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November 02, 2013


But I'm an engineer: None of my university professors had anything to do with the problems of Western civilization, save in the sense of solving them.

I think this needs to be directed to people in the "softer" disciplines. Humanities profs? Yeah, THEY do a lot of damage.

'Mathematics is the root of all heresy' (from a letter written by an observer of the Galilei trial to a colleague. His solution was to preemptively burn all mathematicians).

Brett, you're trolling. What a shock. Personally, I think rightwing economics profs have done more harm than, say, deconstructionists. And engineering has done a lot of good, and quite a bit of harm, but on the whole I prefer not living in the stone age, so I'm with you there.

Nietzsche (humanities professor, philology, if I recall) is often saddled with the blame for the Third Reich by those who view simplistically the history of ideas and their practice on the ground as a smoothly meshing series of gears, but it took a combination of insanity -- and the engineers at Topf and Sohne to design and install the crematoria ovens at Auschwitz.

Many of the early targeted Jews were high up in the humanities professoriate.

The shooters in our national, monthly routine of mass murder wouldn't get far without engineers and the advertisers who pimp their products.

If they bopped people over the head one at a time with hardback copies of "The Catcher In The Rye", instead of taking them out with superbly engineered precision instruments, the victims would at least have a souvenir to read while recovering from their concussions.

We could carry concealed volumes of Kafka in self-defense and call it a clash of ideas instead of a war of attrition.

Thomas Pynchon started his career as an engineer at Boeing, designing what, who knows, and now his literary work is studied in humanities forums.

Which occupation is more lethal?

I notice when armies require greater and more efficient kill yields, they summon the engineers, not Proust, Joyce, or Dickinson.

True, they may summon Wagner as well, so the humanities' armor has its chinks.

I suppose to be consistent, which seems an engineering rather than a humanities attribute, we could link Economics Professor Milton Friedman engineering of the Chilean pension system as it threaded its ways from Pinochet's mass graves into reality.

It takes all kinds.

Given your current location, shouldn't we assume that you are - or are plotting to be - responsible for the decline of Eastern civilization as well?

I certainly did my share to bring Eastern civilization down while I was there, though not specifically in my professorial capacity. Until you have seen thirty fat men in red shirts [*] wandering through Patpong singing "Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It's off to work we go!" you cannot really appreciate all we have done for Asia.

[*] That would be the Hong Kong Welsh Male Voice Choir, having just performed for the St. David's Society of Bangkok at their annual banquet. [**]

[**] In the words of Anna Russell: "I'm not making this up, you know."

The problem with ideas is they have no mass, require no physical inputs, are unbounded in their number, and have no readily apparent trade-off to be balanced against on a utilitarian preference scale (whaddaya' want? Socks or ideas? Pick).

Given this distinct lack of response to price signals (high noise to signal ratio), equilibrium cannot be attained.

The absence of a free market solution guided by the Invisible Hand tends to result in repeated government interventions to control their numbers, but we might just as well try to herd neutrinos.

Absent intervention,chaos is inevitable. The only rational response is tenure.

Also, I'd just note, the rap metal band that was the inspiration for this post title is over 20 years old.

I've always thought that playing traditional chords in 4/4 on the Sony label is a curious way to Rage against...anything.

Forgot to close a tag. Apologies. I was raging against well-formed html.

"...but we might just as well try to herd neutrinos."


Nothing is impossible if you can imagine it! That's what science is all about!

Count, the problem with hitting people with 'Catcher in the Rye' is they might accidentally read some of it...a fate I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Throw the enemies of the humanities into the thesaurus pit!
I blame not Nietzsche but his lack of access to quality condoms (that got him his syphilis infection during his single close body contact with a prostitute*) and his bigotted sister (that edited/forged his works in a way that made them palatable to the Nazis).

*I consider it very unlikely that the culprit was the piano that he used in self-defense during his first and nonvoluntary brothel visit.

Given your current location, shouldn't we assume that you are - or are plotting to be - responsible for the decline of Eastern civilization as well?

I will be plotting against it as soon as I can figure it out. Give me another couple of centuries.

