Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Friday, February 23, 2007

Behind the Comic Strip

For Dinosaur Comics fans, this is pure awesomeness. Incidentally, I met Ryan North. He's nice. The shocking revelation is that he typically spends hours on a comic strip.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Internet Silliness

Internet advertising is apparently quite profitable, but it does sometimes yield funny results. I just checked the weather in Chicago, and an ad on the side said, "Its 47 in Chicago... so come visit New Orleans!" They must have set up the ad automatically to display whatever the temperature actually is. Obviously the odds were in their favor in February, but today is lovely here.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Give Me a Break

I hate writing like this (from a New York Times Magazine article on Toyota):

"And yet deconstructing Toyota means breaking down a corporation that uses all its resources, and more than 295,000 employees worldwide, to construct things that are not meant to come apart."

I don't quite know what's so galling about it. I think it's that tone so clearly trumps content. It's a sort of Tom Friedman line, that starts out meaningless and gets worse and worse the more you think about it. Everyone makes mistakes, but the line is so actively stupid that it ruins the writer's credibility. No one trusts people who use light years as units of time, and no one trusts NYT Magazine writers who are so enamored of their subject matter that they come up with gems like this one.

Open Source Textbooks

I basically agree with Matt Yglesias who posted about this a while back. Textbooks are needlessly expensive, and with modern technology it should be easy for teachers to collaborate and come up with good, free alternatives. This will have a secondary effect on the teaching market, since a lot of professors supplement their income with textbook sales, but that doesn't seem like a big deal to me. A lot of the material in law school textbooks is free, since the government doesn't copyright judicial opinions (or other government publications).

A big question is when professors (but also teachers in primary and secondary education) will switch to free readings. Many already have, but many haven't. I suspect that there will be a fairly rapid shift at some point, as norms shift (currently a lot of professors probably don't want to offend the tenured professors who write textbooks). Anyway, certainly textbooks are a significant enough expense that open sourcing them should do a lot of good.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love's Labour's Lost

In honor of Valentine's Day, a few thoughts about cunnilingus (and oral sex generally).

So first of all, should women want men who like cunnilingus (heterosexual women, that is; the same analysis should apply to lesbians but for convenience I'll use heterosexual terminology)? The answer, I think, is no. The ideal man should dislike cunnilingus, but not hate it. The logic is that you want a way for a man to demonstrate that he likes you. As is familiar in game theory, usually this will require that he incur some cost in order to make you happy. If he likes cunnilingus, then his willingness to perform it won't tell you anything about how he feels about you.

If, on the other hand, he dislikes cunnilingus, but performs it anyway, that's a good sign that he cares about you. If he really hates it, he simply won't perform it at all, in which case you get neither the pleasure nor the credible signal. Now, as for pleasure, I actually think it's probably increased when the act isn't just a mutually beneficial transaction, but rather a gift from one partner to the other. Of course, if you take into account his utility, then it might not be worth it for him to dislike cunnilingus, so it's a balancing act. Thinking selfishly, though, a woman should prefer a man who dislikes it.

Now why do women like cunnilingus in the first place? And why do men like fellatio? My theory is that these activities are good ways for partners to detect infidelity, or at least they were in the ancestral, pre-shower environment. Partners who regularly gave each other oral sex were partners who could be fairly sure they were monogamous. They got in close, sniffed around, and could detect any evidence of funny business. This would bind couples more closely together and encourage investment in common resources like children.

So, if you're lucky, you have a boyfriend who is unwilling to perform cunnilingus but who can be persuaded to do so every once in a while. On the other hand, if he already bought you dinner tonight, then maybe don't push it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Saving the Golden Mosque

The bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, Iraq was both a cause and a potent symbol of spiraling violence in Iraq. Today, the mosque has still not been repaired. It remains a wreckage.

The obvious solution, which I imagine I'm not the first to suggest, is for Goldman Sachs to sponsor the reconstruction of the mosque in exchange for endorsement rights. Then the mosque can be known as the Goldman Mosque, instead of the Golden Mosque. It sounds so close to the original name that it trips right off the tongue. Everyone wins.

Now, I recognize that Iraqi Muslims might not be happy with the renaming of their mosque. Still, it's hard to deny that they would benefit from its reconstruction. Taking a page from Invesco Field at Mile High, a compromise suggests itself: The Golden Dome at Goldman Mosque. I can't see any way that this plan could go wrong.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Damn Michiganders

So I was trawling through the CIA World Factbook entry on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I noticed something odd. Under Disputes - international, the Factbook includes this startling fact:

heads of the Great Lakes states and UN pledge to end conflict but unchecked tribal, rebel, and militia fighting continues unabated in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo... [emphasis added]

This would have been good to know in November! I'm a resident of Illinois, and I almost certainly would have voted against Blagojevich if I had known that his pledges to end conflict were so empty. On the other hand, maybe it's not Blagojevich's fault - I've long suspected that Michigan is up to no good in central Africa.