Sunday, June 07, 2009

GOAT parade

Roger Federer wins the French Open, completing his career slam and tying Pete Sampras with 14 majors. He didn't have to beat Murray, Djokovic, or Nadal, but he beat everyone they put in front of him and is now clearly tennis' GOAT.

Eldrick Woods comes from 4 behind, shooting 65 to win the Memorial tourney with two incredible approach shots on 17 and 18. He is also tied with Sampras and Fed with 14 slams, and even though he needs 18 to tie Jack Nicklaus, I am gonna go way out on a limb and say Tiger is golf's GOAT.


If they are yelling at the same kids, they must be married

It's been posted a number of places, for years, but if you haven't seen it, here are some "quotes" (which could be real) from first-named sources. But, even if they are made up, they made me laugh.

"MARRIAGE" explained by kids
-You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming. -- Alan, age 10
-No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with. -- Kristen, age 10
Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then. -- Camille, age 10
You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. -- Derrick, age 8
Both don't want any more kids. -- Lori, age 8
-Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough. -- Lynnette, age 8
-On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date. -- Martin, age 10
-When they're rich. -- Pam, age 7
-The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that. - - Curt, age 7
-The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do. - - Howard, age 8
It's better for girls to be single but not for boys . Boys need someone to clean up after them.
-- Anita, age 9
There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there? -- Kelvin, age 8
Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck. -- Ricky, age 10

Derailed, and a Wonderful Bar-B-Q

It all sounded so simple. Take the DBahn to Nuremberg, switch trains, take a nice regional express to Regensburg, a beautiful and ancient city. Walk around and see the sights until 3:30 pm, and then get picked up to go to a very fine Bayerische barbq at the nearby country home of one of the Department’s Lehrstuhls, or head professors.

Well, those plans gang aft agley, don’t they.

I get to the Erlangen Bahnhof at 8:45 for a 9:08 train to Nuremberg. (I can’t help it, I have this time thing: I hate to be late). Cloudy, cold, about 10 degrees C. It turns out that on the same platform, leaving at 8:58, there is a Nuremburg! So, I take it. I only have a short connection in Nuremberg to catch my train to Regensburg, and my experience with connections less than 20 minutes has not been good. Meaning earlier is better.

Train takes off, and since it is a Regional Express it doesn’t stop every kilometer, but makes good time. But, as we are pulling up to Fürth, the conductor starts this long announcement. Except that this is not a bored voice announcement. I could make out a few words, and they were not happy-making words. “U-bahn” means subway. And “nuen uhr achtundzwanzig” means that I am going to miss my train. Construction, wreck, system management with their thumbs up their bums, SOMETHING means that our train is going to stop, we are going to have to get off, and we are on our own.

We stop in Fürth, and the entire train, many people with suitcases, hustle down to the subway platform (half a kilometer walk, at least, from the platform). Many people running. Old people doing their best not to fall down. And we all get there...and wait 12 minutes (I measured). No subways in the direction of the train station. Two trains come by heading the other direction.

So, the train does show up at 9:31, and I look at the map. The Nuremberg Bahnhof is ....TEN stops away. And we are packed in like sardines. Who knew that the Ubahn was so crowded at 9:30 am on a Saturday? A lot of this was overflow from “Mistah Kurtz’s train, it dead,” I understand, but people were still trying to get on at every station.

One poor guy tries to get off to let some people behind him off, because he had a big suitcase. Steps off the train, people get off the train, and of course the army of autistics waiting to get ON the train just push past him. Poor guy tries to get back on, but there is really not much room. He did what Angus would have done, and use the suitcase as a battering ram. That got him halfway in, but then the doors close on his arms. He tries to pull back, but the doors close again....on the suitcase....and he drops it back into the train! Doors close, he beats on the door, people stare at him. He starts jumping up and down and yelling in German. And....the train leaves. I think that Nuremberg does have a “no driver” subway system, but this was a time that a bit of humanity would have been most useful.

