Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Fighting Fire with NOT Fire

Press the "off" button, ma'am! Solved the problem.

(Nod to MDW, who burns in his own way)

Mr. Calderon, tear down that wall!!

Smart Grid

Lynne K has some links on "smart grids."

Why Do I Love Columnist Barry Saunders?

Why do I love Barry Saunders? Here's why: He writes stuff like this.

There are two places you don't want to be if you value your safety.

One is laid up in a trailer with Sweet Thang watching "Green Acres" reruns when a tornado strikes.

The other is standing between the Rev. Jesse Jackson and a hot microphone when a black celebrity dies.

Just think of a famous black person who has died within the past 30 years. Now try to picture Jesse not at the funeral.

You can bet your last copy of "Thriller" that when Michael Jackson is laid to rest today, Jesse will be there.

The reverend has become a latter-day Zelig, the Woody Allen character who turned up everywhere throughout history. The tragic part is that like Zelig, too often he's just part of the backdrop.

You may agree with Barry, or not. But you know what he thinks. 'Cause he tells you.

Sacrificing to the Earth Goddess: Political Environmentalism HARMS the Environment

An argument I have over here in Germany nearly every day: Environmentalism HURTS the environment. Recycling, the car buy-back program....almost everything we do to try show our support for the environment, HURTS the environment.

And the only counterargument I usually get is, "But the government wouldn't do this unless there is a good reason!" A variant, in other words, of "I was just following orders!"

Look, I admit that the U.S. has had some problems lately, blindly following our leaders into an unjust war, the Patriot Act, and the insane war on drugs. But...Germany? Are you kidding me? I would have thought the whole early-to-mid century experience would have made citizens skeptical of the claims of government.

It has had the opposite effect.
Germans simply assume that anything the government tells them to do must be (1) good for the individual, (2) good for the society, and (3) good for the environment. No need to check, no evidence counts, it is simple and abject faith that the government is always right. (Karl Marx famously said that if Germans were going to stage a protest to shut down a train station, they would buy a train ticket first.)

Then, when we come to an obvious clusterf**k, like the "Abwrackprämie" program, they say, "Ah, we need to have some reforms, and spend more money. Then this program will work. It is a good idea, it just hasn't been implemented correctly."

Um...no. It is a BAD idea, and spending more money on it will only make it worse. Here is a really insightful article on the "buy back," which has been a disaster in nearly every way. It is expensive, it has not helped the German auto companies, and it is BAD. FOR. THE. ENVIRONMENT.

Government is dominated by organized interest groups, out for profit. That's it, that's all you need to know. Everything else is just eyewash. The buy back program is a payoff to the car companies, and labor groups. It has nothing to do with the environment, except when it comes to selling the program to you saps who pay the bills.

To their credit, real German environmentalists, who actually DO care about the environnment, have come to this realization also. It makes no economic sense to scrap the cars, when they have lots of useful life left (first reuse, THEN recycle, right?). The problem is that if the cars are not scrapped, then they continue to pollute, in other countries where they will probably last for another 200,000k kilometers.

Jürgen Resch, who heads a German environmental group called Deutsche Umwelthilfe, said he expected "hundreds of thousands" of scrapping-bonus cars to be exported. "They will go on damaging the environment with emissions," he said, and wind up disassembled in countries where the scrapping standards are "far lower than ours."

Don't reform, folks. Abolish. Stop the madness.

Now the U.S. has a similar, perhaps even more ambitious, program. Not surprisingly, the German program has had some....

"... unintended consequences. First, the obvious car to buy, when an owner turns in a clunker, is small and cheap. That means sales of Hyundais, Dacias, Skodas and European-model Fords have been better stimulated by the scrapping bonus in Germany than sales of Mercedes sedans or BMWs. By the end of March, only about 24 percent of the bonus money had gone toward German-made vehicles — above all Opels and VWs. In May the German share had risen to 40 percent, according to a report by the German Association of the Automotive Industry (the Verband der Automobilindustrie).

