Internal Realism

Alva Noe on the tricky issue of umpiring (in this case, for baseball):

External Realism does a good job accounting for the fact that we all recognize that there are “bad calls” and the fact that dispute and controversy seem to be an ever-present part of the game. Because there are real facts of the matter about what happened, it makes good sense that we reckon umpires can be wrong. In comparison, Internal Anti-Realism seems helpless to make sense of this. If what an umpire says goes, then how can we even take seriously the idea that an umpire might be wrong?

But Internal Anti-Realism gets something right, too. Baseball facts are not physics.

What interests us is whether players succeed or fail, whether they achieve or get lucky. The judgment that a ball is a strike is, really, the judgment that a pitcher delivered a a pitch that the batter ought to have hit. This is not so much a judgment about where the pitch was located, as it is a judgment about whether the pitcher or the batter deserves credit.

It’s a short enough argument that I could almost post the whole thing here, but the point rings true for the controversy over the Umpire Decision Review System (and Hawkeye and Hotspot and so on) in cricket: namely, that these are all “External Realist” approaches, taking us away from the game and interpreting its rules in an overly legalistic point of view. LBW decisions should be about when the batter isn’t offering a shot at a ball that could in other circumstances hit the wicket – not whether the ball, continuing in projected virtual space, would have brushed the leg stump by a millimetre and possibly disturbed a bail sufficient to be counted as a wicket.

These things are taken entirely too seriously, and the pressure on the umpires is getting to the point where they’re going to give up and ask for robotic replacements. The article continues:

Last season Armando Galarraga was an out away from pitching a rare perfect game, a game in which he allowed no opposing runner to reach base. A “bad call” at first base by umpire James Joyce robbed him of his deserved glory. Joyce admitted this after the game and, in a wildly unprecedented move, he apologized to Galarraga. The latter accepted the apology with grace and humility and is reported to have said: “Nobody’s perfect.”


People Are Awesome

People are Awesome 2011:

(via kottke)


Battleship: the Movie

They’re really, seriously making “Battleship: The Movie“. And you thought comic book movies were bad?

(On the other hand, Funny or Die has a great “What other movies could they make?” post, which happens to include Clue(do):

When your family is more prolific than the Kennedys’ and more secretive than the Knights Templar, reunions can be a tedious affair. Especially when the mysterious, estranged patriarch is discovered dead before dinner can be served. Now in two days the Von Clu family must try to find a killer without murdering each other first. (Will be a quirky reboot of the storied Clue franchise)

Starring Bill Murray as Colonel Mustard, Meryl Streep as Ms. White, Angelica Houston as Mrs. Peacock, Luke Wilson as Rev. Green, Christina Ricci as Miss Scarlett and Jason Schwartzman as Professor Plum. Written and directed by Wes Anderson. That joke is an elevator pitch worth $25 million right there.

conversations with myself

Vale, Steve Jobs

I was at work, browsing idly on my iPhone when I stumbled upon the news, linked to a short news blast from the AP. This wasn’t fake: it was a statement by Apple, and the language was solemn.

Man oh man, the shock froze me for a minute. As though I was searching for a clue, somewhere in there, that this wasn’t real. But it was, and the Apple homepage spoke volumes in its simplicity, their tribute as minimal as could be, befitting the man.

The amount of coverage Jobs’ passing has received is off the chart. I thought that perhaps this matched the level of Michael Jackson’s passing, but the sordid circumstances surrounding that doesn’t hold a candle to what I’ve seen in the media today. It may well be the technology focused echo chamber I live in, but it certainly felt like everyone was talking about it.

At lunch, outside the Apple store in Sydney, three bouquets lay on the pavement. Five minutes later, another had joined them. Astonishing.

it would seem a day for reflecting on Jobs and his way of thinking, and the most intimate view you could have of his thoughts and philosophy seems to have come from his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address (available on Youtube):

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Perhaps the most eloquently put epitaph for Steve Jobs today comes from Barack Obama:

Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last.  Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world. The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.

Vale, Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011.


Climate Change and the End of Australia

Jeff Goodell, for Rolling Stone: Climate Change and the End of Australia:

 As the Big Dry dragged on, rainfall declined in the southern part of the country, where most of the people live and the majority of the food is grown, fueling the risk of catastrophic bush fires. The reasons for this change in rainfall patterns are complex, but many climate scientists believe that the Big Dry was driven by subtle shifts in the structure of Australia’s atmosphere caused by the dramatic buildup of carbon pollution. “The storm track, which brings rain-bearing weather to Australia, has shifted a few degrees south,” says Karoly, the University of Melbourne scientist. “Rain that had fallen on southwestern and southeastern Australia now falls on the ocean.” Global warming, in other words, shifted the continent’s vital rainfall out to sea.

For farmers in southeastern Australia, the minute shift in atmospheric conditions was devastating.

Nothing you don’t already know if you live in Australia, but seeing it all condensed into this article for foreign consumption makes it all the more relevant.