BP Rising

…and I’m not talking about the share price of British Petroleum, either.

In this the latest of my forays into blogging, I’ve pretty much steered clear of commenting on current events because a.) we won and b.) I’ve enjoyed the sight of the Left running around with their collective hair on fire.

However, when stumbling across this bullshit via Insty, I have to ask the Left: do you really want to go where this will take you? Here’s what I’m alluding to.

Imagine a crowd of Trump supporters having a peaceful protest at the Saul Alinsky Park in, say, Seattle. Imagine too that for their protection against violent counter-protesters (see the link above for examples), a number of people like, say, me have surrounded the Trump supporters; people who are ready to combat violence with ultra-violence in self-defense.

Needless to say, when the first dozen or so “antifa” thugs (anti-fascist, very cute) get their bones broken and and heads cracked, they’re going to run like frightened rabbits…

…only to find their escape routes blocked by yet another group of Trump’s supporters with a similar attitude to the first, and yet more bones are broken and skulls cracked.

I mention this set of tactics because it was one of many that I learned while training for COINOPS (counter-insurgency operations) back in a real fascist country, South Africa, as part of my military service.

So I repeat the question: do you little snowflake antifascistas really want to go down this road? Because I promise you: we know a hell of a lot more about this stuff than you do. And the police aren’t going to protect your precious little asses forever; at some point, it’ll be Kent State redux, only with more casualties. A lot more casualties. Sure, you may get the propaganda victory… but you’ll be dead and won’t get to enjoy it.

To quote the Emperor Misha in another context: tick tock, assholes. Middle America is patient, but our patience isn’t endless.

No. Just… NO.

Via Insty, I discovered this little beast lurking in the bushes. The piece is entitled, “The race for autonomous cars is over. Silicon Valley lost” and is about how Silicon Valley won’t be able to challenge Detroit / Wolfsburg / Stuttgart / Tokyo in the manufacture of autonomous cars. Don’t care about any of that. No, the turd in the punchbowl actually comes towards the end of the article:

There is another area where Silicon Valley could play a dominant role and it’s all about accessing car-based data.

One billion people get in and out of a car every single day. They go to work, they go home, they shop, they play, they do a billion different things. Knowing where they’re going and what they’re doing can be very valuable. That data can be aggregated, sorted, and packaged. And then it can be sold to anyone.

Unlike automotive manufacturing, Big Data analytics driven by Artificial Intelligence does not require large capital investments in factories and equipment. That translates into meaty profit margins, reportedly as high as 90%.

There are basically two sets of data. One set is generated by the car, such as how all the parts and components are performing and how well the car is running. That allows automakers to mine the data for a variety of uses, such as trend analysis to quickly identify warranty issues or learn how to set more effective engineering specifications.

The other set of data is generated by the people in the car; a massive amount of information flowing in and out about where they’re going and what they’re doing. Last year in the U.S. market alone Chevrolet collected 4,220 terabytes of data from customer’s cars. McKinsey forecasts that this could grow into a $450 to 750 billion market by 2030. Retailers, advertisers, marketers, product planners, financial analysts, government agencies, and so many others will eagerly pay to get access to that information. And it’s a gift that keeps on giving. You can sell the same data again, again and again to a variety of different customers. 

I have no absolutely problem with the first data set; if it’s to do with improving the car and its manufacturer’s business, I’m all for it.

I have an enormous problem with the second data set. Here’s why.

As Longtime Readers already know, I used to work in the supermarket loyalty program business; you know, those annoying little cards you have to use to get discounts when you check out of the big supermarkets. (Basically, the supermarket is paying you for your shopping data, which they mostly use to improve things like stock re-ordering, shelf management and pricing strategy. That’s the equivalent of Data Set #1, above.) Let me be perfectly frank about this: I don’t know a great deal about a lot of things, but I know absolutely everything about customer data collection and -marketing. Over a period of five years, I set up data collection methodology and designed databases, reporting systems and marketing programs for a number of supermarket chains all over the United States. Trust me, I know whereof I speak on this topic.

