Gimpei is so old!

by Gimpei | 12:15 in | comments (0)

How old are you? Older than 25? Well then you better face the facts: you're past your prime; each new day just brings you one day closer to death.

Take this post from boing boing on video arcades:

In this RPGNet forum, a youngster asks, "I was reading about arcades and how you'd have to queue to play popular games as well as follow rules like no throwing in fighting game or the others wouldn't let you play. This seems rather strange. The money cost must have gotten expensive pretty quickly as well. I'm not old enough to have been to them when they were around so I'm curious about what they were like."
I am speechless. Arcades aren't around anymore? What do you do when you have to go bowling for a birthday party, but Jimmy stole the only 9 pound ball, and beside you hate bowling anyway because it sucks and it makes your hand hurt? What DO you do? What!

I know what I used to do: play Street Fighter II. It was something like this:
In arcades, you queued up for popular or new games, usually. You set down a quarter or a button or something on the machine (quarters were the popular choice), and you watched, and when the next round came up (in fighting games, this was when someone lost, but in other games, it was when they ran out of quarters), you jumped in. This usually meant you were playing against someone else, so you got to know everyone who was a regular quick.
Exactly! Except the arcade was in Japan Town so you thought you knew everyone else, but that's because you thought you were always playing the same Asian guy named Ping or something. I can say this because I'm not racist!

But wait, what were the mores of this ancient community? From Boing Boing:
I know in our arcade, there was a little sticky on the Street Fighter machine, reading, "M.Bison is an automatic forfeit of next turn", which meant that, if someone chose Bison (who, in the older Street Fighters, was dangerous as hell in an experienced player's hands), they got to play one round with him, and, win or lose, they had to hand the controls over to the next player in line.
Guess what Boing Boing, they may have taken that kind of shit at your arcade, but not at Japan Town Bowl. Yes M. Bison was cheap, but that's only if you sucked and couldn't properly counter Bison's Psycho Crusher with Ryu's Shōryū-ken. Then again, if you sucked that bad, you were probably one of those guys who played Guile all the time because you thought his flash kick was invincible (it's not). You probably never had the experience where Ping would totally surprise you by suddenly becoming awesome and using one of those crappy characters like Dhalsim to beat the pants off you.

Oh god I'm old...

Read more!

That's one ugly mug!

by Gimpei | 17:04 in | comments (2)

If I've learned anything from the many seminars I've attended over the years, its that pretty pictures are a huge asset. Take this map of the Iranian blogosphere. I don't know if it proves anything, but it sure looks cool. If I were a department head, it would make me more amenable to throwing some cash their way.

P.S. What's up with the massive interest in Persian poetry? Looks like all those friends of mine with Poetry MFAs have finally found their market. Now all they need to do is learn Persian...

Read more!


by Gimpei | 09:10 in | comments (0)

Is this a flying sausage or flying balls. I can't decide...

P.S. Flying buttocks?

Read more!

Nobody puts baby in a corner... Unless it's with a synthesizer!

Read more!

So Blow really freaked me out yesterday. Apparently even though I voted for Obama, watched the Wire, and support affirmative action (in France), I'm probably still a racist!

See there's a study at Harvard that can tell you whether you're a secret racist using next generation super duper science techniques. But fret not, dear reader, not only did I pass, I demonstrated a "slight automatic preference for dark skin over light skin." According to the website only 9% of all white people are in this group, whereas a whopping 76% are racists. I guess those hundreds of hours spent on hotornot were not in vain...

Can I get a certificate for this because I think it would really help my white-liberal street cred. This seems like a far better liberal status-symbol than, a prius or a mod haircut. The idea of walking down Bedford avenue in Williamsburg and shaming 76% of all hipsters is golden.

Read more!

LOL Cats

by Gimpei | 10:01 in | comments (1)

Somebody stole my idea!

by Gimpei | 13:26 in | comments (0)

Somebody stole my slate attack idea, except they honed it into a fine dagger aimed at the heart of Mickey Kaus!

[What do you have against Kausfiles? -- ed.]

Okay, you sit down to read your Slate, and you're enjoying your Daniel Gross and Fred Kaplan and Dahlia Lithwick, right? And then there's Mickey fucking Kaus, bottom right hand corner, just waiting to suck. And it's the last thing you read, so it spoils everything you read before it.

[You could just not read it. -- ed.]

I hate it, yet I'm uncontrollably drawn to it.
So true, except about slate in general.

Read more!

Is it just me or is Bob Herbert's love affair with Obama starting to get a little creepy?

Before Herbert was boring because he would talk about social problems that still exist but no one cares about anymore. Now he's boring because he seems to have morphed into fluffer in chief. Fire the man damn it!

