Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gates v. Jobs

I'm starting to think this is going to be an awkward conversation if we ever have this book club since, so far, I'm not impressed with Outliers.

In support of his theroy that almost anyone can achieve excellence with 10,000 hours of practice, Gladwell spills considerable ink documenting the confluence of events that allowed Bill Gates to get his 10,000 programming hours. Gate's proficiency at programming, we are told, is not because Gates is especially talented in any way, but because he logged a lot of programming hours. He was lucky to get access to a computer between the hours of 3 am and 6 am. He was lucky to live in proximity to a computer in the 60s. He was lucky to get released from school to do a special programming task.

I concede that there is some luck in being in the right place at the right time. But I took a different lesson away from this events. Bill Gates was extremely motivated to learn programming. He wanted to spend all his after-school time programming. He was willing to get up in the middle of the night to program, and hide that from his parents. Yes, he was lucky to be close to a computer, but more so, he was really motivated to learn.

But when the book gets to Steve Jobs, it really goes off the rails. There we learn that Steve Jobs didn't have computer terminal access, but he had another advantage: free computer parts! Those parts, Gladwell tells us, are "on par with Bill Gates getting unlimited access to a time-share terminal at age thirteen."

Funny, but I don't see a parallel at all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Outliers

I'm starting to see some tension in the thesis  (or theses) of Outliers.

Chapter One: Professional sports and higher education are not really meritocracies. Those who succeed do so because of a random advantage given them by being older and more developed.

Chapter Two: There are no naturally gifted people or naturally disadvantaged people. All you have to do is spend 10,000 hours practicing to reach an expert level of performance.

A world where everyone has the power to achieve excellence by merely put in the work, is a fairer world than the one I observe. And I generally believe the developed world, despite its injustices, is, on average, a meritocracy.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Outliers Bleg

I'm reading Outliers for a (potential) book club. I'm wondering if there is a good, critical, comprehensive review of the book. Particularly I'm interested in the argument made in the first chapter: older children are favored in certain sports and, even college attendance, because they are more physically and mentally developed than their younger peers, and as a result, receive more attention and positive reinforcement, giving them a life-long advantage.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Eric Metaxas: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God - WSJ

Eric Metaxas: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God - WSJ: "As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing."

'via Blog this'

Monday, December 29, 2014

Whose Liberalism? | National Review Online

Whose Liberalism? | National Review Online: "There is a great deal of argument on the subject of capitalism that could be superseded by coming to some agreement about what we talk about when we talk about capitalism. If by “capitalism” we mean (a) what happens when a few million grocers and the mind-bendingly complex chains of production behind them compete for the custom of a few hundred million hungry Americans, that’s one thing; if by “capitalism” we mean (b) bank bailouts and General Electric’s defense-contracting division, that’s another thing. There are critics of capitalism who argue that (a) leads inevitably to (b); one need not necessarily take a position on the merits of that claim to understand that (a) and (b) are nonetheless different things, and that if we take “capitalism” to mean (b) then we need another term — “free enterprise,” “laissez-faire,” etc. — to denote (a)."

'via Blog this'

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Mormon Advantage | National Review Online

The Mormon Advantage | National Review Online: "Thomas were trying to learn from the LDS experience how a countercultural minority can thrive and grow in order to learn lessons for counterinsurgency nation-building. Among their conclusions: Mormons do not convert by preaching. They do help ensure uniformity in what their church teaches by centralizing curriculum and materials, but these materials are used mostly to “preach to the converted.” Instead they focus on building social bonds, inviting the former stranger into a network of ever-growing belonging, before broaching theology or ideology. Preach incessantly to those in your pews, but reach out with love, affection, Boy Scouts, and practical help to the unconverted. It sounds a lot like the way the Catholic Church used to evangelize."

'via Blog this'

The Mormon Advantage | National Review Online

The Mormon Advantage | National Review Online: "More than any other group in America, and despite very large theological differences with orthodox Protestants or Catholics (Mormons are not Trinitarians, to name just one basic belief), the LDS church is far more effectively passing on classic Christian cultural beliefs, attitudes, and practices about marriage."

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Concha: Lena Dunham’s Republican-Raped-Me Story Crumbles as Legal Action Looms | Mediaite

Concha: Lena Dunham’s Republican-Raped-Me Story Crumbles as Legal Action Looms | Mediaite: "Campus rape has been, and continues to be, a serious problem in this country despite some relatively good news from the Department of Justice on the number incidents apparently being on the decline (down 58 percent between 1995 and 2010 – the most updated numbers available). Still, that doesn’t include the many incidents that go unreported. "

'via Blog this'

I see a problem with the conclusion:"Still, that doesn't include the many incidents that go unreported." Do you see it?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

No Indictment for NYPD Officer in Chokehold Death | National Review Online

No Indictment for NYPD Officer in Chokehold Death | National Review Online: "A Staten Island grand jury decided against the criminal indictment of NYPD police officer for the death of Eric Garner, a black man killed after being put in a choke hold by police in July."

'via Blog this'

Finally we have a legitimate case of police abuse, although there's some video missing of what exactly led up to the chock-hold.

