Things Not to Read

Adam Piggott published a good article a while back.  In it, he pointed out that serial pest Clementine Ford scribbles absurd things only because she thrives on attention like extremophiles thrive on boiling hot sea bed vents.  She needs the blowback in order to cry ‘poor me!’ and sell her ‘books’.  Adam points out that she is a woman in desperate need of being Read More

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My Gods

Gods are interesting, aren’t they.  Peoples makes them according to their own needs and outlook.

Primitive societies create animist gods.  They see a thing they don’t understand or can’t control – an enormous, gnarled tree, the wind; and they give it a god in order to wrap their heads around it.  There’s usually not much deep Read More

In Defense of the Chinese Communist Party

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A Chinese Communist Party official enjoys the romantic attentions of his 18 year old lover.  The back story is here.

The Chinese Communist Party has the absolute right to rule China in any manner it wishes.

This post is not directed at Western meddlers.  It is for the Chinese subjects themselves, including the malcontent rascals in Hong Kong and the expat anti-patriots.  Most of all it is for any mainland Chinese man who dares to question, in his heart of hearts, the legitimacy of his overlords.

This is not an argument based on Read More

The reason for the suppression of blasphemy

As we have seen, blasphemy is a truth that must not be uttered.

Why are some so keen to prevent people from speaking such truths?

It is because they fear what the truth, once it has escaped, might lead to.  This fear may located in either the fore or hind brain.

Bangladesh – atheist views must be suppressed or society will become too Read More

Why penguins are stupid

If you think about it, penguins are adapted to be stupid.

Not completely stupid.  They need to do several tricky thinks.  They have to swim around and find food.  They need to socialize with other penguins.  They have to care for their young.

Penguins could never develop human-level intelligence without completely changing their form and habits.  Think about it.  Penguins have to sit on an egg in the freeing cold for ages.  Once it hatches they have to take turns to either sit on the chicks or go swimming in the icy water finding food for themselves, their mate and the kids.

Any penguin with a massive, intelligence-creating mutation would think, ‘eff that’.  He might Read More

The conceit of left and right

Consider the traditional political division between Left and Right.

What are the chances that one side is completely right about everything, and that the other side is completely wrong?  Any alien race being introduced to our polity for the first time would find this contention surprising.  After all, centuries of political history would have clearly shown that Read More

Be Brief

Most books are twenty percent too long.  Films generally overstay their welcome by about thirty minutes each and speeches by about ten.  The worst offenders are meetings, which are usually sixty percent longer than necessary.  Blog posts vary by author, with some ramblers giving us eighty percent more words than are required for their message while others come right to the point, SEO be damned.

Musicians generally get it about right.  They know how long a movement will keep our interest and when it needs to change.  A few are tedious while others leave us wanting more.

I forgive writers their babbling far more than speakers.  If an author is blathering I can easily skim over the unnecessary drivel and tune back in once he’s decided to return to the story.  Joseph Conrad comes to mind – okay, the sea is pretty.  We get it.  Thanks for telling us so many times, at such infinite length and with such endlessly varied similes.

Too many authors think that they should write a novel when they really have a good idea for a novella.  Novellas are underrated, as are short films.  Why do we not have some films that go for an hour and cost half the price?  Not everyone wants to sit through two and an half hours of Australians speaking in American accents as they swing through the city in tights battling unconvincing CGI monsters.

Oh, but meetings are the worst.  If someone sends a ridiculously wordy email it’s no biggie to skim over it and pick out the vital details.  But when someone is speaking, and speaking, and speaking, and we get what they want to say but they insist on continuing to say it anyway, there is no escape and they bloody well know it.  This is an act of aggression against me.  I have limited time on this planet and stealing it away from me is like a mini-murder (proper murder being the larger theft of all the time a person has left).

Be brief.

The kids at Evergreen are alright

You’ve no doubt heard about the trouble at Evergreen State College.  They tried to have a no-whitey day and a professor called Bret Weinstein got threatened and harassed for saying it was a bad idea.

Everyone’s taking Weinstein’s side.  He represents the sensible left; the ones who just want to treat everyone fairly and share the wealth around a bit.  The kids are the Cultural Marxist lunatics who divide themselves into ever tinier and more obscure intersectionally disadvantaged tribes and who list their preferred pronouns before speaking and label normal hand gestures as microaggressions.

I will here demonstrate that Weinstein is wrong and the kids are right.