The other problem, though, is regulating what happens to old cars. These schemes are no good for the environment if the clunkers don't get junked. A newsmagazine called Monitor, a sort of German 60 Minutes, examined the fate last February of a decent but down-at-the-heels 1994 Mercedes turned in for the scrapping bonus. The avenues for a junk dealer to re-sell a car that wasn't, in fact, junk, were numerous and tempting.

"It's an invitation to fraud," said Michael Wacker, a burly auto-parts dealer who pointed to a halfway decent VW resting on a hydraulic lift in his yard. "That's only got 62,000 miles on it. Plenty of people would like to drive something like that."

The market for slightly used, slightly gas-guzzling cars in Poland and the Czech Republic, not to mention Africa or Russia, is a lucrative reason for some junk dealers not to scrap still-drivable cars. The Monitor journalists had no trouble finding people to export their Mercedes from Germany in spite of documents claiming it should have been scrapped locally; and of course it's just as easy to pollute the climate from Russia or Africa as from Germany or the United States."

I have to admit, I am pretty excited about the US program. Here is the list of cars owned at Haus Mungowitz (yes, we have six cars. Ask NeanderBill):

1. 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan (170k miles) (18 mpg)
2. 1995 Ford Mustang (185k miles) (16 mpg)
3. 2001 Lincoln Town Car (105k miles) (22 mpg)
4. 2006 Ford F-150 full size pickup truck (40k miles) (15 mpg)
5. 2001 Ford E-150 conversion van (80k miles) (12 mpg)
6. 2005 Toyota Corolla (48k miles) (35 mpg)

The sum of the values of 1, 2, and 3 is about $1,000, maybe. But I am happy to do my public duty, and sell them three or four times their value to Barack Obama, as long as he pays me personally. My scruples would prevent me taking actual TAX dollars, of course. Of course, now that I know that it is my public DUTY to take the tax money, for the good of the environment...I'll have to think about it.

The American Dream: Caused by Tea? Migration? Education?

Tea - midwife and nurse to capitalism

A. Kemasang, Race & Class, July 2009, Pages 69-83

Abstract: Tea is and has for long been so ubiquitous a part of daily life, in the UK
particularly, that its true significance remains almost invisible. Yet, as this article shows, it has nonetheless been of unprecedented importance in the historical, social and economic development of Britain, from the eighteenth century onwards, and not only as a major plantation-grown commodity of colonial trade. Indeed, its knock-on health benefits, as a counter to alcoholic alternatives and insanitary water supplies, were of primary importance to the growth and maintenance of the early industrial working class - and hence to the very development of Britain's early industrial and colonial supremacy.


The American Century? Migration and the Voluntary Social Contract

Jonathon Moses, Politics & Society, forthcoming

Abstract: This piece argues that free migration was a central if implicit part of the
liberal social contract and that America's founders were both aware of this and exploited it to legitimate their new state. The piece begins by describing this uniquely American contribution to liberal political thought. It then juxtaposes this contribution against the nature of our own international order, to show just how foreign the American Century has become. The piece closes with a short depiction of what an American Century would look like today - were it true to this early ideal - and comments on its feasibility.


Our Forgotten Founders: Reconstruction, Public Education, and Constitutional

Tom Donnelly Yale Working Paper, March 2009

Abstract: In this Article, I will consider a question that has been largely ignored by legal scholars: What role has public education played in constructing (or reinforcing) a constitutional culture that celebrates our Founding Fathers, but gives short shrift to their Reconstruction counterparts? To that end, I will look at the constitutional stories we tell our schoolchildren about the Founding generation and their Reconstruction counterparts. In particular, I will focus on the construction of constitutional heroes within these two key periods. First, I will use the Founding narrative as my baseline. From there, I will compare that account to our textbooks' treatment of Reconstruction. In the end, today's high school textbooks tend to praise the Founding generation and canonize certain key Founding Fathers, while, at the same time, largely ignoring Reconstruction's key players and
underemphasizing the constitutional revolution our Forgotten Founders envisioned (and began to wage). Our Reconstruction Founders deserve a more prominent place in the public's consciousness - and in the constitutional stories we tell our schoolchildren. If today's schools teach our children to revere the Founding generation by emphasizing their achievements and largely ignoring their shortcomings, our schools should (at the very least) stress the ambition of our Reconstruction Founders - even if they did not fully succeed in their efforts - and connect their incompletely - realized vision to the expansion of individual freedom and equality in the twentieth century.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Micos, Macacos, & Muriqui

