Saturday, May 28, 2005

Some Vignettes from Northern Virginia

I have been in the DC area for nearly a week. Giving lectures and talks here and here. Very interesting.

Some vignettes, asides:

1. Cheesy Chinese restaurant, buffet, full of fat gringos stuffing themselves with fried meat in cheap sweet sauce. All the wait staff is Latino. Next door is Korean restaurant, no gringos anywhere, no one speaks English, menu printed in Korean with tiny, ungrammatical, and largely incomprehensible English descriptions. I ate at the Korean place, of course, and took two other entrees back for the next night (I had a fridge in the room). One was a stew, Tyler warned me not to, but...I got lucky, and it was fantastic. Amazing that those two restaurants can exist literally side by side in strip mall.

2. Vienna Metro stop: I try to use mass transit, and be a good worker bee. Come the Revolution, we'll all get to be shining, happy people and live in metal boxes and take trains to our environmentally friendly workplaces. But you can't take the Metro at Vienna if you get there at 10 am on a weeday. The reason is that....there is nowhere to park. Now, the parking problem is not that hard to solve: charge more. It costs just $3.50 to park ALL DAY. And all the spaces are filled by 9 a.m. Why not another lot, or parking deck, that charges $10, or whatever it takes? I asked one of the attendants why they didn't charge more. He said, "We want people to use the Metro!" I say, there is no where to park, that means I can't use the Metro, and I have to drive my car into the city. "Get here earlier", he said. No, the point is not ME, it is that you need to have some short-term parking, at a high enough price that there are open spaces. You need to have...."Just get here earlier!" he said. And, of course, he has a point: Vienna is zoned so that no private company could open a new parking garage, even though it would be profitable and socially useful to do so. So, as far as this employee of the nanny state was concerned, I should just go fuck myself. They were providing subsidized parking, and we taxpayers should be grateful.

3. Gordon Tullock was completely undone by seeing me. "You have long hair, which means you are a liberal. But you carry an umbrella, and a small black umbrella at that. You must be a conservative. Just what ARE you?" My hair really bugged him. It is odd looking. Grad students at Public Choice Outreach conference were tremendous. What a terrific program.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Okay, yes, I've been a little grouchy

Check this story.

It made MSNBC.

Dujuana, or "Toni" as I knew her, had three kids, two boys and a girl. Oldest was 8. They would come visit now and then, jump on our trampoline, play with our dogs.

Because Toni was our nanny for five years. Every day, she watched our boys. Wrestled with them. She had this idea that it was okay for boys to peepee in public, as long as they got behind a tree or something. They thought that was the coolest thing.

She held them on her lap and read to them. Worked to teach Brian to read. Wanted to be a teacher. She was good at getting together materials for teaching, crafts sort of stuff. Wonderful.

She was constantly trying to work things out with Michael, then her husband and now her killer. He was a good guy, to all appearances. Worked hard. Sometimes Toni would stay at our house, go out to dinner with us, when Michael was beating her and she needed to get away. He would call, and I would talk to him. He was always distantly polite, knowing that we were protecting her. But he never threatened any of us in any way.

Well, this time she didn't get away. He beat her to death with his fists, broad daylight, in someone else's yard, after he chased her.

She had a restraining order against him. But it didn't do much good, because she kept going back to him.

This may not be a good excuse for being grouchy. But it is a good reason to be ashamed of being male. You can't blame this on handguns, or illegal weapons in a moment of passion. He just chased her down and then beat her to death with his bare hands.

The news story said that Michael tried to grap a jailer's gun. I say put one bullet in a Glock, and then give it to him. Let him do the right thing.

Maybe if you had ever had an actual job...

My lord.

I have just gotten several emails from people outraged that I tried to steal money.

Of course, that means that they have never actually worked for a living in a retail job. Enjoy your trust funds, you bunch of spoiled rich kids.

Look: I gave the kid at Starbucks $5 for a $2.37 bill. He owed me $2.63.

But he rang it up as if I gave him $10.

Now, all he had to do was laugh and assume that the $5 was what I gave him (which I did), give me the $2.63 change, and the register was right.

Instead, he took another $5 from me, and THEN HAD TO GIVE IT RIGHT BACK.

Suppose he had made a mistake, and had rung up $1,000. Then, the register would read change of $997.63. Would I need to run find a $1k bill to save his job? Of course not. All he needed to do was give me change for the five, which is what I actually gave him. If you ever had had a job where you dealt with public, instead of just looking at your limo window at the po' folks, you would realize that all that mattered was that the cash in the register increased by the purchase price of $2.37. The payment/change thing is irrelevant.

Lordy pie. You might want to at least pretend you have had some contact with reality before you started whatever little rich kid isolation chamber you live in now.

Why I am (apparently) not a Conservative

Andrew Sullivan: on what has changed.

Conservatism, MY kind of conservatism, is dead. So, vote Libertarian.

(Nod to BER)

Starbucks Performance Art

Sometimes, the urban performance artist just has to take a chance, and stuff happens that you simply could not plan.

I walk into the Starbucks. It could be anywhere. Male employees all have hipster facial hair but no obvious nonear piercings.

Order a large coffee (I refuse to say, "Venti Grando Fat Marlon Brando, or whatever froufrou name they use for large). Also a paper, for my daily dose of WaPo disinfo.

Barristo rings up $2.63, I hand him a five spot. So far, so good.

But then I hear a sharp intake of breath. The kid has rung up $10.00, with change of $7.37. (Extra credit: is this actually a problem? Hint: no)

Without thinking, I go for it. "Oh, god, now you've done it. Do you need to call the manager?"

Barristo: "No, I can't, I've already screwed up today. He'll fire me."

Me (not believing my good luck, and going for broke): "How about I give you a ten. Then you can give me the change correctly?"

Barristo: (ridiculously relieved) "Oh, could you? That would be great!"

Me (ignoring the ten in my wallet): "Gosh, I don't have a ten. Can I give you another five?"

Barristo: "Yes, that's perfect." Takes the five, puts it in the register, gets ready to give me the SAME FIVE back as part of the ten that I never gave him. Sensing a problem, he does what any other moron would do, and totally freezes up, staring at the register drawer.

Me (working a hunch): "Can you make sure and give me back the same five? That bill has been in my family for generations, and we really like it."

Barristo: (catatonic...so much information... HEAD....REALLY....HURTS ....finally, he whispers, I swear): "I'll have to ask the manager." Waves to manager.

Manager: "What's up?"

Me: "The bill was 2-something and I gave him a five but he rang up ten so he made me gave him another five but now I want that same five back and he won't give it to me."

Manager looks at Barristo, eyebrows raised.

Barristo:

Manager: Stares at register, then at money tray. Picks up five like it is a dead cockroach, gives it to me. (warmly) "Sorry for the wait, sir." (not so warmly) "(Barristo NAME), can we talk for a minute, in back?"

Kgrease..dedicated to bringing equilibrium to employment markets everywhere.