Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A perfect chance to practice spotting logical fallacies

Thanks, Alex Lee, for your incredible logically fallacious article in the Korea Times!
My problem is with willfully ignorant people who embrace myths like "color-blind love transcends racial inequalities" and "all Asian men are sexist while white men are not." Of course, any couple can "fall in love." It's naive, however, to ignore the reality of white privilege.

False dichotomy. One can believe in love conquering all without ignoring white privilege.

I'm well aware that my attractiveness to native Korean women over native Korean men has a lot to do with my privilege as an American gyopo man. But this advantage doesn't exist outside of Asia like it does for white men. That's the difference. "Sorry, I don't date Asian guys because they're too sexist or nerdy" is a refrain I've heard a lot from Asian American girls.

Appeal to pity
Hollywood has been selling the same stereotype of Asian men forever. For every Pitt, Clooney, and Damon the world sees in Oceans 11, 12, and 13, Asian men get the same mute Chinese acrobat who fits into boxes. Globally, Western white men are allowed to be everything Asian men are not, sexy and nonsexist. They even speak.

Confusing causation with correlation. Who's to say whether Hollywood caused perceptions or reflects them. Also, that Chinese acrobat wasn't sexist.
In the U.S., Asian American women married white spouses at nearly twice the rate as Asian American men, according to the 2000 Census. Korean American women had the second highest outmarriage (marriage to whites) rate of all Asian American women at 24.3 percent of all marriages compared to Korean American men at only 3.9 percent. In Korea, Korean women surveyed by Bien-Aller, a Seoul-based matchmaking company, preferred white spouses over other races at 32.9 percent compared to Korean men at only 14.4 percent. Numerous studies contend this discrepancy is unique to Asian Americans since in other racial groups men outmarry more than women. (Outmarriage statistics for black women with white men, interestingly, were nearly the same statistical inverse of the Asian female situation. Coincidence? Last time I checked, black women were dissed by the global media almost as much as Asian men--save Beyonce).

Confusing correlation with causation and straw man. Who knows if outmarriage rates among black women is related to 'dissing by the global media'?

So, why the gender gap? A popular explanation is the overt patriarchy in Asian culture, like the sexist preference of sons over daughters to preserve the family name. But equally important is the West's wartime legacy in Asia, like U.S. servicemen, camptown-centered brothels and Asian war brides.

Total lack of evidence. How do we know if it's 'equally important' or if there's any impact at all without evidence? Also somewhat of a non-sequitur, I mean, why would the existence of brothels in the past make women want to marry foreigners?

Sorry, but a white man's earnest claim that he is "nice" and not like other perverted white guys addicted to Asian porn isn't enough to erase history. The West is smug in thinking it’s so liberal.

Ad hominem attacks. the West is 'smug'. A white guy naively thinks he's 'nice' when he himself doesn't know what's in his own nature.

Most interracial couples speak the man’s native language, English.


Many "liberal” white men don’t seek equally "liberal” Western white woman.
And white "feminists” leave the home but hire non-white women to replace them.


Furthermore, feminist history in Asia is, in fact, strong. In Korea, women were largely in control of their own lives during the Koryo period before Confucianism was introduced. Patrilineage was uncommon, inheritance was equally divided among sons and daughters, and widows were known to remarry. A long time
ago, yes. But sexism is clearly not "inherent" to Asian culture despite
the hype.

Straw man. Nobody thinks that the 'inherentness' of Asian sexism matters, only its existence. Would proving that Korean anti-black racism was not inherent to Korean culture make it a non-issue?

Introducing these points usually mean being personally attacked on my masculinity and sense of self-worth, a classic example of how the culture of power places the burden of proof on those with less power. Meanwhile, those with more power have the luxury to brand my arguments as mere "complaints." This is known as hypocrisy, folks.
A parallel example would be me blaming Asian women for being vain and appearance-obsessed without questioning my own complicity in sexism. I can act calm and collected because my self-worth isn't reduced to my waistline.

Non-sequitur false analogy combo.

Ask a white man to switch places with an Asian man and he'll feel the difference in power quick.

I think this is special pleading. You can't feel this very real thing, but if you were to become Asian you would be able to.

Not to mention, they'd probably do more than just complain, like legally ban Asians from entering their country for decades, create "anti-miscegenation" laws that would prohibit interracial marriage, encourage state-wide sterilization programs for non-white women, and kill non-white men for just looking at white women _ all in the name of "science" and "pure" white nationhood. Oh wait, they already did.

Ad hominem attack and argument from prior error.

Meanwhile, tales about marriage between an indigenous woman of color and white men _ think Pocahontas _ have long been staples of European-American culture, says George Lipsitz. The native woman's love for the white man serves to establish the moral superiority of the conqueror's culture. These stories turn the brutality and sadism of conquest into a voluntary romance. That's why people who argue Asian women are resisting Asian sexism by marrying white men
are mistaken.

False dichotomy. Why can't there be both 'push' and 'pull' factors?
If white feminists didn't marry Asian men to combat Western sexism, why would the opposite be true?

I struggled with this one before realizing it's a false continuum. Asian women who marry Western men and move to the West in order to escape sexism in their own societies will become subject to Western sexism. This argument simply denies the possibility that one variety of sexism may be more or less desirable than the other.
It's easy to criticize someone like me as defending native Asian men because I'm Asian. But I'm also American, an irony lost on most white Western men who brand me as some sort of Korean nationalist.

All fallacy-noticing aside, I recognize the writer of this piece as one of the most American people around. Only an American could string together this much Anthro 101 this angrily. Also, there's no irony to be lost, dingus, you're criticizing white Westerners, not Americans.
I have no problem criticizing Asia, like how East Asian men exploit South East Asian women but still use marriages between the two as proof of how "cultural understanding" they are. Here, the power dynamics are clear. So, what makes white men with Asian women that different?

False analogy (except in the case of mail-order brides)
Ultimately, it's not about arguing who's "worse" or shallowly emphasizing that we're all sexist and racist. It's about taking the issue less personally, enough to see that there are larger forces at play. I love my parents but still find it important to criticize the ridiculously classist system they came from.

Appeal to sincerity
Consequently, the current state of interracial relationships doesn't equal "racial harmony" as much as some people would like to believe. After all, it's called "color-blind love" for a reason. It blinds you to the truth.

The 'shitty writing' fallacy.

Goodwill Ambassador of the Week

This week's Goodwill Ambassador of the Week is none other than Beauty's Chatterbox star panelist Bronwyn!
We here at the Paint Roller Blog would like to thank Bronwyn for her contribution to international understanding. On the August 27th episode of Beauty's Chatterbox, or 미녀들의 수다, or 미수다, or Misuda, or whatever you call it, Bronwyn helped bridge the gap separating Koreans from foreigners by explaining that she never goes to Hongdae because of the smell. The foreign men there, explained Bronwyn, drink too much and throw up so much that you literally have to gingerly tiptoe down the street to avoid the nearly blanket coverage of vomit. To drive home the point, the outgoing South African then stood up and demonstrated what it is like to walk down the streets in front of Hongik University. Way to go, Bronwyn!
This show, for those of you who don't know, is a panel show in which pretty foreign girls who speak Korean discuss Korea and talk about how it is different from their own country, what surprises them, what they like and dislike etc. When the show began the women on the panel were mostly old hands, Korea-wise, in particular American Leslie Benson Bensfield, who's spent 11 years in Korea and speaks fluent Korean. The show was mostly people who know Korea well telling Koreans about their own country, gently pointing out some of Korea's less proud aspects, in particular, its sexism.
There was also plenty of laughs for all. Common topics of the show included:

  1. Those tough ajummas.

  2. Eating dog, fermented skate (홍어), and spicy food.

  3. Booking (nearly delved into every episode)

  4. Dating Korean guys.

  5. Korean drinking culture
Well after plodding these well-worn boards for a long time, these topics have ceased to be interesting. Anybody out there who watches this program will notice that in an effort to maintain the interest of basically talking about in-your-face old ladies, drinking soju and eating dog meat, they have changed the format from 'knowledgeable foreigners discuss their experiences in Korea thoughtfully' to 'buckwild foreign chicks who don't know anything about Korea and can barely speak Korean say shocking, uninformed things in barely understandable Korean'
And somebody please tell me what's up with this?
I imagine that the next step when this concep' has run out of steam will be to have some models and sorority girls come to Korea for the first time, take them out for a night of drinking, booking, and dog meat and then ask them about it the next day while they model Andre Kim teddies. I propose a title change to 미녀들이 서툴다.

