Friday, March 31, 2006


Ban scholarships!

I've had much more experience in the last year with scholarships than anyone could want, and I've had a lot of time to ponder the question of who is wasting whose time in the process of scholarship-application. I've come to the conclusion that the people who offer scholarships may be doing society a disservice.

The vast majority of applicants to any given scholarship are losers. For them, the application process is a total waste of time. Moreover, even the winners produce nothing of lasting value; the time they spend on applications effects only a transfer of wealth, not the creation of wealth. So the "benefactor" causes a few people to have an easier time of going to school, but causes a bunch of people to waste significant time pushing paper. Depending on the relative number of winners and losers, the size of the transfer, and the opportunity cost (e.g. foregone wages) of the applicants, it could easily be that society would be better off without any scholarships.

Obviously, a scholarship process that took zero time would produce net benefits. Such a process is hard for me to imagine. But it might be better for everyone if benefactors were less discriminating.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Those quirky pirates

The thieves responsible for this DVD slapped an English review on the cover which neither they nor, apparently, their consumers could read. (The comments are helpful.)

Hat tip to That’s News to Me, February 27.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


The Road to Pretentiousness

I just bought a couple piano concertos by Lowell Liebermann. I heard the disc before and decided it was fantastic without recognizing that the music is atonal. Now I’m faced with a curious phenomenon: If I pay rapt attention to the music, it’s beautiful, but if I try to multitask (say, blogging as it plays in the background) it becomes unpleasant – disconcerting and tiresome.

Worse, now that recognize that phenomenon, I think it applies to most of the (largely complicated and unpredictable) music I love: none of it seems to do any good in the background. (Fortunately, there exist exceptions to this trend, such as classical music like Bach’s, and jazz like Pat Martino’s. Their music is still complicated and still beautiful, but it’s also in uniform and constrained enough to work well in the background.)

Often, when someone reacts with displeasure to music I worship (e.g. Stravinsky, Cecil Taylor, Yes, Aphex Twin, Meshuggah) I am tempted to retort, “You’re not even trying! Give it a chance! You can’t expect the recording to do all the work for you!” So far I’ve managed to stifle it.

I’m sure there are other fun parts of the human experience that I’m missing out on because their value is similarly obscure. I don’t know whether to care.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Important thing happening

"In Arabic, 'Internet' Means 'Freedom'"

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