Saturday, October 27, 2007

Good Music from Your PC: Vacuum Tube Version

This NY Times article sings the praises of storing your tunes in a lossless format on a PC and then using a USB port DAC (digital-audio converter) instead of your computer's sound card to send the signal to an amplifier. This is actually a great way to get rid of CDs even for your main home stereo system (assuming anyone still has these. In Chez Angus, it takes up one whole wall of the living room).

The article mentions Gordon Rankin, the owner and proprietor of Wavelength Audio, one of the main movers in the vacuum tube revival in the USA. Gordon makes a variety of DACs for PCs that incorporate a vacuum tube stage at the output. His products are well designed, great sounding and simply beautiful. His DAC in the article is called "The Brick" and it looks like one, but here is a lovely 2.5 watt stereo amplifier he made:

Kudos to you Gordon

Friday, October 26, 2007

Didn't Watson Get Fired for This?

Betsy suggests, and I agree, that we need more Biden.

Because EVERYBODY loves a train wreck.

And the ghost stories, that litltle orphan Annie used to tell....

">Article at CBS:

Those things that go bump in the night? About one-third of people believe they could be ghosts.

And nearly one out of four, 23 percent, say they've actually seen a ghost or felt its presence, finds a pre-Halloween poll by The Associated Press and Ipsos.

One is Misty Conrad, who says she fled her rented home in Syracuse, Ind., after her daughter began talking to an unseen girl named Nicole and neighbors said children had been murdered in the house. That was after the TV and lights began flicking on at night.

So, little girls who want to move, just invent a "friend" named Nicole.

I have my own "ghost story." I very clearly remember this happening, and am equally certain it did not. Decide for yourself.

Central Florida, about 1964. I'm 6 years old, sleeping out on the enclosed front porch, because we have out of town guests. It's cold, only about 45 outside, but the room is unheated.

Dark. I wake up. Deep of night, after midnight. Corner of my eye I see a fast movement. Loud male voice, across the room: "Caramba!"

I speak no Spanish, and was not then aware of having heard this word before. I freeze for a good five minutes, shivering. Then I get up and turn on the light. There's nothing. No door opened or closed in the meantime, and the windows are shut tight.

Next morning, I asked my mother what "caramba" means. She wants to know where I heard it. I tell her. She laughs and said that I had a dream.

I was convinced then I had "seen" a ghost. I am convinced now that I had a dream. Probably had heard "caramba" on TV or something, without realizing it.

But it would make me feel special to think that I really did get a visit from ghost, a Spanish conquistador who got lost from St. Augustine in the 17th century, ended up way inland, stubbed his toe, and yelled "caramba."

The people who "see" ghosts probably feel special in just that way.

Senate Votes to Give Public Access to Public Property

Our man Coturnix notes a little-noted senate bill is voted.

If it's publicly funded, the data need to be publicly available.

Market Failures in Everything: Baseball Edition

A while ago an excellent book came out called "Moneyball". Despite Joe Morgan's fervent protestations, it was not written BY Billy Beane but rather ABOUT him and the basic economic idea of trying to find underpriced assets in the baseball talent pool.

One of the most striking concepts in the book is that a lot of traditional baseball thinking, often summed up as "smallball" or "situational hitting" is wrong-headed. You only have 27 outs and it's generally not worth burning one to move a runner up a base, so bunting, the "hit and run to stay out of the double play", going the other way to move a runner are generally not winning maneuvers.

Apparently Ozzie Guillen hasn't gotten the memo, as he appears to be blaming the White Sox's disastrous 2007 season on not playing enough small-ball and is promising to have everybody doing a lot more counterproductive stuff next year.

You're going to see a lot of crazy stuff in spring training, regardless of the baserunning," Guillen said during a conference call. "You're going to see hit-and-run [plays] when it's not a hit-and-run situation. You're going to see people bunting when it's not a bunting situation.