Spending a couple days at the RPPN Feliciano Miguel Abdala, near the town of Caratinga, in the state of Minas Gerais was one of the most fun experiences of my life. It was just Mrs. Angus and me in the reserve (there was also a research team headed by Prof. Karen Strier from the Univ. of Wisconsin, but we only saw them briefly).

The Muriqui (which is an indian word meaning "happy men of the forest") are endangered but their population in the reserve is steadily growing.

We also saw some capuchin and howler monkeys!

Here is a slideshow:

Ryan Smith to LA Kings

Okay, so a word about frequent commenter "Martin."

Martin was assigned to help me give a major university-wide talk. It had been pretty widely advertised, all around the...well...university. We expected a decent crowd (meaning, since I was the speaker, more than about three, which is the number that SHOULD come out to hear me).

Anyway, Martin has the key to the cabinet, and we open it up. It had to look like two Neandertals trying to figure out a VCR. "Why flash 12! 12! 12!? And what is 12, anyway?" "HUNH. Me not know."

We poked and pushed buttons, and I went and got a VGA cable from my office. (For some reason, you have to bring your own VGA cable, to connect a laptop. Strange, since everything else is provided.) I pushed the "Aus" button, on the theory that...well, I didn't have a theory. Of course, that turned the beamer off, and we had to wait to recycle it.

Never did get the thing to connect. Martin went and got the hausmeister, who was not in. Martin walked back and forth 20 times, reporting back, while I pressed buttons and grimaced. On the 12th trip, Martin reported that the hausmeister was in fact in his office, but on the phone. On the 20th trip, the hausmeister accompanied Martin back. The HM opened the door, and pressed the big, master "ein" button. And then he said something in German. I assume it was something on the order of, "Lots of electronic equipment works better if you turn it on! Boy, are you guys dumb!"

And it did. Work better. When we turned it on. I blame Martin for this.

Anyway, it all worked, and we had an hour before the talk, which was to start at 6. Except that 6 means 6:15, in bizarro world Germany academics. (As I have written before). So, as I left, I said, "See you at 5:45, Martin!" And he said, "See you at 6:15!"

And both of us thought, "Wait, he can't have that right. I must have misheard him."

I got back at 5:45. And there is no one in the building, anywhere. I start to freak out (I do have a time fetish, and I hate, hate, HATE to be late.) A few people show up at 6:05, and one of them, mirabile dictu, has a KEY. The freakin' key that I need to open the cabinet, and set up the projector (and turn on the "Ein" key, by the way).

We barely get set up in time.

Martin strolls in, at 6:14. Which would have been fine, except that he HAD THE KEY. If someone else had not had a key, my head might have exploded by this time.

So...when Martin comments that Ryan Smith was traded to the LA Kings, I am trying to be happy. Martin, inexplicably, is a big LA Kings fan. That's like being a Kansas City Royals fan in baseball, except that the Royals were once good. (Interesting, btw, that there was some bad blood between Smyth and the Kings, not so long ago. These things do blow over, once he's a teammate, but still...)

Anyway, props to Ryan Smyth, and to Martin. And next time I want to get my OWN key.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sports Shorts

1. Roger Federer defeats Andy Roddick at Wimbledon to claim his 15th Grand Slam title. Tomorrow's news flash: sugar is sweet, sun rises in the east. You may want to watch this 2007interview, which is still as hilarious as any post-match interview you will see. Whatever else, Andy does a good job of telling the truth.

2. Steve McNair found dead in condo. Ick.

Happy Anniversary to the LMM and to Me!