...Or keep him on if he starts to write about his dreams of Obama riding around on a white unicorn, and then the unicorn suggests that they stop at the beach and the unicorn asks if he can apply some tanning oil to Obama's back because he wouldn't want Obama to get burnt. No no no he wouldn't want that... And then the unicorn unzips itself and out comes... Bob Herbert. Oh God!

Read more!

I feel nothing but jealousy with respect to this research team who have gained access to 60 terabytes of Everquest 2 data! With so much data, they will surely be able to reach the mythical land of Asymptopia, where the laws of large numbers actually apply.

Read more!

Sank you Danny Choo!

by Gimpei | 10:35 in | comments (1)

Words can't explain how much I've been enjoying Danny Choo's guest blogging on Boing Boing. He's the guy who did the storm trooper earth wind and fire dance.

I just can't get enough of this clip that he found. Especially the guy coming out of the turnstile.

Read more!

Misogyny English style!

by Gimpei | 10:05 in | comments (0)

Aha. Here's the science behind the goodyear advertisement. Seems pretty ironclad to me, no?

Read more!

Holy misogyny batman!

by Gimpei | 18:04 in | comments (1)

Maybe sexism really is worse than racism. This ad doesn't even look like it's that old. Too late now... I already voted for Obama.

Read more!

David Brooks is a guilty pleasure of mine. Why guilty you say? Because I get the impression that he doesn't really have an opinion on anything and simply writes whatever seems hip. Take, for example, his wild love/hate swings on Obama, or his defense wayback when of big government conservatism.

Still, given that he's often taken as the metric of moderate conservatism, neoclassics may have reason to be worried:

The nation had essentially bet its future on economic models with primitive views of human behavior. The government had tried to change social psychology using the equivalent of leeches and bleeding. Rather than blame themselves, Americans directed their anger toward policy makers and experts who based estimates of human psychology on mathematical equations.
I never know what Brooks believes because he often cages his statements in elaborate rhetorical devices. Here's one possible reading:

The government shouldn't intervene because it doesn't know what it's doing and will just make things worse. Economics isn't a science; it's just abstract mathematics.

If so, it's a pretty cunning about turn from someone who would have a few years ago turned to economists as a justification for the same end: don't intervene because markets are efficient (economists agree!).

It's certainly a better argument than the efficient markets hypothesis, but still seems flawed:

1) Not intervening is what got us here in the first place
2) The models may be flawed, but not all policy needs models. In fact, I'd argue the best policy is driven by common sense. The best thing Milton Friedman did was point out the obvious: there can't be a permanent trade-off between unemployment and inflation because people will eventually catch on and develop inflation expectations. No shit. I don't understand how anyone could have thought otherwise. Then again, looking at academia in general, there seems to be a huge incentive to argue for conclusions that defy logic; it's a lot more interesting than being told what you already know.
3) Economists do spend a lot of time thinking about the economy so they must know something. Just ignore their models, listen to their common sense arguments, and check up on their statistics. It won't be perfect but its better than nothing... I hope.

I'll leave you with this entertaining snip-it from an old Brooks piece that reminds me why I continue to read him:
When Democrats open their mouths, they try to say something interesting. If the true thing is obvious and boring, the liberal person will go off and say something original, even if it is completely idiotic. This is how deconstructionism got started.

Read more!

Those crazy Cubans...

by Gimpei | 09:59 in | comments (1)

I always heard that Fidel Castro loved to give four hour long speeches, but I never really stopped to think what he actually talked about. Is this what it's like? It's worse than the Film Noir professor I had in college whose lectures were a hopeless mash of: recollections about his battle with alcoholism ("alcoholics like to think they can get better just by switching from hard liquor to beer, but believe me it doesn't work") , speculations on the sexuality of actors in the 1940s, and panegyrics to his dog (who was admittedly very cute).

Here are some of Castro's thoughts on Rham Emanuel's name:

What a strange surname! It appears Spanish, easy to pronounce, but it’s not. Never in my life have I heard or read about any student or compatriot with that name, among tens of thousands.

Where does it come from? I wondered. Over and over, the name came to mind of the brilliant German thinker, Immanuel Kant, who together with Aristotle and Plato, formed a trio of philosophers that have most influenced human thinking. Doubtless he was not very far, as I discovered later, from the philosophy of the man closest to the current president of the United States, Barack Obama.

Another recent possibility led me to reflect on the strange surname, the book of Germán Sánchez, the Cuban ambassador in Bolivarian Venezuela: The transparence of Enmanuel, this time without the “I” with which the German philosopher’s name begins.