The full article is here, the awesome deconstruction by the talented Ken Tremendous on FJM is here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

You Can't Handle the Truth, But Keith Poole Can

Fantastic email rant from one of KPC's best friends, Keith "HILLARY'S WINNING, & MY GODDAMNED HOUSE IS ON FIRE!" Poole, in San Diego.

The Republican Party is a smoking ruin much like many areas within 10 miles of my house. They threw away their brand name of low taxes and small government.

My academic next door neighbor, Gary Jacobson, and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum but we read the tea leaves the same way. The R's are going to lose a handful of additional seats in the House and about 4 Senate seats (although we have a shot in LA).

I do not see how the Clinton machine can be stopped. The George Soros (plus
other billionaires like the two in CO who have single-handedly torpedoed the Republican party there) will spend at least a ****billion**** dollars through 527s for Hillary! Even though she has high negatives -- my wife, Jan, who many of you have met, is not political at all and she really dislikes her -- it is likelier that the R vote will be split than the D vote. It is not hopeless but I would bet on the Clinton machine.

Look what we have to look forward to -- idiotic trade policy, high taxes, paid family leave, a pre-School entitlement, Union check-offs, nightmarish liberal judges who love a "living" (i.e., New York Times type Constitution), and all other types of horrors only the left can conjure up!

Here I am 60 years old with the housing market crashing and Southern California
burring down, I will never be able to retire!!

The horror, the horror.

We LOVE Keith Poole. He was a grouchy old man at age 7, and has only gotten grouchier and funnier with age.

How Much is Tenure Worth?

How much would YOU accept to give up tenure?

An interesting debate.

Has there been any research on this? What is the value of the contract provision "tenure" for a professor? What lump-sum cash payment would they accept to give it up?

For me, I think I would give it up for $10,000. It is worth SOMETHING, but I am protected by market forces.

Tenure protects those who are (1) lazy, (2) controversial, or (3) faced with cutbacks. I am clearly (2), and some days feel like (1) might be pretty fun.

(Nod to El Zorno)

Those who do not learn from History.....

.....apparently live in Argentina!

Argentina has a long and proud history of hyperinflation, and after the interlude of convertibility and the ensuing disaster and recovery when convertibility failed, it seems that things may be heating up again. KPC has reported on the political battle over the inflation number in Argentina here and here. Now the old school press is picking up on this issue with an article in the Economist and a front page story in the WSJ.

The gist of the matter is that the ruling Kirchner family (current prez Nestor and future prez Christina) after overseeing a quite remarkable recovery from the end of convertibility crisis, dumped the finance minister who helped a lot during the recovery and have been ramping up the populist economics that has made Argentina justly famous throughout the world. Energy price controls are causing shortages, price controls on beef (Argentines consume 140 lbs of beef per person annually) are causing shortages, though beef is now cheaper than veggies in many cases as veggies, being mere incidentals, are not subject to controls! Government spending is up over 45% this year in nominal terms and independent estimates put the current inflation rate somewhere north of 20%, though the official number seems stuck at around 8%.

Mugabenomics on the rise?

A fascinating moral dilemma

We all think child molesters are evil. And, fair enough: an adult
male sexually molesting a young child, against the active resistance
of that child....there's nothing short of cold-blooded murder that could
be worse, and you could even argue that. Child-sex predators are the worst
people on earth.'s a guy who...well, read it.

Admirable, in a way. The guy couldn't help the fact that he has these urges. But
he tried to control his response to these urges. And, i'm guessing that it worked. Poor guy, I seriously feel sorry for him. It's like a horrible game of CLUE: The child molester. With a filet knife. In the bathroom.

(Nod to Mr. Overwater)

Media Frenzy, or Mediocre Frency?