Which is why I look on this Data Set #2 from the automotive industry with alarm and absolute hostility. One of the rules I set up right at the beginning of any loyalty program was that the data didn’t belong to the supermarket chain; it belonged to the customer. Once aggregated, of course, the data became ours — but individual transaction data was absolutely untouchable. We could not release any individual’s data to anyone without that customer’s explicit and specific approval — several times, I refused “requests” (demands) from divorce attorneys and once, yes, from a government agency, to have access to individuals’ shopping data.

Now compare and contrast that policy, if you will, with this breezy attitude towards data sharing:

Retailers, advertisers, marketers, product planners, financial analysts, government agencies, and so many others will eagerly pay to get access to that information. And it’s a gift that keeps on giving. You can sell the same data again, again and again to a variety of different customers. 

I have often cautioned people about this trend towards autonomous cars. Yes, it means that you don’t have to worry your pretty / pointy little head about that messy driving business while you grapple with WOW Level 13 — but what you’re doing, in essence, is giving up control of the car to someone else. (And you can dress it up with all the IT gobbledygook about “algorithms”, “AI” and “predictive planning” you want; I’ll still tell you to blow it out your ass, because at the end of the day, someone not you is going to control your actions.)

Now this. Note that in the excerpt above, the lovely little term “government agencies” is inserted right next to “and so many others” like it’s not just another fucking tool whereby the goddamn government can observe and yes, later control your actions.

One of my heroes is a man named John Cowperthwaite, who was the governor-general of Hong Kong during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and who was responsible for the greatest improvement of a country’s living conditions in history. Here was Cowperthwaite’s take on government data collection (which he expressly forbade, by the way), as told to Milton Friedman:

“I remember asking [Cowperthwaite] about the paucity of statistics. He answered,’If I let them compute those statistics, they’ll want to use them for planning.'”

If it were just planning, I might be okay with it. But what Cowperthwaite suspected, and what I know for a fact, is that governmental “planning” inevitably leads to government control. Information is everything, and we now live in the Information Age. Sometimes I wish we didn’t, because the vast mass of people just don’t care or are completely ignorant of this danger.

Here’s my last thought (for now) on this topic. The automobile was for decades a symbol of an individual’s independence. In his car, a man could drive wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted, for whatever reason he wanted, and for as long as he wanted — all without anyone but himself being any the wiser. Now, under the guise of “autonomy”, this freedom is going to be taken away from us. (At this point, George Orwell is laughing his ass off. “Freedom is Slavery”, remember?)

I once said that if I could choose the way I die, it would either be in my wife’s arms or on the barricades. Well, that first option has been taken from me, which means that if I die, it will be in a pitched gun battle with government agents who are trying to take away my old car and forcing me to use Government Autonomous Vehicle Mk. VII — and if you think I’m joking, I’m not. Fuck this bullshit.

College Bound

As promised in an earlier post, I want to talk about college — and if any of my Loyal Readers have kids (or even grandkids) who are thinking of attending college, you may want to pass this on to them.  Here’s my opening statement:

Most people have absolutely no business going to college.

I know that a college degree is now the same as a high-school diploma was, forty years ago; as the late Joseph Sobran once put it, we’ve gone from teaching Greek and Latin in high school to teaching remedial English in college. That doesn’t matter; here’s where we are now, and that’s all there is to it. The question is: what next? How to make the best of a bad thing? Here are a few observations, based on my being in college in two separate time periods, the early 1970s and most recently the late 2010s. (I was a slacker in the first, and a serious student in the second.)

Most kids are wasting their time in college. Unless they or their parents are independently wealthy, a class in any of the Humanities has no benefit other than educational. (Remember: I have a B.A. summa in History, which qualifies me to do exactly… squat.) As I looked around at the kids in my classes recently, all I could see was a bunch of slackers, stupid people, party animals and future schoolteachers. The guys were even worse. Few of them belonged in college. (No doubt this is not the case in most STEM classes, which is an even better reason not to get a B.A.)