Enmanuel is the name of the child conceived and born in the dense guerrilla jungle, where his extremely honorable mother, Colombian vice presidential candidate Clara Rojas González, was taken prisoner on February 23, 2002, together with Ingrid Betancourt, who was a presidential candidate in that sister country’s elections that year...

Read more!

Those crazy Japanese...

by Gimpei | 09:11 in | comments (1)

Is this clip racist or has it gone so far overboard that it's broken through the space-racist continuum and is now lost somewhere in the uncanny valley.

Read more!

I have my first irate comment. This is a good start, the sparing use of caps is a nice touch, as is the confusing grammar (what does "their" refer to in the second paragraph?). However, it would be nice if there was a bit more swearing and such. Could I suggest this as a template?

Anyway, onto the comment:

You're all over the place, Gimpei! You just repeated all the points i was making with my comment, and then claiming them as your own, at length.

The fact that your vaunted lab experiments FALSIFY their assumptions suggests they are FALSIFIABLE, no? So just say that their assumptions have been shown to be wrong. Otherwise you're like the Derridean who uses ersatz logical reasoning to proudly prove that there can be no such thing as logical reasoning.
There's seems to be some confusion here. My argument was that assumptions about consumer behavior have been disproved, and yet the majority of macroeconomists have ignored this result and continue to use these assumptions as if nothing had happened. This suggests that these assumptions are insulated from empirical testing, i.e. they are not falsifiable.

For a science to be falsifiable in the Popperian sense, the scientists who are actually using these assumptions need to accept that they can be disproved, and need to agree on the manner in which they can be disproved. There doesn't seem to be a way to disprove neoclassical assumptions in economics, thus by Popper's criteria, economics is a pseudoscience. Is this clear?

This is my interpretation of Popper, not my own opinion. I'm a big fan of Daniel Hausman and highly recommend his book The Inexact and Separate Science of Economics.

Read more!

Five responses to a single post, it's a Gimpei record! I have challenged you reader. Do you feel your mind expanding? It's because I'm blowing it! Hmm... that didn't come across right. Anyway, the debate seems to have progressed. Take the latest response:

We can predict the economy with much better precision than we can the weather: ie. I can tell you roughly what the economy in China will look in 6 months far more accurately than I could the weather -- even taking into account seasonal variations! So there goes meteorology.
There are two fundamental problems with this comment:

1. I never said that predictive power is necessary for something to be a science.

2. Meteorology is a terrible example.

Let's start with problem number one. In the previous post I was giving reasons for why according to Popper economics is a pseudoscience.

In fact, I disagree with Popper on most points and think he's a terrible model for all sciences. Late Popper lets up a bit on the strict falsification criteria. However, he never managed to get around Kuhn's critique: if Popper's methodology had actually been followed, many of the our greatest scientific discoveries would never have been made. Popper's disciple, Lakatos, tried to deal with this problem; unsuccessfully in my opinion, but that's another story.

As for the content of the comment, predictive power is obviously not a prerequisite for a science. If it were, evolutionary theory, geology, etc wouldn't be sciences. Not even Popper would go that far. He just really disliked Freudianism and Marxism.

My point was that, from the point of view of Popper, for economics to be a science, it has to be possible to falsify any assumption. I argued in the previous post that there were certain privileged assumptions about consumer behavior that are immune to falsification: they aren't questioned when macro models fail and they aren't questioned when lab and field experiments suggest that people actually behave completely differently. There's actually a paper written by Popper where he tries analyze economics and its pretty entertaining to see him dance around the obvious conclusion that, by his criteria, it is a pseudoscience.

On to part 2: Meteorology is a stupid example.

You can predict the weather in six months with greater confidence than the state of the Chinese economy. In six months time, we have a pretty good idea that the temperature will be in a certain narrow band in China.

If only business cycles were as easy to predict as seasonal changes. China just posted a 20 million drop in employment! In six months, they could be sitting pretty or tanking. Are you clarevoyant or just exhibiting an overconfidence bias?

More fundamentally, Meteorologists aren't in the same position as macroeconomists since the science of meteorology on the micro-level is pretty sound. Last time I checked, we didn't have 30 years of experiments undermining the laws of thermodynamics!

Game, set, and match. Keep the comments comming; they grow more sophisticated by the minute. If you're lucky I may even tell you where Milton Friedman got it the most wrong (hint: it has nothing to do with free markets).

Read more!

Romoney raised an interesting point in response to the previous post:

But aren't economic theories at least theoretically falsifiable? The problem is that they are so very hard to falsify.
My answer is that by Popper's criteria, neoclassical economic theory is not falsifiable. I disagree with Popper fundamentally, and my memory is somewhat hazy, so let me apologize ahead of time for what is surely a crude bastardization of Popper's theory of falsifiability (at least early Popper).