Andrea Mattozzi & Antonio Merlo
NBER Working Paper, February 2007

In this paper, we study the initial recruitment of individuals in the
political sector. We propose an equilibrium model of political recruitment
by a party who faces competition for political talent from the lobbying
sector. We show that a political party may deliberately choose to recruit
only mediocre politicians, in spite of the fact that it could afford to
recruit better individuals who would like to become politicians. We argue
that this finding may contribute to explain the observation that in many
countries the political class is mostly composed of mediocre people.

(Nod to KL, who is en fuego)

Face Time!

Predicting political elections from rapid and unreflective face judgments

Charles Ballew & Alexander Todorov
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Here we show that rapid judgments of competence based solely on the facial
appearance of candidates predicted the outcomes of gubernatorial elections,
the most important elections in the United States next to the presidential
elections. In all experiments, participants were presented with the faces of
the winner and the runner-up and asked to decide who is more competent. To
ensure that competence judgments were based solely on facial appearance and
not on prior person knowledge, judgments for races in which the participant
recognized any of the faces were excluded from all analyses. Predictions
were as accurate after a 100-ms exposure to the faces of the winner and the
runner-up as exposure after 250 ms and unlimited time exposure (Experiment
1). Asking participants to deliberate and make a good judgment dramatically
increased the response times and reduced the predictive accuracy of
judgments relative to both judgments made after 250 ms of exposure to the
faces and judgments made within a response deadline of 2 s (Experiment 2).
Finally, competence judgments collected before the elections in 2006
predicted 68.6% of the gubernatorial races and 72.4% of the Senate races
(Experiment 3). These effects were independent of the incumbency status of
the candidates. The findings suggest that rapid, unreflective judgments of
competence from faces can affect voting decisions.

(nod to KL)

GadZOOKS! Trying to get on the BALLOT!

"Everybody is very cautious, not wanting to take this too seriously, or to
say that campaign finance laws are going to stop satire, or what is clearly
a joke. But he's trying to get on the ballot, and he could in fact affect
the election."

-- Lawrence Noble, former general counsel for the Federal Election
Commission, on Stephen Colbert's ostensibly faux-campaign

(Nod to KL)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I just look at the pictures....

....and when it comes to reading the NY times I urge you to do the same! Greg Mankiw links to a times article about cloud seeding to defer global warming, but I only had eyes for the fantastic illustration reproduced here:
The artist is the awesomely named Henning Wagenbreth from Germany.

Here he is in action:
and here is his very entertaining website. Kudos to you sir, well done indeed

Bolivian "Decentralization" Update

Perhaps emboldened by their recent success in re-taking the airport from Federal trooops, Unidentified Santa Cruzians followed up earlier this week with tossing sticks of dynamite at the Venezuelan Consulate building and Molotov cocktails at a house where a group of Cuban doctors reside.

Not sure about their beef with Cuba, but this photo may shed light on the Venezuela thing.

How They Gonna Wear Cashmere NOW? And the algae....ick

From the Times:

“We represent the entertainment community,” said Kelly Chapman Meyer, whose husband, Ron, is the president of Universal Studios Group. “We use our resources and our connections to push for environmental issues.”

“We want a climate bill that’s not going to die,” said Colleen Bell, a philanthropist and writer whose husband, Bradley, is the executive producer and head writer of the soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

Ms. Meyer told Ms. Boxer, a Democrat who is one of her home senators, that warmer weather has intensified climate-related problems in the lapping waves near her house in Malibu. “I’m a surfer,” she said. “The algae bloom is insane.”

Ms. Boxer said she was working to push climate legislation through the Senate, adding that she also worried about global warming. “We can see it happening, we can feel it happening,” she said. “The fashion industry is so upset because they can’t sell their cashmere sweaters.”

Note that this last was actually said by a U.S. Senator, albeit one with an I.Q. (though not an appearance) that would make her well-suited for the role of trophy wife.

But the warming isn't all bad, at least not when it comes to overheated rhetoric: “'You’ll be the hot grandma, I’ll be the kind-of-hot grandma,' Ms. Meyer said."

Well, there you are, then.

