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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in stephen's LiveJournal:

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Saturday, November 12th, 2011
Who was it?
Who was it who famously said,

"All I want is you,
and some butter,
and a monkey,
and Ecuador,
and enough gold to fill the Milky Way..."
Sunday, November 6th, 2011
The bus system in Nanjing is Dante-esque. The drivers evidently have a primary goal of ensuring that everyone outside the bus dies, and a secondary goal of ensuring that everyone inside the bus dies. I got a seat that could only be used comfortably by a legless dwarf (and I am not exaggerating). Our bus overtook someone at a double yellow line for the sole purpose of cutting him off in revenge for being slow in making a right turn on red. Another bus drove in the left lane for half a block. The left lane of four. On the wrong side of oncoming traffic. And these were not the hairiest moments, they're just the ones I can describe without diagrams.
Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Science is Dumb
So they announced recently that there are an "estimated" 8.7 million species on earth, including plants, animals, small things, and kinds of things that were evidently invented since I was at school.

Now, I mean, all well and good, but that's just an estimate. How can that be converted into a hard fact, the kind that wins in trivia games?

Two things are of different species, we know, if they cannot breed. So now, to verify this claim, Science has to do 75,690,000,000,000 breeding experiments (half that if you don't need to check both ways), the vast majority of which are going to be extremely tricky to carry out. And I happen to know that—contrary, perhaps, to popular belief—bananas need even more copious quantities of porn to get in the mood than pandas do. And that's even assuming you want them to try to breed with other bananas, and not whales or barnacles or slime molds, as verifying this scientific claim requires.

The porn production requirements alone will bankrupt us all!
Monday, August 8th, 2011
Short Ad
New ExpensodrylTM—Clinically proven to make us money.
Saturday, July 2nd, 2011
You can easily recognise werenovels by looking up the ISBNs tattooed on the backs of their necks.
Mission statement
Here's another one:

"To organise the world's money, to put it in our pockets, and run away."
Sunday, June 26th, 2011
"Ohhh!" said the small green man, in his metallic accent. "Your gravity has a ... smoky feel to it. With faintly tannic sidebands. I think I like it."
Tour de Force
In a tour de force of transgenic manipulation, scientists today announced the development of the sphincterine, probably the world's first peach with its own anus.
Saturday, May 7th, 2011
Cats: a memorable quote from the movie we just saw
"Mara is a teenager in lion years, a platypus in duck years, and a typewriter in chicken watts."
Sunday, April 17th, 2011
The beauty and the terror....
Went for a stroll this afternoon. Saw a hairy enteater. It was cute, friendly, and, I'd estimate, a little over two and a half miles tall.

I didn't know they came this far North.
Saturday, April 9th, 2011
Political theory
I've long been of the view that in higher education we do our evaluation backwards: that how students allocate their energies between their various classes should be up to them, and that therefore the crucial role of examinations ought to be for pre-screening the students before they are admitted to courses, not to evaluate them on the way out. That way there need be no haggling about where or how you picked up your background, or whether it is 'equivalent'; and teaching need not be dragged down to the level of the few students who, perhaps because of a difference of opinions about curricula, find themselves out of their depth.

I've just realised that the same applies to government but, um, in reverse.

What you want from a government is legislators and administrators who are competent and not evil. Democracy is quite bad at locating such people, since it reduces everything, ultimately, to a popularity contest; and there is nothing in particular that assures a strong correlation between popularity and either of the desired qualities. Far better to select leaders on meritocratic principles, since this should at least select for competence. It's my tentative conclusion that China has lately been working on this approach, and has been showing some pretty favourable results, overall. Of course, one can easily criticise China for its lack of transparency and its high rate of corruption.

At the same time, it seems that democracy has been outperforming most of the alternatives, on average, even though it has a marked tendency to elect, from time to time, malicious idiots, or worse.

I have to ask myself, then, if the power of democracy comes not from its dubious method of choosing leaders, but the facility with which it eliminates them when they prove to be unacceptable.

So perhaps, as with education, we have it backwards. Maybe the form of democracy we want is that candidates for office should be drawn from a well educated, well prepared, pre-groomed elite; and the function of elections should be to determine, every few years, which officials should continue in their positions, and which should be removed - or indeed, put on trial.

I think I like that idea quite well.

There doesn't have to be a single source pool for officials; universities could produce them independently, so long as they could be ranked according to some more or less objective criteria (one could imagine actually checking wither the candidates knew things about economics, sociology and engineering, for example) originating from a politically independent body. Candidates could be chosen by examinations written by an independent body. There would probably still be political parties, but the officials wouldn't need to belong to them, a priori; rather they would organise campaigns for or against the officials being evaluated according to their pattern of past behaviour on the issues the parties care about.

Just, you know, a thought.
Sunday, March 6th, 2011
Microreview: The Adjustment Bureau
Ooh! What a nice little film.
Thursday, February 17th, 2011
No, really.

No, really.

Secret Knowledge

I learned yesterday that eigenvectors are the opposite of lobster salad. Or, at any rate, they have been until recently.

Now, as you might not expect, this is actually true. Really, it is.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you how I know, because it's a secret.

Friday, January 28th, 2011
The future is here, and it's MONKEYS!
Unicode 6.0.

U+1F648 Unicode character SEE-NO-EVIL MONKEY! 🙈🙈🙈🙈

I kid you not.

Some day soon it will appear here! 🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈
Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
Ran into Thad Starner on the shuttle today. I think wearable would be here, finally, if we could engage the fashion industry adequately....

Then again, I've thought that for a long time.
Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
...And of course I've been working at Google since Monday. I guess that's news.
As of today, I'm legally empowered to drive a car. If the recent wikileaks documents were not enough to persuade you of the poor decision-making processes in the US government, then this surely should be.
Monday, November 15th, 2010
Archimedes and the Whale
One day Archimedes was strolling in the market place when someone said, hey! There goes Archimedes, whose wife is as fat as a whale! Archimedes, being a philosopher, then wondered, how fat is a whale, anyway? So he got a whale and put it in his bathtub. This experiment did not go entirely well, and Archimedes was heard to cry, Eureka! which is Greek for “I have made a terrible mess.”
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