Software and Creativity

My wife and I are friends with a couple who are a filmmaker and a painter. As my wife is also a painter, I’ve occasionally referred to myself as the uncreative member of the group–a designation adamantly rejected by our painter (and former physics major) friend, who points out that programming is indeed creative.

While that’s technically true, there’s obviously a pretty big gap between painting and programming (although of course, I appreciate my friend’s inclusiveness). However I’ve struggled to concisely express the nature of the gap. I doubt there’s any original insight here, but this is how things finally clicked in my mind. It’s partly about the work process, and partly about the end result.

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Faith and Reason

Interesting NYT article about Robert George, a Princeton professor who seems to have taken over as the intellectual leader of the Catholic-Evangelical political alliance after Neuhaus died. (I admittedly would likely not have clicked through to the article if Tyler Cowen had not blurbed it as “proof that intercourse is special.” At least from the summary in the article, however, it seems simply like a rewording of standard Catholic arguments.)

The article brings back memories for me, because George is a Thomist, and I was very attracted to the Scholastics when I was a Christian. The claim that Christian morality can be arrived at through universal reason is, I suppose, the only way that someone who loves intellectual rigor can justify imposing their beliefs on the rest of the world.

What’s flabbergasting, looking back, is how incredibly weak the edifice is. Sure, us mushy relativists have a hard time making a coherent case for any single position. But George is attempting to carry the meticulously jointed weight of a skyscraper on premises blatantly selected for their end result:

First, he contends that marriage is a uniquely “comprehensive” union, meaning that it is shared at several different levels at once — emotional, spiritual and bodily. “And the really interesting evidence that it is comprehensive is that it is anchored in bodily sharing,” he says.

In other words: sex only belongs in marriage because marriage is about sex.

I understand the pleasure of certainty. I remember the comfort of believing that the world actually has a right answer. But I also remember the nagging–and later searing–doubt of knowing that the whole approach was build on a few, highly doubtful assumptions. I’m sure George is too smart not to realize that, and I don’t envy him that feeling.

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From Barcino to Hispalis

Meia and I got back last weekend from a two-week trip to Spain, my first time outside of North America since living in Seville from age 6 to 12. My rambling thoughts are after the jump.

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The Limits of Incumbency

(Sorry, local politics post, non-Seattle people feel free to ignore this.)

I’m still in shock that Nickels didn’t make it through the primary. I voted for McGinn with the thought that Nickels would undoubtedly make it through the primary, and trounce McGinn in the general election. But I figured that McGinn giving Nickels heat on environment and transit issues for the next two months would be a good thing. (And maybe it would force Nickels to lay off a little on the clubs, too.)

At this point I’m obviously inclined to favor McGinn–a long-time activist with at least one clear achievement in local politics–over Mallahan–who’s not only a Johnny-come-lately to politics, but seems to have a bit of a worrisome anti-tax streak. On the other hand, Mallahan has a much more comprehensive and detailed agenda at this point, although he’s pretty fuzzy on the funding. And even on transit (McGinn’s home turf), Mallahan takes on two of my pet peeves: the money wasted on the South Lake Union Trolley, and the excessive distribution of Metro funds to the suburbs as opposed to the urban core.

So I’m looking forward to the agendas and details coming out over the next two months. But unfortunately I’m not sure that either of these guys will actually be a competent mayor.

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I enjoy debating…

…but Julian Sanchez defends it more eloquently than I ever could.

Posted in Abstractions

Obvious Question

Can we treat the financial industry more like the way we treat the auto industry?

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Why I love Yglesias

It takes a keen mind to make the leap from topless coffee shops to regulatory capture.

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