(Nod to Anonyman. He's hot, too)

And, your little DOG, too!

Scariest Democrat "poll."

I guess scariness is the best revenge.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

KPC's 5 Rules for Changing Jobs

Kenny Smith, in a column criticizing Kobe Bryant, posted his version of "Basketball's Trade Commandments". Lucky for us, academic departments can't trade us, but getting outside offers and changing jobs is a big issue in our bidness too.

Thus, and with props to Kenny, KPC offers "5 Rules for Changing Jobs".

1. Do not complain about being underpaid or use that as the stated reason for looking to move. Sure we all know that money is the reason, but no one wants to hear it. As hard as it may be to believe, there are probably people in your own department who make less money than you.

2. Never let anyone know how much you want to go. Remember: he who cares the least wins! Also remember that you may end up staying put and facing the same people who you’ve told how miserable they make you.

3. Never bring an offer to the table that you are not prepared to accept. If you bring in an outside offer and your home department does nothing about it, it’s a gots to go situation (unless the offer you bring is actually worse than the one you already have (don’t laugh, that has happened more than once in this world)).

4. Don’t throw your current colleagues under the bus. There is nothing more off-putting than to be interviewing someone and have them constantly complaining about and belittling their current colleagues. It makes you wonder what they’ll be saying about you if you hire them. It's amazing how often people do this.

5. Don’t be a tease. Don’t generate offers from places you have no intention of going to and don’t hold on to an offer for an eternity while you bargain the last nickel from your current chair or dean. Rember, Karma can be a B#&*#&CH!

Switch-Hitting Tila Tequila

MTV’s A Shot At Love with Tila Tequila, features MySpace superstar Tila Tequila whose profile is touted as having the most friends in the history of MySpace. Follow Tequila as she whittles down a group of 32 suitors - 16 straight men and 16 gay women to pick just one to win her heart.

The Apocalypse is upon us. The end is near.

That Darned Fine Print: The Dollar-Loonie Exchange Rate

Note from KPC friend, RL:

Maybe economists like you can make sense of what is "normal" price
appreciation and what is "abnormally quick" changes in exchange rates?

The markets responded sharply in the first day of trading after these
comments, but then traders realized that - whether or not the pace of
the change was in line with historical norms - the equilibrium price was
near where the dollar-looney
traded at on Friday!

I wonder whether the current stock market volatility is also "abnormal"
since, from what I can tell, it also is not consistent with historical

Does the leader of the Bank of Canada not read the fine print that says
that historical performance is not indicative of future returns?

Markets in Everything

Consider two commodities:

A. The value of seeing the Red Sox in the World Series
B. The value of seeing the Red Sox win their first world series since 1918.

Since all tickets are sold, and there is a thick secondary market, we can be reasonably certain that the difference between B and A is the premium of novelty.

An article from the Globe, with more info, and some prices.

(Nod to Tofe, who never has to pay for it)
(And, props to TC, for the "MiE" title. I have credited it before, and from now on will just assume everyone knows where it comes from)

Drink Limits Useless, Made Up

That number we made up?

Well, you must OBEY!

How are ya gonna hev eni pudding, if you don
obey your arbitrary drink limits?

(Nod to TtWBB)

Cookies Affect Your Discount Rate?

The Effects of Appetitive Stimuli on Out-of-Domain Consumption Impatience

Xiuping Li
Journal of Consumer Research, February 2008

Earlier work in consumer research has documented the effect of appetitive
stimuli (e.g., chocolate cookies) on a related consumption domain (e.g.,
eating). We argue that appetitive stimuli can lead to a change in temporal
orientation and affect subsequent consumption impatience across domains. In
a series of experiments, we find that consumers exposed to appetitive
stimuli are more present oriented, more likely to choose smaller-sooner
rewards or vice options, and more likely to make unplanned purchase

(Nod to KL, who loves cookies)

Monday, October 22, 2007

If You Have a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Bureaucrat

A heart-warming story of an old lady kicking a little tail.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Closing the Barn door after all the cows are out again!

