Saturday, February 04, 2006

Friday, February 03, 2006

Black and Decker to Testify

Story in the News and Observer this morning, with headline (yes, I'm serious)

"Black and Decker Told to Testify"

The State Board of Elections has directed House Speaker Jim Black and a key ally, former Rep. Michael Decker, to testify next week at an inquiry into possible illegal campaign activity.

Decker, a Forsyth County Republican, helped Black remain in power by switching to the Democratic Party just before the 2003 legislative session. That allowed Black, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County, to enter into a power-sharing agreement with Republican Richard Morgan of Moore County.

During the time of Decker's switch, people in professions that have often aided Black's campaigns with political contributions sent thousands of dollars to Decker's campaign.

The elections board issued several subpoenas this week to people who contributed to Decker's campaign at the time of his party switch. They include optometrists, video poker operators, chiropractors and nurse practitioners.

The board served Black on Thursday with a subpoena to testify; Decker was served Tuesday. The board also served Black's legislative executive assistant, Meredith Swindell, and his campaign treasurer, Virginia Kelly. All four are scheduled to appear Wednesday.

Black and Decker could not be reached for comment. Black said in a statement that he is "fully cooperating with the investigation and would have been happy to appear with or without a subpoena."


So, write your own joke. Here's mine: "Black and Decker turn out to be just tools of the Democratic administration. You know the drill: first it's only a bit, but soon the whole thing turns into a router."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Thong in My Heart, and A Bun in the Oven

Cafe Press has Ludwig von Mises thongs for sale (as told on Div-o-Lab).

Right under the thongs? Baby clothes. I'm not saying it's causal, but....first thong, then baby clothes. I'm just sayin'.

I'm not sure this was the kind of Human Action Mises had in mind.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Reverse, Reverse, Reverse that Trend!

The Belles, once again, apply logic to lunacy. And logic, again, wins.

Clara, author of that post, is very impressive. There really is hope for the world, if we can produce young people like this.

Check these very nice book reviews:
Chomping Chomsky
Women Who Make the World Worse

Doing Good on Someone Else's Dime

Two of my favorite people have interesting things to say about "the left". More like, "what's left?" after 40 years of "the movement."

Arnold Kling: Most people who were liberals in 1968 still are. Liberals. In 1968.

The Conventional Wisdom
The Conventional Wisdom among well-educated liberals in 1968 included the following:
o Anti-Communism was a greater menace than Communism.
o The planet could not possibly support the population increases that would take place by
the end of the twentieth century.
o Conservatives stood in the way of progress for minorities.
o Government programs were the best way to lift people out of poverty.
o What underdeveloped countries needed were large capital investments, financed by foreign aid from the rich countries.
o Inflation was a cost-push phenomenon, requiring government intervention in wage and price setting.

The degree of confidence in these beliefs was so strong that liberals in 1968 came to the overriding conclusion that: Anyone who is not a liberal must be incorrigibly stupid

and, Craig Newmark (no, not the one with the list, fercrineoutloud):

Kling asserts that liberals think that anyone who is not a liberal must be "incorrigibly stupid". Not quite. As we know from A Conflict of Visions, imperfect intelligence is what conservatives tend to attribute to liberals. Most conservatives would quickly note, however, that they, too, are imperfectly intelligent: social and economic institutions are not easy for any single person to understand.

Liberals, on the other hand, believe that institutions and their workings are usually quite easy to understand. So easy, that even non-liberals must understand them, too. Liberals thus tend to believe that non-liberals are not merely stupid, they are evil. Liberals do refer to conservatives as stupid, of course, but especially these days, angry allegations of bad faith--of evil character--dominate.

And I'd add this brief review of 60's liberals. They were right--to their great and everlasting glory--on civil rights. They were right to oppose the draft. Some parts of their safety and environmental programs were reasonable. (Taking the lead out of gasoline and car seatbelts, for examples.)

But IMHO two generations of experience shows they were wrong about almost everything else. From education to crime, from welfare to tax rates, and on each and every aspect of our foreign policy. The Liberal worldview is perhaps well-intentioned, but everyone knows what the road to Hell is paved with.
(edited slightly by The End)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sorry I'm Late

No, you're not. If you were actually sorry, you wouldn't be late next time. And you will be.

I hate that phrase, "sorry I'm late." I have to go to so many meetings. And I can tell you in advance who is going to be late.

So, as part of the service offered here at The End, five (as they say) "True Facts" about people and time:

Five True Facts About People and Time

1. The busier the person, the less likely they are to be late. Busy people are more likely to be good time managers. This may be because they have to manage a scarce resource, and so develop institutional rules for governing their day. For example, when I was junior. I never kept a calendar, and just relied on "memory" for meetings. What that means is that I was usually late, and often just missed stuff completely. By comparison, now I am almost always on time. But I have an assistant and an electronic calendar, and I live by her rules and its dictates. There is a more sinister interpretation, however. Competent people adjust; if you are capable of getting better at your job, you will be given progressively more and more responsibility. And that includes managing your own time and respecting that of others. Incompetent people like to BELIEVE they are busy, because it gives them an excuse for sucking. And, they are always late. (A caveat: TRULY busy people, like Presidents or Provosts, are often late, usually because their previous meeting started late, probably because some shmoe came in and said, "Oh, sorry I'm late." GRRRRRR.)

