12-18-10 Hodgepodge

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Right Reaction, Wrong Target

Regarding FIFA's recent decision to permit Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, Ann Killion is right to be indignant about it.

But am I expected to cover my head, arms and legs -- while working in 120 degree heat? And what about my friends who would face five years in prison by attending the World Cup. That's the penalty for homosexuality, which is illegal in Qatar.
However, she is wrong to sloppily blame capitalism or Western values as the bases for such an absurd decision.
The 22 men on the FIFA Executive Committee apparently don't care that Qatar isn't exactly a leader when it comes to human rights. They were wowed by imaginary stadiums, the impact of petrodollars and president Sepp Blatter's apparent desire to take over the world.
Blatter's decision regarding Qatar fits right in with holding this year's tournament recently in South Africa (while pointedly doing nothing to quell the annoyance of vuvulzelas) and his strong desire to have China host one in the future. For one thing, none of these countries is exactly a soccer hotbed and for another, he decries the "arrogance" of the Western world since its fans want the games held in places where there is a strong appreciation for the game and in which they are free to behave as they usually do.

I have always regarded Blatter as either a multiculturalist or a pragmatist hoping to take advantage of multiculturalism. It is almost amusing to see leftists so upset about the choice of Qatar since so many of them are also such ardent multicultural apologists for Islamic totalitarianism when it sees expression as the Iraqi "insurgency" or courtroom maneuvers to undermine individual freedom throughout the West.

Rather than smear capitalism -- government petrodollars would not exist under actual capitalism -- or western civilization -- this non-leftist, secular, pro-Western man would have broken ranks with Blatter had he a vote -- Killion ought to check her own premises and reconsider the whole idea of multiculturalism (aka cultural relativism) now that she has had a sneak preview of it being put into practice.

Weekend Reading

"If a cupcake stand can't survive more than a few hours' exposure to bureaucracy, what happens to real businesses?" -- Dana Berliner and Jeff Rowes, in "Discouraging Tomorrow's Entrepreneurs" at Investor's Business Daily (via HBL)

"[P]rices might temporarily rise as a result of a speculator making massive bullish bets, but because the investor has to eventually sell to someone, and because nobody is bigger than the market, prices inevitably end up quickly correcting long before the operator can capitalize on the scheme." -- Jonathan Hoenig, in "Why Cornering a Market Doesn't Work" at SmartMoney

"Psychologically speaking, the biggest problem with the holidays is that too many people approach it as a duty or as drudgery." -- Michael Hurd, in "Stress-Free holidays" at DrHurd.com

"Personal responsibility thus presupposes that an individual has the freedom to make his own decisions and to enjoy -- or suffer -- the consequences thereof." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Beware Counterfeit 'Responsibility'" at Pajamas Media

"Sorry, kid, your business can wait: some guy you don't know wants cheaper insurance." -- Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, in "The Irresponsible Individual Mandate" at Forbes

Working While Standing

I am loath to buy office furniture since my thinness quickly makes a mockery of almost any chair I use for any length of time. I have also had, as a result, an on-again, off-again interest in working standing up. I have played around with it a few times, but found nothing really workable in terms of ease-of-use.

Basically, I do at least know that I hate just standing even more than just sitting. The ideal arrangement for me would enable me to alternate easily between the two. Via John Cook, there's an excellent page about just such a solution. This, or something very much like it, is where I will go once I have more space and the money to sink into decent furniture. I will experiment a lot more before buying furniture, though.

Actually, now that I think about it, this reminds me a lot of how my Dad set up the studio for his watercolor hobby.

The Herd Mentality

Related to a point I made last week, Michael Hurd has an interesting blog post about "groupthink."
Individuality and reason require a lot of thought. The person who succumbs to group think is surrendering the responsibility to think -- i.e. to ask and answer the kinds of questions I just asked, in these examples. Each and every time he surrenders this responsibility, he "gets off easy," but, in another sense, makes life harder for himself. How? Because, by evading his responsibility to think for himself, he goes through life dependent on the appraisals of others.
Just because everyone around you is saying the same thing doesn't make them (or you) right.

The Death of Sports Writing?

Steve Rushin of Sports Illustrated writes an amusing (and somewhat self-refuting) piece on computer-generated sports reporting.
[N]ow the robots have come for me. A new media company called StatSheet operates 345 college basketball websites, one for every Division I team. Each site -- they're all accessible through statsheet.com -- is chockablock with game stories. And every one of those stories is written not by a human being, but by a malevolent piece of software intent on killing sportswriters.
Here's a verbatim sample:
Rice is definitely firing on all cylinders. On December 16th at home, the Owls beat the Trojans, 65-55, in the Las Vegas Hoops Classic.

A note about this matchup: The RPI ranked Arkansas-Little Rock higher, #89 to #159.

The game came down to a big separation between Rice and Arkansas-Little Rock in shooting and a somewhat smaller one in assists..

The Owls shot 51% while the Trojans struggled against a good defensive effort with only 35%. Rice beat Arkansas-Little Rock with assists, 21 to 12, and facilitated more balanced scoring. A highlight for Rice was the 21 assists, which was way up above their 13.1 season average.

Arsalan Kazemi led all scorers against the Trojans with 15 points on 75% shooting in 31 minutes. Kazemi also contributed a game-leading 9 rebounds.

Rice put a hurting on a very good Arkansas-Little Rock team. The Owls are now 5-4 and we look good early in the season. Our record against RPI Top 100 teams (Arkansas-Little Rock #89) improves to 1-2.
Rushin quotes Leigh Montville on sports writing as saying that, "It's not really sports, and it's not really writing." Certainly, if people aren't catching things like the Engrish version of "put the hurt on" in the passage above, then Montville is right, as far as game summaries are concerned. I'd also note that such a treatment would not do justice to a really important or memorable game like a human could.

Here's my take. Computers are freeing sports writers to report on really interesting things or to write more commentary. And while computer-generated summaries might mean fewer low-level jobs for aspiring sports writers, how useful would it be for someone to spend very much time on such assignments? If he's any good, he won't be doing them for long, and if he isn't any better than this, he ought to consider another career.

-- CAV

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