No this is not from the Onion:

Cycling chief warns the sport risks becoming a 'travesty' and 'fraud'
By JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press Writer
October 22, 2007

PARIS (AP) -- The head of cycling's governing body warns that the sport risks becoming a "travesty" and "fraud" unless it unites to fight doping.

In a conference attended by the sport's divided leadership, International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid urged colleagues Monday to move past their differences and recognize that the survival of cycling is at stake.

"We are here because we share a common determination to stamp out doping in our sport," said McQuaid, who has been criticized by Tour de France and anti-doping officials. "There's been so much background noise in recent years, the fact that we all still agree on one major objective is a good start for this meeting."

"Either we fix this beyond doubt or cycling as we have known it -- in all its glory -- will become a travesty of a sport, a fraud for the public, and a shame for us in this room." he added.

the rest is here.

Come Back Mary Anastasia, we miss you!

One of the very weirdest things about the WSJ editorial pages is the surrealistic Latin America column by the redoubtable Mary Anastasia O'Grady. However, today, in her absence, a guest column by Manuel Ayau may well be the worst thing ever published on those pages (which is really saying something).

The column has two points, viz. what Guatemala needs is less civilian government and more Army!!

Guatemalans will vote in a presidential runoff election on Nov. 4 and as of now, center-right, retired military general, Otto Perez Molina appears to have a slight lead over the moderate, center-left candidate Alvaro Colom. At a time when Latin America is supposedly surging to the left, Mr. Perez Molina's strong campaign is instructive. So too is the fact that in the first-round vote Guatemalans widely rejected the four extreme left-wing candidates, giving them less than 6% of the vote. Candidate Rigoberta Menchu managed a mere 3.1%, suggesting that Guatemalans are not nearly as impressed with the Nobel Peace Prize winner as the international community is. Another interesting outcome of the first round was the substantial support for retired military candidates for congress, and for Mr. Perez Molina, in regions that were supposedly victimized by the army in the past.

If the good news here is that socialists aren't all that popular, the bad news is that this reality is not reflected in our institutions, where socialist ideas remain deeply imbedded (Sic). Even though voters go to the polls every four or five years with hopes raised that an honest, capable person will come to power and preside over a more just society, they are always disappointed. Changing the managers without changing the institutional framework is like changing the driver when a car keeps breaking down. Even if the more market- oriented Mr. Perez Molina wins, Guatemala won't begin to make real progress until it amends crucial aspects of its 1985 constitution.

Many Marxist ideas survive because it is hard to change the legal culture established in the heyday of socialism, when lawyers and politicians were trained that it is the government's task to solve all problems. Our constitution pays lip service to the rights of the citizens but regulates every aspect of daily life, including working hours, leisure time, social security and policies in education, banking and culture. Even sports must receive 3% of the budget. Using these constitutional mandates, legislators expand their power and further interfere in private, peaceful transactions. In fact, lawmakers are duty bound to do so.......

Historically, when police have lost control of law and order, Guatemalans clamor for the army as the authority of last resort, much like Americans rely on the National Guard to control riots or widespread violence. Here, too, the country has been hamstrung by the remnants of socialism. Ever since the military defeated the subversive movements of the Cold War, left-wing international organizations and foreign governments have insisted on crippling the institution. Today the military is reluctant to take action and be subject to antimilitary international criticism. Guatemalans, however, know that before and during the years of subversive activities the armies were a civilizing force; this is evidenced by the popularity of ex-military candidates in elections.

All of this is pretty amazing.

"In regions that were supposedly victimized by the Army in the past"

"Guatemalans clamor for the army as the authority of last resort, much like Americans rely on the National Guard to control riots or widespread violence."

Wow. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the US national guard has wiped out villages and left mass graves behind (in the US at least). Nor do I think the word "supposedly" belongs in the first quote either.

