Why IMDB Movie Ratings Need To Be Taken With A Grain Of Salt, Vol 1

Poll question for today:

Only three directors have won the Academy Award for Best Director three times or more. Which one of these guys is your favorite filmmaker? (Suggested by “Mister_Milich”)

The three filmmakers are Ford, Capra and Wyler. Among the options are “I love them all” and “I don’t care for any of them” and, the number 1 answer, given by 36.3% of the 12,000-plus votes?

I am not familiar with these directors.

And these are people who bother to both register on IMDB and to vote in their daily poll. So, you know: movie fans.

Everything You Need To Know About Socialism…and Communism

Everything you need to know about statist “solutions” is encapsulated in this one little story that won’t get much national coverage. Executive summary: Michelle Obama and David Axelrod ran a program for the University of Chicago hospital that shunted off poor patients to other hospitals, and sold this program by telling everyone how great it would be for both the patients and the hospitals.

It also tells you a bit about capitalism and the free markets. And that Michelle and David “don’t care about black people”.

What can we learn:

  • If the state provides a service, it will set the price for that service, and that price will be out of whack with the market.
  • The market itself will be out of whack because of the presence of the government. This will result either in skyrocketing prices or the death of the non-socialized areas of the market.
  • Success in a free market can require a broad strategy of lowering prices, cutting costs, raising quality, raising awareness, positioning, etc. Success in a socialized market requires giving the wives of politicians $317,000/year jobs.
  • Because a socialized market has all the same drives that power and sometimes corrupt the free market , a socialized market tends to have all the same flaws as a free market–unless you count “an embarrassment of riches” as a flaw (and some people do)–but with scant hope of correction, with such rare corrections being temporary and the result of political opportunism.
  • The state doesn’t care about the well being of citizens; it cares only about crushing its enemies, and is a million times more ruthless than a Gates or a Rockefeller. And the state can live for hundreds or thousands of years.
  • The state has no shame. It will say “there is no pork in this bill” or “this will help the poor” even as the opposite is apparent to anyone with the integrity to look.

A lot of people seem to back Democrats because “their hearts are in the right place”; this little trifle should be a reminder that no, no they aren’t.

Just as when the Republicans had power, they abused to enrich themselves at the cost of the rest of us, the Democrats have done the same. It is the nature of state power, and why the Founding Fathers put so many limitations on the state. “The Founding Fathers could never have imagined….” people often start out their plea for the expansion of state power. They then go on to say something that might or might not have been imagined by the Founders.

But guaranteed, they understood clearly the nature of the state to grasp, and having grasped, to clutch.


A disadvantage I have when it comes to teaching my children is that I, myself, was taught very little. No one can really explain how I learned to read–skeptical nursery teachers pulled a thick book from the shelf to prove my father wrong and were shocked–and I had a grasp of positional math when I was shy of four, and I received an adding machine for Christmas. (Whether I learned from the machine or knew some other way and simply demonstrated on the machine, I don’t recall. I remember finding the whole thing very intuitive.)

Being an autodidact has its advantages when you couldn’t possibly focus on the slow-moving lessons teachers deliver. (Most repeated embarrassment in school for me was “read aloud” time: When the teacher called on my I was pages and pages ahead. No clue where I was supposed to pick up.) My parents at least leaned toward the same style of learning so it never occurred to them to teach, I don’t think.

My kids are not like that at all, and it’s fascinating to me to watch them struggle with things, and then suddenly click into it. The Boy, brilliant though he was (and is), struggled with reading till he was relatively old. I’ve noticed this with a lot of kids not my own, too: Montessori schools apparently have a at-your-own-pace approach, and I knew a kid who didn’t “click” till she was eleven or twelve. And then, became a very good reader overnight.

From what I’ve heard my mom describe, she didn’t really click until she was in college. (She was a mathematician which, as rare as it is now for a girl, was way rarer back then. But she clicked on a college reading course for children’s literature, and probably would have changed her major had she been a little bolder.)

On the other hand, the Institutes is all about teaching babies to read; they view the time as lost and, more importantly, consider the early age critical to reading quickly and, for lack of a better word, I’ll use natively.

If you read natively, you’re not reading “in your cortex”, basically. Late learners tend to sub-vocalize or to hear a voice reading to them. Intriguingly for me, I used to never hear that voice as a youngster, but I did as a I got older. (Now it sort of comes and goes, depending on various environmental factors.)

I started reading music at about four years old–playing piano, and even though I was not very good at piano and a very sporadic player, that knowledge survived and worked when I took up the guitar, and then later in music classes where you had to read scores for various reasons. There was no conscious process at all.

