21 Sep 2013

Wow, no first thing workout this morning for I had a BM urge as soon as I started lowrise steps, but (TMI alert as in “too much information”) the constipation was so bad that I wound up on the floor of the toilet screaming and scaring the nurses. Then I had to be excavated.

De Pain, boss, De Pain! Cue Fantasy Island but don’t worry if the reference is before your time, and cue instead Edward II so foully murdered by his frustrated queen Isabella and her lover Mortimer with hot lead in his butt.

K. Edw. I am too weak and feeble to resist.—
Assist me, sweet God, and receive my soul!

But the kill or cure was a success and now all I have to deal with is the expectation of another such BM session and a sort of bone pain in my cranium. Bone pain of any sort in a prostate cancer patient needs followup since it may indicate metastasis to bone where unrestricted cell growth can break your bones from within.

Grim situation yet I celebrate a nice day (which is scheduled turn into a category 5 hurricane equivalent typhoon tomorrow) and lack of pain.


“Ted” and “TedX” talks are the idea of the architect and graphic designer Richard Saul Wurman to bring together people with an interest in technology, art, music, and culture. In recent years, the Ted community has bifurcated into entrepreneurs and venture capitalists on the one hand, and creative people on the other.

If you’re interested in having your ideas or art go “viral” by giving a Ted talk, be advised: Ted is a bit of a cult, and Ted speakers should never criticise the entrepreneurial rich. A Ted award of the opportunity is, unlike a Macarthur Genius Grant, less the end of your troubles and more their beginning.

Ted is a bit of a cult with strange and abusive expectations of audiences and speakers. Audience members have to apply to be in the audience and pay 6000.00..8000.00. Speakers are expected to share rooms with persons assigned by Ted in at least some cases.

But more important, Ted speakers are expected to advance the political agenda of the entrepreneurial billionaire class.

Comes now Nikita Bier with an app that tells you how to vote (long pause) from the standpoint of your self interest, primarily in lower or higher taxes and benefits from government.

By way of prefix, Nikita points to 2009 tuition hikes at the University of California at Berkeley that sparked demonstration and riots, saying that higher increases for students whose parents disclosed higher wealth meant that the higher tuition for poor and middle class was in all cases a non problem for those students for the higher tuition would then subsidize them.

It is true that unlike the case in the 19th century, higher education is no longer just for the rich and that highly motivated students who are accepted to prestige universities can in almost all cases get in without having to worry about costs during his or her “bright college days. One of the Princeton students with whom I was honored to mentor in software had a father who was a prison guard.

The problems exist before and after the “bright college days”.

Before matriculation, students from higher social classes enjoy all sorts of advantages including in many cases parents who read, better K-12 experiences including international schools, on so on. There are of course sterling exceptions but these tend to be overemphasized because of their “human interest”, man-bites-dog nature. default The default reality is one of brutal struggle.

After graduation the upper class student is able to start a career (or study in Paris) unhindered but this isn’t often the case for the middle class student as society increasingly if silently and without comment returns to the 19th century.

It is clear to me now that I should have had my head examined for leaving Princeton’s employ in that it allowed me escape, for five years in my case, from brutal class relations in which I was a “mere programmer”. But what would have happened at Princeton is like Heisenberg’s cat unknowable. I may have found more (quite acceptable) ways to take advantage of my association or I might have come a cropper as does Scott Fitzgerald’s Pat Hobby, in a story, a part of a series of cringeworthy potboilers Scott wrote for Esquire and for money in which this alcoholic screen writer embarrasses himself by trying to exploit a university connection.

Based on his possibly flawed experience with Berkeley students, then, Nikita Bier assumes an attractively class-free society on the Left Coast. The perception of such a society, in my experience, is truly a complex and weighty affair.

Nikita disclaims that the app should be the sole tool for evaluating candidates. Yeah, right. The app will reify political choice and it will reduce my only interest in voting to self-interest. The wealthy love self-interest since their family systems produce, often over several generations, people who put their self-interest first and who are skilled at soiling the commons.

But the families of the not-so-well-off may reproduce not vice as perhaps the well-off would like to believe, but solidarity and work ethic.

Furthermore, the Reinhart/Rogoff claim in 2010 that “sovereign debt causes low and negative growth when it exceeds 90%” turned out to be based on a simple software bug of the sort that can crop up at any time in Nikita’s app as it is modified and new releases occur.

Many computer users want to code their own software because they wrongly view programming as devoid of intellectual content or interest. They have varying levels of skill and/or honesty.

I was asked to assist Princeton mathematician John “A Beautiful Mind” Nash in 1992. As it happened, John Nash was a highly skilled programmer who did not regard coding with disdain. But it appears that Reinhart and Rogoff had this disdain, for they did not show their Excel spreadsheet to technicians at Harvard’s computation center. We did this support of users at Princeton as I’m certain did Harvard but only on request. As a result of Reinhart and Rogoff’s error, they as spokespersons for the well-to-do 1%, as well as Harvard, have earned themselves the scorn of the hard-working 99% who have the humility and work ethic needed to check their work, and who were harmed as I was by job loss and other consequences of austerity based on the coding error.


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