We get to Nuremberg, we all run up the stairs, and ...find that we have all missed our trains, probably by something between 2 and 5 minutes (I missed mine by 3). I rebooked on the 10:31 am ICE (since it was an ICE, it should have been more expensive, but they stamped my ticket as valid because I had missed my connection). And then for 45 minutes I watched as person after person, on different platforms, read the little tiny sign that told them that the “zug” was NOT leaving from this platform after all, and that they needed to take the “ersatz” route, on the FREAKIN’ SUBWAY. There was no hint of this engineering abortion anywhere in the station, no employee, no announcement. So people come to their platform, read the sign, jump straight up in the air and say "Ach!" ike cartoon characters, point and chatter to each other, and then run down the stairs to try to run to catch the subway so that they can just miss their northbound train in Furth. I must have seen 20 people do that. Train stations are always jostle-y, but this was mad.

And I also saw at least three old ladies, confused, and in tears, trying to ask people who just shrugged and looked away. I tried to help one of the old ladies, but I couldn’t convince her that she had to take the Ubahn. (It made no sense, I admit, but it happened to be true). So she sat and cried, and waited for twenty minutes. But no train came. There were no trains northbound. They were all piled up in Furth. Finally, DB employee came up onto the platform, and the old lady asked her for help. The DB woman took the elderly woman down the stairs, and I assume that somebody did something.

But, look:
1. The train from Furth to Nuremberg is an eight minute trip, max. The subway is a 25 minute trip, minimum. You can’t run a train that way, ensuring that every passenger misses his or her train. They have to have busses, or something, meet each train, no waiting.
2. Why not make some effort to warn people, heading north? At least, because I was southbound, I had a conductor make an actual announcement, with some details. True, it was in German, but that is my fault for only speaking English. The average German passenger at least knew what to do, and we could all follow each other. The northbounders starting in Nuremberg had no chance of finding out any details of what they were to do, until they got on the platform. And for elderly people or the easily confused, that is just not good enough.
3. When my ICE train did show up, at 10:36 (five minutes late), there were so many people with suitcases trying to get on that there were pushing and shoving matches. I did see one actual fight, and I have never seen that before. It was medieval. And there were exactly zero employees, except for the zen-master conductors who stood placidly to watch. They never help with baggage, not even for old people. And it is because there is a "norm" of no tipping, out of concern for the dignity of the conductors. Gee, I'd hate to insult one of the conductors by getting some help.

I had a number of people, back in the U.S., tell me that I would enjoy the ease of train travel here in Germany. They were, for the most part, people for whose own personal ideologies the fiction of blissful mass transit is important. Folks, you need to open your eyes, or else maybe come back, because things have changed. This system is on the verge of collapse. Certainly, if I had baggage, or children, or was traveling with an elderly parent, I’d rent a car or find some other way of getting around. I can push my way on; in a medieval system, I'm big enough to win. But I don’t want to have to.

Finally, let me note that the food, and fellowship, at the barbq, was really fantastic. A very enjoyable evening, once I got really far away from the DB and much closer to the beer, bread, and brats, and lots of them. A very sincere thanks to H.D.P. Kaufmann and his terrific family. And thanks to Sebastian and "Oma" for the ride home, on the autobahn. My first time.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Hangover that I actually enjoyed

Mrs. A and I saw "The Hangover" and we both really liked it. We pretty much laughed all the way through after the first 5-10 minutes which are kind of slow. Ed Helms and Zach Galifiankis are terrific. Yes it is crude, sexist-ish, and low brow. But fun.

ps.  I wonder if Heather Graham will ever play anything other than a prostitute with a heart of gold.  

Found in the closet: Spider!

Me and Mrs. Angus decided to clean up our music collection. Get everything out of the car, from upstairs, scattered around the offices and file them on the rolling racks. Inevitably, there were some things that I didn't know we had / what they were.

The surprise find of the cleanup was "The way to bitter lake" by Spider, which is the nom de music of Jane Herships. This was self released in 2006 and it is *awesome*. A bit like Cat Power or Joanna Newsom, or the Velvet Underground, but unique enough to make me stop what I was doing and go "wow" (there's that word again!).

Second best find was "Fire on the bright sky" by The Low Lows. Also from 2006 and also excellent. Maybe a Galaxie 500 vibe with the Velvets again thrown in? Just real good music.

Both are highly recommended.

Friday, June 05, 2009

419 Baiting SO fantastic.

The premise is that we, as citizens, can punish people who are trying to break the social conventions, by scamming THEM. Not hurting them, but humiliating them.

So fantastic. The Dead Parrot sketch from Monte Python, as a punishment.