Part of what makes this so tragic is the underlying crime was small and petty. Additionally, for the crime, the enforcement was excessive. Why not just send the guy a ticket in the mail?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Darren Wilson Got a Private Trial Run by Friendly Prosecutors - Hit & Run :

Darren Wilson Got a Private Trial Run by Friendly Prosecutors - Hit & Run : "McCulloch clearly thought an elaborate grand jury process, coupled with public release of all the evidence presented to the jurors, would help keep the peace and mollify critics who feared that Wilson would get away with murder. But a real trial, even one ending in acquittal, would have been much more effective at achieving those goals. A public airing of the evidence, with ample opportunity for advocates on both sides to present and probe it, is what Brown's family has been demanding all along. McCulloch took extraordinary steps to deny them that trial, thereby reinforcing the impression that the legal system is rigged against young black men and in favor of the white cops who shoot them."

'via Blog this'

Would a trial really have mollified critics? is that what happened when George Zimmerman was acquitted--everyone just decided that Zimmerman actually acted in self defense and was mollified?

Brand Unawareness | National Review Online

Brand Unawareness | National Review Online: "Who wants to be Billy Joel when you can be Sting or Elvis Costello? Barbra Streisand, annoyed that President Clinton was neglecting her while lavishing attention on Sharon Stone, once complained: “She doesn’t know anything about policy.” Those were innocent times."

'via Blog this'

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gruber video sleuth: 'This is not about me' - Lucy McCalmont - POLITICO

Gruber video sleuth: 'This is not about me' - Lucy McCalmont - POLITICO: "But Weinstein says the hard part was getting the media to pay attention.

“It was so frustrating,” Weinstein, who was reached at a gas station, told Fox News’ Howie Kurtz in an interview published Thursday. “I tried really hard to give this to the media. I had this and couldn’t get it to anybody that knows what to do with it.”"

'via Blog this'

Report: White House secretly counted dental plans in Obamacare enrollment numbers - Vox

Report: White House secretly counted dental plans in Obamacare enrollment numbers - Vox: "Obama administration has included enrollment in dental plans in its most recent sign-up figures, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
Health and Human Services says that about 380,000 dental plans were "erroneously" counted in the September estimate that 7.3 million people had signed up for private coverage.
The White House has set a goal of enrolling 9.1 million people through the exchanges in 2015."

'via Blog this'

Monday, November 17, 2014

“Why didn’t the Church teach me this stuff?”

“Why didn’t the Church teach me this stuff?”: "I’ve not been overly patient when newly-minted apostates complain that the Church hasn’t taught them about Joseph Smith practicing polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, accounts of the First Vision beyond the one canonized in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith’s using a stone in a hat during the translation of the Book of Mormon, and so forth.

First of all, many of these things have been taught by the Church.  The four items above, for example, are, respectively, (1) obviously implicit in Doctrine and Covenants 132 (what on earth is it talking about in the early 1830s, if not plural marriage?), (2) discussed in Seminary and Institute manuals, (3) published in Church magazines and in books printed and distributed by the Church’s wholly-owned publishing company, and (4) mentioned in at least one General Conference talk that I can think of just off the top of my head.

I don’t fault people for not being scholars.  I’ve publicly lamented the fact that the Saints by and large don’t know their scriptures and their history better than they do, but I know and readily admit that many such members of the Church are far better Saints and disciples of Christ than I am.  What I object to, though, is when certain people loudly abandon their faith, claiming that the Church kept such things from them.  This simply isn’t true."

'via Blog this'

I like Dan Peterson's blog. I find interesting information there. He is insightful. We mostly agree on politics. But on this issue,  I just think he is totally wrong. I endorse Bill Reel's comments in this thread.

The church obscured a number of topics from the view of the average church member, including Fannie Alger, the secret practice of polygamy, polyandry, peep stones, and treasure seeking. As Reel says, you could learn about these topics, but not in any official church publication. The church was happy for church members not to learn about them. Not only that, but church members were generally warded off critical sources exploring these topics as anti-Mormon literature analogous to "spiritual pornography." Of course there are faithful members who write on these topics, too, but it is very unlikely you would ever come across the information without a church critic introducing you to the topic.

I wouldn't say the failure to deal with these issues is a "lie," but it's certainly misleading. In the legal profession, the model rules of professional conduct prohibit applicants not only from lying, but also from "fail[ing] to disclose a fact necessary to correct a misapprehension. . ." The Gospel Principles manual uses a similar definition.

The church has been failing to disclose a number of facts necessary to correct misapprehension on the part of members. I suspect this happens in part because people in the church may not be aware of the real history, although, certainly there are historians creating church curriculum who have decided to include all the faith-promoting stories and skip all of the troubling ones.

I think another reason we skip certain topics is we just don't have good answers to the questions.

I'm glad about recent church efforts to deal with these topics openly--although honestly, I think the internet and social media have forced the issue.  Members that feel like they were deceived because they didn't know about these topics earlier are justified in their feelings. Telling all the faith-promoting parts of church history and skipping all the parts that detract from that story is not being totally honest. Even a lawyer could tell you that.