Archive for April, 2008

Google, Google über alles

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

A wise man* once said “If Google does something, you can bet that they figured out a way to do it 10,000 times better than anyone else.” Its latest coup: LayOut and SketchUp. My boss asked me yesterday to design and draw a site plan for a potential tenant. Eight hours later, I had produced a series of beautifully rendered, 3D drawings, complete with a professional-looking border with our company logo. I taught myself to use AutoCad over the course of several months and two summers with an architect; I taught myself how to use SketchUp in a few hours. AutoCad costs thousands of dollars; SketchUp Pro costs $49. There is no longer any reason for anyone to pay an architect to do anything besides make construction documents.

I eagerly await the day when I can embrace Google as my master (Google Earth Ruler Edition maybe?).

*Geoff Calkins

If only Jesse Jackson were this transparent…

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

The Richmond Free Press is not too happy with Ukrop’s closing its Harrison Street store near downtown. According to a recent editorial on the subject, the Ukrop brothers “moaned and groaned” that the store had not turned a profit in five years. Wow. Those whiny Ukrops, always insisting on running stores that don’t bleed money. But wait! The charges get worse:

The Ukrops, consistent with their political proclivities, cancelled advertising with the Free Press and ramped up advertising spending in the white-oriented, conservative Richmond Times-Dispatch while, at the same time, even reserving in-store newspaper distribution space for white owned newspapers.

Normally, race-baiters go through a little more trouble to be discreet about reaping personal profits from bullying rhetoric. I sure wish a business refusing to buy things from me could, as a matter of course, “raise questions about the level of the company’s civic virute.”

That said, it is a shame that a downtown(-ish) Ukrop’s couldn’t support itself, because the ability to support a grocery store is the sign of a healthy, attractive neighborhood. However, Ukrop’s recognizing that its model wasn’t working might leave room for other, more innovative approaches. At the very least, it will make a valuable parcel of land available for a more appropriate use.

After After Virtue

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

My girlfriend has a copy of After Virtue lying around, and I’ve been re-reading parts of it two years after I finished it for the first time. MacIntyre spends a long time drilling home the point that The Enlightenment Project Had To Fail. He deliberately obscures the reasons why The Enlightenment Project Had To Happen. For the un-initiated, “The Enlightenment Project” is the one of finding a rational basis for morality—a rationally compelling answer to the question “why should I be moral.” According to MacIntyre:

The [pre-enlightenment] moral scheme that forms the background to their [Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, etc.] thought had, as we have seen, a structure which required three elements: untutored human nature, man-as-he-could-be-if he-realized-his-telos, and the moral precepts which enable him to pass from one state to the other.

But the joint effect of the secular rejection of both Protestant and Catholic theology and the scientific and philosophical rejection of Aristotelianism was to eliminate any notion of man-as-he-could-be-if he-realized-his-telos.

[Enlightenment thinkers] inherited incoherent fragments of a once coherent scheme of thought and action and, since they did not recognize their own peculiar historical and cultural situation, they could not recognize the impossible and quixotic character of their self-appointed task.

The problem is that the concept of a human telos as a grounding for moralitya purpose that simply exists the same way objects do—was never coherent in the first place. Good-for-me is just as obscure and mysterious a concept as good-in-general (which is, in a sentence, the reason I am no longer a Randroid). A telos is my telos because I find it (or, if I understood it correctly, would find it) a compelling reason to act. If the telos just exists out there in the ether, there is no explanation of how this is possible. It must be by virtue of connection to something in my nature. The Enlightenment project is an attempt to solve this problem. MacIntyre’s historicism is an attempt to conceal it.

Irony

Friday, April 11th, 2008

The Washington Post did an experiment to see what would happen if a world-renowned virtuoso played some of the most beautiful music ever written on one of the finest violins ever made … in the L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station at rush hour. Calvin Myint was one of the people who walked by Joshua Bell that day on his way to work. When asked about it hours later, he had no memory that there was even a violinist in the station. He was listening to his iPod.

The song that Calvin Myint was listening to was “Just Like Heaven,” by the British rock band The Cure. It’s a terrific song, actually. The meaning is a little opaque, and the Web is filled with earnest efforts to deconstruct it. Many are far-fetched, but some are right on point: It’s about a tragic emotional disconnect. A man has found the woman of his dreams but can’t express the depth of his feeling for her until she’s gone. It’s about failing to see the beauty of what’s plainly in front of your eyes.

Hat tip to my brother for sending this my way.

Post-Modern Mayor

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

I think Roy West, a former Mayor of Richmond, would fit in quite well with the Comparative Literature department here at Yale.

Here are a few gems from his recent article in Style Weekly, Richmond’s equivalent of the New Haven Advocate:

Weightless moments of disbelief emerge from those who do not recognize that an adequate level of tolls is necessary to cover operational costs, repairs, maintenance and debt service.

A weightless moment of disbelief emerged when I read this sentence.

With the majority-white counties and a majority-black city, a race subtext emerges that harkens to a dark period of history.

Translation: People who disagree with me are racist.

The detractors of this reality check must be disabused of any erroneous perception concerning the decision-makers in this matter

Don’t use one word where three will do.