(Nod to Brad Taylor. And I didn't embed the videos, because I want Brad to get the hits. Nice job, BT)

(UPDATE: Avita writes that we should listen to this podcast, from "This American Life." Avita is right!)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Political Science LOL

There is a nice little polysci journal called the Journal of Politics. I published one paper there with Mungowitz way back in 1993. I still review for polysci journals and recently got a request from the JOP to review a piece. I said yes, somehow missing in the email the fact that the editors of this journal have completely lost their minds.

Today I got a "gentle reminder" that my review was due on June 9. It was a WTF moment because I had only agreed to review the paper on May 19!! The reminder letter said they had a policy of "reasonable turnaround" so I figured this was a weird typo/screw up. Then I went back and looked at the original request email. And it said that they wanted the review IN THREE WEEKS.


Here is the message I sent back to the editors:

"Wow. I can't believe you expect reviews in three weeks. Here is what I can give you. I have skimmed the paper and found it on a first look to be superficial and boring. I have no plans to complete a review in the next week or two. I honestly have to say that your turnaround policy is abusive. I guess I didn't notice the "deadline" TWO WEEKS AGO when I first agreed to do the review. I think you'd better find another reviewer and leave me off your list of potential reviewers in the future. I am still shaking my head in astonishment about the message you just sent me.

Good luck with implementing this policy,


(Somewhere, Don Boudreaux is smiling)

Who in the world are they going to get to do referee reports in 3 weeks, and if they do find people willing to do it, how bad are those reports going to be? Look, referee reports are 3-6 months. That's just how it is. All a 3 week policy is going to do is piss people off.

There is no doubt that long delays in getting feedback from journals is unprofessional and unnecessary. I have a piece with an ex-student that sat for 11 months before we got a review (which was a straightforward R&R) and now the revised version has been sitting for about 8 months. I almost don't remember what the paper is about! But trying to combat long delays by setting an absurdly short deadline is counterproductive and silly.

(UPDATE: Note the ANGUS wrote this, not Mungowitz. And, in the hopes of generating infinite citations, I add this link, that links to us, that links to....)

Your Government at Work

Consider two gas stations.

One gas station charges the same price, or a slightly lower price, as the others around it. Let's say the price is $4.39. They run out of gas pretty quickly, because there is a shortage. Then, they close, and put up signs, "No Gas! Closed!" Cars that pull up to the pumps are faced with a gas price of infinity, even if they only need a gallon or two to continue their journey.

Gas station number two charges the market price, a high price implied by the gasoline shortage. So, they are charging $6.21 per gallon. They remain open, still paying their workers, and providing gas, milk, and other necessities to the community. There is no other gas station in the area open. People pull up all night, buying just 3 or 4 gallons, enough to ensure their mobility and safety until the gas shortage passes, in a week or so.

Which gas station is providing the greater service? The difference in revenue, for such a short period, is pretty trivial. But the difference in service is enormous. Gas station 1 is charging an infinite price, and gas station 2 is charging an actual price, for actual gas.

So, the half-wits at the NC Attorney General's office...go after gas station #2! Arrest them! Prevent them from selling that gas that people need!

Remember, the only way that the above scenario could possibly be true is if there is a severe shortage. If you charge the below market price, you will run out, for sure. Why is running out of gas, and closing, noble?

And, without a shortage, no one would ever pay the $6.21 price. Gas stations ALWAYS charge the maximum price they can get from consumers. It's a business, not a charity.

Further, remember that (1) price fixing is a crime, and there is zero evidence, and in fact no charges, of price fixing. The only crime here is charging the market price, the one that ensures that people who need gas can actually get it. And (2) the price gouging itself, as I have argued elsewhere, is the CAUSE of the shortage. The law is the problem, not the solution. Without the price gouging law, NC would have had plenty of gas, though at a higher price (still less than the infinite price implied by a gas station that is CLOSED, however.)

Here's the cool thing: Roy Cooper, AG of NC, made an announcement:

Gas price-gouging probe nets $56,000
RALEIGH -- North Carolina's attorney general says his office has gotten more than $56,000 in refunds, civil penalties and energy assistance funds from gasoline price gouging investigations.
Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday in a statement that the results show "we won't tolerate those who try to make an unfair profit off of a disaster."
Cooper was one of the attorneys general who began investigations in the fall after Hurricane Ike hit the Texas coast and gasoline prices began to rise.
Cooper's office said thousands of consumers complained after the state price gouging law was triggered.
His lawyers still have civil lawsuits pending against two gas stations.
Some stations charged more than $5.49 a gallon.