23 years and one day ago, I wasn't married. And today my older son is a college sophomore, living in an apartment in Chapel Hill. And the younger younger Munger is signing up for senior pictures. Because he is a high school senior.

23 years ago today we were going to the second wedding reception at the Elks Club, in Westerly, RI. The wedding had been at 9 am, and I hadn't slept at all the night before. Then we drove to a bad hotel outside of Boston, where we spent our wedding night. My friends had loaded every part of Donna's suitcase, including her pill bottles, with rice. Took years to live down the rice thing, and to get all the rice out of our luggage and pockets of clothing. Donna was so mad she stayed in the bathroom of the hotel for two hours and cried. Nice wedding night. "Honey? Sweetie? Are you okay?" "NO! I hate you and your friends! Don't you DARE touch me."

Next morning, before dawn, we flew to Bermuda, for our honeymoon.

My wife is a better person than I am in every way, except one: I married better than she did!

Happy anniversary, dear....

You Are So Booty-Call, to Me

The "Booty Call": A Compromise Between Men's and Women's Ideal Mating Strategies

Peter Jonason, Norman Li & Margaret Cason Journal of Sex Research, forthcoming

Abstract: Traditionally, research on romantic and sexual relationships has focused on
1-night stands and monogamous pairs. However, as the result of men and women pursuing their ideal relationship types, various compromise relationships may emerge. One such compromise is explored here: the "booty call." The results of an act-nomination and frequency study of college students provided an initial definition and exploration of this type of relationship. Booty calls tend to utilize various communication mediums to facilitate sexual contact among friends who, for men, may represent low-investment, attractive sexual partners and, for women, may represent attractive test-mates. The relationship is discussed as a compromise between men's and women's ideal mating strategies that allows men greater sexual access and women an ongoing opportunity to evaluate potential long-term mates.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Helping, Tolerating, Affect

Two very interesting studies. The stereotype is that senior women in academics can sometimes be very hard on junior women, and the stereotype is also that girls in middle school can be very hard on each other. I wonder about how the manipulations were actually managed in the Psych Science paper.

And, the other study resonates with my experience here in Franconia, in Germany. It is a very embedded culture, compared with the rest of Germany. You don't talk to people unless you have been introduced. And you would never impose on them unless you know them well. But on the other hand friendship is perhaps more important, and less superficial, here in Franconia than it is in the U.S. Not better or worse, just different.

Males' Greater Tolerance of Same-Sex Peers

Joyce Benenson, Henry Markovits, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Diana Geoffroy, Julianne Flemming, Sonya Kahlenberg & Richard Wrangham Psychological Science, February 2009, Pages 184-190

Abstract: Three studies were conducted to examine the often-cited conclusion that human females are more sociable than males. Using perceptions of roommates, roommate changes at three collegiate institutions, and an experimental manipulation of friendship beliefs, the studies demonstrated unequivocally that males exhibit a higher threshold of tolerance for genetically unrelated same-sex individuals than females do. Tolerance was defined as acceptance of the stresses and strains within relationships. Results are discussed in terms of potential underlying mechanisms and ultimate explanations.

Helping Strangers Is Lower in Embedded Cultures

Ariel Knafo, Shalom Schwartz & Robert Levine Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract: The embeddedness cultural value orientation regards the extended in-group, not the individual, as the key social unit. Embedded cultures focus on the welfare of the in-group, limiting concern for outsiders’ well-being. Therefore, the authors hypothesized that people in high-embeddedness cultures are less helpful to strangers in need. They related countries’ embeddedness scores to rates of helping strangers in three field experiments across 21 countries. Large cross-national differences in helping strangers related strongly and negatively to cultural embeddedness in subsets of wealthy and developing countries. This suggests that prevailing cultural values affect the way people relate to needy others outside their in-group.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Mr. Pujols: Walk Him. Just Walk Him.

I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan. And so, my favorite player in all of baseball is Mr. Pujols.

But I have a question, a serious question, though it will sound crazy.