All that said, let’s assume that everything I’ve written so far doesn’t apply to you, and you’re hell-bent on going to college. It’s going to cost a mint — you, your parents or grandparents are going to spend about $50,000 per annum or more — so if you’re going to go, get it done as quickly as possible. I took three years to get my B.A., which means that just about anyone can. So here we go:

Kim’s Rules And Guidelines For College Success

1. Treat college for what it is: it’s a JOB, a job to get a degree or certification. This means going to every scheduled class, lab or tutorial, taking notes, doing the pre-work and homework, and handing in assignments on time (or early). Your job is to ingest and retain educational content, not piss around in frat parties and pep rallies. Just like a job, you should spend at minimum 12 hours per day, whether in class or studying (for each hour of classroom time, add three hours for studying). Over and beyond your regular studying time, you should spend at least 18 hours prepping for a test, no matter how well you think you know the subject. This, by the way, is the kind of daily time that company managers devote to their job, which is why they get the big bucks and why the clockwatchers get stuck with minimum wage / basic salary scale. Work at least six hours per day on weekends if you have to; they’re not holy days, but class-free days in which you can prepare for the following week’s classes and tests. (And if Saturdays or Sundays are holy days for you, you’ll have to make up the missed time during the week.) I know this sounds like a lot of work — but it has a double benefit: you’ll succeed in college, and the work ethic will transfer to your future jobs and make you stick out from the slackers and deadbeats who are your colleagues.

2. Take copious notes. If and only if you can type at 90/90 (w.p.m. / % accuracy), then by all means ask the prof if you can use your laptop to take notes; otherwise write them — and then rewrite or type them up immediately after class while the memory is still fresh and you can fill in any gaps. My experience is that where profs are not allowing laptops in class, it’s because too many idiots are abusing the thing (Facebook, gaming etc) and worse, distracting the other students.

3. Turn off your damn phone in class. This is becoming such a problem that one prof has been known to take a half-filled bucket of water to the classroom, and put it on his desk with a warning sign: “Final destination for ringing phones.” His choice for the students: drop the phone in the water themselves, or leave and be suspended for a week’s classes. One student had to leave an exam — earning him an F — because his phone rang and he refused to dunk his iPhone. He appealed to the college administration, and lost.

4. Always show up early for class, especially on Day 1. The first class is the most important day of the semester, because that’s where you learn about the prof and how he teaches. Many profs are now not allowing latecomers into the first class at all, because of how important it is for the others who arrived on time. For all other classes: be ready to go when the prof is ready, which means arriving at least 5 minutes early and taking your seat.

5. Don’t sit in the back row. Usually, that’s where the screwups choose to sit, and the profs know it. Also, it’s easier to get distracted by other students when you’re in the back. If you inexplicably fear sitting in the front row (are we still in first grade?), then sit in the second row. Finally, don’t sit next to your BFF (this is especially true for women). Once again, we are not in first grade; we are there to study and learn like adults. On a related note: never take food or drink into the classroom. If you can relate a lecture to an important business meeting, then ask yourself this question: would you take out a Big Mac during a corporate budget meeting? (If you answer “yes” to this, you have a career waiting for you at the DMV, and even they don’t allow eating at your desk.) You’re not going to die of thirst in an hour; visit the drinking fountain en route to the classroom, and you’ll survive.

6. Mimic the study habits of the “A” students. Don’t fall into the slacker category (even though it’s easier or “cooler”). If possible, BE the Smart Kid in the class, the one who’s asked to join a study group rather than the one who’s always begging people to study with them. That said, there’s only space for one name on your degree certificate, so:
a. Avoid study groups. Mostly, you end up wasting your time propping up slackers and/or stupid people. Your education is your responsibility, and yours alone.
b. Avoid group projects, and avoid classes which set lots of group projects, as much as possible. If you HAVE to do a group project, secretly do ALL the work yourself and have it ready for when one member (or more) of the group flakes and doesn’t do their part of the assignment (the chances of this happening at least once during your college career: 100%).