Wow! They "netted" $56,000. Since "net" means revenues in excess of costs, they must have collected a lot, right? 4 lawyers, and numerous assistants, plus police, working on these cases for more than six months? Oh, wait, the $56k is actually the gross amount collected. The "net" is more like a $200,000 loss, when you account for the costs of those lawyers and bureaucrats beavering away at punishing those gas stations that had the audacity to remain open and sell the gas that people needed. (Sounds like Roy Cooper knows just exactly what the facts is. The problem is that he makes his living off of the people's taxes.)

I remember when this was going on, in September, in NC. I got a call from a reporter, in Charlotte. He asked if I still thought that the price-gouging law was a bad idea, given all the high prices. I said, "Wait a week. Because of the price gouging law, you are going to be unable to buy gas in Charlotte. The price gouging law is going to cause a shortage."

The following Monday, he called back. "How did you know? Gas stations are closed, all over the place. Charlotte is out of gas!"

Gee, bud. I guess I am a genius. Or else I have taken an intro level econ class at some point. Because even an intro level course will teach you that "price gouging" laws don't prevent shortages, they CAUSE shortages.

Worst High Volume International Airport in U.S./ Europe

What is the worst high-volume international airport in the U.S. or Europe?

(I made this restriction only because otherwise Narita or Mumbai win, and it is not interesting. Not trying to slight our Asian friends, but when it comes to bad airports, y'all are professionals. I am just interested in the amateur competition here. And, yes, I'm classifying Moscow--Sheremetyev as "Asian," for the same reason. Professional sucking is disqualified. Further, it is likely true that 3 or 4 of the top 5 BEST internatonal airports are in Asia, because they were built recently and rationally. So don't think I am disrespecting Asia. Except for Sydney. Sydney sucks. I am disrespecting Sydney, I admit.)

Ahem. Back to the contest: In my mind, it has to come down to Heathrow-London vs. JFK-New York. Yes, CDG-Paris is excruciating, the bus system in Frankfurt is appalling, and there are other candidates (Atlanta. What is up with baggage thing, for international travellers? What are they thinking?). But in terms of simple perverse construction and mistreatment, I don't think that the Ameri-Euro airports can hold a candle to the Heathrow -- JFK pairing. Here is a poll, in which JFK comes out on top as the bottom, the worst, the armpit, the place-where-if-the-world-got-the-runs-would-flood-first.

So, I mostly want to get your thoughts. But, I'll start:

1. JFK sucks worse. The tiny little separate terminals, blocked off by walls that are obviously recent additions to maximize walking distance. No departure or arrival monitors, anywhere. If you don't know what terminal you are headed for, you are S.O.L. Unbelievably clueless personnel (at least they are really, really rude, to make up for having no idea how to answer questions). Guaranteed wait times, either to pull up to your gate if you are arriving, or to leave your gate/taxi, if you thinkn you are leaving, of one hour if you are LUCKY. Very difficult to find the "Air Train," and in order to go anywhere you have to go outside the security zone. If you happen to go to the wrong terminal, you have to go BACK out of security, and through it again. I speak English (fairly well, and I certainly read it fine), and I get lost almost every time I visit this God-forsaken hellhole. Man, do I hate JFK.

2. Heathrow sucks worse. Clearly designed to maximize both distance and discomfort. Tiny little twisting corridors. In order to get to security, customs, or pretty much anything, you have to walk in circles, like waste matter circling the potty trap. It feels like you have to walk 3 or 4 kilometers, and if you look up you can see the place where you were 20 minutes ago. An airport should not seem like rock-climbing, but Heathrow manages to do that. Then...THEY DON'T ANNOUNCE THE FREAKIN' GATES! Sure, JFK doesn't have monitors. But Heathrow has monitors, but all they say is, "Please wait". If the ill-tempered Brit bureaucrat in charge of passenger torture that day is in a good mood, s/he will post your gate on the monitor a full 30 minutes before the flight leaves. Read that carefully: not 30 minutes before it boards; 30 minutes before it LEAVES. And, of course, international flights board starting 40 minutes before departure. And the gates at Heathrow are divided into sections: 1-40 here, 41-73 here, and 73-89 here. With each "here" being 300 meters apart, with no moving sidewalk to speed your fat ass with 60 pounds of carry-ons to get there. That is if you are lucky enough to be in the correct terminal. Now, this is only a problem on international flights...BUT England is a fleck of fly poop on the world map; EVERY FLIGHT AT HEATHROW IS INTERNATIONAL! Lord, Heathrow sucks.

