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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Power-law theory and homelessness

Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker:

Power-law problems leave us with an unpleasant choice. We can be true to our principles or we can fix the problem. We cannot do both. ... Power-law solutions have little appeal to the right, because they involve special treatment for people who do not deserve special treatment; and they have little appeal to the left, because their emphasis on efficiency over fairness suggests the cold number-crunching of Chicago-school cost-benefit analysis. Even the promise of millions of dollars in savings or cleaner air or better police departments cannot entirely compensate for such discomfort. ...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A New Business Ethos: Not About the Consumer Anymore

From Michael Wolff's provocative profile of Steve Jobs:

Now, the central point about American business, not least of all the media business, is that it's not supposed to be about you. It's supposed to be about the consumer. You have to give the people, the American lumpen, what it seems they want. (Although, judging by audience flight, such unctuous eagerness to please in the media business has had the effect of producing things that, in fact, the American consumer doesn't much want.) Whereas the unique thing, and one of the frustrating things about Jobs's business life, is that it has always been about what he wants. What floats his boat. What gets him hot. It's about him—in a single-minded, despotic, unrestrained, not-a-little-dysfunctional way.

Steve's ascendancy represents, for better or worse, the triumph of personal righteousness in American business.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Isolationism is Politically Dead

David Brooks in the NY Times...

The Reproductive Right

Do birth rates favor the long-term future of Red America? Philip Longman in USA Today:

What's the difference between Seattle and Salt Lake City? There are many differences, of course, but here's one you might not know. In Seattle, there are nearly 45% more dogs than children. In Salt Lake City, there are nearly 19% more kids than dogs. ...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Snowclones: ready-made metaphors for abstract relationships

The term snowclone, listed at W and coined at LL, describes cliche formulas into which components can be inserted to make supposedly snappy new phrases.

Examples include "* is my middle name," "Will the real * please stand up?", and "* is the new *."

One follow-up LL entry on "* is the dark matter of *" suggests that snowclones actually help formulate our conception of abstract relationships:

Like other snowclones, 'X is the dark matter of Y' is more than a fixed phrase or cliché. It's a pointer to a little conceptual universe, bringing along with it a metaphorical framework that structures the surrounding chunk of discourse. If 'X is the dark matter of Y', then X is crucial to Y, is even the biggest part of Y, but it is not directly visible, and must be inferred because of the strong effects it has on visible things.

I wonder if these metaphor formulas speak to an inadequacy of vocabulary we have for articulating abstract relationships, or if these cliches actually help predetermine how we perceive or consider an abstract relationship.

Not Bagging It

This blog is a grab bag (a "grab blog"?) of bits and pieces of unfinished and underformed ideas collected in my Context&Context weblog for, and my former Thought of the Day strand at my personal weblog. There I recklessly ruminated on such imponderables as the faith of science, suicidal civilizations, the philosophy of consciousness, and the dark side of the contemplative life. I proceed here with potentially pertinent ponderings.