What Weinstein and the kids agree on is that Read More

Adults have spare cash

Several recent incidents had me pulling my diminishing hair out in quiet fury.

A colleague shat herself at work and demanded that someone clean her up and change her.

Well, not quite.  But something like that.

Okay, so a colleague’s car broke down and the repairs would take about a week and cost around USD $1,000.

SHE HAD TO BORROW THE MONEY FROM HER MUM.

I should clarify, this is a person about ten years older than myself with a comparable income.  We are not poor.  In fact, the cost of living here is so low that I find it possible to save about half my salary.  Why the cash flow problem?

And then there was a carbon copy situation a little while later.  A colleague bought some furniture, white goods and so on from me as I was leaving the country and was having a fire sale.  The total was about USD $800.

HE TOLD ME HE COULD GIVE ME THE MONEY ON PAY DAY.

Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t care about waiting three weeks for a bit of money.  No skin off my beak.  Rather, what makes me grind me teeth is that these adults, who have been gainfully employed for many years, have such poor financial skills.  These are not enormous amounts we’re talking about.  Such unexpected expenses are quite predictable – we don’t know what they will be, but we know that they will be.

Defining exactly how much readily available cash an adult ought to have is a piece of string question, but surely a thousand shmakeroonies would be an absolute bare minimum.

If you’re already on my side then bear with me as I explain this to the slower kids: what would happen if you lost your job tomorrow?  How long could you pay rent and bills without resort to mumsie or the public boob?  I would suggest to you that a reasonable period might be around six months, which would hopefully be enough time to find a new job.  Personally I could get by for a year before needing to crack open my long term investments.

An adult should not have to depend on others or hang out until pay day for life’s ordinary slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.  One should have a rainy day fund such that you just groan when these events occur, cough up, and get on with your life.

I find it strange that people have retirement plans but no cash in an emergency fund.  Surely the latter should be the higher priority.  There’s no point having millions locked up in superannuation if a tree falls on your roof.

None of the above constitutes financial advice.  Readers should seek their own, independent advice from a qualified professional before making any investments.  If you follow the advice of some dickhead blogger you will end up the fourth wife of a toothless Arab.

Tuning Out

I lived for two years in a remote village in rural Japan.  There was no free-to-air TV reception.  If I wanted TV and internet the cable connection would cost ¥3000 a month so I chose not to bother.

I am a cheap bastard.

I briefly checked news headlines and my email every couple of days on a shared computer at work, and I borrowed 80s anime DVDs from the local video library.  That was the totality of my connection.

Life was zen.  I worried little about the world’s problems because I heard little about them.  The 2008 financial crisis swept past me like an autumn breeze through an ancient cedar.  I noticed a few headlines and thought, hmm, that’s a pity, and forgot about it.  I didn’t constantly check my investments because I couldn’t, and I wasn’t panicked anyway because I didn’t know that everyone else was.  I now know my funds must have lost about a third of their value and then gradually clawed it back.  Best not to think too much about these things.

Once I was back in civilization and got a smartphone I found I could waste a lot of time overreading news and blogs.  This is my main challenge in terms of self-control.

On the other hand, I didn’t hear about some big developments and opportunities.  I missed out on the big money with Bitcoin.  I only encountered the Manosphere in 2009 – I could have done with that wisdom earlier.  I would also have benefited from easier access to information about training, nutrition, home remedies for minor ailments and other things.  There’s also a noticeable gap in my knowledge of world events around that time –  I’m normally one of those annoying bastards who reads all the news religiously and has an opinion on everything.

I think of this now because by the time you read this I will be even more disconnected.  I will be quite chilled about the disasters taking place around the world but will be dreadfully uninformed about useful things.

Anyway, here’s a clip that you have the bandwidth to play and I don’t.  Enjoy.

What do women do?

Have you ever been on a date?

Yeah, me too!

If you’re gainfully employed like I am then you’ll agree the biggest difficulty is not cost, but time.

Weekdays are right out.  I rise in the dark, run or lift, work, cook, read a few pages and fall unconscious until an hour before the following dawn.  If I want to scratch my arse during the week I have to schedule Read More

A Cure for Narcissism

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Image credit: detail from Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse

Everything is fashioned for other people’s eyes.

Our hair.

Our tweets.

Our photos.

Our blog posts.

Our status updates and likes.

Even the things we do are done with a view to informing others that we did them.