So...JFK vs. Heathrow, class. Discuss.

(And, seriously, don't give me any fuss about Mumbai, Narita, Manila, or Sheremetyev. Of COURSE they are worse. But they have lost their amateur status).

A Story We are Following Closely

An update on the efforts Chief Air Marshall Angus to save his Aussies from Dutch food.

Here is a hint on why perhaps a certain "lack of freshness" may be a problem.

The Dutch cooks at Tarin Kowt serve around 2500 soldiers a day, a mix of Dutch, Australian, French, Slovakian and British troops. The food is prepared in the Netherlands, frozen and then shipped to Karachi in Pakistan. From there it goes by road to Afghanistan. With delays at the border, the journey can take as much as two or three months. Because of food safety considerations, ISAF bases are not permitted to use local Afghan fruit or vegetables. (SOURCE, my emphasis)


So, I want to know, what IS "Dutch food." An answer, and a defense of Dutch cuisine:

Dutch cuisine? What Dutch cuisine is best known for is that there is in fact no such thing, that the Dutch kitchen consists just of herring, cheese and hotsput, and that the use of herbs and spices is unknown.

But… There is such a thing as Dutch cuisine. The Dutch do not just eat herring but do in fact have dishes that are worth trying.

Because… Over time the Dutch kitchen has been exposed to the influence of other cuisines, much to its benefit.

THERE'S YER TROUBLE! The Dutch cooks were serving ACTUAL Dutch cuisine, which does not exist, save for unspiced herring and potato/carrot gruel. If the Dutch cooks had been exposing themselves to other cuisines (such as, I don't know, Australian?), things would be been just bonzer!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Field Marshal Angus throws another shrimp on Bin Laden's barbie

The Aussies are fighting alongside NATO troops in Afghanistan, but they draw the line at eating alongside NATO troops, at least the Dutch ones!

"Australia's soldiers fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan are up in arms, over Dutch food.

A special team of Australian military cooks had been rushed to Afghanistan to produce "Aussie food" after scores of soldiers complained about the Dutch-run mess at Tirin Kot military base, in southern Uruzgan province, parliament was told Wednesday.

"I think the issue is that it's not Aussie food, it's European food. It's true that people have been quite strong in their views about the European food," Australia's military commander Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston told lawmakers at a special defence budget hearing."

Yes people, you read that right. Air Chief Marshal Angus!

"Houston said the Dutch-prepared food was generally nutritious, but was not as fresh as Australians were generally accustomed to in their diets.

"We listen to our people. Our people have indicated that they'd like some Aussie food," Houston said."

If I was an Aussie soldier, I would press on this margin until Marshal Angus is worn out!

How Can It Be So Darned COLD?

This is buggin' me. It is going to 4 deg C tonight, and 2 deg C tomorrow night. That's 36 F for tomorrow eve. It's not like I'm in the mountains (Erlangen is about 1100 -- 1250 feet above sea level, not even 400 meters, even up on the Berg).

I would like to point out that this is JUNI, not März, for heaven's sake. The brass monkeys are all complaining, in high pitched voices.

So, if you are in Germany, and are waiting for a bus, here are some conversation starters, no matter WHO you are talking to (lots of visitors during Bergkirchweih, so you want to be prepared in all languages). "It is cold!"

French – il fait froid
German – es ist kalt
Italian – fa freddo
Spanish – hace frío
Portuguese – faz frio
Hungarian – hideg van
Dutch – het is koud
Mandarin Chinese – tyen heun lung
Polish – jest zimno
Romanian – este frig

Munger: Hey Web Site, Yer Doin' It Wrong!

Interesting. This web site just totally fabricated the origins of my last name.

They claim that it is a Bohemian name, referring to "Ungyar," or someone from Hungary. And they may be right about the entire family called "Unger."

But that is a different name. With different origins, and a different crest. Bizarre. Just ripping people off.

The truth, for those seven other Mungers out there who may care, is told here. The name is Saxon, and can be found in records of some cities of what later became the Hanseatic League.

