Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Wal-mart of Weed

A 21,000 square foot one stop shop for growing the chronic, complete with an on-site doctor to get you signed up for using medical marijuana has just opened up in Phoenix.

Scores of thousands of terrorized Mexican families breathe a sigh of relief and hope these stores are soon ubiquitous here in Gringolandia.

Uganda trip report #1: Non-primate wildlife

The main focus of our trip was seeing primates (mountain gorillas, chimps, & monkeys), for which Uganda is unparalleled. But you can see a lot of other classic African wildlife too. We saw 11 lionesses, scores of elephants, hosts of hippos and buffalo (and, thankfully, zero snakes).

Perhaps the most unusual non-primate encounter we experienced was seeing a lion climb up into a fig tree, relax, hang out, jump down, and then climb back up again. This was in the southwestern corner of Queen Elizabeth Park, in a place called Ishasha (clic the pics for a more glorious image):

Ishasha is a very beautiful place.

I climbed up onto the roof of our Land Cruiser and was almost eye to eye with her!

Price Controls Lecture

Anthony Davies. Not sure about some of those graphs, as "proof" about min wage increasing unemployment. But a good video for a general audience.

When You Read This, I'll Be in Munich

Get to Munich at 7:30 am on Tuesday, staying at the Conrad Hotel de Ville on Schillerstrasse, right by the Hauptbahnhoff.

Heading up to Erlangen on Thursday, giving several talks, and staying at the Hotelchen am Theater on Theaterstrasse.

Of course, it just HAPPENS to be time for ... Bergkirchweih!

Also "on tap" (forgive me): A return to the very worst Mexican restaurant in the world! The single most viewed page in KPC history, and the YYM and I are going to see if it has gotten even worse.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Woman Aroused? How Can You Tell?

So, German police are flummoxed. (I write this in the air, using GoGo wifi, heading for Munich). A law written for male flashers requires that the flasher be visibly sexually aroused before the crime can be prosecuted.

But this woman has been flashing...and who can tell? I've been married 25 years, and I have no idea. Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe later, maybe not? Part of a lady's charm, that fickle mystery.

Men not very mysterious. I think more research needs to be done.

(Nod to the Blonde)

Air France Does a DSK Move

What is it with the French and taking responsibility? Jeez, DSK goes after the chambermaid, and all the French hoity toits fall over themselves blaming the woman.

The Air France plane falls 30k feet because it stalled.... stalled! When the stall warnings went off, Bozet the Clown in the pilot's seat pulled back on the stick to bring the nose up. Did he never play "Flight Simulator"? Amazing. Yet the Air France hoity toits...here's the quote from the WSJ article:

Air France praised the three pilots, who "demonstrated a totally professional attitude and were committed to carrying out their task to the very end," the airline said in a statement.

The carrier, a unit of Air France-KLM SA, noted that "the initial problem was the failure of the speed probes which led to the disconnection of the autopilot and the loss of the associated piloting protection systems."

The largest trade union representing Air France pilots, SNPL, said Friday the report "describes only part of the sequence of events experienced by the crew" and it awaits the full report.

Now, I understand that the disconnection of the autopilot would be a problem, if (for example) I or even the intrepid world traveller Angus were sitting up front. We are not...PILOTS. Losing the piloting protection systems would indeed be a big problem for anyone who is not a trained pilot.

But I would have expected that the term "pilot" would connote some ability to fly a plane, and in particular it should mean you have training in flying the particular plane you are "piloting" across the big old ocean.

I also understand that the guys are dead, and that Air France is trying to avoid massive liability for what appears to be simple negligence in training.

Still wonder, though, how a stall alarm would say to any trained pilot, "Get your nose up!" (Two analyses, one here and then a really interesting one here. The actual pilot, the last link, seems to think it was a tough situation. And he mentions what it must have been like to have a 40 degree up angle, and then the long stall, falling into the ocean. Must have been terrifying.)

A video of the problem of stalling.

The partners from Hell

Mrs. A and I have returned from two weeks in Uganda. It was a fantastic trip. We saw and did so much, I'm still kind of trying to process it all (and get over the jet lag).

However, one negative element of the trip was the incredibly disfunctional partnership between Delta and KLM. We flew OKC-ATL-AMS-EBB out and EBB-AMS-DET-OKC back. The full round trip was code-shared by both airlines, with KLM equipment on the flights in and out of Amsterdam and the rest with Delta equipment.

