Sunday, March 30, 2014

Then they build monuments to you

Again, someone in the world has mangled the "first they ignore you" quote, forcing me to look up the original and remind myself the actual name of the guy. (Particularly galling this time: the mangler was a libertarian, and the original was from a labor rally)

In any case, I am not placing this in prominent places in my extended brain so I can find it easily the next time this happens.

"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. and Then they build monuments to you." --Nicholas Klein

Saturday, March 22, 2014

In support of Lawrence Torcello

Dear President Destler:

I am writing to thank you for supporting the free speech rights of Lawrence Torcello in the face of an organized smear campaign against him, and to urge you to issue an even stronger statement in support of your faculty member.

In particular, I urge you to issue a statement affirming that Professor Torcello's essay is being completely misrepresented by his attackers. He did not in any way call for the imprisonment of individuals who deny the existence of global climate change. His criticism was leveled against those who organize and fund media campaigns promoting ideas about the climate that are harmful and false. Harmful and false statements are already a regulated category of speech, as when the law prevents people from advertising dangerous quack medicine or bans hate speech. Professor Torchello's proposal is thus well within the bounds of normal, reasonable political discourse.

Universities are contractually obligated to protect the academic freedom, including the free speech rights, of their professors. Please honor this obligation to its fullest by publicly showing your complete support of Lawrence Torcello.

Sincerely,

J. Robert Loftis
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Lorain County Community College 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

A poem on famous expressions

A poem on famous expressions

This has been an issue
People have pondered over
For ages; hence
The famous expressions
An eye for an eye
Or, two wrongs don't make a right,
Revenge is best served cold.
You get what I'm going for here.

Friday, November 01, 2013

A Poem on Difference

I believe to me that it is all up to the individual.

Different things are different at different times. It to me is all in the way you look at things. What is different to you might be different to me. Everyone has their own difference. Who is to say what is the same? If you believe in Christianity, which I am, you don’t do certain things. But other people do because they are different.

I believe it depends on the situation.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

Thoughts on Marvel's Agents of SHIELD

I watched it Tuesday with Molly, and I just watched it again with Joey. I enjoyed it the second time, and and picked up on some new stuff, which is a good sign.

This is definitely Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, not Joss's Agents of SHIELD. There are a some Whedonesque touches, like the way J. August Richards feels complete moral clarity at the moment he's doing the wrong thing. And, of course, the dialogue is razor sharp. But mostly this is a big dose of Marvel style storytelling.

Molly pointed out that Skye is basically Eliza Dushku. The part seems to have been written for her, and Chloe Bennett is copying her. Molly thinks that Dushku was passed over because she's too old for Hollywood. I was thinking that Dollhouse might have soured people on her. But, while Dollhouse definitely showed Dushku's limitations, but a character like Skye is totally in her wheelhouse. So maybe Hollywood just can't handle the concept of an older hacker babe.

Why does Skye play around with sugar packets like they are a game of three card monty while talking with Richards in the diner?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

boss's boss's boss's ...

Guy on radio: Coming up, are kids hardwired to believe in God?

Me (thinking): Well, we are hardwired with a notion of authority, and we are hardwired with a generative notion of infinity. So we can imagine our boss's boss's boss's ....[on and on indefinitely] boss. Is that really all it is?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Andre Leonard: "Lego Robots Ate My Son"

Andrew Leonard is the dad in a father-son lego team. His boy is 16 now, about about to go off to college to study robotics. Is this Joey in 8 years?

Also, there is a new edition of Mindstorms (EV3) coming out. Like Leonard, I started playing with EV1, first with Caroline, then with Joey. The best robot we built was "Fast Phillip," made with two EV1 bricks. Fast Phillip would barrel full steam at a wall, hit it, turn around, and zoom for the next wall. It generally survived three collisions before falling apart. We never did much with Mindstorms EV2, mostly because I never found a command for the brick that just said "Go as fast as you can as far as you can."