Sharon Turner's remarkable three-volume History of the Anglo-Saxons (1836), quoting an old source from the 11th century, states:

In the Saxon dialogues, the merchant (mancgere) is introduced: "I say that I am useful to the king, and to ealdormen, and to the rich, and to all people. I ascend my ship with my merchandise, and sail over the sea-like places, and sell my things, and buy dear things which are not produced in this land, and I bring them to you here with great danger over the sea; and sometimes I suffer shipwreck, with the loss of all my things, scarcely escaping myself."
"What things do you bring to us?"
"Skins, silks, costly gems, and gold; various garments, pigment, wine, oil, ivory, and orichalcus*, copper, and tin, silver, glass, and suchlike."
"Will you sell your things here as you brought them here?"
"I will not, because what would my labour benefit me? I will sell them dearer here than I bought them there, that I may get some profit, to feed me, my wife, and children."

(pp. 115-6; original in MS. Tib. A 3; * brass)

Later, Munger/Mancgeres settled in County Surrey, south of London. And Nicholas Munger moved to the Guilford Colony, in Connecticut, in 1650 or so.

Above is the actual (and somewhat pathetic, a crow standing on five onions, or at best a hawk standing on five eggs?) coat of arms for the Mancgeres.

Khan's: Going Down to YumTown

Had a great time last night at Khan's Pakistanisches Restaurant, on Glockenstr.

We get there about 6:45. There is no one else there. Including, it first appeared, any employees. But, it turned out there was one person there: the chef / waiter / cashier / owner. (His name is not Khan, by the way).

I had wanted to go someplace where we could order everything on the menu, and I had heard that the meno at Khan's was short. But, not true, quite a few choices.

(I should note that there was a famous incident about fifteen years ago, where I was similarly peckish. It was in Madame's Organ in DC, where Angus and I and two other people went to an Ethiopian restaurant, and ordered, and ate four entrees with great gusto....and then I said, "Let's do that again!" and we ordered, and they brought out, the entire dinner, four entrees and bread, a second time. To great laughter from the Ethiopean help. They even gave us free liquor. We ALMOST finished round two, I am proud to say).

So, we just ordered four entrees for the three of us. We were hesitating a bit, and the waiter/cook/owner says, "Look, it's okay, I can come back. I've got stuff to do!" I think he meant turn on the lights in the kitchen and start the rice, since he had expected no customers. What excellent food. Stupid cheap, curries and joghurt sauces, fish, chicken, vegetables, lamb (we ordered a considerable amount). Nice hot fresh roti bread.

After ordering, we had visitors. Three engineers, two from Erlangen (nice young ladies) and a young man from Tennessee (you didn't see THAT coming) heard us speaking English, and arguing (that's what we do. Hans-Jorg, Luc, and I argue, in a friendly way, of course). The young man from Tennesee was an intern, visiting their company. We asked them to sit down (a most UN-franconian thing to do), and we all ate together.

One of young ladies didn't speak much English. The other one, though, was hilarious. And she needed to be. Because, inexplicably, Luc decides to go on the attack. After he finds out they are engineers, Luc asks the English-speaking lady, "So, you must be the only woman? And you are STILL not married? What are you doing wrong?" Nice. Young lady is pretty tough, though, and participated in interesting talks about idioms, and local customs.

Tennessee guy and I talkd about being Southern, and the Bible Belt. Then Luc, who is beyond irrepressible, did tell a pretty good joke. "How do you tell the introverted male engineers from the extroverted male engineers?" Answer: "The extroverted engineers, when they talk, stare at YOUR shoes." Then he goes back on the "So, you must have all the guys you want, if you are the only woman. That must be great for you. How come you don't have a guy here tonight, with all those possibilities?" (I think I know why Luc is not married.)

Young woman (she really was quite tough) laughed, and said her boyfriend was living in Kansas just at the moment. And men weren't that useful, anyway. Then, she explained the product that her company made, quite an interesting thing. A hardware product that runs their proprietary software to run simulations on transformers and relays in power systems, to both forecast outages and manage outages when they occur.

A most excellent dinner. And, an impromptu party, to boot.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Michael Moore's advice to Obama

God I LOVE the interwebs! They bring you great stuff, like this article where Michael Moore first says if people would have only listened to him 20 years ago this never would have happened, and then gives a 9 point program for how the government should run GM.