It’s not at all limited to traditional school subjects either. Being a good fighter involves something not quite conscious–or cortical, perhaps, is a better word. If you’re a programmer, you confront new paradigms all the time. If you’re a painter, there’s a point where your cortex shuts off and you just draw what you see.

Anyway, today reading clicked with The Flower, and she did a couple of months worth of work in an afternoon. So, victory there. Now she’s on to math. She has a real competitive streak as far as her schoolwork goes: She likes to time herself doing the work and try to beat her own best times.

One of the things they don’t do at the Institutes is run down the professional teacher. It’s amazing, they say, given twenty to thirty different kids with different levels of understanding and abilities that they manage to teach any one to read.

And looking at my kids, I’d have to agree. They’ve all been wildly divergent. That in itself has been incredibly educaitonal for me, and I hope if my kids take something for the future, it’ll be that understanding they can apply when they raise their own kids.

Manic Monday Apocalypso: Atlantis

The Sun ran this story on Atlantis a bit ago. Basically, people fooling around with Google have found a pattern that looks like a city, and it’s about where Atlantis ought to be. (I guess. I always figured Atlantis was in the Mediterranean.)

Of course, it’s not really Atlantis, as is obvious if you look at it for a while. First of all, it’s way too big. I mean, it’s huge. Second, the “streets” don’t respect the terrain at all. It’s nice to have straight streets, but they seem to straight even when going over hills and the like.

But real or not, Atlantis is just another reminder of how fleeting civilization is. In the first volume of Story of Civilization, Our Oriental Heritage, Will Durant skims through the entirety of world history up to Greece and spends some time on India, China and the Middle East. One thing that stood out for me was a great empire that apparently ruled the “known world” (i.e., the Middle East) for over 200 years.

I don’t remember the name of the civilization; Durant only spent a couple of paragraphs on it. The only reason we know about it is a passing reference in some contemporary writings and a few artifacts. The desert swallowed it, just as the jungle swallowed that huge civilization that used to occupy where the Amazon is now, and the seas claimed that ancient Indic civilization they just turned up.

It’s not so much Atlantis being present or not that matters, than it is keeping in mind that we know only a fraction of history, and what we know is a constant reminder of the fragility of civilization.

Janet Leigh-Palooza.

There’s some fascinating stuff about having a blog, but one big factor is the randomity of it. If you’re casually blogging (as I am) and having a low-traffic blog (as I do), your traffic can reflect sudden dramatic changes that are…unexpected.

Like, I get a bunch of hits on “barbarian sex” and “cowboy sex”, which just makes me feel guilty. Last week, I got a swarm of Alex Lotorto hits. (Thanks, Alex! And thanks to Andy Levy for tweeting that awesome video.)

Yesterday? All of a sudden, everyone’s mad about Janet Leigh! Weird.

Well, give the people what they want, I always say. (I also say, “No one will vote for a flattend-out rabbit skin” but that’s another story.)


That’s not a good neologism blogui. I was trying to combine blog with ennui.

It’s not that I’m bored, it’s that I’ve written 3 or 4 posts in the last few days that really suck, so I haven’t posted them. And I have low, low standards.


The Flower and the Allen Wrench

Showing my herculean capacity for procrastination, I finally got around to fixing my Sole treadmill. You may recall my saga with the first shipment being messed up, and the second shipment was of a (very lightly) used machine which hadn’t been refurbished, and so had some odd screws and the like missing.

Sole has been great about it and sent me all the missing parts (except lube which they’re supposed to have sent me last week) but the machine was good enough to use, especially with the mild use I put on it. (Yes, it’s in use for long stretches, but at very low speeds. That might be harder on the motor, come to think of it, but it’s doesn’t stress the frame much.)

Anyway, the stars were right today for tightening all the parts up (and fixing the plastic arm pieces) and adding the missing screws and what-not, so once again The Flower helped me out.

At this age (seven), it’s usually a wash when they help, if it’s something they’re good at. They can do a pretty good job, but it’s a bit slow and you spend extra time checking out their work and fixing a few things.

There was a little bit of that, but for the most part, she was a huge help. What she lacks in strength, she also lacks in size, allowing her to get into the corners to put in screws and tighten them without having to roll the treadmill out of its usual resting place.

I explained to her that it was customary after the screws were in place to go and tighten them further. I figured there was no way she’d be able to get them very tight. But after the first one–once she knew I was going to go in and tighten further–she managed to get it so that I could barely get another quarter turn.

Her head is also at eye level with the screw holes in the arms, so she could see how the pieces lined up–or in the case of the right arm fittings, how they didn’t line up. That was our only shortfall in our project. (The plastic coverings fit okay but once they go on the arm, the holes don’t line up.)

She has such a facility for this sort of thing, I’d love to figure out some way to encourage it but can’t figure out what. Any ideas?