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness, with Spoilers

Misc thoughts, with spoilers on ST: Into Darkness
  • With all the fan servicing in this installment, why not have Pike end up stuck in box only able to communicate "yes" and "no" with a single beeping light? 
  • Holy shit was there a lot of fan servicing. Do you really want a jokey reference to a previous movie at the big climactic moment where the main character appears to die?
  • If the final face off between the Enterprise and the Vengeance is right next to Earth, why don't any other Federation ships intervene?
  • Ms. Day is extra correct when she says "seriously, in the future not one woman over 40 is in charge in this world?!  How can that happen?" The plot pivots around Kirk, his commander Chris Pike, and Pike's commander Marcus. Someone in this hierarchy could have been female. You could do this either by making Marcus female--imagine if Carol Marcus had played this role in this timeline--or by not having Pike continue to be Kirk's immediate superior.
  • Chris G., somewhere I can't link to directly, notes that there is really no reason why old-Spock should be all cryptic about what he knows from the alternative timeline.
  • Few people, writers or fans, appreciate the Prime Directive. It is not an arbitrary rule devised to create moral dilemmas for the characters. It is also not some weird artefact of a show that first appeared during the cold war. It is a hedge against imperialism. For once, our explorers are actually noble. They are not bent on conquest. They are not interested in finding proxies for conflicts with rival empires. This will continue to be relevant as long as there are empires.  
  • Why is it called Into Darkness anyway? 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One for the bioethics section on "naturalness"

A couple is suing on behalf of their adopted child who was born intersex, because doctors decided to assign the gender "female" to the child when he was 16 months old, before they had custody of the child. The child was judged male at birth, but the doctors changed their minds at 16 months and went with female. He now identifies as male and the suit alleges that he was "a true hermaphrodite" at birth.

Decades ago, doctors would have "corrected" the child's genitalia without ever notifying the parents or even leaving any record of the procedure, because ambiguous genitalia were deemed shameful. The Advocate says doctors are currently encouraged assign a gender at birth but "to hold off on any unnecessary surgery until they are old enough to self-identify with a gender." The fact that doctors are now being sued for what used to be standard operating procedure is a sign of progress.

I'd actually like to know what the child's exact intersex condition is. (A variety of chromosomal and hormonal factors can lead to intersexuality.) This has no bearing on the merits of the case. I'm just nosy.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Association, perceptions of relevance, and common sense


So we are doing machine moral status today, and I start out with oblique question. "True or false: What is important about me isn't how I look on the outside, but what goes on in my spirit." After some discussion of this statement, we talk about whether a machine could ever legitimately demand rights or could ever be held responsible for an action.

I then ask the students how they think my first question, about appearances, is related to the second. The first student raises her hand and says “Well you know, they guys who work on robots, they don’t look too good, because all they care about is work.”

How does one’s brain come to work like that, to think that was the answer I’d be going for? This is entirely a matter of association, perceptions of relevance, and common sense. It seems like it should be obvious that I am concerned with whether outward differences in machines and people could be unimportant compared to mental properties. But that wasn’t obvious to this student. What popped into her head was that computer guys are slobs.

How do you teach someone to think differently at this level?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Caroline rejects the difference principle

Joey got to play video games while Caroline was at ice skating. So Caroline thinks that she should get an equal amount of video game time, and Joey can't be allowed to play video games during that time. He can't even watch her play, because then he would have more video game time than her. I try to reason with her. Me: "Suppose you have two options. In one, both children get one cookie. In the other, once child gets two cookies, and the other gets three. Which is the better option?" Caroline [shouting]: the one where everyone gets THE SAME. Everyone should get THE SAME. Me: But you would get more in the other option. Caroline: He has to get the same as me! You only let him get more than me because you like him better! Me: But that's not rational!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

History of D&D: The Primary Sources

These guys sell .pdf files of many of the millions and millions of Dungeons & Dragons products over the decades. The game I played was Advanced D&D, which apparently ran from 1977-1979. This was definitely one of the books I had, as was this, but I can't find of the others.