blarg?

To: Team Members Who All (ALL) Dropped The Course Without Telling Me
Date: Day Of The Team Presentation
Re: Your Contributions To The Presentation

Fuck all of you.

-mhoye

“Grammar has displaced sex as a locus of shame. Discuss.”
– Ellen Fremedon

A while ago, I wrote about this, saying that “soon, I will be invincible!”

There is now a book in the world called “Soon I Will Be Invincible”, and it is so great. If you have a single comic-book-loving cell in your body, I strongly advise you to pick this book up immediately. It is simple and beautiful, playing in the space between panels that comics can never touch.

“A brief pause ensues, a twitch moment, like the beginning of a gunfight. It’s always chancy, facing down one of these people. No matter who it is, you’re going to be dealing with the end product of a long, improbable story, of a person so strange and powerful that he or she broke the rules of what is ordinarily possible. Whoever you’re facing is guaranteed to be special – an Olympic wrestler, a radioactive freak, the fated son of somebody. They’re winners. Taking a red arrow or a sea horse or the letter G as their symbol, they sally forth to make your life difficult.”

I am telling you: so great.

beep, boop, beep… ring… ring….

“Hi, you’ve reached Mike Beltzner, I probably didn’t get my phone out of my pocket in time, so leave a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.”

“Hi, Mike Hoye speaking. Listen, I’m in a UI-design seminar here… we’re taking a break, and… there was a guy in there just now who suggested that UIs should be designed the way the X Consortium people designed X windows… I don’t think he even knows what that means, but… he went on to suggest that the way to organize your bookmarks is to treat each bookmark as a file, and then to use the file-metadata stuff in OS/2 to tag and sort them… Yeah. So, listen: I’m probably going to kill myself here, and I thought you’d appreciate why. Have a good night!”

There’s a thing that can happen to private group health-care plans in the States that’s called an adverse-selection death spiral. Basically, people go to insurance company Foocorp and then get very sick. If Foocorp can’t quite cover the cost of treating their clients, maybe without hurting their stock value, then they raise the rates. Which some people can’t pay, so those people go away, leaving behind the sicker people who need the insurance pretty badly and whose treatement is expensive. And pretty soon Foocorp is in a pretty much irreversible downward spiral, because there’s no way to get out of that cycle.That’s not strictly a health-insurance problem; it’s a special class of risk-management problem. But if you’re looking at the structural of that particular house of cards, swap out illness for insolvency in that model, and you’ll have a pretty good model for the American and world markets, right now.

Except that suddenly, we’re not talking about random private insurance companies, here – we’re talking about all the large financial institutions in the country and, through the magic of networked financial systems and leveraged debt, the rest of the world.

As is typical with these things, once the risk becomes obvious to the professional financiers, the usual two-pronged risk-offloading process gets rolled out – lobbying for government bailouts, and trolling for suckers. The trolling for suckers process has been underway for some time now; that link is just one example of many. The government bailout process is also in play (The Federal Reserve bank cut interest rates this morning down from 4.25% to 3.5% which it’s worth noting is a huge move, and poured a bunch of cheap money into the market a few days ago. Expect more action on that front soon) but it’s really not looking like any of that will be enough.

The first draft of this I wrote a while ago ended with “So don’t expect any of the large institutions that govern these things to actually go out of business, or the people with their hands on the gears might actually suffer anything like unemployment, legal action or even anything as mildly gauche as a lifestyle change. It’s bailouts-a-gogo, no real changes in regulations, and the taxpayer will be the one left holding the bag. Again.” But it’s starting to look worse than I thought and the actual problem, an honest-to-god insolvency problem that a responsible financial apparatus would have strangled in the crib has grown way, way too big to pry apart with the usual levers.

Who would have thought that putting rabid laissez-faire-capitalism ideologues headed up (Jeebus, it’s like some wierd soviet agitprop cartoon) by a bona fide Objectivist at the helm of the American financial apparatus would result in all of this? American markets were closed yesterday, but everywhere else dropped between four and five percent in one day. The knives are apparently out for the people and institutions who’ve made all of this possible, and for the foreseeable future it’s only going to get worse.

Next time somebody tells you how awesome it would be to privatize social security or health care, keep days and weeks like this in mind.

At the moment, my current candidate for “best idea ever” is this: “The Singularity Wars Preenactment Society.”

Organized, obviously, by the Society for Creative Prosochronism.

Where we’re going, we’re going to pretend not to need roads.

So, here we are. Hope you like the look of it, please update your bookmarks accordingly.

I had an OK christmas holiday. It was good to see everyone! Lots of people have kids, now, and it made me a little sad when nobody took my proposal to hook a bunch of them together to make one big one all that seriously.

I had to drive around a lot, too, and I learned that “support” ribbons have supplanted “baby on board” signs as your reliable indicator that the person behind the wheel is a mental defective. Be warned, public.

So happy new year. Let’s get right into it.

Over the next few days, I’m going to make broad generalizations here about a sad state of affairs, which could pass for a bold prediction if you peered at it just so and maybe crossed your eyes a little. In much the same vein if you could picture a man on a ski hill listening to a deafening rumble that might be an oncoming avalanche, he might by a similar metric boldly predict that things will be going downhill soon. Because it might be an avalanche, you see. But he is also a man on a ski hill, a point I can’t emphasize enough and, since it’s my strained example and you’re not the boss of me, I’ll emphasize just that much more. So I’m going abuse a tiny smattering of carefully picked examples, inflate them to cartoonishly distorted proportion and bind them tightly together with thin strands of poorly-scoped narrative. And then I will parade around with them joyously in hand, like some habromaniac economic savant chortling at his fistful of black balloons.

Which is all to say I’m going to be cherrypicking and fearmongering. As literary techniques go this is somewhere between wildly unoriginal and fantastically self-absorbed, but you won’t even notice, because my technique is an arsenal; for example, if I describe it as “walking a tightrope between” wildly unoriginal and fantastically self-absorbed that will cover it all over with a gloss of the risque, an intriguing sheen of the dangeresque so smooth your attention span will glide past on oiled bearings.

I can guarantee you that this is just one of the narcissism-obscuring clubs in my bag, though I’m not sure what sort of shadowy menace stalks the self-deluded novice highwire acts of the world; gravity isn’t known for its subtlety and inflated egos never seem to float gently to earth. Nevertheless, we press on: in tonight’s program, the roles of treacherous escarpment and rock-strewn abyss will be played by a two-foot drop and blue foamy mattress which has, just for the delicate princesses among you, a pea in it somewhere.

Stay tuned.