Seoul Drama Awards, desperate self promotion

Desperate self promotion for desperate self promoters. I am in the middle of watching the 2007 Seoul Drama Awards, and boy are they a piece of work.
First of all, the logo for the awards ceremony is an abstract three legged bird/samjogo/삼족오, which happens to look like the logo for Jumong, one of the Korean dramas in competition.

Oh wait, the logo in the video from their website is exactly the same.

Second, the use of English is comically spotty. The Japanese winners all give at least part of their speech in English, but not a single Korean has uttered a word of English, except one of the hosts, who told an Australian winner who had his acceptance speech in his hands "We would like you to say a few words, please."
Third, the hosts (The guy from the Capentech commercials and the hostess of one of Korea's many exploitative news magazine shows) take time out between every award to point out that Korean dramas are now in international competition with dramas from all the top countries. A Korean miniseries beat out a British miniseries with Helen Mirren in it, and this fact was explicitly pointed out.
One of my favorite parts is when Lee Hyori and some dude present the nominees for some award, one of which is The Tudors, and Hyori just went off on how she totally loved the Tudors, but as for the rest of the nominees . . . dunno. The camera went to a Japanese "Hallyu star" in the audience in what appeared to be the Japanese section, and both he and the woman behind him had a sort of shocked, 'we are not amused' look on their faces.
Also, when they introduced 'foreign dramas' and 'Korean dramas' and every single example of a foreign drama they showed during that montage (Lost, Desperate Housewives, Prison Break) was an American show, and yet I don't think any none of those shows were even up for any awards.
To be fair, when the award show started I was convinced that every single award would be won by the Korean nominee, and they haven't gone that far. Way to show restraint. I guess its enough that now Jumong, Hwangjini, and all the other big dramas this year can honestly say that they've won awards in international competition.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Happy Days are here again.

There is a new krappy Korean sitcom riding the coattails of Geochim eopsi Highkick (거침 없이 하이킥, English name? Perhaps "Highkick Without Hesitation"?) called Kimchi Cheese Smile (김치 치즈 스마일, known to anyone who lives in Korea as the three ways to tell someone to smile when taking their picture). The theme song to this show is the original theme song to the American sitcom Happy Days (not 'Rock around the clock', the other one).
Now here's something you Korea scholars out there may not know. While Happy Days was popular in Korea, broadcast under the title 폰지와의 즐거운 하루 ('A happy day with Ponzie), The debut of the spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi, broadcast here under the title 죠니가 자지를 되게 좋아하네! holds the record for most watched half hour of television in Korea's history

Monday, August 27, 2007

This ought to raise eyebrows . . . oh, I guess not

I have a game for you. Watch this video of my favorite old man with sadly childish hairstyle and clothing, Boom (붐), interviewing 'singing' sensation Ivy (아이비). Now here's the game: count the number of times that Ivy's eyebrows move.

That's right, exactly once, at the 2:13 point. Once you notice that her forehead is huge and almost immobile, it becomes unavoidable to ask the following question. Is that her real forehead?

I have no idea, and I don't care. What I am interested in is these forms of plastic surgery focused on the face that are moving the Korean beauty ideal further and further away from what the majority of Koreans actually look like. I would say the best treatment of this topic in a blog can be found over at the Metropolitician's site. He shows how the Korean beauty ideal has changed over time, from realistic to elfin, Asian to Hyrulian.

I chose Hong Su-a as an example of the new standard of beauty in Korea (slender face, surprisingly big nose), but doing so is probably understating the situation, as she is one of the only female mainstream entertainment figures who hasn't had eyelid surgery

First off, yes, forehead implants are real. Here are some before-and-after photos.
Next on the chopping block are prominent cheekbones, a very common feature in Korea that many here find unattractive. I've even had people explain to me seriously that they are a result of malnourishment, which is why they are more common in older generations and in North Korea than in younger South Koreans. I don't know if malnutrition causes the condition, but I know what cures it: hot steel.

Here's the commercial that popularized the phrase "V line face", which refers to a narrow, V-shaped jawline.

The commercial states "V-line is fashion, the future, envy, V-line is Gwangdong Corn Silk Tea" (yes, it's really a commercial for tea made of an agricultural waste bi-product.) Here are the before-and-after photos of some clairvoyant women.

The future (right). Left: the past

And here's one woman who's totally stuck in the past
Jes' joshin', Kyoung-lim Nuna.

I blame the simple economics of supply and demand to some extent. There are plenty of girls with strong jawlines and not so prominent foreheads. but it seems to me that in this case the very lack of supply creates the demand. Truth be told, I'm just spit-balling here, because I don't want to go and say something that's completely off the wall.

When will the hurting stop?

I have a bit of a theory about Korean culture that I would like to elaborate on. I doubt that I am the first person to come up with this concept, but I am beginning to find it an inescapable conclusion, which means that I am perhaps becoming too biased to judge whether my own idea actually makes sense. So let me know if you think it's all wrong.

The concept came to me when I was reading about gang initiations. Many gangs initiate their new members by making them commit a crime. The initiate subsequently feels a bond of shared guilt with his fellow gang members, who have commited the same crime. This shared guilt bonds gang members together tightly.

Now what I'm saying is that Korean society acts in a similar fashion, but instead of a bond of shared guilt, I believe that Koreans are brought together by a bond of shared discomfort.

Where did this theory come from? I noticed that, while people in Korea do a lot of things that are pleasurable, there is usually some extra something thrown into the mix that is unpleasant. Communally unpleasant. When you eat Korean food, the first thing that you are struck by is the spiciness. You ask yourself "Why must everything we eat be spicy?" and even if, like many non-Koreans, you like spicy food, you are confronted with the basket on the table containing carrots, cucumbers and green peppers. You eat the carrots, eat the cucumbers, and then someone tastes the pepper, gingerly at first but then quicker. "It's ok, they're not spicy!" that person reassures you, so you grab the other pepper and bite into it. It must be from a different batch, because it is burning the enamel off your teeth. It's like Russian roulette with food.

Or you can go in for the guaranteed torture that is buldak (fire chicken).

Buldak is another shared adventure in masochism. You and your friends go to the buldak restaurant to suffer through a painful chemical burn together, with the added bonus of a vaguely charcoal-y scent and a chicken-y chew. There is nothing to recommend buldak except the oft-repeated claim that 'spicy food is addictive.'

Do you know what happens if you blow your ear drums out listening to your headphones? Or if you develop a dependency on a drug? You require an increasing amount of these inputs to feel satisfied, because you've dulled your senses. Imagine how much a lifetime of eating spicy food dulls your senses.

It is a well known fact that Korean workers go home only when their bosses go home. If the boss stays till 9pm, that pretty much means that everybody is staying till 9:01. I usually hear people explain this in terms of the boss. "Oh, you mustn't leave before your boss." I disagree. I believe the true point of everybody waiting for the boss is everybody waiting together. Everybody missing dinner with their families and knowing that that's what everybody in every office in Korea is doing has a real effect on the national psychology. How can you help but think 'We are a hardcore nation.'

Drinking alcohol is commonly agreed upon in most cultures to be an agreeable recreational experience. Those who drink alcohol typically do it to loosen up and relax, to let their guards down, and to facilitate socialization.

Koreans are no different, in intent, however it is the degree to which the drinking takes place that makes it, for many, a painful experience. Most of the participants in drinking sessions are not in control of the amount that they wind up drinking. That is decided by whoever is running the party, usually a boss or the oldest person at the table. Blacking out and vomiting are common experiences for some. What should be a fun activity becomes a brutal slog mandated from above. Everyone in the drinking party is bound by the will of the senior member to drink, sing and be merry or else face ostracism.

