Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Linus Torvalds was right to call it an unholy mess.

Even worse, not only is it an unholy mess, it's an unholy mess you have no control over. Instead of being highly configurable, as linux and linux software is usually designed to be, every design choice was a paternalistic executive decision that you can't change if you don't agree or if you have different needs from the limited set of uses they had in mind (except by digging into the code, of course.)

They want to "encourage" certain ways of interacting with your computer, which is even worse than the Apple design philosophy. At least that philosophy limits your freedom for the sake of the unsophisticated masses that their products are directed at. Gnome3 tries to limit the freedom of linux users.

Hah! Good luck with that. When you're done, I have a herd of cats you can have some fun corralling.

Anyway, if anyone knows of a Gnome3 Classic theme (I gave Shell a chance; it is persistently infuriating) that looks like Gnome2, please let me know. I find the high contrast black aesthetically offensive and depressing, and both bars are way too thick.  (That is, a GTK+ theme, I think... Whichever one of the six kinds of themes controls the taskbar and top menu colors...)

(But at least after upgrading the Wheezy, my SD card reader, external monitor, Wifi driver, and suspend functionality all work perfectly... <3 Debian.)

Saturday, September 15, 2012


The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt - Excellently written (please, please, everyone follow the practice of summarizing each chapter in an organized outline form...), endlessly fascinating. More to say on particular points later.

Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson - I can't count how many people have told me I should read this, upon hearing I don't like sci-fi. They were very very wrong. Here's a good rule of thumb: if the author spends more time building up some arbitrary alternate universe than developing compelling characters, it is sci-fi, and I won't like it. Y.T. is great but can't carry the book on her own, and saying 'It's not sci-fi, it's cyberpunk fiction' is like saying 'It's not green, it's emerald.' And if I'm going to slog through endless tedious historical detail, I at least want it to be true. Also, the writing style is offensively aesthetically irritating. (Yet, Neal Stephenson can definitely be fantastic: read this.)

Song of the Dodo, by David Quammen - Very interesting book about island biogeography and extinction. But it could have easily been half as long, and his manner of turning scientific research into personal epics loses a lot of credibility after the age of world-exploring death-defying Darwin-esque research. I'd rather just have the unadorned facts... science is beautiful and compelling on its own. (Or, his shorter essays are amazing and a much better setting for his skills.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I'm happier about this invention than anything I've come up with in economics recently

Go to your local Chinese grocery store. Buy some Thai iced tea mix packets. Thoroughly whip together two packets, two cups milk (or 1 milk/1 cream if you're less concerned about calorie intake than I am), an egg, a teaspoon of vanilla, and about a 1/4 cup of sugar (more if the tea mix doesn't already contain sugar). Put it in one of those frozen ice cream maker things that are at every Goodwill for less than $5.

Then thank me :)

...Thaice cream?

Monday, September 10, 2012

not actually so comical

15% of Ohio GOPers believe Mitt Romney deserves more credit than the president for the killing of bin Laden; 47% aren't sure.

Yeah, that's pretty hilarious. And of course that doesn't mean 62% of Ohio GOPers actually believe that. But don't dismiss the importance so fast! Think what it implies for the validity of polling statistics for other, serious questions...

People do what they think they are supposed to do based on their group identities and group norms, or they infer the expected choice from the question itself. Asking the question at all suggests it's a question worth asking, and for GOPers, of course then the answer is Romney. They aren't entirely stupid, so most hedge that by saying 'not sure'.

I'm sure it works on Democrats too (ask them about markets/incentives...) Group identity is powerful.

*I'm more interested in those 47%: 15% is well within the 'not paying attention/don't care' margin for surveys...