Here's the situation, last night in Cincy, playing the Reds. Cards down 3-0, looking dispirited. Men on first and second, two outs. Idiot Reds reliever walks Hoffpauir, bringing up the only real threat in the Cards lineup....Mr. Pujols.

The Reds bring in a righty reliever, to do the righty v. righty thing. This reliever is a wily veteran, David Weathers, with 18 years of major league experience. But (and I like big buts, you know I cannot lie), Mr. Pujols is 9 for 18 lifetime against David Weathers. Just wears him out like an old sock.

To complete the setting, remember that following Mr. Pujols in the lineup is Ryan Ludwick and then Rick Ankiel. Both very good defensive outfielders. But neither of them bats over the "Munger line" (my current weight is 240 lbs; Ludwick is batting .235 and Ankiel is batting .230).

Summary: 8th inning, two outs, you are ahead 3-0, the next two guys in the line-up are in deep slumps. Your bullpen is the best in the major leagues (Cincy has an amazing bullpen).

Do you pitch to Mr. Pujols? It is radical to suggest, but I say: No, you do not. Walk him. Yes, I know the bases are loaded. But. Walk. Him. It's still just 3-1 and neither of the next two batters are likely to do anything except fly out.

They pitch to Mr. Pujols.

Mr. Pujol hits a long homer, a grand slam, the big salami with extra cheese and pickles. Even Mike Shannon, who has been drunk since 1973, notes in this video that "maybe you think about walking him."

Next inning, in the 9th, he* hits an RBI double, winning the game for the Cards. Look, the rest of the Cards, not counting pitchers even, have a team batting average of .240. Albert is batting .340, with 82 RBI, 31 homers, and a slugging average of nearly .750.

Why don't they walk him? Even with the bases loaded? Baseball has this silly macho thing, instead of just trying to win.

Anyway, I do want to thank Cincinnati, and manager Dusty Baker, for giving me such a fine thrill this morning when I watched the video of Mr. Pujols single-handedly beating them. But I don't understand WHY they did that.

Every team says, "Don't let Pujols beat us." And then Pujols beats them. Because they pitch to him.

Reminds me of the old Groucho Marx joke. Guy comes running in to Groucho's office (Groucho is pretending to be a doctor). "Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this." Groucho: "Don't do that." Well, it hurts when they pitch to Mr. Pujols. Don't do that.

*Pujols, not Shannon

Sarah Palin: Certifiable Lunatic

So, Gov. Palin is quitting, just straight up quitting her job as Governor of AK.

Her reason? Pure noble self-sacrifice.

"I love my job and I love Alaska, and it hurts to make this choice, but I'm doing what's best for them," Palin said, the sun glinting off a seaplane on Lake Lucille behind her.

Palin, 45, said that, after deciding not to run for reelection as governor, she realized she did not want to finish out her term merely for the sake of doing so.

"As I thought about this announcement that I would not seek reelection, I thought about how much fun other governors have as lame ducks: They maybe travel around their state, travel to other states, maybe take their overseas international trade missions," she said.

"I'm not going to put Alaskans through that," she continued. "I promised efficiencies and effectiveness. That's not how I'm wired. I'm not wired to operate under the same old politics as usual."

Good lord. All over the world, people go to work and do their jobs, just because they have a sense of obligation. Ms. Palin just got bored with the idea of doing the job she told the citizens of Alaska she wanted, and now she is quitting that job, FOR THE SAKE OF THE CITIZENS.

She may have a point, after all. Alaska is better off without her. Just yesterday she won the award for being the most ridiculous public figure of the pawt year. That means she beat out Blago, folks. No small achievement.

Friday, July 03, 2009

HIghs and Lows of Food in Munich

I have mentioned before the food requirements of the Lovely Ms. Mungowitz. So, while we were in Munich recently, we despaired of finding a decent place to have a salad that was devoid of things such as cucumbers, peppers, cheese, dressing, or croutons. The only solution? Subway Sandwich Shop. No, I am not kidding. In Munich, we went to the Subway for lunch.

