productive, when actually they were spending a large part of their life destroying wealth, and he wanted to be “nice” by having them continue doing that?

for more on this topic read _The Virtue of Selfishness_ by Ayn Rand. Chapter 4, *The “Conflicts” of Men’s Interests*
I have a simple question. Why are profitable companies laying off people ? I can see if a company’s survival is at stake. If payroll can’t be met. If debt can’t be paid. Then layoffs are a necessary evil. Even if companies have created cash flow deficits through their own mistakes, that’s the nature of business. Mistakes are made. What I have a problem with is that discussion of executive pay never includes whether or not the executive has been good enough to pre empt or prevent layoffs.

Executives are not stupid. Usually. They recognize that killing off employees can juice a stock price. Even in this market. Which in turn can juice the value of their options and compensation. At the companies I run, we have cut raises, put a freeze on hiring, done what we need to do, but we have done all we can to avoid layoffs. Why ? Because its the right thing to do. Its the patriotic thing to do. I’m selfish enough and arrogant enough to think that maybe if I pay attention to the big picture that I can impact the big picture.
he wants to sacrifice capitalism for what he thinks is a noble cause.

and no one stands up to him.

but i will.

his vision here is IMMORAL. it’s MEAN. it’s UGLY. it’s BAD. he couldn’t pay me to do things this way. it’s too awful.

what he's talking about, in real terms, is tricking people into wasting their lives. they slave away 8 hours a day trying to produce and be a worthwhile productive part of society. people try so hard to earn their place and feed their family.

how would they feel if they found out they were spending 8 hours a day working but it was all a dirty hoax. really they were moochers on welfare. but people were afraid to hurt their feelings, so no one told them. their boss, instead of telling them about a problem, covered it up so they never had a chance to solve it.

isn’t that fucking awful?

that is the concrete real-world meaning of what Cuban is talking about.

treating people so DISHONESTLY is not kind. it’s mean and rotten as all hell.

the world has plenty of idealists willing to sacrifice things like money to ideals. like Cuban.

what the world needs is people with brains, willing to sacrifice poorly thought out “ideals” to reasoned consideration.

yes there are some short-sighed decisions made which are mistakes. that happens. that isn't the issue here. no one is against trying to think through the long term where there's enough predictability to do so. that's hard and important and everyone tries to do it well. Cuban uses short sighted decision as a false alternative to attack. the fact is short sighted decisions can happen with Cuban's approach or mine, and wise longer term thinking is alos possible with both. time horizon isn't the issue. the issue is when Cuban wants to keep people from being fired whether they are productive or not because he thinks keeping someone in an unproductive job, so they don't switch to a better situation, is somehow a moral imperative (when it's actually a great dishonest evil that prevents better allocation of people where they would be useful and happier being productive. Americans don't want to be turned into charity cases, and have this kept a secret from them.)

remember that math we did above? basically the only thing that will change the result is if the benefit to the shareholders is actually approximately zero or negative. that's it. in those cases, all of what Cuban is saying is irrelevant. if firing someone loses the shareholders money directly, there isn't any debate. yes mistakes get made sometimes, but they are just individual mistakes, not a systematic problem.

Cuban talks about the case where a CEO is shortsighted and is doing something that loses money for the shareholder directly, and tries to use that as his argument to deal with the case where a CEO decision does make the shareholders money in the direct sense but arguably maybe hurts the economy or is bad in some other vague way. and he tries to say, choose altruism over profit, choose other factors over profit. but then a lot of his argument has to do with how sometimes CEOs make mistakes by not accurately forecasting the future well enough and seeing all the angles. but it's uncontroversial to try not to make mistakes that directly lose shareholder money, that's such an easy target. and Cuban tries to use arguing against the easy target to prop up his argument on the controversial topic, which is the case where firing someone does benefit the company individually but (in Cuban's view) harms society/the-economy in a more collective vague way.

what cuban wants, it's clear enough, is to not fire some people who are being unproductive (not even fire them after exhausing some other options like paycuts or retraining – obviously sometimes a person is unproductive today but you can adjust something and fix it, firing isn't your first resort). but a large chunk of his argument isn't about that case that matters, which is dishonest.

I thought I might comment on this post (writing a concise version of my main point here) but then I read at the bottom:
Comments are closed.
Why close the discussion? wtf? lame.