Some office girls, chugging as though their jobs depended on it

Again, we see singing, at times a pleasurable experience, turned into a painful social tool, like a hammer. Public singing becomes another bond, this time one of shared humiliation. Bear your soul or else. Again, this is not always the case, but it takes on this unpleasant dimension in the context of forced socializing.

What's next? Why it's on to stage 3, for some real bonding through shared guilt. This time the guilt of adultery. What could create more convivial feelings than sullying your marriage vows with some guys from work? Some whiskey, women and song will guarantee that you and Team Leader Choi will remain close business contacts forever!

Finally, what form do the most popular Korean television shows take? Celebrity humiliation, in which Korea's most famous TV personalities have to suffer hilarious indignities. In the show shown below, celebrities have to memorize a song and sing it perfectly, at the risk of having a pan dropped on their head (HT to James at The Grand Narrative for finding the Youtube clip).

Although the most popular current incarnation of bonding through shared suffering theater is Old Time TV (옛날TV), in which entertainers must perform such feats as pulling the tablecloth out from under a stack of bowls at the risk of having 100 liters of water dropped on them and having to memorize and sing a song while trapped inside a sauna, being allowed out only if they can sing the song perfectly.

Is the community supported agriculture movement inevitable?

I was just listening to a group of food scientists and activists advocating a return to smaller-scale agriculture on NPR's Talk of the Nation, and I was struck by the number of times I have heard this exact same message, especially on NPR. I believe this goes hand in hand with the slow food movement, and a concept which I have dubbed time porn.
In an industrial society the price of most any 'luxury' item is cut down to affordable proportions. Most people can afford a stereo system, a fast car, a computer with relatively fast internet connection, a comfortable house and almost any food they could possibly want. A large portion of the luxury aspect of, say, a decadent piece of New York cheese cake is lost when anybody in Tulsa can go down to Von's and pull one out of the freezer. The physical pleasure of these things remains, but the exquisite exclusiveness of them is lost.
The people with money to spend face a challenge. How can they get added value if they already have everything they want? And what's worse, there's nothing special about having it. What is the one thing that is most valuable to hard-working modern people? In a world of increasingly busy people, the ultimate luxury and object of desire is the time to do things in inefficient but seemingly more satisfying ways. Let's say everyone has a warm factory-made wool sweater. A hand-made sweater has the warm coziness of any other sweater, plus it has the added value of all the labor that went into it. Super bonus points if it was made by either someone in America or Europe or at a humane, well marketed factory where all the women working there get to take courses for free.
The same thing is true of the small-scale agriculture movement and its proponents among the relatively well-off NPR crowd. In a world where everyone's going to Von's for that New York cheese cake, they want to go out to the country, where a rosy-cheeked farmer's wife will hand-make them a New York cheese cake with illegal raw milk and an extra helping of love. They leave with a 'superior' cheese cake, a story to tell, and the warm feeling in their hearts that they've helped support sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture and America's rural culture. That's so much added value.
Not to say that the people behind this are wrong. If I were a farmer and I were concerned about the quality of my product, I would probably do exactly what these farmers do, organizing Community Supported Agriculture groups in which local people buy into the farmer's crop and then receive produce throughout the year directly from the farmer. I would, like the existing farmers, target exactly the NPR crowd, with their money and their desperate search for their next fix of added value. I have to say that I quite admire these farmers and their quest for excellence.
My qualms come when I hear people saying that this is a sustainable model for the entire food system. To reject large scale agriculture on the whole and expect the alternative to support the nation's or the world's food demands is naive at best and dangerous at worst. While it is clearly an important marketing point that these farmers and supporters claim that this system is viable for everyone, I fail to see how it can ever be more than the privilege of the well-off. It's like saying "People need to stop buying shoes from the big corporate shoe companies and start supporting local shoemakers. By doing so, we can meet the nation's demand for shoes in a cleaner, more environmentally friendly way, reducing the need for long-distance shoe shipping and at the same time supporting our local shoemaking community." Super bonus added value.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Logical Fallacies

The invaluable New England Skeptical Society has a great article on their website that innumerates the logical fallacies that people, all people, are liable to hear and make. In my attempt to commit all of them to memory and internalize them, I am going to provide them here, each on with an example that I have actually heard in real life or, in the absence of such, a common example. Enjoy them and think of these fallacies the next time some poor misguided person tries to make you believe something that makes no sense.


My face looks puffy today because I went to sleep with the fan on.
Magical Thinking
This root/stem/noodle will make you live a long time because it is
Argument from Authority

Why would the Korean government restrict/ban US beef imports if there were nothing wrong with them?
Appeal to Common Belief

Everybody knows hot spices make greasy food less greasy and kill bacteria.
Appeal to Impending Acceptance

American corporation Lone Star Funds bought Korea Exchange Bank after the Asian Economic Crisis when the bank was in serious risk of going bankrupt. They turned it around and sold it for a large profit. Some in the Korean Assembly and the Prosecutor's office were incensed by the thought of foreigners making profits on Korea's misfortunes, and attempted to prosecute the company on stock manipulation charges. Frequently throughout this period people would defend the investigation by saying "They're under investigation, soon they'll be prosecuted, so of course they're guilty." (see also Argument from authority, Appeal to emotion, Argument from Conspiracy, Argument from benefit)
Appeal to Virtue or Sincerity

She means well and just wants to help, so why don't you let her give you acupuncture on the tips of your fingers and the incredibly sensitive areas right behind your cuticles?
Argument from Conspiracy or Anti-authority

The Korean government recently closed government offices to media, which had previously had free run of all government buildings, roaming the halls with cameras and demanding interviews on the spot. They also consolidated the forty-odd press rooms they operated into a few big ones. The media reported this as a bid by the government to destroy the fourth estate and return Korea to dictatorship-like state where the government has a stranglehold on the press. the government, for its part, claims that the exorbitant price of having press rooms in every government building was prohibitive and they want to save money by consolidating those rooms.
Appeal to Emotion

People are inherently good, because it would be a horrible world to live in if that weren't so.

Argument from Final Outcome or Consequences
Oriental Medicine is real because it handles all the things that Western Medicine can't do anything about, like back pain and fatigue.

Argument from Benefit

The Bush administration must be responsible for the September 11th attacks because it allowed them to seize unprecedented power.

Appeal to Fear

Korean farmers often use the fear of disease and contamination to justify trade barriers that allow them to uneconomically persist in their vocations. Note, however, that some of these fears (i.e. fear of contaminated food from China) turn out to have been well grounded.

Appeal to Flattery

People who drive hybrid cars are smarter or better than other, more polluting people.

Appeal to Pity

The clearest large-scale example of the appeal to pity is applied to the comfort women who were enlisted to sexually service Japanese soldiers during World War II. Any serious enquiry into the question of whether they were forced into servitude or whether they went willingly is effectively shut off through appeals to pity.

Post-hoc Ergo Propter Hoc (A preceded B, therefore A caused B)

I took Oriental medicine, had acupuncture, and after a month my chronic stress-related sluggishness went away. Oriental medicine cured me.

Confusing Correlation with Causation

"Long ago we lived in homes of red earth and we didn't have skin conditions, so if you use sheets dyed with red earth, you won't get skin problems."

One of the most interesting correlation/causation arguments I've heard is the one against the book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People". We don't know whether the habits are causing the effectiveness or if both phenomena are by-products of some root cause.

Special Pleading, or Ad-hoc Reasoning

Well of course that wish didn't come true, you didn't believe in it
enough. You gotta believe!
This is a special favorite of John Edward and other psychic mediums, who claim all sorts of 'interferences', 'static' and communications difficulties as the reasons for inaccurate readings.

Argument from Prior Error
Scientists used to think that pesticides were healthy when in fact they held health risks, therefore we shouldn't trust what they say about genetically modified foods.

Ad Hominem

Al Gore is stiff and boring. Michael Moore/Rush Limbaugh are fat. George Bush is dumb. Dick Cheney is oily and cold. Lynn Cheney is married to Dick Cheney. All the Republican presidential candidates are divorced. Joh Edwards gets expensive haircuts.

