Sunday, January 30, 2005
Back then I thought telethons were entertaining. Partly I was a sucker for variety shows, but mostly I think I got off on the suspense of the tote board.
So today my local ABC affiliate is showing the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon. In more civilized markets, ABC's viewers are watching Shaquille O'Neal match up against Yao Ming. I've decided not to send in a donation.
Just yesterday I read a mediocre philosophy paper which set out to explain why it was that people are more likely to stop to help an injured stranger than to do things like send donations to telethons, even when the costs and benefits are the same in both cases. The author, who could have made the paper much better by taking account of the work of David Hume, argued that the injured stranger's presence engages our moral emotions directly, whereas we are able to think dispassionately about those helped by organizations like the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation.
Well, I don't know. Maybe the claim about moral emotions is true, but the discussion is hampered by the fact that the two cases are disanalagous in any number of relevant ways. Personally, I'd like money to be spent on palsy research and treatment. It doesn't follow, however, that I should feel in any way obligated to send a donation. Nor need this lack of feeling evidence a hard heart on my part. As it happens, my view is that more state resources should go to medical research and medical care, and that fewer resources should go to, say, missile defense shields.
There are two points here, so let me close by making each explicit. First, the appeal to differential emotional responses is unhelpful, since differences in our reactions to the cases are adequately explained by differences between the cases. Second, the local ABC affiliate really ought to be showing the basketball game.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Advertising to children
I've been trying to figure out what might be said in defense of the practice.
Someone might give an argument from inconsequent effects. The idea here is that since children don't have significant buying power, the manipulative creation of wants is no real harm. Besides the obvious fact that manipulative commercials wouldn't continue to be broadcast if those commercials didn't move products, this defense fails to engage the fact that it is the manipulation itself which prompts objections.
Another argument might categorize these commercials as a necessary evil. This defense admits that the advertisements are distasteful, but holds that unfettered corporate power has such good effects in general that this practice is worth tolerating. One problem here is that it's difficult to believe that small restrictions on corporate power would seriously undermine whatever benefits the corporate system brings. From the point of view of the argument, however, the more serious problem is that this line of thought doesn't really amount to a defense of the practice.
The strongest argument, I think, would appeal to the fact that ours is a consumer culture and would emphasize the need for children to begin developing the skills necessary for operating in such a culture. One aspect of this acculturation would be the lesson that products don't always deliver the emotional satisfactions that their advertisements promise. On this view, subjecting children to small manipulations is ultimately beneficial to them, since it serves to instill a healthy skepticism with regard to mercantile promises. You might call this the sea monkey principle.
For such an argument to work, it should be noted, you'd have to have in hand a defense of consumerism as a way of life -- or, at any rate, as a significant part of a life. Only then could the notion of developing into a virtuous consumer have the sort of ethical grip that might overcome worries about manipulation.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Dollars to donuts
Oh yeah, and they'll call it the iTV.
As you probably know, Apple filed a lawsuit against mac rumor site Think Secret a few weeks ago (and, again last week) because the site had published rumors from, ahem, knowledgeable sources claiming that Apple was going to release a sub-$500 headless mac.
I used to pay a lot more attention to the world of mac rumors than I do now. One thing I learned is that the rumor sites are always wrong. It would really surprise me if their information happened to be on the money this time.
Some macheads seem to think that the lawsuit means that the rumor sites must have been right. We'll see. My feeling is that the lawsuit is nothing but pure crankiness. If not, then my guess is that Apple wants to insure press for their announcement and this is a way of ginning up interest.
One last thing. This is neither here nor there but it occurred to me the other day that the various mac rumor sites that I started reading back in 1998 would be called blogs if they started up today.
Update: Looks like the rumor sites were spot on for once. Huh.
Encased in brushed metal, the new Mac mini features a square shape with rounded edges and is somewhat similar in appearance to an Apple AC power adapter. It features a slot-loading CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo drive, USB 2.0, FireWire 400, DVI and VGA connectivity and a headphone jack.
Jobs describes the Mac mini and BYODKM: Bring Your Own Display, Keyboard and Mouse. The Mac mini works just fine with Apple's peripherals, of course, or you can use other industry-standard peripherals.
The Mac mini comes in two models -- a 1.25GHz, 40GB G4 system for $499 and an 80GB 1.42GHz G4 system for $599. |source|
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Actually, that's not quite right. I could have slept three nights ago but I got wrapped up in the project of tweaking the template of this blog and completely overhauling the three blogs that I use as course web pages for the classes that I teach. Since I hadn't done any significant mucking around in HTML in about eight months the project involved reacquiring my woefully small expertise. Which is to say that it took a long time. On the upside, this blog has a much better looking blockquote than it used to.
But I digress.
What happened was I stayed up all night working and turned my sleeping schedule inside out. Since then I've been sleeping from midmorning until about noon. That's not going to fly once classes start up again so I'm going to have to bite the bullet and pull an all dayer to set things aright.
This is actually the fourth or fifth time that something like this has happened to me in the last year or so and I'm wondering whether this is a common graduate student experience. I do know any number of grads who habitually work late into the night and sleep well into the day. Those folks, though, strongly prefer to write at the end of the day while I strongly prefer to do my writing in the morning.
My suspicion is that I inadvertantly trained my body to quickly adapt to new sleeping schedules during those years when I worked crappy night jobs in order to support my philosophy habit. The thing about working nights is that it's impossible to function if you sleep all day every day. So you end up deliberately altering your sleeping schedule on a weekly basis just so you can have a life that includes things like going to the library, seeing your friends, and standing in line at the DMV.
There was an extended period when my work schedule was 11pm-6am Saturday - Thursday. Honest to god, this was what my week looked like:
Sunday -- off work 6am, play basketball at 10am, watch football if awake, try to sleep as much as possible, work at 11pm.
Monday -- off work 6am, go downtown to library to work on philosophy all day, work at 11pm.
Tuesday -- off work 6am, sleep all day, work at 11pm.
Wednesday -- off work 6am, go downtown to library, work at 11pm
Thursday -- off work 6am, sleep all day, work at 11pm
Friday -- off work 6am, study all day, go out with friends at night
Saturday -- sleep in until mid to late afternoon, putter around the house, go to work at 11pm.
I should also mention that it was my habit on Tuesday and Thursday mornings to drink beer while sitting on the curb right next to the expressway onramp. I would be disheveled from working all night and people would purse their lips and shake their heads as they drove by. It was hilarious.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Numerous small changes...
Saturday, January 01, 2005
Incidentally, my hunch is that John Leen is The Medium Lobster and Mike Fried is Giblets. Yawn.