Yah, I spent time in India.  So amazing.  Yah yah, I climbed Mount Kinabalu.  I saw Trump.  I ate fugu.  I took ayahuasca, the proper way and all.  I read Ulysses.  I started doing arse to grass squats.  Heavy, man.  I wrote a book.  I went to a rally.  I fucked a pretty girl on the first date.

Who cares?  More importantly, do you care?  And, how would you know?

A suggestion: Keep your Read More

Into the Heart of Darkness

As mentioned earlier, I am going to disappear for a while.  I am moving to Darkest Africa, where limited internet bandwidth and poor smoke signal visibility will mean that I will be unable to access WordPress.

But it will not look like it!  Using the magic of scheduling, pre-written posts will appear automatically each Monday just as though everything is normal, even though savages will be tearing strips of flesh from my face at the very same time you are reading my scintillating anecdote about my awkward date with a Korean midget who I didn’t know was a midget until I met her in real life.

I will not be around to respond to comments.  Well I will eventually, once I’ve gotten out and put band-aids on each of my AK-47 wounds and hyena bites.  I’ll try to check in a few times a year.

Behave yourselves.

Put the Giant Back to Bed

Just after 9/11, I went to a birthday party where everyone was understandably muted.  We young men discussed what might happen next and considered the possibility of being drafted to whatever war was about to erupt.

War, we all agreed, was a certainty.  “They’ve woken the giant,” concluded one chap, shaking his head.  “They’ve woken the giant.”

The giant awoke and attacked Afghanistan, entirely missing Osama Bin Laden who had apparently legged it to Pakistan.  Instead of turning the general area where the attack came from into a lake, the giant tried to turn that savage and ungovernable land into a thriving liberal democracy.  Then it got distracted by an unrelated war in Iraq, whose underlying motivations remain opaque.  And both conflicts evolved and will drag on well into the foreseeable future.  And then there’s Libya and Syria and . . . many others.

Back at the beginning of the twentieth century, the giant was the most powerful entity on earth but nobody knew it because it (sensibly) didn’t do anything.  Its military-industrial capacity remained latent and unnoticed.  In the two world wars the giant awoke and shook the world, especially in the second.  It reshaped global institutions and norms in its own image.  The giant became even richer, more magnificent, and sent men to the moon.

Following the conclusion of the Cold War it seemed that the giant must go back to sleep.  After all, what was there for it to do?  And then 9/11 happened.

Many Americans have long since realised that it’s time to put the giant back to bed.  It has been up too long.  It has become tired and demoralized, has depleted its treasure and much of the goodwill of its friends.  The Americans voted for Obama hoping he would end the stupid wars, but he and the lizard extended them.  They voted for Trump but he shows no . . . will? ability? to pull back from the madness.

Wars should be short and decisive.  They should be fought to achieve clear goals.  Usually, they fail to fully achieve these goals or turn out to be so expensive that in retrospect they seem poorly considered.  Lao Tzu wrote this.  The current wars are achieving nothing for ordinary Americans.  Do they really care who wins between the Sunnis and Shia?  Do they prefer the Saudis over the Iranians?  Do they fear Russia?  I suspect few would answer ‘yes’.

As the Chinese have shown, power can increase through quiet development.

It can be depleted through overuse.

What America needs is a modern-day Hadrian who will acknowledge that the empire is large enough, and see that the main risk is becoming overstretched.  Hadrian constructed the famous wall named after him in Britain to keep out soccer hooligans from Glasgow, and built many other walls, roads and defenses besides.

The Roman empire survived for centuries afterwards.

Rockabye giant, on the treetop

When the war blows, the cradle will rock

When the debt breaks, the cradle will fall

And down will come giant, cradle and all

Your Ignorance

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Image credit: Russian Schoolroom by Norman Rockwell

You may have heard of the Dunning-Kruger Effect: those who are most ignorant on a subject stupidly think themselves the most expert.

For example, someone who works as an administrator in the prison system might say, “I know quite a lot about the problems in our corrective institutions, although I recently read some new research that made me question some of my long-help assumptions.”  The average layman who’s read about prisons in the paper might say, “I’ve heard the gangs run the place and drugs are everywhere.  I shudder to think what else goes on in there.”  Someone who has never read about or even considered the issue before at all will say:

If there is one fault common to all bloggers and their commenters (except you and I), it is that they think they are experts on everything.  Too rarely does somebody say, “I don’t really know much about that.”  But no one can be expert on everything.

[An exception would be Slate Star Codex, yet he manages to come across as more arrogant than anybody.  Why is that?]

We get around the psychological discomfort of uncertainty by adopting our team’s view of the world.