Tu Quoque

America is not without sin, so it is inappropriate for America's congress to condemn Japan for refusing to cop to its wartime offenses.

This is also used by Oriental Medicine proponents a lot.

Ad Ignorantum (Something is true because we don't know that it's not true)

Dog meat gives you vitality because it has good protein. What, it
doesn't? It's still awesome, I can feel it.

Confusing Absence of Evidence with Evidence of Absence
The galling thing about this fallacy is that many times the people using it are claiming an absence of evidence when evidence in fact exists. The best example I can think of is "There are no transitional fossils from dinosaurs to birds/apes to man/fish to land dwelling creatures." Creationists use this argument all the time in conjunction with the moving goalpost ("Show me the transitional fossil between ape and that transitional fossil!")

Argument from Personal Incredulity
Evolution is impossible. I can't see how a monkey could turn into a

Appeal to Ridicule

You're telling me that cow flatulence could somehow produce enough methane to contribute to global warming? Cow farts?! Yuk yuk yuk!

Confusing Currently Unexplained with Unexplainable
This is also known as the 'God of the Gaps' fallacy, i.e. whatever is
unexplained is the province of God. What happens after we die? Must be heaven, because science provides no answers to this question.

False Dichotomy
The Goguryeo kingdom is either part of Chinese history or part of Korean history. It can not be included in both, because to allow the other side to claim it as their own would imply that it is not one's own.

False Continuum
Everybody has an opinion and all opinions are equally valid in all situations, and so we have to respect people whose opinions are different from our own, even in issues such as science in which opinions matter less than testable hypotheses and established facts.

The Moving Goalpost

You're saying that you have proof that sleeping with a fan in the room will not eat all the oxygen and kill you, nor will it 'supermix' the air so that you consume the oxygen too fast and suffocate? Well, it still can give you hypothermia, even in the summer. Oh, it can't? Well, it'll give you a sore throat. And make your body swell. (See also special pleading)

(I realize this is a little different from the original meaning of the moving
goalpost, in which increasingly elaborate proof is demanded, but in this case
the thing proved is moving, so it seems to me the term should still be

Reductio Ad Absurdum
If we allow gay marriage, we will have to allow people to marry anyone or thing, resulting in marriage to animals and inanimate objects.
False Analogy
Vietnam and Iraq often form a false analogy for many reasons. The
different natures of the civil wars in Vietnam and Iraq, the way that
America got involved in each conflict, and of course the number of parties involved, the stakes, and the global climate at each time are substantially different. That's not to say that the analogy must always be false, as it may actually be fairly accurate in terms of the political climate in the US, in reference to which the Vietnam-Iraq War analogy may be useful.
Incidentally, there are many other lists of logical fallacies available on the web. This one is incredibly extensive and has lots of nifty latinisms, like argumentam ad misericordiam for appeal to pity, as well as a few that are not included here, such as the appeal to nature (natural things are inherently good) and red herring (introduction of irrelevent facts).
I encourage you strongly to check out the full article by Dr. Steven Novella. He is a very smart man (argument from authority) doing a lot of good work for the skeptical movement (appeal to virtue) and I know a smart person like you will be able to get the most out of these tools for rational thought (appeal to flattery).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The other Korean hostage crisis, day 7

All told, being trapped in Korea has been going quite well.
I had dog soup today with my mother-in-law and my wife's aunts. As always, it depends on the quality of the meat, and this was exceptionally good meat in an exceptionally dingy restaurant. The timing for this stranding was quite good, as my father in law is currently in the hospital undergoing surgery for cataracts, so the presence of my wife and me is valuable for everyone.
But it's not all Korean delicacies for me. I also had the worst pizza I've ever had in my life tonight, Pizza Hut's Whole Shrimp Cheese Bite Pizza.
The actual pizza portion of this pile of shrimp, sweet potato mash and dough is pushed into the center so that it comprises no more than half of the actual thing, which I hesitate to call a pizza. Also, the sauce that's supposed to go with this thing costs an extra buck. Pizza Hut Korea is the ultimate in inconvenience. They have an expensive salad bar, but the entire table has to share a single small bowl which they will not replace with a clean one unless you beg. There are myriad other ways in which Pizza Hut Korea makes your dining experience unnecessarily uncomfortable, but this is not a post about all that.
The real news is that Miyoung's uncle's friend's daughter, who works for Asiana Airlines, called today to tell us that she pushed up our reservation from September 13th (an unimaginable 28 days after our intended departure date) to September 4th (a reasonable 19 days). It's less than two weeks away! That means I have to hurry up and get good at my new hobby, dorodango making. A dorodango is a ball of mud meticulously built up, methodically dried out and rubbed to a shine like so.

Mine so far look equally round, but orders of magnitude less shiny. Wish me luck!
But it hasn't all been a mud-ball making waste of time, I also had a chance to write a few blog posts that I've been meaning to get around to, catch up on my movie watching and learn everything there is to know about money markets. Good for me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What is a chippy?

I heard it on the Simpsons episode where Homer becomes the Beer Baron. The narrator says "Wasting no time, Rex Banner tore into the bootleggers like a chippy tearing into a lobster." A quick search turned up an amazing website,, which gives the following definition:
chippy:or: chippie, a disparaging term, possibly derived from cheap / cheaply / cheapy, for:
1. A wild or delinquent young girl , usually sexually active or promiscuous . See playgirl for synonyms.
2. A prostitute . See prostitute for synonyms.
3. A cheap woman .

Yes, I get a vivid image of a ravenous chippy diving full bore into a lobster while her cultured, mustachioed benefactor genteelly eats his own, bemused at her uncouth behavior. Sort of like the entire movie 'Pretty Woman'.

How to Win Friends & Influence People, Condensed

I've long been a fan of Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends & Influence People, which I categorize as the best secular elaboration of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount I have ever seen. The great sin is that, from the title, the book seems like a callous manual for soulless cold fish to learn to take advantage of strangers. Quite to the contrary, the secret to winning friends and influencing people, according to Carnegie, is caring about them, empathy and sincere kindness. He also believes that this is the secret to a rewarding and satisfying life, and thus a sort of limited version of karma. He repeatedly warns against attempting to use the techniques in the book disingenuously, stating correctly that people are very good at seeing through that sort of thing.

Since I am now trapped in Korea for a month with nothing to do, I finally have time to do all the things that were impossible in the last few busy years. One of the things on the top of that list was condensing all the best parts of this great book into one huge blog post. Here goes.

Part One: Fundamental techniques in handling people

Chapter One: Don't criticize, condemn or complain

Human nature in action, the wrong-doer blaming everybody but himself.

When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.

Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.

Chapter Two: Give honest, sincere appreciation

The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.

People sometimes become invalids in order to win sympathy and attention, and get a feeling of importance. For example, take Mrs. McKinley. She got a feeling of importance by forcing her husband, the President of the United States, to neglect important affairs of state while he reclined on the bed beside her for hours at a time, his arms about her soothing her to sleep.

Emerson said: "Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him."

Chapter Three: Arouse in the other person an eager want

Bait the hook to suit the fish.

The world is full of people like that: grabbing, self-seeking. So the rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve others has an enormous advantage. He has little competition.

Part Two: Six ways to make people like you

Chapter One: Become genuinely interested in other people

If we merely try to impress people and get people interested in us, we will never have many true sincere friends. Friends, real friends, are not made that way. Napoleon tried it, and in his last meeting with Josephine he said: "Josephine, I have been as fortunate as any man ever was on this earth; and yet, at this hour, you are the only person in the world on whom I can rely." And historians doubt whether he could rely even on her.

It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulty in life and provides the greatest injury to otheres. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring.

Chapter Two: Smile

The ancient Chinese are a wise lot: wise in the ways of the world; and they have a proverb that you and I ought to cut out and paste inside our hats. It goes like this: "A man without a smiling face must not open a shop."

Chapter Three: Remember that a man's name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in the English language.