I first encountered this in A Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown

Neutrinos, they are very small.
They have no charge and have no mass
And do not interact at all.
The earth is just a silly ball
To them, through which they simply pass,
Like dustmaids down a drafty hall
Or photons through a sheet of glass.
They snub the most exquisite gas,
Ignore the most substantial wall,
Cold shoulder steel and sounding brass,
Insult the stallion in his stall,
And, scorning barriers of class,
Infiltrate you and me. Like tall
And painless guillotines they fall
Down through our heads into the grass.
At night, they enter at Nepal
And pierce the lover and his lass
From underneath the bed--you call
It wonderful; I call it crass.

[Trusting the web for the attribution...]
--John Updike

The Humanities only ever do harm when the professors are too sure of themselves -
or paid shills employed to perpetuate the ideology of the powers that be.

I remember the Stress Analysis from when I was a kid! My dad taught electrical engineering.

Think I prefer the

Let's try that again.

The Hymn of the Breaking Strain

The careful text-books measure
(Let all who build beware!)
The load, the shock, the pressure
Material can bear.
So, when the buckled girder
Lets down the grinding span,
The blame of loss, or murder,
Is laid upon the man.
Not of the Stuff - the Man!
But, in our daily dealing
With stone and steel, we find
The Gods have no such feeling
Of justice toward mankind.
To no set guage they make us, -
For no laid course prepare -
And presently o'ertake us
With loads we cannot bear:
To merciless to bear.

The prudent text-books give it
In tables at the end -
The stress that shears a rivet
Or makes a tie-bar bend -
What traffic wrecks macadam -
What concrete should endure -
But we, poor Sons of Adam,
Have no such literaure,
To warn us or make sure!

We hold all Earth to plunder -
All Time and Space as well -
Too wonder-stale to wonder
At each new miracle;
Till in the mid-illusion
Of Godhead 'neath our hand,
Falls multiple confusion
On all we did or planned -
The mighty works we planned.

We only of Creation
(Oh, luckier bridge and rail!)
Abide the twin-damnation -
To fail and know we fail.
Yet we - by which sole token
We know we once were Gods -
Take shame in being broken
However great the odds -
The Burden or the Odds.

Oh, veiled and secret Power
Whose paths we seek in vain,
Be with us in our hour
Of overthrow and pain;
That we - by which sure token
We know Thy ways are true -
In spite of being broken,
Because of being broken,
May rise and build anew.
Stand up and build anew!

let's hear it for patriots !


One way you are destroying western civilization is this: you are providing a service which can be "over-utilized".

You see, the more education becomes available, the more people might want of it. And that way lies fiscal ruin. Someday soon, we might find ourselves devoting 50% of GDP to "education". Simple-minded people might see that as evidence that humans value "education" highly, but the wise among us know better: left to their own devices, people will "consume" more "education" than is good for them, and "education costs" will exceed benefits, at the margin.

So, please stop destroying civilization, won't you?


Too many college students seek and recieve assistance from the taxpayer in the form of student loans from the government, Pell grants and such, and a small subset of them study engineering in college with an eye toward designing the smart phones and communication devices of the future, whilst simultaneously owning and using smart phones to look stuff up.

And that doesn't even count the Humanities majors who look up the latest Chaucer assignment on the gadgets from their ulterior-motive-purveying, out-of-town Jaspers, why their professors, that's who.

Something this way rots in Denmark and it starts with "T", which rhymes with "P" to the depths of deg-ra-Day, I say first medicinal wine from a teaspoon, then Beer from a bottle!

A Krakatoa of outrage is building.

Not here, but somewhere. I'm sure of it. I can feel the tremors.

Sorry, I can't help it.

My rolls roll beyond all context.

Think I prefer the

Big fan of the definite article myself.

None of your namby pamby indefinite nonsense.

out-of-town Jaspers

here to talk about horse-race gambling. Not a wholesome trotting-race, no!, but a race where you sit down right on a horse!

dr ngo, there's a YouTube of Anna Russell performing her analysis of The Ring of the Nibelung. Truly great.

I've always thought that playing traditional chords in 4/4 on the Sony label is a curious way to Rage against...anything.

Well, they did protest the PMRC, naked, while their instruments fed back annoyingly, at a Lollapalooza show in 1993. They might have picked a city other than Philadelphia, thereby avoiding being pelted with pocket change.

(Not that I'm really trying to refute anything here. I just like that story.)

the meter of true radicals is √2 / π.

It's got a good beat, but I don't think you can dance to it.

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