Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

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Location: New England, United States

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Spy vs Spy has long been a cartoon staple of Mad Magazine. The two antagonists perpetually try to outsmart and defeat the other, never appreciating the futility of their mutually hopeless quests and dirty tricks.

The Spy vs Spy drama turns up on Wikipedia as SPA vs SPA, where SPA variously stands for Single Purpose Account or Sock Puppet Account. But because it's so easy to create sock puppets on Wikipedia, the embattled characters turn into micro-armies of warring factions.

Most of the SPAs get wiped out, but some SPA vs SPA dramas turn into epic battles that last for weeks, months, or years. The genre has captured the imagination of more than a few observers and critics, many of whom chronicle the more amusing cases on Wikipedia Review. In at least one case, an SPA has been outed as a real cloak-and-dagger character with alleged connections to Britain's MI5 and/or the US CIA.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mechanism Design vs. Intelligent Design

The Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded today to three researchers who developed an economic theory known as Mechanism Design.

Mechanism Design is a branch of Game Theory that investigates how to design economic systems which induce participants to play both optimally and ethically.

That is, in Mechanism Design, there is no advantage to Gaming the System.

There is a very short article in Wikipedia on Mechanism Design, compared to a very long one on Intelligent Design. The irony is that Mechanism Design is an intelligent application of mathematical analysis of economic systems.

Methinks it would behoove the Wikipedians to spend less time on Intelligent Design and more time on Mechanism Design.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Alexithymia and Acedia

There are some 40 muscles on the face that can be modulated into an estimated ten thousand distinct facial expressions, each one telegraphing some subtly nuanced affective emotional state.

Not surprisingly, the average person's vocabulary lacks names for quite so many affective states.

In 1972, the Harvard Medical School researcher, Peter Sifneos, coined the term Alexithymia, to mean the inability to call up a suitable vocabulary term to name one's current affective emotional state.

With some 10,000 nuanced emotional states, everyone eventually runs out of words to describe how they feel.

Nonetheless, the diligent researcher is wont to stumble upon a useful new word now and then to reduce the exasperating poverty of alexythymia.

There is an interesting word that comes to us from theology that I first heard on the radio last week. Acedia is a word of Greek origin that means spiritual torpor.

Methinks there is a lot of that melancholic malaise going around these days.

Ironically enough, some people pass through an opposite state of being riled up before settling back into the spiritual torpor of acedia.

Somewhere between these two extremes, there must be a divine middle ground of good humored spiritual enthusiasm that is neither reclusively torporous nor obtrusively obnoxious.

Perhaps those with this gift become beloved performing artists.