When [Andrew Carnegie] was a boy back in Scotland, he got a hold of a rabbit, a mother rabbit. Presto! He soon had a whole nest of little rabbits - and nothing to feed them. But he had a brilliant idea. He told the boys in the neighborhood that if they would go out and pull enough clover and dandelions to feed the rabbits, he would name the bunnies in their honor. The plan worked like magic; and Carnegie never forgot it. Years later, he made millions by using that same psychology in business. For example, he wanted to sell steel rails to the Pennsylvania Railroad. J. Edgar Thomson was the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad then. So Andrew Carnegie built a huge steel mill in Pittsburgh and called is the "Edgar Thomson Steel Works."
Here is a riddle. See if you can guess it. When the Pennsylvania Railroad needed steel rails, where do you suppose J. Edgar Thomson bought them? From Sears Roebuck? No. No. You're wrong. Guess again.

Two hundred years ago, rich men used to pay authors to dedicate their books to them.

Most people don't remember names for the simple reason that they don't take the time and energy necessary to concentrate and repeat and fix names indelibly in their minds.

Chapter Four: Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

She didn't want to hear about my travels. All she wanted was an interested listener, so she could expand her ego and tell me about where she had been.
Was she unusual? No. Many people are like that.

What is the secret, the mystery, of a successful business interview? Well, according to that genial scholar Charles W. Eliot, "there is no mystery about successful business intercourse . . . Exclusive attention to the person who is speaking to you is very important. Nothing else is so flattering as that."
Self-evident, isn't it? You don't have to study for four years in Harvard to discover that. Yet I know and you know merchants who will rent expensive space, buy their goods economically, dress their windows appealingly, spend hundreds of dollars in advertising, and then hire clerks who haven't the sense to be good listeners - clerks who interrupt customers, contradict them, irritate them, and all but drive them from the store.

"The first salesman questioned my honesty. The second one intimated that I had purchased a second-rate article. I boiled. I was on the point of telling them to take their suit and go to hell, when suddenly the head of the department strolled by. He knew his business. He changed my attitude completely. He turned an angry man into a satisfied customer. How did he do it? By three things:
"First, he listened to my story from beginnning to end without saying a word.
"Second, when I had finished and the salesmen again started to air their views, he argued with them from my point of view . . .
"Third, he admitted he didn't know the cause of the trouble and said to me very simply 'What would you like me to do with the suit? I'll do anything you say.'
" Only a few minutes before I had been ready to tell them to keep their confounded suit But now I answered, 'I want only your advice."

The chronic kicker, even the most violent critic, will frequently soften and be subdued in the presence of a patient, sympathetic listener - a listener who will be silent while the irate fault-finder dilates like a king cobra and spews the poison out of his system.

Many people will call a doctor when all they want is an audience.

The man who talks only of himself, thinks only of himself. And "the man who thinks only of himself," says Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University, "is hopelessly uneducated . . . no matter how instructed he may be."

Remember that the man you are talking to is a hundred times more interested in himself and his problems than he is in you and your problems. His toothache means more to him thatn a famine in China that kills a million people. A boil on his neck interests him more than forty earthquakes in Africa Think of that the next time you start a conversation.

Chapter Five: Talk in terms of the other man's interests

"Whether it was a cowboy or a Rough Rider, a New York politician or a dipomat, Roosevelt knew what to say to him." And how was it done? The answer is simple. Whenever Roosevelt expected a visitor, he sat up late the night before reading up on the subject in which he knew his guest was particularly interested.

"A middle-aged man called one evening, and after a political skirmish with my aunt, he devoted his attention to me. At that time, I happened to be excited about boats, and the visitor discussed the subject in a way that seemed to me particularly interesting. After he left, I spoke of him with enthusiasm. What a man! And how tremendously interested in boats! My aunt informed me he was a New York lawyer; that he cared nothing whatever about boats - took not the slightest interest in the subject. 'But why then did he talk all the time about boats?'
"'Because he is a gentleman. He saw you were interested in boats, and e talked abut the things he knew would interest and please you. He made himself agreeable.'"

Chapter Six: Make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely

I was waiting in line to register a letter in the Post Office. I noticed that the registry clerk was bored with his job - the same monotonous grind year after year. So I said to myself: "I am going to try to make that chap like me." Obviously to make him like me, I must say something nice, not about myself, but about him. So I asked myself, "What is there about him that I can honestly admire?" That is sometimes a hard question to answer, especially with strangers; but in this case, it happened to be easy. I instantly saw something I admired to no end. So while he was weighing my envelope, I remarked with enthusiasm: "I certainly wish I had your head of hair."
He looked up, half startled, his face beaming with smiles, "Well, it isn't as good as it used to be," he said modestly. I assured him that although it might have lost some of its pristine glory, nevertheless it was still magnificent. He was immensely pleased. We carried on a pleasant conversation and the last thing he said to me was: "Many people have admired my hair."
I told this story once in public; and a man asked me afterwards: "What did you want to get out of him?"
What was I trying to get out of him!!! What was I trying to get out of him!!!
If we are so contemptibly selfish that we can't radiate a little happiness and pass on a bit of honest appreciation without trying to screw something out of the other person in return - if our souls are no bigger than sour crab apples, we shall meet with the failure we so richly deserve.

Philosophers have been speculating on the rules of human relationships for thousands of years and out of all the speculation, there has evolved only one important precept. It is not new. It is as old as history. Zoroaster taught it to his fire-worshipers in Persia three thousand years ago. Confucius preached it in China twenty-four centuries ago. Lao-Tse, the founder of Taoism, taught it to his disciples in the Valley of the Han. Buddha preached it on the banks of the Holy Ganges five hundred years before Christ. The sacred books of Hinduism taught it a thousand years before that. Jesus taught it among the stony hills of Judea nineteen centuries ago. Jesus summed it up in one thought - probably the most important rule in the world: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
You want the approval of those with whom you come in contact. You want recognition of your true worth. You want a feeling that you are important in your little world. You don't want to listen to cheap, insincere flattery but you do crave sincere appreciation. You want your friends and associates to be, as Charles Schwab puts it, "Hearty in their approbation and lavish in their praise." All of us want that.

Little phrases such as "I'm sorry to trouble you," "Would you be so kind as to-," "Won't you please," "Would you mind," "Thank you" - little courtesies like that oil the cogs of the monotonous grind of everyday life - and, incidentally, they are the hallmarks of good breeding.

Do you feel that you are superior to the Japanese? The truth is that the Japanese consider themselves far superior to you. A conservative Japanese, for example, is infuriated at the sight of a white man dancing with a Japanese lady.
Do you consider yourself superior to the Hindus of India? That is your privilege; but a million Hindus feel so infinitely superior to you that they wouldn't befoul themselves by condescending to touch food that your heathen shadow had fallen across and contaminated.
Do you feel you are superior to the Eskimos? Again, that is your privilege; but would you really like to know what the Eskimo thinks of you? Well, there are a few native hobos among the Eskimos, worthless bums who refuse to work. The Eskimos call them "white men" - that being their utmost term of contempt.
Each nation feels superior to other nations. That breeds patriotism - and wars.

And the pathetic part of it is that frequently those who have the least justification for a feeling of achievement bolster up their inner feeling of inadequacy by an outward shouting and tumult of conceit that are offensive and truly nauseating.

Tonight, or tomorrow night, bring her some flowers or a box of candy. Don't merely say, "Yes, I
ought to do it." Do it! And bring a smile in addition, and some warm words of affection. If more
wives and more husbands did that I wonder if we should still have one marriage out of six shattered on the rocks of Reno?

Said Disraeli, one of the shrewdest men who ever ruled the British Empire, "Talk to a man about himself and he will listen for hours."

Part Three: Twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking

Chapter One: The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.

"We were guests at a festive occasion, my dear Dale. Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you? Why not let him save his face? He didn't ask for your opinion. He didn't want it. Why argue with him? Always avoid the acute angle.

"Here lies the body of William Jay,
Who died maintaining his right of way-
He was right, dead right, as he sped along,
But he's just as dead as if he were wrong."