Really! Here, check it:

"Twenty years ago when I made "Roger & Me," I tried to warn people about what was ahead for General Motors. Had the power structure and the punditocracy listened, maybe much of this could have been avoided. Based on my track record, I request an honest and sincere consideration of the following suggestions:"

People, his number one suggestion of what Obama should do now that he owns a car company is to declare war on the automobile!!

Number 3 is good too:

"3. Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under 30 seconds. They have had these high speed trains for nearly five decades -- and we don't even have one!"

Does Moore think that the US and Japan are about the same size? That Tokyo - Kyoto is about the same as LA - New York? Any price tag on this "suggestion"?

Hey Mike: Japan has $50 canteloupes too, and we don't even have one!!

And if you don't live in a big city, worry not for Michael has a plan to take care of you too in his auto free utopia:

"5. For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses."

LOL, the sheer arrogance and cluelessness of this fat bastard is impressive, innit?

I can't resist one more:

"7. Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy. We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an eager and skilled workforce who can build them."

We "need" a boatload of solar panels? Who is "we" exactly? And, is there a shortage of solar panels in the market right now? Is the reason we don't generate more energy from solar really because there aren't enough solar panels to go around? Would GM factory and workforce conversion really produce panels that were competitive with existing producers?



1. I was sure this was a hoax. But....

2. Dick Cheney gets it right.

A. Marriage not up to fed government
B. Freedom means freedom

Wow. Ol' Dick is really a Libertarian, after all. Or, not.

3. This


(Nod to Blue Matter, now on blogroll)

It's Opposite Day, at AIP Charter

Der Grosse sends this link, and notes.....

It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George does everything opposite of what his judgment tells him to do. The school in the article seems to do the exact opposite of what the typical education professor would recommend.

Is this what schools would look like in a Mungowitz administration?

A fine question, D.G. And the answer is: SOME schools might look like that. Because in a Mungowitz administration, there would be an ability to choose what kind of school you wanted to have. If some parents wanted this kind of school, and were willing to organize it and fund it (in this case, with public money, as a charter school), then yes, this what at least one school would like.

But I would not presume to know what ALL schools should look like, or to know what works, for all students and all parts of the state. Only the state education mafia could have that kind of bizarre, and entirely mistaken, presumption.

Behind the Mask: Two Very Scary Things

Wow! Now I see the other side of the happy German state. I don't know which of these things frightens me more.

1. They took 52% of my paycheck. FIFTY TWO percent, for taxes, health insurance, and social insurance. In other words, respectively, to pay for fat ass bureaucrats who do nothing, for fat ass civilians who don't take care of themselves, and for fat ass civilians who refuse to work. I pay this money, at gunpoint, for the privilege of serving the welfare state. Why does anyone work?

Now, the university assures me that this will be refunded to me, but that is not the point. If I were a German worker, then I would be working for less than half of whatever pathetic salary der Staat saw fit to pay me. That is appalling.

No wonder young people are pissed off. Most of them won't get good jobs. That may be true in the U.S. also. But at least in the U.S. if you get a good job you will be able to keep some of your salary. Here, if you work hard and get a good job, you are definitely going to get the red hot tax poker, right up the gozatch.

2. Twice, people have tried to steal my bike, once setting it on fire. (yes, they set the Gbike on fire, you read that right. Fortunately I had taken the pirate flag into the apartment, so THAT was safe).

I live in a very nice neighborhood. The problem is that during Bergkirchweih, lots of drunk people from out of town are walking (pissing, vomiting, you get the picture) on our street. So there is a temporary, but serious, crime problem.

But when my landlords (three of their bikes were stolen, and some other stuff also) called the polizei, the cops just shrugged. Openly and honestly said that they don't protect property, and don't investigate property crimes. If there had been an assault, maybe they would bestir themselves. Now I see why the cops are always so happy and smiling. They don't actually have jobs, except to protect themselves. And, since THEY have guns (no other Germans are allowed to have guns, basically), the cops can protect themselves. The rest of us can clearly go get screwed.

I had expected the cops to pretend they were interested, but they did not pretend.

Again, the difference from the U.S. isn't that big. American cops also make no effort to protect property. But at least in the U.S. you have some ability to try to protect yourself, unless you live in the People's Republic of the District of Columbia. I don't expect the state to HELP, but it is remarkable that the state will actually intervene on behalf of the criminals, to ensure that the populace is helpless and defenseless.

