Sunday, May 2, 2010

Linkism

Here’s The New Republic on the judicial logjam over Goodwin Liu, a nominee for the Court of Appeals who might be an eventual Supreme Court pick, should he get the requisite seasoning there. The article pretty effectively contrasts Liu to Miguel Estrada, the young conservative judge George W. Bush nominated a while back. I’ve changed my opinion on this: in a just world, yeah, Estrada probably would’ve been confirmed…that said, Democrats can’t really unilaterally disarm here, can they? The problem here, as always, is that the cultural norms of our politics and the formal rules of our politics don’t mesh very well; we should be eliminating the filibuster and slapping term limits on all judges, so that the nomination of a judge isn’t quite so high-stakes.

Against “Starbucks urbanism.”

Speaking of oil well technology, here’s a rundown of the options. It’s more than a little disturbing that the expert view of many in this article is, “Huh. Looks like you’ve got a pickle there.” Let me humbly suggest that if a) your technology will cause tons of problems if it breaks and b) you have no way to fix these problems when things go wrong, then c) you seriously have to rethink your use of that technology.

When you read about the dirty water in Boston, keep in mind that our sewer/water systems are hopelessly outdated.

Sportswriters sometimes fixate on strange reasoning because it sounds good; apparently, so do coaches. Here’s Arash Markazi using Jerry Sloan to fixate on something strange:
When the Los Angeles Lakers played the Utah Jazz last year in the first round of the playoffs, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan opined, "We're just like a little dent in the road as far as they're concerned," later saying, "We're not a nasty team."

Well, one year and one round later, it seems the Jazz are still learning how to be nasty while still playing the role of a pesky dent on the Lakers' road to a potential championship.
What’s wrong with this? Well, Markazi notes later than the Jazz’s real biggest problem is that the Lakers are bigger; I’d add to that that the Lakers are also much better. And yet we’re treated to an article fixating on whether or not the Jazz are tough enough, which I submit is not the proper question to be asking: it’s first and foremost a question of talent. I guess I’m more disturbed by the Jazz saying it—they of the strong rebounding and obsessive fouling and foul-drawing—but more annoyed by the journalists saying it. Participants will believe whatever’s convenient for their winning the next game, and people believe that toughness is more malleable than talent, so it’s understandable why that’s the party line. Journalists, on the other hand, exist for our entertainment and it’s not particularly entertaining to have the game described in an unedifying way.

This New York Times article about people watching complete movies/TV episodes on their smartphones is surprising. For one, the video quality isn’t quite as good as a laptop or TV screen; for two, you obviously have to deal with the execrable quality of internet speed, which significantly hampers your enjoyment. But I suppose it’s possible people will want to enjoy it. What I really find entertaining is the media executives talking themselves into charging for episodes on smartphones, because what people really want to do is supplement their cable bill with streaming episodes on the smartphone. Media executives really are a one-size-fits-all group, aren’t they?

This Week in Review article has some great thoughts on complexity in our times, and here’s a choice bit:
What we need, suggests Brenda Zimmerman, a professor at Schulich School of Business in Ontario, is a distinction between the complicated and the complex. It’s complicated, she says, to send a rocket to the moon — it requires blueprints, math and a lot of carefully calibrated hardware and expertly written software. Raising a child, on the other hand, is complex. It is an enormous challenge, but math and blueprints won’t help. Performing hip replacement surgery, she says, is complicated. It takes well-trained personnel, precision and carefully calibrated equipment. Running a health care system, on the other hand, is complex. It’s filled with thousands of parts and players, all of whom must act within a fluid, unpredictable environment. To run a system that is complex, it’s not enough to get the right people and the ideal equipment. It takes a set of simple principles that guide and shape the system. For instance: Teach everyone the best practices of doctors who are really good at hip replacement surgery.
The fundamental problem here is the role of the ordinary person in a complex system. What you want, say, for a health care system is the right principles, but beyond the vaguely general, the ordinary person isn’t typically able to offer much; meanwhile, the credentialed expert is often unable to see beyond the picayune concerns of her or his field, having burrowed deep from years of schooling and work, along with his fellow hedgehogs…The effect is one of disenfranchisement from the system for most people, and an inability to have a broad effect for the experts.

And, for the Stanford fans: here’s a profile of Gerhart in the Pioneer-Press, with that great a capella Fleet Street video; meanwhile, here’s a seemingly defunct Stanford Football Haiku Blog that I’m really hoping is resurrected during the football season.

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