"No man who is resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take the consequences, including personal vitiation of his temper and the loss of self-control. Yield larger things to which you show no more than equal rights; and yield lesser ones though clearly your own. Better to give your path to a dog than be bitten by him in contesting for the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the bite." -Abraham Lincoln

Chapter Two: Show respect for the other man's opinions. Never tell a man he is wrong.

If you can be sure of being right only 55 percent of the time, you can go down to Wall Street, make a million dollars a day, buy a yacht, and marry a chorus girl. And if you can't be sure of being right even 55 percent of the time, why should you tell other people they are wrong?

Never begin by announcing, "I am going to prove to you so and so." That's bad. That's tantamount to saying: "I'm smarter than you are. I'm going to tell you a thing or two and make you change your mind." That's a challenge. That arouses opposition, and makes the listener want to battle with you before you even start.

Be wiser than other people, if you can; but do not tell them so.

I believe now hardly anything that I believed twenty years ago - except the multiplication table, and I begin to doubt even that when I read about Einstein. In another twenty years, I may not believe what I have said in this book. I am not so sure now of anything as I used to be. Socrates said repeatedly to his followers in Athens: "One thing only I know; and that is that I know nothing."

There's magic, positive magic, in such phrases as" I may be wrong. I frequently am. Let's examine the facts." That is what a scientist does.
I once interviewed Stefansson, the famous explorer and scientist who spent eleven years up beyond the Arctic Circle and who lived on absolutely nothing but meat and water for six years. He told me of a certain experiment he had conducted and I asked him what he tried to prove by it. I shall never forget his reply. He said: "A scientist never tries to prove anything. He attempts only to find the facts."

You will never get into trouble by admitting that you may be wrong. It will make [the other fellow] want to admit that he, too, may be wrong.

Few people are logical. Most of us are prejudiced and biased. Most of us are blighted with preconceived notions, with jealousy, suspicion, fear, envy, and pride. And most citizens don't want to change their minds about their religion or their hair cut or Communism of Clark Gable.

Most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.

When we are wrong, we may admit it to ourselves. And if we are handled gently and tactfully, we may admit it to others and even take pride in our frankness and broad-mindedness.

"I even forbade myself the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a fix'd opinion, such as 'certainly', 'undoubtedly', etc., and I adopted, instead of them, 'I conceive,' "I apprehend,' or 'I imagine,' a thing to be so or so; or 'it so appears to me at the present.' When
another asserted something that I thought an error, I deny'd myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition: and in answering I began observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appear'd or seem'd to me some difference, etc. I soon found the advantage of this change in my manner; the conversations I engag'd in went more pleasantly." -Benjamin Franklin

Chapter Three: If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.

That policeman, being human, wanted a feeling of importance; so when I began to condemn myself, the only way he could nourish his self-esteem, was to take the magnanimous attitude of showing mercy. But suppose I had tried to defend myself - well, did you ever try to argue with a policeman?

I said "Mr. So-and-so, if what you say is true, I am at fault and there is absolutely no excuse for my blunder. I have been doing drawings for you long enough to know better. I am ashamed of myself."
Immediately he started to defend me. "Yes, you're right, but after all, this isn't a serious mistake. It is only-"
I interrupted him. "Any mistake," I said, "may be costly and they are all irritating." For the first time in my life I was criticizing myself - and I loved it.

Any fool can try to defend his mistakes - and most fools do - but it raises one above the herd and gives one a feeling of nobility and exultation to admit one's mistakes.

Remember the old proverb: "by fighting you never get enough, but by yielding you get more than you expected."

Chapter Four: Begin in a friendly way.

Remember what Lincoln said: "A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall."

Chapter Five: Get the other person saying "yes, yes" immediately.

When a person has said 'No,' all his pride of personality demands that he remains consistent with himself. He may later feel that the 'No,' was ill-advised; nevertheless, there is his precious pride to consider. The skillful speaker gets at the outset a number of yes responses. He has thereby set the psychological processes of his listeners moving in an affirmative direction.

It doesn't pay to argue, it is much more profitable and much more interesting to look at things from the other man's viewpoint and try to get him saying 'yes, yes.'

The Chinese have a proverb pregnant with the age-old wisdom of the changeless East: "He who treads softly goes far."

Chapter Six: Let the other man do a great deal of the talking.

Let the other man talk himself out. He knows more about his business and his problems than you do. So ask him a few questions. Let him tell you a few things.

The truth is even our friends would rather talk to us about their achievements than listen to us boast about ours.
La Rochefoucauld, the French philosopher, said: "If you want enemies, excel your friends; but if you want friends, let your friends excel you."

The Germans have a proverb: "Die reinste Freude ist die Schadenfreude," which, being interpreted, goes something like this: "The purest joy is the malicious joy we take in the misfortunes of those we have envied."

We ought to be modest, for neither you nor I amount to mush. Both of us will pass on and be completely forgotten a century from now.

Come to think about it, you haven't much to brag about anyhow. Do you know what keeps you from becoming an idiot? Not much. Only a nickel's worth of iodine in you thyroid glands. If a physician were to open the thyroid gland on your neck and take out a little iodine, you would become an idiot. A little iodine that can be bought at a corner drug store for five cents is all that stands between you and an institution for the mentally ill. A nickel's worth of iodine! That isn't much to be boasting about, is it?

Chapter Seven: Let the other man feel that the idea is his.

Isn't it bad judgment to try to ram your opinions down the throats of other people? Wouldn't it be wiser to make suggestions - and let the other man think out the conclusion for himself?

No man likes to feel that he is being sold something or told to do a thing. We much prefer to feel that we are buying of our own accord or acting on our own ideas.

When Theodore Roosevelt was Governor of New York, he accomplished an extraordinary feat. He kept on good terms with the political bosses and yet he forced through reforms which they bitterly disliked.
When an important office was to be filled, he invited the political bosses to make recommendations.
"At first," said Roosevelt, "they might propose a broken down party hack, the sort of man who has to be 'taken care of.' I would tell them that to appoint such a man would not be good politics, as the public would not approve it.
"Then they would bring me the name of another party hack, a persistent office holder. I would tell them that this man would not measure up to the expectations of the public.
"Their third suggestion would be a man who was almost good enough, but not quite. Then I would thank them, asking them to try once more, and their fourth suggestion would be acceptable; they would name just the sort of man I should have picked out myself. I would appoint this man - and I would let them take the credit for the appointment . . . I would tell them that I had done these things to please them and now it was their turn to please me."

"The reason why rivers and seas receive the homage of a hundred mountain streams is that they keep below them. Thus they are able to reign over all the mountain streams. So the sage, wishing to be above men, putteth himself below them; wishing to be before them, he putteth himself behind them. Thus, though his place be above men, they do not feel his weight; though his place be before them, they do not count it an injury" - Lao Tse

Chapter Eight: Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.

I should rather walk the sidewalk in front of a man's office for two hours before an interview, than step into his office without a perfectly clear idea of what I am going to say and what he - from my knowledge of his interest and motives - is likely to answer.

If, as a result of reading this book you get only one thing - an increased tendency to think always in terms of the other person's point of view, and see things from his angle as well as your own - if you get only that one thing from this book, it may easily prove to be one of the milestones of your career.

Chapter Nine: Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.

You deserve very little credit for being what you are - and remember, the man who comes to you irritated, bigoted, unreasoning, deserves very little discredit for being what he is. Feel sorry for the poor devil. Pity him. Sympathize with him. Say to yourself "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

"Sympathy the human species universally craves. The child eagerly displays his injury; or even inflicts a cut or bruise in order to reap abundant sympathy. For the same purpose adults show their bruises, relate their accidents, illnesses, especially details of surgical operations. 'Self-pity' for misfortunes real or imaginary is, in some measures, practically a universal practice.

Chapter Ten: Appeal to the nobler motives.

A man usually has two reasons for doing a thing: the one that sounds good and the real one.

When John D. Rockefeller, Hr. wished to stop newspaper photographers from snapping pictures of his children, he too appealed to [photographers'] nobler motives. He said: " You know how it is, boys. You've got children yourselves, some of you. And you know it's not good for youngsters to get too much publicity.