7. Take the free marks. If there’s an attendance grade(!) and/or graded homework which will count towards the final grade, those are free marks. Grab them and get 100%. Think about it: if attendance is 5% and homework is 15% of the final grade, that’s 20% of your final grade in the bag if you get 100% for each. More to the point, NOT getting 100% for the giveaways is throwing marks away. Don’t refuse the gift.

8. Visit the library early and often. Google doesn’t count. Look up related books on your courses, and discuss how those authors differ from your prescribed texts with your prof. He’ll know you’re a serious student, and he’ll take your papers and exams more seriously. And in doing so, you’ll actually learn more about your course of study — which, lest we forget, is a Good Thing. Serious students get As, and if you’re not working towards As and Bs in every single course, you have no business being in college.

9. Enroll in as many summer classes as you can. Three months’ vacation is just wasted time, UNLESS you’re working like hell to pay off your tuition instead of taking out a loan. Also, use spring break to get ahead of your upcoming studies instead of puking your guts out / winning wet t-shirt competitions in Daytona, South Padre or Cabo. People who work in the real world get only two or three weeks’ vacation a year; as a student, you’re entitled to no more. One more time; college is a job, not an opportunity for Bacchanalian excess. Even worse, it’s a job you have to pay for. Treat it accordingly.

10. Choose your courses wisely. Know up front, by the way, that just because a particular course is in the catalog, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be taught during any particular semester. (I missed a French sub-major because the one class I needed for qualification wasn’t offered during my final semester.)
a.) If you’re not going to get a STEM degree, consider carefully whether you should be going to college at all. At worst, you should consider a business degree — a serious one, not “Business Communications” or suchlike nonsense. A serious business degree will involve heavy-duty statistics, math, economics and at least two accounting classes — more, if you’re going to specialize in Finance. If your prospective college’s school of business doesn’t offer such an intensive degree, find another college. Doing well in a business course (MBA, MFA etc.) requires as much work, study and dedication as a medical doctor’s M.D. degree.
b.) Expect to have to look for a job in the global market, so become fluent in a second significant* language, and if you’re of foreign origin and are already fluent in Spanish, Hindi or Chinese, for example, become fluent in a third language. It helps especially if the second language is relevant to your future career. (If you’re no good at languages, you’d better be damn good at something else.)
c.) Don’t take any course with the word “Studies” in its title or catalog description. You will find that “ethnic” or “gender” studies qualify you to do nothing at all. If you have a burning desire to take such courses, postpone the action for post-grad, as “adult education.”
d.) Degrees in “Communications” or “Education” are worthless. They do allow you to say “I have a college degree” but they are a red flag to anyone reading your resume. Ditto all the courses mentioned in c.) above. Here are just two examples relating to this choice of career.
1.) Back in the 1930s, a professor asked one of his students what he intended to do after graduation. When the student said he was interested in becoming a journalist, the professor was appalled, saying “That’s no career for a university man!” Wiser words were seldom spoken.
2.) In this day and age, if you’re getting a degree which (you believe) will get you a teaching job, you will be wasting your time and money. There is a huge glut of teachers, and most college teaching jobs will soon be made redundant by online courses anyway. Public school teaching nowadays is a career for deadbeats and idiots: no matter how dedicated you are, or how much you love the chillins, the public school bureaucracy will stamp that out in a minimum of one year. The dropout rate for new teachers is appallingly high: 60% on average will quit after the second year of teaching, and go on to do something else. If you’re one of the 60%, don’t even think of getting a job in corporate training — your B.Ed will make you the dunce of the applicants, and H.R. knows it. (If you can’t define the difference between training and education, quit now.)

If all the above do not make you want to become a welder, carpenter or electrician, then good luck to you. (The often-scorned “tradesmen” jobs such as the ones listed are actually a far better bet than a B.A. when it comes to long-term financial success, but I’ll be discussing that in another post.)