I have tweeted to Cuban asking why he's blocking further discussion. I do not expect a reply but I like to give people a chance and twitter is the contact info he makes available (not email, and not blog comments on this post). I will update this post if he replies.
I can tell you that dealing with the costs of overwhelming bureaucracy was always a far greater problem than taxation [the context here is businesses, not individuals]. Why ? Because taxes come AFTER PROFITS. The price of dealing with bureaucracy, patents, professional fees and of course competition had a far nastier impact on their ability to succeed than tax rates.
Good point. There's some details where this isn't true, like sales taxes on things you buy for the business. And income taxes raise the salary you have to pay people, which costs businesses money before they get into profit. And if you tax profits it has differential impact on different industries and their ability to attract capital and provide adequate return on investment to compete with alternate uses of that capital, so there is an economic inefficiency in how it biases what industries get how much capital. And some other stuff. But yeah this is important and is roughly accurate regarding taxes on the profits of businesses.

remember that issue earlier about whether taxes determine behavior?
But I do know that I have continued to add to my cash balance or sovereign debt from around the world (that I have owned for a while now and has been profitable and is very, very liquid.) The stocks I still own for the most part pay me a nice cash on cash return, or I have owned them for a long, long time and have more in gains than I want to pay taxes on.
he's changing his behavior regarding what stocks to have his money invested in, cuz of tax reasons.
3. Cash Creates Transactional Returns. What does this mean ? It means that you should analyze what you spend money on over the course of a year. You will get a better return on your money by being a smart shopper and taking advantage of cash, quantity or other types of discounts than you will in the stock market. Saving 15pct on the $1k dollars worth of items you know you will absolutely spend money on is a better return on your money than making 15pct in a year on a $1k investment because you don’t pay taxes on it.
Here Cuban advocates most people change their behavior due to how taxes work.

This post is about a scheme where the Government loans money to companies to create jobs.

If these companies could use capital well, why don't they get it from for-profit lenders? Since when is the government good at judging what companies can use capital well? ugh.
I’m the last to be politically correct and the last thing I am trying to be here is politically correct. I honestly don’t give a shit what you think about me. But I think being the person I want to be includes not blurting out throw away jokes about sexuality, race, ethnicity, size, disability or other things people have no say in about themselves.
First, that is kinda politically correct.

More important, this is the usual claim that sexual orientation isn't a choice, it's completely outside of someone's control and responsibility. Where is the argument for that assertion? As always, there is none.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Book Investigation: The Genius of the Beast

So I was watching Capitalism Died for Your Sins on the David Horowitz Youtube channel. it mentioned positively the book The Genius of the Beast.

based on the title, which calls men beasts, i expect it to suck.

so i go to amazon to check out the reviews and see what the book is like. i am of course in the market for good books about capitalism. i like horowitz and friends, and they write good books and articles. so i figure giving it a chance on amazon is a good idea. it won’t take long.

so the first thing i read is:
Is global capitalism on its last legs? Is the era of American leadership over? Has the West begun a decline into a new Dark Age? Does American civilization deserve to survive? These are the unnerving questions raised by the Great Crash of 2009.
jesus fucking christ no.

you know that stupid saying “there are no bad questions”? yeah, it’s stupid. here’s some really bad questions.

and asking them not over something like obama getting elected by millions and millions of fools in the best country on earth. which is scary if you think about how many people are how foolish. he’s a pro-terrorist anti-semitic communist, and millions voted for him, and a lot of that voting is because he’s evil, not in spite of it.

but anyway, no jesus fucking christ some govt-caused economic stumbles are not the last legs of capitalism. no this does not indicate that other countries are somehow better at this stuff (sadly they aren’t). no we don’t deserve to die for giving home loans to poor blacks and stuff like that. no wasting billions of dollars on a bailout and stuff won’t cause a new dark age.

this is so ridiculous. these are not the questions anyone good would be asking and answering. they’re a super bad way to look at the problem situation. they are not designed to set up good answers, they don’t lead into good discussion.
This book presents a radically new answer, insisting that global society has only begun to realize its full potential.
fuck you that isn’t new. see e.g. Ayn Rand. if you’re gonna be a “radical[]” for capitalism, don’t spit in the face of Ayn Rand by pretending she didn’t exist. jfc.

btw how do you do quote edits when ur omitting something? like normally if u wanna change a word ending, like cooked -> cooks, you could write “cook[s]” as a quote of “cooked”. but how do you change cooked -> cook and indicate it? do u just bracket the whole word? see my empty brackets after radical above. not sure best way to handle. thots? so far this aside seems more interesting than the book.
Author Howard Bloom argues that there’s a hidden mandate beneath the surface of capitalism: "It’s struggling to whisper and rumble its message to you and me. That hidden imperative can lift us from economic crisis, can make us a leader in the next-generation economy, and can dramatically upgrade our ability to empower our fellow human beings." Bloom sees crisis as opportunity, opportunity for the whole human race.
the fuck?

and i smell altruism.

and mysticism. and collectivism.

ok let’s skip ahead to user reviews.
I admit I bought this thinking it had been written by Harold Bloom, the Harvard literary don. So I was surprised when I began reading Genius of the Beast and came up against this writer's hyperbolic style, a style which would be familiar to any advertising copywriter.