I am convinced that individuals who are inclined to chisel will in most cases react favorably if you make him feel that you consider him honest, upright and fair.

Chapter Eleven: Dramatize your ideas.

The element of curiosity holds the prospects' attention.

Experts in window displays know the trenchant power of dramatization.

Chapter Twelve: Throw down a challenge.

The desire to excel! The challenge! Throwing down the gauntlet! An infallible way of appealing to men of spirit.

"I have never foiund that pay and pay alone would either bring together or hold good men. I think it was the game itself." - Harvey Firestone

If you want to win men - spirited men, men of mettle - to your way of thinking, throw down a challenge.

Part Four: Nine ways to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment

Chapter One: Begin with praise and honest appreciation

It's always easier to listen to unpleasant things after we have heard some praise of our good points.

A barber lathers a man before he shaves him.

Chapter Two: Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly

Charles Schwab was passing through one of his steel mills one day at noon when he came across some of his employees smoking. Immediately above their heads was a sign which said "No Smoking".
Did Schwab point to the sign and say, "Can't you read?" Oh no, not Schwab. He walked over to the men, handed each one a cigar, and said, "I'll appreciate it, boys, if you will smoke these on the outside." They knew they had broken a rule - and they admired him because he said nothing about it and gave them a little present and made them feel important.

Chapter Three: Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person

Chapter Four: Ask questions instead of giving direct orders

He always gave suggestions, not orders. He never said, for example "Do this or do that," or "Don't do this or don't do that." He would say, "You might consider this," or "do you think that would work?"

Chapter Five: Let the other person save face

Mustapha Kemal made a Napoleonic speech to his soldiers, saying "Your goal is the Mediterranean," and one of the bitterest wars in modern history was on. The Turks won; and when the two Greek generals, Tricoupis and Dionis, made their way to Kemal's headquarters to surrender, the Turkish people called down curses of heaven upon their vanquished foes.
But Kemal's attitude was free from triumph.
"Sit down, gentlemen," he said, grasping their hands. "You must be tired." Then, after discussing the campaign in detail, he softened the blow of their defeat. "War," he said, as one soldier to another, "is a game in which the best men are sometimes worsted."

Chapter Six: Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be "hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise."

Chapter Seven: Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to

The average person can be lead readily if you have his respect and if you show that you respect him for some kind of ability.

Give him a fine reputation to live up to and he will make prodigious efforts rather than see you disillusioned.

There is an old saying: "Give a dog a bad name and you may as well hang him." But give him a good name - and see what happens!

If you must deal with a crook, there is only one possible way of getting the better of him - treat him as if he were an honorable gentleman. Take it for granted he is on the level. He will be so flattered by such treatment that he may answer to it, and be proud that someone trusts him.

Chapter Eight: Use encouragement. Make a fault seem easy to correct.

She kept praising the things I did right and minimizing my errors. "You have a natural sense of rhythm," "You really are a natural born dancer." Now common sense tells me that I always have been and always will be a fourth-rate dancer; yet, deep in my heart, I still like to think that maybe she meant it. To be sure, I was paying her to say it; but why bring that up?

Chapter Nine: Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest

Napoleon was criticized for giving 'toys' to war-hardened veterans, and Napoleon replied, "Men are ruled by toys."

Part Five: Letters that produced results

Almost all the progress ever made in human thought has been made by the Doubting Thomases, the questioners, the challengers, the show-me crowd.

Note that Ken Dyke doesn't waste time talking about how important his company is. Instead, he immediately shows the other fellow how much he has to lean on him.

Benjamin Franklin asked his enemy to fo him a favor. A favor that
pleased the other man, a favor that touched his vanity, a favor that gave him recognition, a favor that subtly expressed Franklin's admiration for his knowledge and achievements.

Part Six: Seven rules for making your home life happier

Chapter One: Don't, don't nag!

The great tragedy of Lincoln's life also was his marriage. Not his assassination, mind you, but his marriage. When Booth fired, Lincoln never realized he had been shot; but he reaped almost daily, for twenty-three years, "the bitter harvest of conjugal infelicity." "Conjugal Infelicity?" That's putting in mildly. For almost a quarter of a century, Mrs. Lincoln nagged and harassed the life out of him.

Chapter Two: Don't try to make your partner over

Chapter Three: Don't criticize

Chapter Four: Give honest appreciation

Chapter Five: Pay little attentions

From time immemorial, flowers have been considered the language of love . . . Yet considering the rarity with which the average husband takes home a bunch of daffodils, you might suppose them to be as expensive as orchids and as hard to come by as the edelweiss which flowers on the cloud-swept cliffs of the Alps.

Chapter Six: Be courteous

We wouldn't dream of interupting strangers to say, "Good heavens, are you going to tell that old story again!" We wouldn't dream of opening our friends' mail without permission,, or prying into their personal secrets. And it's only the members of our own family, those who are nearest and dearest to us, that we dare insult for their trivial faults.

Many men who wouldn't dream of speaking sharply to a customer, or even to their partners in business, think nothing of barking at their wives. Yet, for their personal happines, marriage is far more important to them, far more vital, than business.

Compared with marriage, beaing born is a mere episode in our careers, and dying a trivial incident.

Chapter Seven: Read a good book on the sexual side of marriage

Happy marriages are rarely the product of chance: they are architectural in that they are intelligently and deliberately planned.

Sentimental reticence must be replaced by an ability to discuss objectively and with detachment attitudes and practices of married life.

If the UN says so . . .

The UN has told Korea it ought to drop its cherished self-identification as a pure-blooded race.

Meeting in Geneva from July 30 until Aug. 17, the 71st UNCERD reviewed national reports on Costa Rica, New Zealand, Mozambique, Indonesia, and South Korea and released recommendations for them. On Aug. 9-10, it looked into reports submitted by the South Korean government. In the recommendations, UNCERD expressed discomfort about a prevalent notion in Korean culture of "pure-bloodedness," saying, "The whole concept came very close to ideas of racial superiority."

This is, of course, one of these stupid old ideas created for nationalist purposes that people in Korea carry on without thinking about whether or not they make any sense. While many Koreans do believe this to be true, most of the smart people I know know it to be ridiculous, and I have often heard the opposite "Korea is a rich purée of other groups that has simply had the lumps blended out" view, citing ancient immigrantion from countries as far afield as India and Vietnam, and of course Mongolia, whence Korean babies are said to get their famed 'Mongol spot'.

Which many Koreans will tell you only occurs in Mongolians and their close cousins, the Koreans, although this is patently false.
Anyway, yeah, can the pure-bloodedness fairytale, Korea.

Update: The Marmot has a detailed breakdown of exactly the information I have heard about immigrants throughout Korea's history

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Who's riding who?

For my money, there is no fashion statement in the world (with the possible exception of pre-aged jeans) that says "I am an ignorant, attention-seeking social climber" better than the Ralph Lauren 'Big Pony' line of shirts with giant logos on them.

Here, Big Pony is being modeled by good breasted terrible actress Han Yeseul

I am not the type of person who cares a great deal about fashion. I have a simple aesthetic. I don't like clothes with logos or words on them and I don't like non-functional things (decorative belts, buttons with no buttoning function) and I hate false aging of clothes. These last two peeves fall under the basic category of decadence. What moves me about the Big Pony thing is that it cuts to the heart of what people want out of brands like Ralph Lauren. They want to tell the world that they are the type of person that likes/wears/can afford Ralph Lauren clothing. These huge logos allow them to broadcast this message in a more efficient, desperate way. I imagine that the wealthy people who wear clothing more expensive than Ralph Lauren snicker to themselves when they see one of these tacky logos bouncing towards them, thinking 'Who does this K-Mart shopper think she is?' but to me the real folly is in the tastelessness of the striving, the form it takes. The same goes for the Burberry tartan

And the abominable rainbow-colored Louis Vuitton bags
The thing is that the item itself is nothing, only the logo and the cache that goes with affixing that famous name to your totem pole. Here's an illustrative story. My mother knows that Korean ladies love brand name luxury items, so she went shopping in America for some gifts for my wife. She bought her a Coach handbag that was made of the same leather as the photo below
I read the advertising copy that came with it and was surprised to discover the history of Coach, that the leather was patterned after baseball glove leather etc. Anyway, my wife loved the bag but was surprised that it was Coach. Every Coach item she had ever seen sold in Korea had the Coach logo all over it thusly.
It's not even about the social climbing, because that's no sin. It's the tackiness that gets me. If you want to social climb, why not do it tastefully, at least that way you might actually social climb up, instead of climbing all over the bars of your cage like a monkey in a zoo.