The first issue was that it turned out to be impossible to use frequent flyer miles to cover the flights. Not because there weren't seats, but because Delta said they couldn't get seats on the KLM provided flights and KLM said they couldn't get seats on the Delta provided flights. So it wasn't exactly true that we couldn't use frequent flyer miles, we just would have had to use twice as many as it should have been.

The next issue was that if you booked the flights with KLM you could only get amenities on the KLM provided flights (upgrades, special meals, priority boarding). If you booked with Delta, you could only get them on the Delta provided flights. This turned out to even be the case with seat assignments!

People, it is so bad that you are not even informed of SCHEDULE CHANGES on the flights provided by whichever company that you didn't book with!

At least KLM flew a modern plane with personal entertainment systems and such. The Delta equipment from AMS to DET was an ancient 747 with a couple of TV screens bolted to the ceiling.

More on the fun parts of the trip later.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Standing In the School House Door

Refreshing honesty from one of the commissars in the dark hierarchy of the education-industrial complex. Article in the N&O today, by UNC Ed School Dean Bill McDiarmid. Please do read it.

His essential points go as follows:

1. Students who have uninterested or unsupportive parents fail to do well in school.
2. Students whose parents are interested, involved advocates have the potential to do well.
3. It is not fair to open opportunities for the type 2 kids, since the type 1 kids won't have those opportunities.
4. Therefore, it is more fair to have a system where all students fall well short of their potential than to have a system where some students escape the trap of poverty and the cycle of educational failure.

Dean McDiarmid actually goes so far as to say that the desperate parents in the movie "Waiting for Superman" should be forced, literally forced, to keep their kids in the horrible public school system of Washington D.C. The ideology of our education commissars is that unless everybody escapes, nobody escapes.

Why would someone who at least pretends to care about children take such an abusive position? After all, if we are to ensure social mobility and a chance for some people to realize their dreams of a better life for their children, shouldn't we want to save at least some of those poor kids? Because, remember, the research the commissar cites shows that kids without adult advocates are GOING TO FAIL EITHER WAY. The only actual question is whether we let kids who DO have adult advocates succeed. Dean McDiarmid does not want that to happen. Again, why?

A remarkable story from New York tells us why. The NAACP is mounting an aggressive defense of failing schools in Harlem. Some of these schools have success rates (proportion performing at grade level) of 3%. (That's 97% NOT at grade level, for those of you who got degrees in education...)

Who is on the other side? Who is the NAACP valiantly fighting against? Poor black people. Nice. Check this article; it brings tears to your eyes. Shame on you, NAACP, and shame on Dean McDiarmid. At the end of the day, you are happy to sacrifice the future of our poorest children for a few pieces of silver for your public unions and their ideological fellow travellers.

Several polls near the end of the 2008 race showed my support among African-Americans was 50% higher than among whites. Some of this was because I was opposed to capital punishment. But people I talked to told me their support was based on educational reform, giving choice to poor people. Rich people have always had choices, and they are leaving the system to go to private schools. Poor people are the ones who need choices, and only changing government policy can do that.

(UPDATE: Link is fixed. Thanks!)

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Links and Links

Spontaneous order in Alabama: talk radio and aid announcements in Spanish

Tanning beds, no question. And other stuff with Bob Lee.

Darned microphone. Republicans broadcast "secret" meeting into press room...

Peak Volts? Limited supply of ridiculous car allows dealers to get their own charge from tax credit...

Docs and Glocks in FLA: I like the part about over-ruling the state bird.

Surely this is a hoax? And don't call me Shirley.

Are you experienced? Facebook: arbiter of what can be said, and how.

Make your own jokes: solar iKini made from many "waffer thin" panels

Finally, no gag, just gift: Free hugs (video, work safe)

(Nod to Angry Alex and the Blonde)

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Grand Game: Medical School Edition

A truly remarkable proposal: make med school free, but make specialties really, really expensive. Read it here, comment you know where. My own view: If you think doctors are maximizing the following function:

Income = f(x) + $155,0000 (Where x is choice of specialty)

Then the same x will maximize the following function:

Income = f(x) + $0

In other words, it cannot be true that the choice of specialty will be affected by the fixed cost of attending med school in the first place.