Bloom is described somewhere in the multiple blurbs all over this book as a marketing genius, and that's what I'll happily take him as. As a revolutionary thinker? His argument boils down to "Technology will save us", nothing I haven't read anywhere before.
oh look, maybe it wasn’t new after all.

this review doesn’t explain the content tho. onward.
As other reviewers have written, Howard Bloom's "The Genius of the Beast" is unorganized and haphazardly written. It is also full of errors, stretched analogies and made up word jumbles (secular genesis machine?!?).
the phrase “secular genesis machine” sounds pretty crap to me too.
As far as errors are concerned, the book has a complete misunderstanding of biology which Bloom claims helps to explain the cycle of boom/bust in a human economy. I'm a biologist, so these errors jump out at me, and I shudder to think about the number of errors in the rest of the book that I didn't pick up because they related to other fields of expertise. For example, Bloom goes on for an entire chapter about the Dictyostelium slime mold, yet continuously calls it a bacterium (which it is not, and is like writing about dogs and calling them snails). He also has no idea about the biological role of microtubules inside the cell, yet uses their inherent dynamic instability (but a small bit of their cellular function) to try and explain worldwide economies. These and his honeybee and evolution analogies show that he has no understanding about these topics besides what he managed to glean from reading one or two magazine articles about them (including references in the back to primary literature doesn't mean he read or understood them).
i’m liking this reviewer! fuck you and your citations-are-scholarship approach, bro.

and reviewer gave what are to all appearances totally legit details about slime mold. that really smells like a correct criticism. and i like his comments about scared of the errors in fields he doesn’t know, that’s a great point to be thinking about. and i like his attitude to citations in the back don’t mean much.
Mr. Bloom may have a modern-day classic in this book. He has managed to perform a work of consilence on the history of man (life, really) and provide insight in the how's, what's, where's, and why's of capitalism and how we treat customers and each other. I must admit as a newcomer to Bloom's work, the first 130 pages left me wondering, "where is he going?”
oh man even the positive review trashed the first 130 pages. (and he writes like a total asshole. perhaps it’s not a coincidence that signs so far were pointing to the book being written like an asshole too). 130’s a lot of pages. and wtf is consilence?

oh dear god it gets a lot worse right after that tho:
Bloom provides an extraordinary grasp of machinations and implications of capitalism, warts and all [...] Strongest recommendation!
fuck you, capitalism has no warts. if you come away from a book on capitalism thinking it has warts and the book agrees it has warts, fuck that book.

i’m convinced now. book sucks. done.

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Aubrey de Grey Discussion, 25

I discussed epistemology and cryonics with Aubrey de Grey via email. Click here to find the rest of the discussion.

Aubrey did not reply further.

Note my last email to him began by saying:
If you want to stop talking, or adjust the terms of the conversation (e.g. change the one message at a time back and forth style), please say so directly because silence is ambiguous.
He answered this with silence.

I think that's pretty unreasonable.

I don't really want to write comments on the content of the conversation. It should speak for itself. (And in a fair way with back-and-forth discussion, rather than just me talking.)

But I did want to comment briefly on attitude to discussion.

You can read some of my thoughts on this topic in my Paths Forward essay. I think Aubrey is blocking discussion and preventing there from being paths forward. If he's mistaken, and it's a big deal, how will he find out when he simply leaves various criticisms unresolved and unanswered? If some of the epistemology he doesn't know is true and important, how will he ever find that out while not understanding it, not asking enough questions to understand it, and not having a refutation of it (by himself or anyone else)?

I think it's very important to address rival ideas. Either personally or by outsourcing – it's fine to use someone else's writing in place of your own, as long as you take personal responsibility for its correctness, as if it was your own. If a criticism of your position is not addressed by anyone (in public writing that's exposed to public criticism, comments, question-asking, discussion, etc), then it really ought to be addressed not ignored. Aubrey neither addresses various Popperian ideas (such as the refutation of justificationism), nor does he know of any writing by anyone else which addresses it. Yet he rejects it and stops pursuing it, without having any answer to it. This is not symmetric. The Popperian ideas I'm advocating are exposed to public criticism but are not currently refuted by anything. My ideas meet all challenges; Aubrey's don't; and Aubrey stopped discussing, leaving it like that without changing his mind.