There's an idea in the philosophy of science that comes out of logic called the Duhem-Quine problem. It basically says that certain scientific hypotheses cannot be disproved because in order to test them empirically you need to add extra auxiliary assumptions, and if the test fails you can simply reject the auxiliary assumptions rather than the original hypothesis.

Popper was well aware of this logical difficulty and argued that a discipline could only be considered a science insofar as it structured its tests in a manner that all hypotheses, not only auxiliary assumptions, can be falsified.

A cursory glance at economics reveals that there are certain sacred cows, termed the "hard core", that cannot be disproved. Take general equilibrium (DSGE) models, which forms the basis for a large amount of macro work. In DSGE models, a set of "hard core" assumptions in consumer theory allow hundreds of millions of people to be aggregated into a single "representative consumer."

These assumptions are extremely restrictive. Since the late seventies, behavioral economists have found in the lab, in the field, and with people from all walks of life that these assumptions are consistently violated. People simply do not behave in the manner assumed by neoclassical theory.

There are a plethora of responses by neoclassical economists: these tests have been performed in a lab so they don't apply in the real world; they may have been applied in the real world, but only to a few hundred people etc. These responses are normally followed by the claim that, through the magic of aggregation, inconsistencies on the individual level are miraculously smoothed out.

This argument might make sense if DSGE models actually worked, but they don't. Neoclassical economists like to say that their models are true because they "fit" a set of data that has been fed into them. However, this criteria of "fitness" hardly constitutes a test of their verity. This is because the coefficients in these models are simply adjusted (the technical term is "calibrated") until the best fit is reached. So these models fit by definition!

A better test of a model is whether, once calibrated for one set of data, it works as well with a different set of data: if we feed a new set of data (for which we already know the outcomes) into the model, to what degree do the predictions of the model match the actual outcomes. Unsurprisingly most models fail miserably at this point.

The true test, of course, is whether a model can predict outcomes in the real world. Unfortunately, as we have seen over the past year, they've seriously dropped to ball on this one.

Thus not only have neo-classical macroeconomists known for the past twenty-five years that their assumptions are wrong on the micro level, but their models don't work at the macro level either. Rather than questions these assumptions, because it would involve completely refashioning macroeconomics, they have, as predicted by Quine, simply rejected the auxiliary hypotheses particular to each distinct model. At this point there isn't any evidence left that could get them to change their minds; the "hard core" assumptions of macro are unfalsifiable.

If you've managed to make it this far in my post, kudos to you. I'd like to reiterate that I disagree fundamentally with Popper, but I do think that neoclassical macro is in a precarious state. The only thing that has kept it alive for so long is the absence of a competing research program. There's something called agent based modeling that could be promising, but it has been marginalized up until now by the neoclassics who control all the major journals. Given the myriad shortcomings of neoclassical macro, it seems worthwhile to at least give these guys a shot. If some major breakthrough were to come out of agent based modeling, it could reinvent macroeconomics on a far stronger microfoundation.

Read more!

I've been meaning to read more econ blogs, because they are so insightful, especially about other disciplines. Take this post on Marginal Revolution:

The author is Kristin Luker and the subtitle is Research in an Age of Info-Glut. I enjoyed this book very much and I thought it was one of the best books on the philosophy of the social sciences I have read, ever. In part it is good because it ignores philosophy of science (and Continental philosophy gobbledy-gook) and focuses on the anthropology of how research is actually done. Here is the author's summary of her message

It's so true, philosophy of science is worthless unless of course it's Popper. Stephen Hawking likes Popper, and what is economics if not the physics of the social sciences? I need to read some Popper.

[Reads Popper]

Uh oh, seems Popper's philosophy implies that economics is a pseudo-science like marxism or psychoanalysis (according to Popper real science doesn't make unfalsifiable assumptions).

But wait! There's this person called Deirdre McCloskey, and she says that economics is a science. Except she's a postmodernist who doesn't believe that science reveals truth, tries to analyze economics as if it were literature, and has the uncanny ability to bore and annoy simultaneously.

Damn you philosophy of science! You've won this round, but I'll win the war by never reading you again and ignoring anything you have to say. After all, the proof is in the putting and look at how successful macroeconomics has been recently... except... doh!

Read more!

I just can't get this skit out of my head. Want bitty!

Read more!