The other part of the argument is that we need to charge for studying specialties. For some reason, our brave authors assume this is a fixed choice: "There are nearly as many doctors enrolled in specialty training in the United States (about 66,000) as there are students in United States medical schools (about 67,000), the forgone stipends would cover all the tuition costs."

I have news: if this cockeyed plan is implemented, those numbers will change, quite a bit. And only the people with specialties will have those big debts. Which will mean elective MRIs for everyone; papa's got debts to pay!

Fear Your Cell Phone, Eat Your French Fries...

An excellent point. We make up stuff to worry about, things that there is little evidence that we should fear. But we eat french fries and smoke when we KNOW those are dangerous.

"Radiation — from power lines, microwave ovens, cell phones, and (went there) nuclear power — has always occupied outsized concern in the public mind relative to its true health impact. Meanwhile, our collective choices and private behaviors on so many matters display rather astonishing neglect of basic public health concerns." [Harold Pollack, TNR}

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

NC Budget Hardball

My friend Bob Geary at Indie Week notes that Gov. Bev has come out swinging hard and effectively.

On the other hand, my friend Jim Morrill from the N&O says that Repubs smell victory. They are hoping to override Gov. Bev's veto on the budget.

My own view is closer to Mr. Geary's. (To be fair, Mr. Morrill makes no predictions himself, merely citing the Repub conventional wisdom). Bev is doing some fine work, politically. And the Repubs only seem to talk to people who agree with them. That kind of "my whole family and staff agree with me" polling may just reach up and bite 'em on the butt.

Gov. Bev is generally not a very inspiring stumper. But she actually cares about this issue, particularly education (whether she understands it is a different question). And the Repubs would make a big mistake to ignore her genuine speaking ability on issues she cares about. Yes, she will oversimplify and distort. Yes, she only has one effective emotional tone, and that's mad grandma-style indignation. But she will also make a lot of people mad at the Republicans. This is not over.

Regulation is Not Kosher

RL sends an interesting article, about Israeli and Palestinian meats.

Excerpt: In a recent report, the state comptroller wrote that the cost to Palestinian importers of importing refrigerated fresh meat is about 10% of the cost to their Israeli counterparts. What is the reason for that gigantic difference? Two reasons, says the comptroller: the high cost of kosher slaughter abroad, and a 190% tax Israel imposes on imported fresh meat. No such tax is applied to meat imported into the Palestinian Authority.

For instance, a Palestinian importer pays $1.55 per kilo of fresh fillet, while the Israeli importer pays $11.80 for the same cut of meat: 7.6 times more.

The answer to the problem: get rid of the stupid law. (Yes, this is usually my answer to problems, but it would work!) If Israel is a secular state (and in some sense it has to be), why not allow import of all (safe) meat, and then let kosher butcher shops do the work they have done for thousands of years? Under the current system, consumers pay too much, and eat meat that is not only not kosher, but of unknown and possibly unsafe origin.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

You are Canadien, Not You Are?

The Ward Boss shares this column on American hockey rubes.

I have been asked by The Seattle Times if, as a Canadian, I might offer pointers on hockey "to American rubes," which, I would point out, is a direct quote from The Times reporter, not me. I can't speak to the reporter's characterization of his own countrymen in this case. I use the term "American rubes" only after my regular cavity-search at the border.

I would also say that I find it quaint that Americans, rube-ish or otherwise, believe the stereotype that they have of Canadians. Just because we live in igloos does not mean we all know something about hockey. This would be akin to me randomly phoning up someone in Seattle and asking them, "Hey, you're an American. Give me pointers on military intervention and the overthrow of oil-rich autocracies." I would never presume to typecast people in a country as great and diverse as the U.S., and I'm sure most of you are engrossed in many other pursuits, such as monster truck rallies.

I don't even mind being mocked by Canadians anymore. For years, their bizarre fear of free speech and aggressive local content codes surprised me. But they mostly avoided huge bailouts of criminals, by mostly avoiding a huge economic collapse, by mostly having a sensible economic policy (no FNMA, no FHLMC) in the first place.

Oooh, look. The monster truck rally is on TV. Gotta go.

Darn that center!

President Obama's "Beast" gets high centered at the Irish Embassy. No wonder he gave up appealing to the center, it reaches up and grabs him, keeping from doing what he wants...

(Nod to JS, who got it from here)