The terribleness of some big company searches

I just watched "Recursion Tree Method: Part 1" on YouTube.

It is recommending dozens of other videos to me on the basis of their being similar to this one.

Conspicuously absent is "Recursion Tree Method: Part 2." ("Recursion Tree Method: Part 3" is there, however!)

This is very common: YouTube seems to have no concept that an ordered series of videos ought to be presented to the viewer in order.

Netflix often puts on "Recommended for you" something I have already watched, and it "knows" I have watched, because if I choose if the episodes are all checked off as having been viewed. Sometimes, the recommendation is for something I watched just a day or two beforehand.

"I need to cover this material"

I have occasionally run across a professor who is very worried about how much material he will cover in a semester: "I've got to get through chapter 10."

This is a strange way of looking at it to me. I am more interested and how much material the students understand. Isn't it better to cover two chapters, and have the students understand both of them, then cover 10 chapters, and have the students understand none of them?

The first time I encountered this was the first time I taught macroeconomics. When I signed up to teach the course, I was told that many of my students would be "woefully unprepared", and that I should be ready to deal with this sad fact. And the warning was spot on: a number of them had trouble graphing an equation like y = x. (This is not hyperbole.)

So, I spent time teaching them the math they ought to have learned in the eighth or ninth grade. The same person who had hired me and had given me that warning then came in to review one of my lectures. Afterwards, she was severely distressed by the fact I was "way behind schedule."

The first problem I had with this review was that she had never given me a schedule. But the bigger problem that struck me was how was I supposed to deal with the "woefully unprepared" students without slowing the pace in order to help them?

I think what she actually wanted was for me to plow through the material at a certain standard rate, leaving many students lost and confused, and then simply pass those students anyway.

It is hard to imagine an approach that could make a student more cynical about the value of education than to leave him, at the end of a course, utterly befuddled, but with a B- grade.

British analysis

"in the Anglo American area of philosophy the dominant philosophical movement is still, you might say, British analysis; and without being critical in any way of British analysis you have eliminated all the areas of reality symbolized by myth, philosophy, revelation, and mysticism. Practically everything that's important in life is removed if you confine yourself to that type of logical analysis, which is quite solid in itself." -- Eric Voegelin, "The drama of humanity"

Two notes:

1) As Voegelin points out, analytical philosophy department's mostly eliminate philosophy (the love of wisdom) from the curriculum, replacing it with logical analysis.

2) Again as Voegelin notes, there is nothing wrong with what is done in these departments per se. And these people are generally excellent at it: no one does logical analysis of statements as skillfully as a trained analytical philosopher.

The problem comes only when one tries to reduce philosophy to this sort of analysis. It is like trying to restrict the culinary arts to a strict concern with the biochemical digestive process

Big Box Stores

Here is a paper Nathan Conroy and I will be presenting at the Eastern Economic Association conference this week.

What's My Line?

Today's mystery guest was called, by Eric Voegelin, "the greatest philosopher of history of the modern West." Let's give him a warm round of applause:
Voegelin also said that "in the course of the last 200 years no thinker has arisen who" equals me as an analyst of the political myth. Among the people upon whom I have had a profound influence I can count Samuel Coleridge, Karl Marx, James Joyce, Benedetto Croce, and Marshall McLuhan, and yet I am relatively unknown, even among professional philosophers.

Who am I?

Looking like polygamy is next

Rod Dreher notes that the push is now on for polygamy.

I recall mentioning to a libertarian-progressive gay-rights advocate that his arguments worked just as well for polygamous marriages as they did for gay marriages.

Oh boy, did he become outraged! How could I possibly associate his defense of gay marriage with a defense of the ridiculous idea of polygamous marriages?!

I assume that by next year, I will see an op-ed by him endorsing polygamous marriage.

The Bathroom Wars

I want to clarify what I think about the recent conflicts over bathroom access.

If a man wants to dress up like a woman, or a woman wants to dress up like a man, it really does not concern me. And if someone who "presents" as a woman, despite having a penis, goes quietly into a stall in the women's bathroom, goes about his/her business, and leaves, then that person should be left alone.

And that is generally speaking the way things have worked. Until activists began campaigning for the "right" of anyone to use any bathroom they want to, if they just "self-identify" as someone entitled to use that bathroom. This pretty obviously creates a problem: per the recent NYC directive on bathroom and locker room access, it seems entirely permissible for me to stroll into the women's locker room at, say, the Red Hook Pool, in which (I assume) there will be many naked women taking showers, and, if anyone objects, I can simply declare "I am a woman." And that is a lot different than the modus vivendi in which people who present as a woman could quietly go about their business in a women's bathroom.

And it was in response to a law like the NYC directive, passed in Charlotte, that the North Carolina "bathroom bill" was passed. And, by the way, the NC bill permitted people to "re-sex" themselves on their birth certificate, so they could quietly go about their business in the ladies' room if they wished to.

So, it was the "trans-gender" activists who disrupted the status quo. The bills passed in North Carolina and contemplated in Texas may be heavy-handed responses to the untenable situation created by the activists' radicalism, but have no doubt, it is the activists who are forcing the situation here. And while these bills might be heavy-handed, they arose when parents realized that what these activists were demanding was that any pervert whatsoever could wander into the locker room in which their teenage daughter was changing after swim practice, and gain the "right" to watch her undress simply by declaring "I feel like I am a woman." And in response to this attempt to protect their daughters, they are being told they are "bigots," and that their state will be economically crushed if they persist in trying to protect those girls.