As part of my research, I've been delving into some papers from other disciplines. Now I am a big fan of interdisciplinarity; I'm delighted by the move in economics to borrow from other disciplines like psychology, sociology, and history and hope that it accelerates. But... Man is there a lot of crap in other disciplines. I guess I shouldn't be surprised given the amount of crap churned out by economists, but still.

Take this anthro paper on the internet in Malaysia. First off, the writing is terrible:

Having visited putatively exemplary innovative spaces such as Silicon Valley, Cyberjaya planners were clearly convinced of the importance of creating an environment of interactive conduct.
This is anthropology guys, you know one of those liberal arts subjects that has no use in the "real" world. At the very least, you're supposed to be able to write! Reading this sentence makes me feel like I'm chewing on dried cow dung: too many needless polysyllabic words and irritating alliterations.

The kicker, which prompted me to write this post is the following:
If Southern California was the exemplary intelligent space on account of its ‘technical virtuosity and economic dynamism’ (Winner, 1992, p. 32), then its inhabitants--what Nigel Thrift has termed Homo Silicon Valleycus (Thrift, 2000, p. 688)--were imaginatively positioned at a global evolutionary apex in the minds of MSC planners.
Aren't anthropologists supposed to do lots of field work, where they visit physical locations rather than simply reading about them in a book? These guys don't seem to know much about basic geography: silicon valley is in Northern California. You may think this is a tad nit picky on my part, but if you're supposed to be an expert in anthropological implications of new media, this is one thing I think you should know.

I don't see why they didn't just go the traditional route and write in a manner that is so incomprehensible that the paper is impossible to critique, like Homi Bhabha:

If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be seen as the desperate effort to 'normalize' formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality.

Read more!

The Palestinian Israeli conflict has been going on for a hundred years now with no end in sight. So I think it's time that we think "outside the box" on this one.

I have a modest proposal, based upon a very simple but compelling premise:

The best compromise is when neither party is happy.

So based on that premise, here’s the plan:

1. Move both the Palestinians and the Israelis to some godforsaken part of the world with plenty of space. Like, say, the Australian outback.

2. Turn present day Israel/Palestine into a toxic nuclear waste dump so that nobody has any incentive to return and fight for control ever again.

3. Everybody's miserable. but they can rebuild their lives together wrestling crocs, shaggin' Roos, and drinking Fosters.

4. If the Australians complain, just continue to expand the "settlements" on their land until they're boxed in like the Palestinians today. Since they are relatively godless, nobody will care, apart from maybe the atheist lobby (i.e. Christopher Hitchens). Also, given Australia's triple crimes of Silver Chair, Yahoo Serious, and Neighbors, they've really had it coming for a while.

Have I offended enough people yet?

Read more!

Wowa! What do we have here? Obama naked, getting a sensual rubdown from a unicorn. I think what makes this painting classy is the painstaking detail on the unicorn's buttocks. Makes me think of the horses that Whitman rides through Leaves of Grass:

A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses,
Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving.

His nostrils dilate as my heels embrace him,
His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and return.

I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion,
Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?

Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you.

Read more!

As part of my ongoing obsession with Slate (actually I'm not so much obsessed as too lazy to hunt out my own set of blogs and tie them into google reader), I point you, dear reader, to the following post by Timothy Noah.

So as to spare you the bother of the click-through, let me summarize: summer internships are now being sold for as much as 2,500 a pop! What a scandle! In fact there's even a web site where any old schmoe can purchase these internships.

From my experiences in the media sector, I can confidently say that this new development has probably increased equality. Whereas in the past, cushy internships were limited to the immensely wealthy and well-connected, now the wealthy, or even the upper middle class can get their foot in the door.

I know what you're thinking: you're being too cynical Gimpei, the MSM must rigorously screen their interns. They wouldn't, for example, give an internship to the daughter of the editor-in-chief's psychoanalyst, to a well-respected foreign academic's son who wants to improve his english, or to the children of fellow journalists. Actually, they do and almost exclusively.

Here's the thing:

1) Editors are lazy. What other business has half-days on fridays during the summer so that the staff can go off to their country homes?

2) The work that interns perform requires absolutely no ability. None. They could easily be replaced by monkeys.

3) From the editors perspective then: why bother going through an intensive interviewing process when you can just ask a friend if their kid needs some work sending faxes and making copies?

The problem is that although internships are a poor signal of ability, they are the only way of getting your foot in the door. In my opinion, if some middle class kid likes music enough to get his parents to drop 2,500, more power to him. Worst case he'll just be taking the place of one of Peter Travers' kids, which can only be a good thing.

Read more!

Silent snow, secret snow

by Gimpei | 00:36 in | comments (0)

With a little bit of snow, London can actually be beautiful in a spooky sort of way.

Read more!