I feel like I have passed entirely through the looking glass. This isn't varieties of capitalism. This is varieties of state-sponsored theft.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Mrs. Angus goes off her "rocker"

Mrs. Angus is taking trapeze classes!! I am not making this up!!

Thanks for a great May

Big ups to all KPC readers, linkers, commenters, lurkers, whatever. Thanks for making May 2009 our heaviest traffic month since Angus and Mungowitz (re)joined forces and created Kids Prefer Cheese.

Bergkirchweih: "You don't think, you drink,"

I have written a bit before about the Berg, here in Erlangen. (Here is a three year old article with some good background, and descriptions). Let me just give some quick hit visual impressions, after 3 full days of watching...

1. A couple sitting on a bench, talking softly. Suddenly, she turns and slaps him, hard. His glasses fly off. She stares at him. She gets up, gets his glasses, hands them to him, he puts glasses in pocket. She sits back down. He puts his arm around her, and she snuggles up against him. Another story we'll never know the end of.

2. Two guys standing on a pretty sharp downslope (the "Berg" is not really a mountain, but is a considerable hill, which means not level). Uphill guy is talking pretty animatedly. Downhill guy is looking at him, nodding. Then DH guy quite calmly and placidly leans over and starts puking like a fountain, right on the UH guy's shoes. Except that the UH guy, showing amazing cat-like agility, jumps straight up. The problem with jumping straight up, of course, is that physics requires that you come straight down. UH guy, in mid-air, tries to become the anti-cat, and NOT land on his feet. Except that that means he lands on his butt, in the goo. And slides downhill, taking out DH guy, who is still puking. They start to fight, in a kind of half hearted way. Polizei come over, and separate them, in an even MORE half-hearted way, since both UH and DH guy are puke-covered. They stand up, with their arms out to their sides. The crowd (including me) gives them a rousing ovation, with raucous cheers. This was a much better show than a lot of the stuff people on the midway were paying 1 Euro, or more, to see. Excellent entertainment.

3. Families walking toward the Berg site, little kids overexcited. These carnivals are never as much fun as you hope when you are a little kid. Too expensive, too crowded, and the rides are short and you have to stand in line. But the heartbreak and disappointment have not yet set in, and the little kids are still fired up. One family, dad walking in front with a five year old, mom in back with double stroller, with an infant in the covered part and walking holding hands with a three year old (I'm guessing, but that's pretty close, on age). Dad lets go of five year old's hand, turns to say something to mom, pointing at a ride or something. Five year old, just like the Light Brigade, didn't stop to think that someone had blundered. Walked in a straight line, and runs face first into a telephone pole. No swerving, no avoidance, orders are orders. Kid loses his cute little cap, falls on back, starts screaming. Mom runs up, picks up kid, and starts reaming poor dad a new one. (Angry German women are terrifying. As are angry women of every other human nationality or ethnicity.) All the men walking by shrink back, in terror. All the women walking by are clearly prepared to help out, beating the dad with sticks or rocks, if necessary. And the poor dad is just staring, thinking, "My kid, looking straight ahead, just walked directly into a pole, without trying to avoid it. I wonder if that is really my kid? I guess my uncle Wilhelm was like that, but only when he was drunk." Or something like that. I'm sure that's what he was thinking.

4. People walking toward the Berg, huge rivers of humanity, from DB Banhoff to the entrance, solid. Laughing, talking, pointing. People walking back from the Berg, surly, tired, drunk, pissed off that they didn't have as much fun as they think they should have, and edgy because of the crowds. Yelling stuff at anyone going the opposite direction (as I always seemed to be), cursing. Broken glass absolutely everywhere, as well as puke pockmarks, blast radii of nasty fair food and much too much beer. The problem is that most people can drink 2 liters of beer, and almost no one can drink 3 liters of beer, without puking. Clearly lots of 3 literians in this crowd. A pretty ugly feeling, if you walk around after about 9 pm. So, of course, that is precisely when I spent most of my time walking around, from 9 pm to midnight. On the plus side, I can't complain that no one was talking to each other. The out of town drunk frat boy types were talking to everyone, and even to no one. I saw one skinhead wannabe having an extremely intense conversation with a large tree, about ten meters off the sidewalk. I think he was kidding around, but there was no audience except me, and I left pretty quickly. Better the tree than me.