Here is an alternative perspective: In its final report, the Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH- Guatemalan Truth Commission) concluded that army massacres had destroyed 626 villages, more than 200,000 people were killed or disappeared, 1.5 million were displaced by the violence, and more than 150,000 were driven to seek refuge in Mexico. Further, the Commission found the state responsible for ninety-three percent of the acts of violence and the guerrillas (URNG-Guatemalan Revolutionary Union) responsible for three percent.

Shame on Manuel Ayau and shame on the WSJ for printing this trash. All I can say is thank God the Guatemalan army is now "reluctant to take action"

I also wonder what Ayau thinks governments do in other countries: "Our constitution pays lip service to the rights of the citizens but regulates every aspect of daily life, including working hours, leisure time, social security and policies in education, banking and culture."

All these things may not be directly in constitutions, they are certainly in the purview of most governments today (note I am NOT saying that they should be). The US government certainly regulates working hours, leisure time (can't buy drugs, gamble wherever you want, consort with courtesans), social security, education, banking, and culture.

LOL, I guess we are all "marxists" now.

Strange Days in Bolivia

As cocalero-presidente Evo Morales appears on the Daily Show, his project to rewrite Bolivia's constitution (key feature: unlimited reelection for the president) is foundering badly and the country seems ever more likely to actually fracture. Last week in Santa Cruz, the least worse off of the Bolivian states and an anti-Morales hotbed, protesters clashed with federal troops and occupied and then reoccupied the international airport there.

Locals retake Bolivia airport from army

By HAROLD OLMOS, Associated Press Writer Fri Oct 19, 4:47 PM ET

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia - Armed with clubs and waving provincial flags, thousands of residents of Bolivia's wealthiest province seized control of the country's busiest airport Friday from troops sent in by President Evo Morales. The retaking of the airport was a victory for leaders of a province fighting for greater autonomy from the socialist central government.

Soldiers and military police melted away before the protesters flooded into Santa Cruz's Viru Viru airport, avoiding clashes. It was not immediately clear if the troops had left the airport entirely or withdrawn to a distant part of the facility.

Morales ordered 220 troops to take control of the airport Thursday after workers threatened to block flights that did not pay landing fees to local officials rather than the national airport authority. Among the carriers affected was American Airlines. The dispute quickly became a flashpoint between Bolivia's national government and a region seeking greater autonomy.
At least two soldiers were wounded Thursday, one by gunfire, and local hospitals reported that about 20 other people were injured, some by tear gas fired by troops to repel protesters shouting, "The airport belongs to Santa Cruz!"

Santa Cruz Gov. Ruben Costas called on residents Friday to retake the airport and thousands responded, marching past startled passengers into the terminal and waving clubs and green-and-white Santa Cruz flags. The soldiers left "with their tails between their legs," Costas said.

Oh and in case you are wondering what these rebel elites of Bolivian society look like:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A .500 average gets you in the Hall of Fame, right?

I recently posted that two of my favorite bands from last year were putting out new products. Well said products have arrived, been listened to, and I have to say the results are mixed.

First the good news: Spencer Krug's new Sunset Rubdown album is fantastic. Let me see if I can describe it by analogy: how about a mix up of Queen / Jonathan Richman / Velvet Underground / Igor Stravinsky / and the Fall? How's that grab you? This is totally out of control and totally wonderful. You should really own the whole Frog Eyes catalog (with and without Krug) along with the Sunset Rubdown stuff and the initial Wolf Parade record. Even if the above mashup and the idea of out of control pscho pop music doesn't sound appetizing, you should at least try Wolf Parade.

Now the bad news, Band of Horses does not survive the departure of one of their founding members. It's just "dad rock" now. BOH was all about the rave up. That was their thing. That is now gone and what is left is plodding, boring, trivial. I am not giving up though. Since things are progressing poorly, I've decided to go back in time and try Carissa's Wierd (sic), the pre BOH band of the original BOH lineup. Details to follow.