Two pompous heels with no perspective

That's how I feel compelled to describe both the subject and author of the Slate article 'Worst Op-ed Ever Written'. Author Ron Rosenbaum browbeats out of touch Professor Stanley Fish for his New York Times op-ed "Getting Coffee Is Hard To Do" in which he reports the bewildering experience of going to Starbucks, which he seems to consider a pretty low-to-middle brow, uncouth sort of place, where you are forced to rub shoulders with the masses, use all sorts of silly faux-fancy words that are supposed to make you sound sophisticated, and finally are forced to add sugar to your own coffee. Rosenbaum considers Fish's deprecating detachment from the experience insulting. Both come off as unlikeable people whom I would not like to meet.
The thing that got to me though are Fish's reaction to the Starbucks fixin's bar and Rosenbaum's reaction to that reaction. Fish says that, by paying $3 and up for a coffee
what you're paying for is the privilege of doing the work that should be done by
those who take your money.

This is patently false. You are paying so much for coffee because a) you can and b) you want to.
Rosenbaum takes great offense at Fish's demand for good service, and particularly
the growing practice of shifting the burden of labor to the consumer—gas
stations, grocery and drug stores, bagel shops (why should I put on my own cream
cheese?), airline check-ins, parking lots.

The brunt of Rosenbaum's thougthless, ideology-driven resentment is directed at Fish's use of the phrase "those we pay to serve us". Rosenbaum says

Is it just me, or is there something grating in that phrase: "those we pay to serve us"? So distasteful, the life of the servant class, compared with the life of the mind.
But at least in the old days the servant class hopped to it and got professor Fish his coffee and Danish in "20 seconds, tops" and worked themselves to the point of exhaustion all day for less than a minimum wage to make sure he would have something to consume with his "sports page."

First of all, I think it would be an exagerration to claim the existence of a servant class among the people who work at Starbucks. One of the features of having such a hugely mobilized workforce as America does is that many of the people doing the serving are young and destined for jobs in other fields. Starbucks workers by and large don't belong to a servant class.
The real issue is that Rosenbaum resents Fish, a professor, mildly disdaining a mainstrem middle-class experience that likely makes Rosenbaum feel at least a little sophisticated. Rosenbaum even tries to inject a little working-class anti-intellectual spirit into his article with the moldy old chestnut

As multidegreed as he is, I have a feeling that it would be an invaluable addition to his education if professor Fish spent a week "serving" as a barista. You know: For someone who believes in perspectives rather than foundations (except when it comes to grants), it would seem like a useful additional perspective on the whole coffee-servant question.

Well I'll go ahead and call you both dumb. Professor Fish, the trend of increased do-it-yourselfness in America is a direct result of rising wages and standards of living. You'd be paying a lot more than $3 for coffee if you were getting any better service, because people aren't cheap. If you would like better service, you do still have the option of going to a diner where a waitress will serve you, but you'll pay for that service and get cheap coffee instead. Rosenbaum, stop acting like we're doing more things for ourselves because we're anti-elitist and somehow in touch with the working class. We do it because we have to. Both of you, with your hoary old rationales for your beliefs and actions, are delusional, because the things you're discussing as if they are some sort of cultural issues are purely products of economics. As are both of you. Deal with it.

Why budget brands have ugly packaging

From an article about the superior, unadvertised Starbucks short cappucino on Slate. The author claims that the short cappucino is the best one, because it has the highest espresso-to-milk ratio, yet it is not even on the menu and if you order it the cashier will not yell it to the barista:

The difficulty is that if some of your products are cheap, you may lose money from customers who would willingly have paid more. So, businesses try to discourage their more lavish customers from trading down by making their cheap products look or sound unattractive, or, in the case of Starbucks, making the cheap product invisible. The British supermarket Tesco has a "value" line of products with infamously ugly packaging, not because good designers are unavailable but because the supermarket wants to scare away customers who would willingly spend more. "The bottom end of any market tends to get distorted," says McManus. "The more market power firms have, the less attractive they make the cheaper products."

Interesting and effective. While some people will never buy value brands, there are those, like me, my wife and much of my family, who will only buy value brands of certain products, mostly commodities and non-foodstuffs. The article continues, doozily
The practice is hundreds of years old. The French economist Emile Dupuit wrote about the early days of the railways, when third-class carriages were built without roofs, even though roofs were cheap: "What the company is trying to do is prevent the passengers who can pay the second-class fare from traveling third class; it hits the poor, not because it wants to hurt them, but to frighten the rich."

Friday, August 17, 2007

The most fascinating thing I've read all day

I'm settling down for a long period of inactivity, which means lots of blogging, studying and sweating in Korea. Here's the most interesting thing I've learned all day from Salon, about collateralized debt obligations or CDOs:

The CDO takes a pool of risky mortgage loans and divides it into slices. For simplicity's sake, let's say that a mortgage-backed security gets divided into two slices when it is transformed into a CDO -- a senior slice and a junior slice. Let's say that the senior slice gets rated AAA+ and the junior slice gets rated BBB-. But if anything goes wrong -- if the homeowners whose loans are part of this security start missing their payments -- the investors in the junior slice have to lose all of their money before the investors in the senior slice start feeling any pain. That's the beauty of the scheme. You take a bunch of bad loans and turn some of them into high-rated gold and some into lower-rated bronze. You sell the gold to the cautious and the bronze to the bold. If a few loans go kaput, the bronze investors suffer. If all the loans go kaput, everybody gets hurt. Unless there's a total financial meltdown, everyone is happily making money.

Kind of reminds me of the bulkheads on the Titanic. "If we start to take on water, close the bulkheads and sail the first class passengers the rest of the way with a hull full of pickled Irishmen!" (chomps cigar)

The other Korean hostage drama, day 2

The difference between coming home sooner and later all comes down to money. And I am talking a little bit sooner, much later (like shockingly so), and a lot of money. What do you think, anybody want to chip in? Should I start taking PayPal?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hey American Embassy in Seoul

Fuck you for ruining my travel plans.

Here's what happened. We get to the airport and check in. Bags go through, boarding passes come out, and then there's a holdup. My wife's visa has a problem. The date of issue is right but the expiration date says July 19 2006. Now I had seen this, but it doesn't say 'date of expiry', it says 'IV expires on'. I assumed that since all of this stuff is done on computers and I've seen it written a million times in a hundred places that the visa is valid for six months after issuance that this referred to something else, like perhaps an InterView (hey, give me a break, okay, I've had a rough day). I assure them that that is merely referring to some other date, like perhaps the date our visa application initially expired on. They told us to wait. They had to call New York immigration and find out what to do because if they sent my wife and she got deported they have to pay a $3000 fine. We waited and they called. It seemed that they were bound by some rule to constantly call until they got an answer or final boarding call. We went and had ice cream. My wife leafed through her previous passport and figured out what the date was. It was the date that her first health check (she applied for the visa twice over a one year period) expired. How this expiration date got on her visa we had no idea but we went to explain it to the clerk. When we found her she sort of yelled at us about being 'frustrated' (답답해) about having to keep calling continuously for two hours, which was not a very nice thing to say. We waited until 7:20, at which point the New York immigration office told them that they shouldn't send my wife because they are bound to accept the information on the visa.
I know I know, I was a fool to not look into that date, but what can I say, I was home free.
Any way, I'm over it now. We'll both be there soon, so keep your pants on and think happy thoughts. Tomorrow we will be going to the aforementioned fuckuppy embassy to raise bloody hell and then it's on to the travel agent to try to get a new ticket. That will be the hard part, there's no telling when we'll be able to fly.