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Constructor Theory Paper Comments

Constructor Theory by David Deutsch

The paper omits DD's contact information (i.e. email), which I think is really bad.
The theory of computation was originally intended only as a mathematical technique for studying proof (Turing 1936), not a branch of physics. Then, as now, there was a widespread assumption – which I shall call the mathematicians’ misconception – that what the rules of logical inference are, and hence what constitutes a proof, are a priori logical issues, independent of the laws of physics. This is analogous to Kant’s (1781) misconception that he knew with certainty what the geometry of space is. In fact proof and computation are, like geometry, attributes of the physical world. Different laws of physics would in general make different functions computable and therefore different mathematical assertions provable.
This prestige-seeking reference to Kant isn't useful. Few readers will know what DD's talking about, and he doesn't even try to explain. It doesn't add anything.

It's there as a social convention, both to gain prestige and because just starting by saying "in fact my position" is frowned on. But if you say "Kant was wrong. In fact my position" somehow that's seen as better, even though it's worse. The Kant thing helps disguise the asserting-rather-than-arguing.
But this supposed deficiency is shared by all scientific theories: Tests always depend on background knowledge – assumptions about other laws and about how measuring instruments work (Popper 1963, ch. 10 §4). Logically, should any theory fail a test, one always has the option of retaining it by denying one of those assumptions.
The ideas that make up background knowledge can be assumptions, but don't have to be. They are often pretty good ideas which are argued and explained, rather than being assumed.

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Bad Scholarship About Apple
last quarter Apple’s revenue was downright decimated by the strengthening U.S. dollar; currency fluctuations reduced Apple’s revenue by 5% – a cool $3.73 billion dollars. That, though, is more than Google made in profit last quarter ($2.83 billion). Apple lost more money to currency fluctuations than Google makes in a quarter.
Italics in the original.

The sentence in italics uses the word "money" to refer to, at the same time, Apple's revenue and Google's profit.

I emailed the blog author, as well as John Gruber pointing out the error. If either of them corrects it, I will update this post to give them credit. Will anything be fixed or will they be added to the long list of people with bad scholarship? Let's find out!

UpdateBen Thompson of Stratechery replied to my email. He refused to fix anything and expressed that he was unhappy with me for even bringing it up. He said, "my only reason to use the two numbers is to give a sense of scale", and he thought that was obvious and unobjectionable. This is bullshit. It's not OK to call profit and revenue both "money" at the same time and italicize that misleading sentence. And he's lying to me that his "only reason" for choosing Google to compare Apple with was a sense of scale. I hope you learn a double lesson about 1) how terrible Ben Thompson is personally 2) how terrible many people are, you really have to watch out. Lots of people can seem OK if you never challenge them. But if you do challenge them, their awfulness is revealed. Don't go through life blindly assuming the best about people and leaving them untested.

Just before reading that, I saw this other bad scholarship about Apple:

Gruber quotes an interview with market analyist who was very negative on Apple stock. I think it's really great how the Daring Fireball blog follows up on disagreements. It's important to look at ideas in retrospect and see who was right and wrong, and why, and learn from mistakes. When predictions are made made on timescales of a few years or less, it's not that hard to hold people accountable, and yet it isn't done nearly enough.
You have a $270 price target. Is that still too pessimistic?

Zabitsky: It’s formally a one-year target, but in 3 to 6 months we’re going to see that play out. The reason I started to make noise was the rise of Samsung. If you say that now, it’s not challenged.
Apple announced spectacular earnings results yesterday. The most profitable quarter of any company ever. Despite that 5% revenue loss to foreign exchange rates mentioned above. So Zabitsky was badly wrong. That's Gruber's point.

I wanted to add that I don't think it's a coincidence that the same guy who is strongly anti-Apple, and wrong, is also very loose with scholarship. He publishes a one-year price target for Apple, then says, "But I don't really mean what I say when I publish formally. That's really my 3-6 month target, and I published it as a 1-year target because I casually lie in formal predictions."

Apple is good. Many people hate Apple because they hate the good. Their immorality has other consequences than being anti-Apple. Dishonesty is unsurprising. (And note this dishonesty is a lot more severe than the one I criticize above from pro-Apple people. The one above I think is bad but fairly normal. This one about doing formal publications and casually not meaning what you say, I think is really fucking bad.)

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