2. The closer the person's office is to the meeting room, the more likely they are to be late to the meeting. To be fair, this is understandable, and perhaps unavoidable. But pay attention, and you'll see it's true. If someone is coming from another city, the importance of the meeting is elevated in their mind. For someone who has to drive, likewise. Even if you just have to walk to another building, you are more likely to be on time. But for the person in the building, and especially for someone right across the hall...well, they are usually late. They may check in once, notice that several people aren't there yet, and then go make a phone call. Then, when in fact they are the last one to come in, five minutes late, they say (you guessed it), "Oh, sorry I'm late. I was just making a phone call." As if that mattered.

3. Small meetings can have convergence problems, just like maximum likelihood estimations. Someone shows up, puts down their briefcase and papers, sees no one else in the room, and goes to get some coffee. Because they are three minutes early, they stop to chat to a colleague or a staff person. They end up being five minutes late, but their briefcase sits there in mute proxy, evidence they were in fact early but the meeting failed to converge. I have seen meetings start fifteen minutes late, when one at a time person after person says, "Oh, Smith isn't here yet. I'm going to get a soda. Anyone else want something?" and off they go. Smith comes back, and Jones decides to run get a book she left in her office. "We can't start 'til Mbuto gets back; I'll just be gone a minute." (Honestly, I am guilty of this, all the time. Mea culpa).

4. If you are always late, it is not an accident. Random things happen. Being late, if it were random, would probably be negatively autocorrelated, an (AR[-1]) process. That is, if I am late once because I got caught behind a school bus, I will be early next time because I found it embarrassing to be late. But late people are ALWAYS late, so it is more like an idiosyncratic autoregressive time series, (AR_i[1]). If you find you are always late, there is a feasible solution: LEAVE EARLIER. If you choose not to do this, you are deciding to insult your colleagues in a show of passive-aggressive vanity. "Oh, sorry I'm late. You wouldn't BELIEVE what happened this time." Actually, that's right. I DON'T believe it. You are just a pinhead. Chronically late people always time it so that if they catch every light and find a parking space in front of the door of building, they would be 30 seconds late. But "something goes wrong" (surprise), and it is the fault of the thing, not the person's own egregious solipsism.

5. Lateness is ingrained, as a social convention. When first I got to Duke, and became Department Chair, I tried to start our meetings on time. There had evolved a convention that meetings and talks started seven minutes late. It was a translation of origin problem: 1:07 was actually the origin, 1:00, for a talk advertised to start at 1 pm. I pointed out that this was arbitrary, and therefore could be changed. Just move the intercept 0, instead of 7 minutes, and we'll start on time. For a while, I would introduce the speaker at 1 pm, to an empty room, and people would come in late, whispering "Oh, sorry I'm late!" Then, a few people would show up on time, but I would wait until more showed up so that we didn't (1) embarrass the speaker by introducing her to an empty room, or (2) interrupt her with late-arriving "sorry"-whisperers. I gave up, within a month. Now, people come in at X:07 for an X o'clock talk, and there are always several who come in late. "Oh, I'm sorry..." AAAARGGGGHHHHH.

BONUS: There is an easy test for finding out if someone is chronically late. You don't need experience to find out, don't need meetings. Just look at their watch. If they set their watch more than five minutes "fast" (i.e., ahead), they are a late-nik. I find it remarkable that someone would set their watch, ON PURPOSE, to a time different than the correct time. (I set mine according to the NIST Clock, to the nearest second, once a week). As "Doc Potter" says:

Well, first off, set your clock to the CORRECT time - always. Setting it ahead is a trap. It actually encourages you to be late because you look at the time and then tell yourself that your really have more time, so you slow down and procrastinate even more.

The "set watch ahead" trick would only work if it were done WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE. Just be on time....

UPDATE: An astute reader (anonymous by choice; probably some late-ster) points to this piece on the claim that "Punctuality is Inefficient." Well, that's obviously wrong. He wants to argue that punctuality is, in fact, Pareto optimal. But then he wants to claim that being late / being late (for two people) is the Nash Equilibrium. Then, he bails on that, admitting that in fact the game has no equilibrium. Nonetheless, the good Andrew Chamberlain does make a good point: at its base, the problem is that I dislike MY waiting much more than I feel bad about YOUR waiting. You feel the same, only in reverse. But, of course, manners and conventions are ABOUT solving this sort of problem.

UPDATE II: MR's Alex Tabarrok summarizes some interesting research. An interesting Nash Equilibrium argument. But hard to buy, since it can just unravel. If I expect you to arrive 10 minutes late, I show up 12 minutes late, and so on. Not at all clear that there are just two strategies, show up on time or show up 10 minutes late. But if there are just two strategies, then it is true that there are two equilibria (though only one is subgame perfect).

Dudespeak

"Urban Dictionary", an otherwise useful resource, has no definition for "dudespeak." There is this, but frankly it's not that helpful.

In fact, I have not found any good entries anywhere on definitions.

This one cartoon is quite useful, but it is simply an introduction. (on the other hand, it does contain the second law of thermodudenamics, so it is a delight: "In all isolated cultural exchanges, irony increases.")

It appears to have a specific meaning. World of Warcraft, for example, specifically bars character or pet names that contain "Leet" or "Dudespeak." (No, don't ask how I know that.) Now, leet is well defined. And Wikipedia has this on "dude". But...not good. And, there is this, too. And this meditation on dudity, from an outside perspective.

Clearly, the language is important. There is already a "Dude to English" lexicon.

What is "dudespeak", and how would one know if a sentence or expression were an example?