not really about Reagan

Kevin Drum has an argument about how the Soviet Union was already in collapse in 1980, but nobody knew it, not even Reagan. Therefore, Reagan’s arms buildup was the straw that broke the Russian economy’s back, rather than the the mighty branch that beat it into submission. The danger of Reagan’s hagiography is that it supports the current administration’s attitude towards external threats — if you stand firm, puff out your chest, and take a few practice swings with the old bat, your opponents will back down. But this is not the story that should be learned from Reagan’s legacy.

Chris Butler (Mr. B), a history teacher at my high school, designed and wrote historical simulation games with a friend of my brother’s, Paul Marty. There was one called Waters of Babylon, where you played merchants and kings in city states, traded, waged war, and so on. It was designed to illustrate the balance of power in the area. The one I remember best was a computer game called Diocletian, which was a simulation of the end days of the united Roman Empire. Diocletian was the emperor who split the emipre into the Eastern (centered at Byzantium) and Western (centered at Rome) halves. In the game, you had rebellious governors in the provinces, an insufficiently small army, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and other groups invading from all sides, and an inefficient tax collection scheme.

Austin Amaya and I managed to survive in the game by first conquering all of North Africa and the Middle East and then taking over northern Europe. Endless military expansion was the only way to avoid the collapse of the empire, but the only reason we were successful was that nobody could invade from off the borders of the computer simulation. This was Hitler’s strategy in WWII as well. Games like Civilization teach you the same lessons, I think. The question I’m left with is this — to what extent are the dynamics of these games informed by our ideas or misconceptions about the Reagan era?

mundane and mysterious

I spent most of yesterday hanging out with Abby, who was in from out of town. We went to the Castro and up Noe Valley to catch some of the crazy hilly street views and work up an appetite for the ultra cheap sushi at Yokoso Nippon (15th and Church). Nothing like $5 for a 7 piece nigiri combo, although now it’s more like $6 since they raised their prices. We pretty much ate ourselves silly, drank all the tea, and probably overstayed our welcome. One of these days I will learn to eat octopus nigiri in one bite. It was nice to catch up over a meal, and it felt very comfortable, even though we hadn’t talked in months really.
Continue reading

PC nonsense? I think not.

Yesterday the A’s gave the royal smackdown to the Reds. This got me thinking about team names and mascots, and how ridiculous and racist they are. Of course, I don’t know where the Reds came from, but the Braves are pretty unambiguous, as are the Redskins, the Fighting Illini, etc. How is this not patently offensive and racist? Is it merely the money invested in the franchise (and appeasing alumni in the case of college sports) that prevents us from looking at these cariacatures and recognizing them as demeaning and offensive? Have we sufficiently marginalized the Native American population that it is now safe to ignore them?
Continue reading

one big union of all the Dementors

According to the the Maoist International Movement movie guide, Harry Potter is an anti-fascist series that nevertheless caters to the piggy bourgeois appetite. Their parting shot in the review of the latest movie:

We would only add that in real life Dementos [sic] would have unions, and those unions would make sure that more prisons get built, guards hired and secrecy built in connection to any abuses by prison guards, most recently including two prison guards who went to Iraq and continued their profession at Abu Ghraib.

What is with these guys? When I went to hear Mike Albert of ZMag give a talk at MIT, he talked about how important it was to reach out to those who don’t believe in progressive causes. The communist bookstore guy and Aimee Smith derided his position, saying that “Joe Sixpack” would never try and work for real change. How fucking elitist is that? The Socialist Worker and MIMnotes people have the same dialogue-denying asshat attitude that born-again evangelists have.

I don’t know why I’m so angry — perhaps its because I believe that a lot of the injustices they point at need to be addressed but that their approach to fixing them is so untenable.

hemiola

Johannes Brahms is the master of the hemiola. I’m listening to the Concerto for violin, cello and orchestra in A minor, Op. 102, and it’s rocking my world. I heard it at the SFSO last year with two fantastic pieces by Brahms, but when the orchestra really weighs in during the first movement it’s like being lifted out of your seat.

perseverance

I’ve been able to bike most of the way up Hearst now, although rather than run the risk of being flattened by a bus I duck into North Gate and work my way up around the Naval Architecture shack. I realized at some point that all it took was a little more willpower to get up the section right after Tolman.

I was recently told that I had good potential but needed to work harder. Somewhere twixt Boston and Berkeley I lost my work ethic, but perhaps all it will take is a little more willpower?

tin roof… rusted

Last night we went to our landlord’s place to sign the new lease. We drank wine, ate pizzelles, cheese, crackers, olives, and cookies and convinced them to remove the horrible smelling dead thing under the house before we move in. I played with the cutest softest bunny I’ve ever met, and she kept hopping up to me to lick my arm. They blasted “Love Shack” and danced. And this is why I enjoy having John and Pauline as landlords.

memes and false significance

Suppose you observe something and ascribe to it some specal significance out of scale with the actual event due to the nature of the observation. For example, almost any form of divination, fortune cookies, and the like. Is there a name for that sort of psychological irrationality?

I finally broke down and did the page 23 meme where you grab the nearest book, turn to page 23, read the fifth line, and read your fortune. Mine read “This last relation is Bayes’ rule, and it will play a crucial role in our thinking about the neural code.” I think these things are bunk, but that sentence sounds suspiciously like a forecast for my life.