For example, in medieval Europe everyone knew that God made the world in six days, the Catholic Church is his institution on Earth, and that everything in our world is the way it is because God made it that way.  For us.

On the left, everyone knows that Trump is a fascist, public healthcare is the most efficient, and all differences in outcomes between races, sexes, religions and sexualities (etc.) is due to discrimination.

On the traditional right, everyone is sure that Western societies were much better in the 1950s and have been weakened by promiscuity, abortion, divorce and atheism.

And so on.

But you and me – we’re different.  We’re brave enough to point out some areas where we are utterly ignorant, even though our ‘team’ has firm views on them.

Here are a couple of mine:

Health policy

My experience is limited to having lived in various countries and using their systems.

This is what I know: The public health care system in Australia has largely covered some very expensive, life-saving treatments for many people close to me.  The Japanese public system is okay but the doctors sell the medication themselves so they have an obvious incentive to over-prescribe, which they consistently do (especially antibiotics).  The doctors are often arrogant and don’t listen properly to what you say.  Privacy is limited – you don’t always get to close the door before pulling your pants down.  The nurses are tasty.  I have also had broadly positive experiences of other Asian health systems – you can get what you need but have to wade through some baffling bureaucracy.

This is what I don’t know: Are privatized systems really more efficient?  I’ve heard that Singapore and Thailand have pretty sweet set-ups but I don’t know anything about them.  I’ve heard that the US government spends about the same as other developed countries but gets much poorer coverage.  I’ve also heard that the US system incentivizes expensive research into new treatments.  I don’t know the veracity of any of these claims.

Australia’s defense policy

What I know: the main part of our policy is the alliance with the US, which means we slavishly follow their foreign policy no matter how stupid we secretly think it is, in the hope that China and Indonesia will assume the US would back us in a conflict.  Whether the US would actually help would depend on various practical considerations at the time.  A lot of our defense policy focuses on protecting the air-sea gap between us and the rest of the world.  I read an interesting story about how the government found it hard to find a use for Australian forces in the Second Gulf War – most non-SAS ground forces were not equipped for taking on the Iraqis.

What I don’t know: I read that there is no plausible threat to Australia, and that if someone did attack Australia we would not be equipped to defend ourselves independently.  Written in the same sentence by the same author.  If not contradictory, these two facts at least seem to sit uncomfortably next to each other, like two white office workers who don’t know each other finding themselves seated together on the Tokyo subway.

I don’t know whether Australia should have more independent foreign and defense policies, or how much that would cost.  I heard somewhere that it might involve raising spending from around 2% to 4% of GDP.  I don’t know if this figure is accurate.

I have no idea what we ought to spend the money on if we went down that path.  Someone said submarines for asymmetrical warfare against the much larger Chinese military.  Someone said cheaper and more effective Russian planes to replace the apparently useless Joint Strike Fighter, which looks and fights like origami.  Why don’t we just train a local militia with AK-47s and IEDs?  This seems to be the totality of technology possessed by our enemies in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and is quite sufficient to bog down even the mightiest, well-armed forces in an endless dunny-flush of hard-taxed treasure.  I have no idea about any of these things.  If I were appointed Field Marshal today we’d be speaking Chinese by Thursday afternoon.

What about you?  Anyone out there man enough to admit where your areas of ignorance lurk?  Let us know in the comments.

A Grim Thought Experiment

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This one is more unpleasant than usual.  It reads like a guest post by Tom Arrows, but it’s me, Nikolai.  Your normally cheerful and exuberant narrator.

Wandering in the mountains I often have good ideas.  One such idea struck me upon a picturesque bend in the road, decorated with a giant, shady stand of bamboo and a gnarled, leafless, near-dead tree.  I thought, what if I was walking to my execution?  That next crossroads, twenty minutes away – that’s where my firing squat is waiting.  I am Read More

What is Good?

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Review of On Duties by Marcus Tullius Cicero, translated by Quintus Curtius.

The old windbag Cicero lived during a definitive, pivotal time in Western history – perhaps the moment, along with the American Revolution, that produced our world – but you wouldn’t have wanted to live then unless you have a fondness for starving and being chopped up.  The Roman republic was on the ropes with two cut eyes and early signs of Parkinson’s, and Julius Caesar and others sought to deliver the knockout blow in order to establish a totalitarian empire in its place.  Cicero, a lawyer and famed orator, favored the old republic.  Sometimes exhiled and eventually killed, he is best know today for Read More