Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Through a Glass, Darkly

What will the world be like in the near future? (I take this as the next 20-40 years). I find myself thinking on this more and more, mainly out of concern for my son. My outlook is pretty gloomy and I have occasional  twinges of guilt. The present seems a pretty bad time to be born into and will he be thanking me for it ultimately? Or has this always been the case? The author Christopher Cokinos in "Hope is the thing with feathers" reveals that he and his partner decided to abstain/refrain (?) from having children because of their shared pessimism of the future. Coming at the end of a book on vanished North American birds (the chapter on the destruction of the passenger pigeon is heart-breaking) and relentless habitat encroachment, this seemed an apposite stance to adopt.

Anyway, huddle closer, and lets take a glimpse in the crystal ball..........

1) The environment is screwed
'Fraid so folks. In spite the of the worldwide decline in fertility, sheer momentum is going to carry us to the 8-10 billion mark (at least). This puts pressure on land usage for agriculture, industry, lebensraum, etc... which is going to come at the expense of previously unutilised areas (read forests and wildlife habitats). It makes me extremely sad to think that my son (and if he repeats our "mistake", his offspring) will live in a world that will be drastically impoverished in its biodiversity and that there will no longer be any truly wild places on earth. The beasts, such of them that survive, will pad and roam their carefully demarcated zones and at the edges, like a grey smog, looms the sprawl of urban civilization.

2) The good life is over
Peak oil has probably passed. Barring the invention of game changers like nuclear fusion or room temperature super-conductivity, we will run into an energy crunch. What this means is that it will be impossible to maintain living standards for the still burgeoning global population at current levels. The pie has stopped expanding and there are ever more mouths at the table and we will just have to get used to thinner slices. The party's over and there's a heckuva lot of washing up to be done.

3) Science will not save us
This may seem like a funny thing for a scientist to say but in a way, its working scientists who are more aware of the limitations of technological fixes rather than policy makers. Aside from the aforementioned developments, (if they are ever achieved), there is unlikely to be any spectacular breakthroughs that will lift millions of lives up into the sunlit plains. The greatest improvements in modern life have been the result of simple common sense and civic organisation such as better hygiene, sanitation, nutrition and comprehensive vaccination programs (OK, developed through medical science but it would not have had any impact without governmental will to push through compulsory vaccination programs). In other words, low-tech but cheap and cost effective measures that were based on pre-existing technology.
In other words, wishing for some unanticipated technological deus ex machina to lift us out of our present predicament is a forlorn hope. For those of us who can afford it, we will keep on getting the latest toys and gizmos, and medical science will prolong our lives beyond any reasonable point of enjoyment. Possibly the best we could achieve is if suddenly every individual of child-bearing age decided to behave responsibly and limit themselves to 2 children per couple. I wouldn't hold my breath.

4) The West will decline while the East is rising
Frankly the West appears to have lost the will to live. Once you take that thought onboard, its astonishing to see how much more sense a lot of things start to make. First off, they're not replacing themselves. This is bad but could still be reversed within a generation. However the deeper malaise is a loss of faith in the core values and strengths of Western civilization. The most glaring symptom is PC and the uncritical acceptance that anything hailing from a foreign, (preferably 3rd world, pre-industrial revolution) culture is 'authentic' and 'life affirming'. This manifests as a deliberate turning away from the high culture of the West towards a feel-good pabulum of fuzzy, pre-technological, illogically emotional, wishful thinking. To take the long-view, Asian and the Mediterranean basin civilizations were always ahead until the spectacular achievements of Northern Europe over the last millennium. IQ-wise this global view is supported by the similar population means for IQ (NE Asians have a slight edge over whites but as IQ is an ill-defined marker one may disregard minor differences), suggesting that both groups have roughly similar capabilities. However once Northern Europe got its act together, the synergism between application of the scientific method, organisation of industry and research, and the various cultural and political changes ushered in by the Enlightenment quickly led to global dominance. Nevertheless, as over-arching as this dominance is (was?), this looks increasingly to be an aberration due to the chance  conjunction of favourable, but unrelated factors. Sadly the zeitgeist of the West appears to be a turning away from science, logic, and core values such as thrift, hard work and independence (i.e. the Protestant work ethic). On the other hand, Asians are more than eager to snap up the fruits of Western civilization. Science and technology courses are asian-dominated in the US leading to an informal cap on asian enrolment at prestigious institutions (Asian parents emphasise on, and are willing to spend huge sums on education, and will certainly look askance if their children express a preference for sociology, gender-, media-, Queer(!)- studies and the whole liberal arts shebang).
As the blogger Spengler noted, Asians love sending their kids to piano lessons not just out of snob value but also from the knowledge that it provides excellent training in rigour and discipline to complement normal academic education (our son has private piano lessons so I have no idea of the ethnic background of the other students). The state subsidised music schools in Basel offer didgeridoo lessons out of some misguided multi-culti aspiration to be "relevant", I predict rapping courses will be up next. This underlines one big difference between Asians and contemporary western culture. Asians are aspirational and this implies acceptance of a higher standard (heavyweight academic disciplines, classical music) to aspire to, while Westerners (i.e. whites) have been so  pussy-whipped by the PC, multi-culti brigade that they dare not express any preferences which may be (horror!) non-inclusive.
Taken together, i.e. precipitous decline in fertility (also true for East Asia but there's momentum for anther generation yet), and the willful spurning of all the best of their heritage, it seems a no-brainer that in coming decades, far from remaining ahead, the West will struggle to keep up with Asia. There's a huge pool of intelligent young people with excellent work habits coming up like a tsunami from the East. The result follows.