The YYM saved the day, however, by ordering potato chips. Unexpectedly, a truly genius move. Here are two of the types of potato chips available at the Munich Subway Sandwich Shop:
The first, inexplicably, is "Ready Salted." Is this "ALReady Salted," in disguise, or something else? The second is "Prawn Cocktail." We ordered those, of course. And we disappointed, since there was no noticeable flavor of prawns on the chips. (That's "crisps" for you, Tommy). Or maybe we were happy. I don't remember.

Because then we got some real food. A nice dunkel and a big-ass brezel. The YYM was pleased.

Funny Audi ad

Not sure where they are really going with this.

1. Security guards are wimps?
2. Woman can't park?
3. The security guard loaned the woman his Audi?
4. The guy is FRENCH, for heaven's sake. The gun probably isn't even loaded, because the government is arguing about standards for bullets.

I have to admit: Audi commercials are cute. Here is another, for dog lovers.

Synecdoche in Munich: Best Signs 3

Being KPC readers, you all know that "synecdoche" is not a city in New York, but is rather a figure of speech where the part is used to represent the whole. For example, if a ship has "40 hands aboard" that means 40 sailors (why not 20, since they each have 2 hands?)

Anyway, we saw a great example of synecdoche in Munich. You know how many auto companies use ads where a woman is draped across the car? They are sending this message, in effect, drawn to male psychological scale: The car is not really what is supposed to catch the male purchaser's eye, in other words. (She is on the hood of a car. Look closely.)

Well, in Munich we saw a more creative approach. They didn't use a whole woman. In fact, draped across the hood, they let the hole stand for the woman. (I like....bad... puns, you know I cannot lie!)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

She (and he) wore blue velvet

The Pantanal is great for birds too. I guess about the prettiest we saw were the Hyacinth Macaws:

Mrs. Angus took this shot on land near Porto Joffre (as always, click the photo to enlarge). They are supposedly the biggest flying parrots in the world. These two were in love and working on their nest.

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You otter be in pictures

The Pantanal is kind of a huge everglades (about the size of France) and it is a terrific place to see wildlife. It doesn't seem like it should be, but it's actually better viewing than the Amazon. We saw 4 different jaguars in 6 total sitings. We also had extending viewings of giant river otters three different times. These guys are some of my favorite animals with extremely interesting behaviors and big "personalities" (click on the picture to enlarge):

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I took this picture from a small boat on the Rio Piquiri, which divides the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul.

The Movies: Brazil v. Germany

In Rio, Mrs. A and I also went to the movies. We saw a fairly bad movie starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen (I think it was called Duplicity?), but the experience was fun.

Like Germany, there were assigned seats. However, you could pick them in advance from a computer screen. Sadly for me, when they turned the screen around to face me, I just assumed it was a touch screen and repeatedly tried to manually select the seats we wanted to the great alarm of the clerk and the great amusement of the people in line behind me. The bus we took from Rio to Angra dos Reis also had assigned seats (this may be more common, I have to confess that I don't take the bus much!) and people seem to take their seat assignments fairly seriously.

There was also a separate line for senior citizens!

Snacks were different from the US. There was popcorn and soda, but no candy bars. People were eating dessert items and even sandwiches at tables by the concession stand before the film started. There was very little eating inside the screening room. From what we saw overall, there are few obese people in Brazil (even compared to Mexico, let alone the US).

Prices were amazingly high, more than $10 per ticket, but at least there was no intermission.

The film was subtitled, but not very well. Mrs. A and I can both read Portuguese pretty well and were cracking up a few times at the differences between the spoken English and the written Portuguese.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Mission accomplished

Mrs. Angus and I are back from Brazil. Many cool things, stories, and adventures, but I figured I'd better not bury the lead: WE SAW JAGUARS IN THE WILD!!!!!!!!!

Here is an example, taken from a small boat on the Cuiaba river in the Pantanal:


Click on the picture to enlarge. That was pretty much the coolest thing ever.

More soon.
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