Links: Divorce court, Comcast is evil, Derek Parfit, math, Peter Watt, and more

* On the role of divorce courts and government incoherence, which is my title and I think better than the alternative; interesting throughout. Compare it to my footnote in this Grant Writing Confidential post.

squirrel with nut-1717* Former Comcast employee explains how horrible Comcast is.

* The shift from “analyzing” to “creating.”

* “Reason and romance: The world’s most cerebral marriage,” which is (unintentionally?) hilarious throughout:

He eats the same staples every day. For breakfast there’s muesli, yoghurt, juice and an enormous cup of instant coffee, industrial strength and often made with hot water from the tap because boiling it would require putting on the kettle. In the evening he has raw carrots, cheese, romaine lettuce and celery dipped in peanut butter. Food has to fulfil two basic criteria: it must be healthy and involve the minimum of preparation.

I tried to read Parfit but he “is proudly a philosopher’s philosopher,” which may explain why I couldn’t figure out why I or anyone should care about what he argues. Contrast that with Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind, in which every page feels relevant and actionable.

* Global income inequality is falling, but do the dominant media narrative creators care?

* A Mind for Numbers.

* Peter Watt’s Echopraxia is coming; mine is pre-ordered and yours should be too.

* Derek Huang on Old Masters vs. Young Geniuses.

* Comcast’s worst nightmare: How Tennessee could save America’s Internet.” Maybe.

May 2010 links: soap operas, Kindles, systems and stories, and more

* People’s lives are more like soap operas that most of us realize.

* I admire Jeffrey Lewis’ website.

* Peak everything? Not really.

* Academia isn’t broken. We are.

* The most popular passages highlighted in Kindle books. This is a fascinating yet creepy reminder of how much Amazon knows about you.

It also demonstrates the lousy taste most people have in books, with Dan Brown and someone named William P. Young at the top of the list. Young’s book, The Shack, is described as “a one of a kind invitation to journey to the very heart of God.” I’ll pass, thanks. The first book I see on the list that isn’t shlocky is Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, which you can (and should) also watch on YouTube.

* Comcast awarded the “Golden Poo” award as the worst company in America. This is doubly funny to me because my internet access comes through Comcast (because I have no other effective choice thanks to Qwest in Tucson offering anemic DSL speeds). A few weeks ago, a market research firm conducting a survey for Comcast called to ask what I thought of the company on a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best), and I kept saying “1… 1… 1…” over and over again. But I’m stuck with Comcast and its high prices because they have no real competitors.

* United States sovereign debt is the number one thing to fear right now. But almost no politicians are dealing with it in any way, let alone a realistic way.

* Systems and stories.

* Why don’t men read books? Or, as an alternate question, “It’s worth asking, then, why there are so few men in publishing. Could it be the low pay, low status and ridiculous hours?” (This is all in response to Jason Pinter’s essay).

* The Second Pass’s review of Martin Amis’ The Pregnant Widow. I’m probably going to pass—”Even in his best fiction—Money, London Fields—he has relied on narrative gimmicks and trickery to support creaky storylines, and The Pregnant Widow is no exception”—perhaps in favor of rereading Money.

Davidson also says that “Amis is famously fond of playful character names (which can be a weakness), and this novel is full of them: Pansy, Probert, Amen, Dilshak.” This probably isn’t a major problem for me, as I just finished Henry James’ The Golden Bowl for a grad seminar, and in that novel a character is named “Fanny Assingham,” with many plays on what said name could mean.

Another Public Service Announcement on Clearwire

Someone at Clearwire must be monitoring blogs, because a representative from them named Michael called me, presumably in response to this post. Since I have no idea how else he would know about my displeasure with Clearwire, I would like to say “hello!” to the Clearwire person and also warn readers about the company.

Earlier I commented on the appropriateness of Clearwire’s name: “I say “aptly,” though I mean that rather than having a “clear” meaning “free of any obstructions or unwanted” connection, you’ll have a “clear” as in “frequently does not exist” connection.” Now I at least have a stated reason: Clearwire says they will throttle your bandwidth if you download or upload enough information. My problem turned out to be BitTorrent, a relatively common protocol that is used to transfer large files across the Internet. If you use your Internet access enough enough, Clearwire will begin paring it back to the point that it’s no longer broadband. They appear to do this almost punitively, as though they perceive BitTorrent or other users as parasites. This seems odd for a company that sells, you know, Internet connectivity, but there you have it.

On the “About Clearwire” FAQ section of the company’s website, a question asks if Clearwire is as reliable as cable or dial-up. Their answer: “Yes. With Clearwire, you’ll enjoy an always-on, always-secure connection that never ties up your phone line.” They do not, however, mention that they can restrict your service without notice and without telling you about the restrictions in their advertising. Instead, they lie by omission and bury whatever restrictions exists in a long contract of adhesion. Perhaps cable companies and other Internet service providers do the same, but if so, I at least haven’t noticed. The most pernicious aspect of this is the lack of notification about what was happening or what would happen. The website appears to have a variety of user complaints similar to mine, many of them also centering on BitTorrent and downloading issues.

Bandwidth throttling wasn’t a noticeable problem with my last provider, Millennium Cable. Now I wish I’d stuck with them, since I’ve spent far more money in the form of time just messing around with Clearwire than I’ve saved by switching. When my contract ends, I’ll go back to cable or DSL.

To be fair, Michael, the Clearwire representative, reset the restrictions on my account. But that such restrictions exist at all sucks, as the “” website puts it. In short: don’t buy Clearwire’s service because they’ll restrict your bandwidth just for using the Internet. You can read more about the larger debate from this Ars Technica post on Comcast’s bandwidth throttling. The best part:

“There a single fact here that [Comcast] cannot deny,” [Columbia Law Professor Timothy] Wu explained, “which is that the Associated Press and EFF [[the Electronic Frontier Foundation]] which are users of the Internet, sought to use an application a certain way, and they were blocked… Now [the Comcast representative is] saying that they weren’t using the Internet in the ‘right way.’ They weren’t using these applications in the ‘right way.’ Well the whole problem is that Comcast shouldn’t be telling people how they’re supposed to use applications.”

I agree, and Clearwire shouldn’t be telling me how to use my Internet connection. And if they are going to tell me how, they should at least tell me in advance instead of waiting for me to discover the issue on my own.

In other news, I’ve been unusually quiet because the energies that I usually devote to writing posts are now going into an academic article. Expect more on that subject as well as the resumption of normal posting soon. The academic article has been harder to research because of the above Clearwire problems, which explains some of the vituperation I express.

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