5) Culture will become increasingly debased
Pretty obvious from the late 1980s onwards. The perfection of techniques for advertising and mass-marketing coupled with computer searchable databases allows hard-selling to a target demographic with practically guaranteed results. While this was initially used to promote consumer products and pop culture (as throw-away a product like nappies), the potential for political campaigning was evident and was quickly latched-on to produce the current crop of career politicians whose horizons are limited solely to winning the next election (we often laugh in wildlife documentaries at insects locked into pre-programmed instinctive behaviour. For example, wasps clearing away a pebble blocking the entrance to the nest no matter how many times it is replaced by the presenter. It just doesn't 'get' the bigger picture and fly up to sting the annoying asshole. But think about it, don't we elect people with just as constricted a tunnel-vision as these 'dumb' insects?). Since success in these terms is denoted by the greatest sales/popularity, this leads to a race to the bottom for the lowest common denominator.
The results are all around us. Popular culture (mainstream music, Hollywood) is infantile, pornographic and an insult to anyone with a 3-digit IQ. Democracy is reduced to a popularity contest pandering to mob appeal. Everyone, everywhere has the same manufactured tastes. Attention spans have shrunk below the threshold where it gets trumped by the demand for instant gratification.

                                                 Escher, Hand with Reflecting Sphere

The Palantir clouds over.....the session is ended. 

In truth, exercises of this sort end up by revealing more about the seer, who winds up projecting his innermost fears and desires into his vision of the future. Stare too long into the abyss, and the abyss stares back into you, as Nietzsche said. So its pretty obvious that I'm a gloomy, pessimistic, cup-is-half-empty, curmudgeon. Any reason why not?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Life's a bitch and so am I

Picked this up from the comments section in Steve Sailer's iSteve blog.

Hot Girls Not Being Hired Because Less Attractive Women Dominate HR At Corporations: Study

Abstract: Job applicants in Europe increasingly imbed a headshot of themselves in the top corner of their CVs. We sent 5312 CVs in pairs to 2656 advertised job openings. In each pair, one CV was without a picture while the second, otherwise almost identical CV contained a picture of either an attractive male/female or a plain-looking male/female. Employer callbacks to attractive men are significantly higher than to men with no picture and to plain-looking men, nearly doubling the latter group. Strikingly, attractive women do not enjoy the same beauty premium. In fact, women with no picture have a significantly higher rate of callbacks than attractive or plain-looking women. We explore a number of explanations and provide evidence that female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace is a primary reason for the punishment of attractive women.

Link to the full study seems broken, I'll put it up when its fixed.

This confirms what most of us already knew, viz. that plain looking or mediocre women are insecure, jealous bitches. Most of the girls that I have gotten to know closely who were super accomplished (i.e. highly intelligent, musically/artistically talented, impressive academic credentials, good looking etc...), are also the ones that I'm still on pretty good terms with (I married one  :-). On the other hand, things have generally ended nastily with the dull, mediocre, borderline good-looking ones mainly because their fragile egos just can't handle the realisation of not being the centre of universe or the fact of their beta-hood. 

Whatever the case, the next time I send in my resumè it'll be with this pic attached.

Of course I'll need to come up with some stellar explanation as to why I don't look the least bit like Takeshi Kaneshiro!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