Oh, and one last caveat, if you’re absolutely set on going to college: never, ever join a sorority or fraternity, no matter how much you hear about the wonderfulness of being a sister or brother. They are degree-killers, and the failure rate in the “Greek” community is appalling. Animal House was great comedy, but it’s no way to go through life, son.

———————————————————————–

*a “significant” language means a major economic country’s language, such as Chinese, Japanese, German, Russian, Hindi, or Arabic. Languages such as Catalan, Celtic or Icelandic, for example, may be lovely romantic choices but they’re irrelevant, economically speaking.

Quote of the Day

The country needs a strong opposition Party that is not on crack.” — comment by Minh-Duc.

Incidentally, this comment was made in August 2005. If the liberals were on crack in 2005, then their modern-day counterparts must have laced the crack with PCP.

Random Partners

So during my absence from this here Intarwebz thingy, apparently there came into being an application (“app”) called “Tinder”, which allows men and women in close proximity to each other to “hook up” (i.e. have casual sex — quit laughing, I’m trying to keep up here). “Swipe Left” (on one’s phone screen) means “get lost” and “Swipe Right” means “I allow you access to my genitalia”. (I’m using as many euphemisms as I can dream up, but I’m running out pretty quickly.)

Back in the Olde Tymes, right after we discovered fire (or maybe it was the wheel, I forget), the equivalent to this was walking up to your object of desire and saying the immortal words, “Your place or mine?” without so much as an introduction, and was almost always uttered by a man to a woman. Needless to say, this approach was generally met with scorn, horror and/or a slap in the face — unless the speaker was a Bad Boy, a Handsome Man, a Wealthy Man,a Celebrity or some other type which seems to make women lose their modesty, loosen their panty-elastic and turn their legs into margarine.

Now, with Tinder, the approachee can look at the photo of the approacher and make a snap judgement as to whether a more intimate encounter can occur (swipe right) or not (swipe left). As this decision is made based purely on a photograph, the outcome can often be dire, and there have been many right-swiping stories with tragic outcomes. I imagine that Jack The Ripper would have wept tears of joy had he had Tinder available in late-Victorian London, for example.

Even as little as a few years ago, I would have been shocked / disgusted / appalled at this situation, but now I look on the whole thing with a more jaundiced eye. If there is a way to fuck your life up — in this case, exposing yourself to venereal disease, danger and worse for a quick, empty thrill — then people are going to find it. That this process can now be facilitated with the aid of technology occasions from me no more than a shrug. It’s just the same as “Your place or mine?” but with less intimacy (in that the approacher / approachee are never actually close to each other until the right-swiping outcome), and there’s also less chance of hurt feelings and a sore cheek. In other words, it’s a perfect Millennial-snowflake encounter.

I can understand why a man would use Tinder, because generally speaking, we’re assholes looking for an easy lay. Why any woman would use Tinder is quite beyond me;  but then again, as any fule kno, I am rather old-fashioned about this kind of thing in that I actually prefer a little romance before penetration, as it were, and I persist in thinking that women are the gentler sex, despite all evidence to the contrary in today’s world.

So flirting has been replaced by an impersonal mechanism. Whatever. Just as I prefer my battered old 1911 to a modern gun loaded with plastic doodads, I prefer old-fashioned romance to soulless coupling.  To put it in artistic terms:

Eugene De Blaas

over Felicien Rops

Your opinion may vary, but I’m not really interested in hearing it.

 

Election Interference

No, not Russia, but Mexico has interfered in U.S. elections for decades. Thus says the Diplomad, and he should know:

Is there foreign interference in our elections? You bet. 

The biggest offender? Not Russia, but Mexico. Mexican officials publicly called on Mexicans in the US to oppose Trump; Mexico’s over fifty–yes, fifty–consulates in the US (here) are hot beds of political activity and activism. Millions of illegal and legal aliens largely from Mexico and Central America vote, yes vote. We need to have an in-depth investigation into Mexico’s interference in our elections, an interference that goes well beyond revealing embarrassing DNC texts.

His ideas for punishing Mexico are excellent, but you’ll have to read the whole piece.