And, by the way, I hope my focus on biological men in women's private areas is not deemed "sexist," but I think I am on empirically firm footing when I say the risk of a woman being raped by a man are astronomically higher than the reverse, and that there are far more male voyeurs than woman voyeurs. I hope it is not "sexist" to note that, in this regard, women are far better behaved than men!

The Wheel Is Turning and You Can't Slow Down

Microsoft is running ads claiming that its cloud services are improving golf by allowing players to analyze every shot taken by every golfer in every tour event in great detail.

This is an example of the "iron cage" of competition that Max Weber talked about. The world is not a better place if the average tour pro now shoots a 69 or 70 instead of a 71. This "service" does not improve the quality of anyone's life. But once one player starts using it, every other player has to use it as well, or they will fall behind.

It is similar to steroids, or weight training, or swim training now lasting 6 hours a day instead of 2. They are all zero-sum games: it is hard for me to see how audiences are any more entertained by football players today, who spend hours a week in the weight room, than they were by players in my father's day, in the early 50s, when he tells me no players at all lifted weights. (And he played Division I ball against people like Jim Brown, and his brother was drafted by the Bears, so this was not low-level football.) But once one person begins spending a lot of time in the weight room, everyone else has to follow.

As the sage said:

The wheel is turning and you can't slow down
You can't let go and you can't hold on
You can't go back and you can't stand still
If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will

How Progressive "Morality" Evolves

I have a progressive friend. A couple of years ago, when the bathroom wars were just kicking off, he told me that "they" were now going too far: "It is ridiculous to think that men should be allowed to go in the women's locker room just because they claim they 'really' are a woman."

All I could do was quietly sigh. I knew he would be embracing the 'ridiculous' very soon. And sure enough, he is now completely on board with "gender bending" and bathroom free-for-alls.

Because here is how this "evolution" works: At first, just a few people on the fringe begin to embrace the latest assault, call it X, on traditional morality. They build up a small cadre of committed activists devoted to forcing everyone to accept X. During this stage, the average progressive will assert that X is "going too far," and will insist that he is completely against X.

But then one day, once a critical mass of activists has built up, the mainstream progressive outlets like the NY Times announce that they have "grown," and that they now approve of X. Everyone will then begin a few months' grace period, so that they have time to "think for themselves" long enough to reach the right conclusion: X is perfectly okay after all!

After the grace period is over, anyone who still hasn't "thought for themselves" quite enough will be told that they are now officially a hateful bigot. It is OK to shun them, fire them from their job, boycott their entire state, and so on.

So what's next? Infanticide, group marriage, and pedophilia have to be the top candidates for the next X. Approval for all three is already floating around on the fringes. Which one goes first will probably be a matter of which one builds a critical mass of activists the fastest.

And if you tell my progressive friend today that in three years, he will be in favor of at least one of those three things, he will be outraged. "Never," he would assure you, completely without meaning to lie, "would I embrace X!"

But as soon as the NY Times tells him he is a hateful bigot if he doesn't embrace X, you can be 100% certain he will fall in line.

PS -- By the way, I can tell this series of posts on progressives is really on target by how incoherently angry they are leaving reader rob!

Phony-Baloney Progressive Outrage

The NBA has announced that it might deny the state of Texas the possibility of hosting future All-Star games if the democratically elected legislature of the state passes a bill stating that men should use the men's bathroom, and women should use the women's bathroom. Apparently, this is a "human rights violation."

This is the same NBA that goes out of its way to play several games a year in China, a country that regularly employs slave labor in its factories.

Progressively Stupider Regarding Sex

Cop TV show. One cop sleeps with another cop's wife. The chief finds out.

CHIEF: You slept with Harrigan's wife?!

COP: That's none of your business!

Every culture known to history, before the one that arose in the West over the last few decades, has known that sex is very much a public matter: it produces children, families, dynasties, social bonding, social strife, jealousy, and murder.

But progressives are so stupid -- not that they necessarily have low IQs, but ideology makes you stupid! -- that they actually could put in a TV show that it is none of the chief's business if one of his officers is sleeping with the wife of another of his officers.

Progressives' "Multicultural Sensitivity"

What being "multicultural" means to a progressive:

1) A professor who students were all from countries where it is unthinkable to call a professor by their first name, forced them to call him by his first name. He didn't give a crap about their culture: what was important was to force progressive values on them.

2) A progressive, told that a Muslim woman who he would be meeting would not be comfortable shaking hands with a man, shook her hand anyway. He didn't give a crap about her culture: what was important was to force progressive values on her.

3) A progressive to whom I mentioned that my kids had attended Catholic school: "Yuck!" (Sticking out her tongue.) Tolerance only extends to exotic religions in far off places!

4) A progressive who moved into an Italian Catholic neighborhood: "I hate all of those statues of the Virgin Mary in the front yards!" Mind you, she moved into this neighborhood! The Italian Catholics had been there for 100 years.