We salute you

Came across this in a blog. It was spotted on craigslist and the husband must be one of the most quickest thinking alpha dudes ever!
To the guy in my closet, you don’t have AIDS – m4w – 30 (Lakewood)
First off I want to relieve your fears that you probably don’t or at least I hope you don’t have AIDS.
When I came home 3 days ago I heard what was obviously mediocre sex going on in my bedroom. Since I quickly made the deduction that someone had probably not broken into my apartment for some quick copulation I figured I had just caught my wife cheating on me which I had long suspected. Your ofish grunts were so loud that I actually had to reopen the door and slam it again for you two to hear me. I stood in the entry for a while as I heard you both scramble before calling out that I was home.
When I walked into the bedroom my wife had some excuse about having a headache and when asked about the nighty she was wearing she said it was the most comfortable thing she could find. Oh…and btw, I don’t know how many affairs that you participate in but a word of advice is that when you hide in the closest from an angry husbands you shouldn’t leave a few toes hanging out from under the door. At this point I am in a bit of a predicament…. I could have the typical masculine response and open the door and beat the piss out of you but then you might file charges and quite frankly I just don’t really care enough. Not to mention I don’t know how big you are and I couldn’t think of anything much worse than finding your wife cheating on you and then get pummeled by her new lover. It entered my mind to have some marathon sex and make you stand and watch the whole thing but seeing how she is a dirty whore the idea grossed me out a little. I came pretty close to just hanging out and masterbating but I am glad I went the direction I did.
So in liue of those options I thought of the funniest thing I could do for my own personal amusement. I sat her down on the bed and looked deeply in her eyes and told her that I had been diagnosed with early stages of AIDS. Recently I have had a series of colds and went to the doctor who told me it was probably just a string of bad luck and it was going around a little bit. The whole thing took about 2 hours and involved a lot of yelling, accusing and crying.
I felt like I hadn’t punished you quite enough, even though I fully acknowledge that it really isn’t your fault at all, so I told her that the illness was making me tired so I needed to lay down. I could hear her on the phone making an appointment with the doctor and I could hear you rustling around in the closest. You did a great job holding still seeing how you probably aren’t used to standing in a 3′x4′ closest for hours and hours on end but if I hadn’t already known you were there you would have been caught for sure.
After about another hour of laying in bed thinking of what I was going to do I felt sorry for you to be mixed up in this crazy thing so I said I was going to go fill the prescriptions the doctor gave me and left the apartment so you could leave. I hope that you weren’t too uncomfortable in there and actually felt a little guilty about it later.
Anyways, I put this in missed connections because I actually wouldn’t mind taking you out and buying you a drink. After all that is some funny stuff to laugh about and you are saving me thousands in alimony since my wife cheated and the least I can do is repay you for a $4.00 beer.
Again no hard feelings and best of luck!
BTW, you might still want to get your self tested since my wife is a dirty whore.
Location: Lakewood
it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
I haven't finished my blog post but will do it over the weekend. My apologies for the cut-and-paste but its just too good not to share.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The i's have it

There's a new product called the iPanties modelled on the start-up window of an iPhone.

Ah, if only it was that easy!

This got me to thinking on the i-prefix. Although its most commonly associated with Apple products (iMac, iTunes, iLife, iPod, etc), it has been co-opted by other companies (iGoogle, iPlayer) and there's even a TV series called iCarly so clearly Apple doesn't have a patent and hence a monopoly on its usage. In a 2002 article, an Apple spokesman stated that it stood for "internet". The reason Apple is unable to restrict the usage is that the practice predates their own first use of it and is probably in the public domain. From my own field of expertise I can cite one example dating from 1992 where the inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase gene was dubbed iNOS (to distinguish it from the constitutive NOS gene). A later example was the development of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) in 2006.

Unfortunately (or should that be fortunately?), as the name has already been taken, we won't be seeing high-tech sanitary napkins called iPad's in the stores anytime soon.

As they say, panties may not be the best thing in the world but its next to the best thing ;-)

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Tooth Hurts

I had to make an emergency visit to the dentist two days ago. My molar started hurting like crazy last week and even the traditional remedy of whisky and kirsch was of no avail. When I checked, I was shocked to see an enormous cavity on the outer surface close to the base of the tooth. I made an appointment on Friday but the soonest I could get was the coming Wednesday. So I just had to gird my loins and fall back on surreptitious nips of whisky to carry me through (the whole medicinal purposes line just wouldn't wash on my wife. I know her).

The dentist was equally surprised by the size and location of the cavity. According to him it was unlikely that caries was the cause as it would have started hurting a whole lot earlier before reaching the present size, and also due to the unusual position of the cavity. His opinion was that I must have incurred some mechanical damage to the tooth which chipped off the enamel layer resulting in rapid decay of the underlying layers. Unfortunately there was no way of saving the tooth as the decay had reached the base where the tooth branches off into the two roots and any further drilling would only end up splitting it. So I agreed to an extraction and he proceeded to inject a local anesthetic which took about 5-10 minutes to work (the whole thing took less than 30 minutes) . He then drilled out the old amalgam fillings and then started cracking the tooth in two using a pair of pliers. It was weird because I could feel everything that was going on and even hear the cracking, grinding sounds of the tooth disintegrating. As I said, it was quick and surprisingly pain-free and now I have a gap where the tooth used to be :-(

The dentist recommended an implant which would cost around SFr 4-5,000(!). I have 3-6 months to decide after which the gradual erosion of bone in the jaw underlying the gap will bring the bone level too close to a major nerve and there won't be sufficient depth to securely screw in an implant. I figure if I have 5000 Francs to burn, I'd rather spend it on a Stratocaster :-)

Anyway I'd advise those with weak stomachs to skip the rest of this post.

The cavity was right dead-centre on the molar at the branching point of the root. Somehow I never noticed it until it began hurting!

The tooth was split in two to aid extraction. You can see how large the cavity was.