Friday, July 19, 2013

School Daze: MIT vs. Stanford Culture

MIT has a video to help the geeks figure out how to talk to non-geeks.  An actual video.  Maybe a spoof, maybe not, pretty funny either way.

Stanford, on the other hand, is famous for its band.  And the band has its "Dollies."  They are....well, they are here.

Where would YOU want to go to school, if you were a young man?  I think the answer is....MIT.  There would be no competition.  Of course, you'd have to hack that video, to prevent that valuable info from getting out.

Nod, but no blame, to Kevin Lewis.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Left in NC Discovers Anew An Ancient Truth

It's fun to watch when the little kids discover something on their own.  They remember it better that way, that's a rule of teaching.  So, even though all the grown-ups knew this all along, it's better to let the younglings figure it out.

It appears that the Progressives, the Left, whatever you want to call them, in North Carolina have "discovered" that regulation, even regulation that the regulator says is benign, can be harmful.  It's intrusive, it makes everything more expensive, and it has a chilling effect on people being willing to use your product.

Now, the Prog-Left has discovered this truth about abortion clinics in NC.  Regulating abortion clinics is going to make it much more difficult, more scary, and more expensive to get an abortion, or even to get counseling.  Abortions are legal, but regulations will make it harder for customers to obtain them, and it will be impossible for businesses to provide this otherwise legal service.  It's like someone is saying, "Oh, you can do this, but we are just going to regulate it," as a way of actually outlawing the activity.

Let's hope they take this deep insight and apply to other kinds of small businesses.   The same thing, THE SAME THING, is true for all the regulations, from petty to draconian, that you folks want to impose on businesses of all kinds. Because the Prog-Left has always pretended (until now, when they actually care about the business) that regulations are a benefit, rather than a harm.  Sauce for the goose...

Timur Kuran on Islam and Economics



The political consequences of Islam’s economic legacy 

Timur Kuran 
Philosophy & Social Criticism, 
May 2013, Pages 395-405 

Abstract: Several of the Middle East’s traditional economic institutions hampered its political development by limiting checks on executive power, preventing the formation of organized and durable opposition movements, and keeping civil society weak. They include Islam’s original tax system, which failed to protect property rights; the waqf, whose rigidity hampered the development of civil society; and private commercial enterprises, whose small scales and short lives blocked the development of private coalitions able to bargain with the state. These institutions contributed to features that sustain autocracies and keep democracies unstable: high corruption, low trust, widespread nepotism and high tolerance for law-breaking.

Business class 777

Got upgraded--not sure why--on flight from LAX to Sydney, Australia.

Looks like this, like some futurisitic rocket ship.  All the seats lay down completely, flat, with walls between you and the person next to you.  Only 4 across, whereas back in coach it's 9 across.


And the controls....they look like this.  All sorts of ways you can make the bed / seat move.

The only one I couldn't figure out is the bottom right.  "Too Many Burritos"? Looks bad.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My new axe

Man, I have been getting better on the guitar and Mrs. Angus hooked me up with an awesome new instrument.

Feast your eyes people:



It's a Epiphone Sheraton II semi-hollowbody with alnico humbuckers.

John Lee Hooker, Noel Gallagher, Aaron Dessner, Randy Randall, and now EZ Angus!

Alright people, what do you play? Tell me in the comments.



This time they'll nail that owl for sure

Oh, man. This is big. Mike Peterson is getting a new trial! Supposedly because some forensic expert was squirrelly, but we all know why. To clear the way to go after the real killer, the barred owl.

Maybe they can bring back Mike Nifong to try the case.

If only the coke-toting clueless UNC physics professor could be called as a witness from his house arrest in Argentina, my life would be complete.

Maybe he could sing through a vocodor: "it was the owl, people, it's always the owl".


Racial Profiling

Let me come out and say it:  I know I do it.  I try to be aware of it.  But I do it. The way I react to people depends on several factors, but race is one of them.  Knowing that can help you avoid sticking to that view, and one can overcome it by being aware.

This video is interesting, in this regard.  I'm thinking of the Zimmerman trial, in particular.  Zimmerman may have thought what many people would think, using race as a sign of suspicion.  But you don't get to act that way.


(Yes, I blogged about this before.  The stuff I wrote in the second half is still where I stand.  It's not just statistical discrimination.  It's UNjust statistical discrimination).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Atlas Shrugged Live!

Remember how near the end of the middle part of Atlas Shrugged, where all the trains are breaking down and no one actually knows how to make things work?

Asiana Airlines had a plane crash because of pilot error.  They didn't actually know how to fly the plane.  You can imagine them sitting there, thinking, "Damn!  We're low.  But I don't want to embarrass anyone, because I'm not really sure how this thing works, without the autopilot engaged."   (Landing beacon at SFO was down that day).

That likely damaged their reputation.  That whole "pilots who can't land a plane, and who couldn't figure out what that loud "STALL! STALL!" warning meant.

But Asiana found someone to blame.  Someone who damaged Asiana's reputation.  The TV station that credulously went with a report on the names of the pilots.  (Check the pilot names, and listen to the report).

The NTSB, wanting its share of the "we don't know what we are doing, either!" blamed an intern.  It's like a bad Dilbert, where poor Asok takes it in the shorts again.

Asiana is suing...the TV station!  Yep, that's what harmed your rep, guys, not the "fly the plane into the ground tail first" thing.

Nod to Anonyman and Angry Alex

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday's Child

1.  Holy fiscal smoke and mirrors, Batman!  The US is actually in a spot of trouble.  It's not that our taxes are too high (they aren't).  It's not that our discretionary spending is too high (it may be, but that's not the problem).  We are going to take it in the shorts unless we (1) get a lot more young immigrants with jobs, or (2) reform entitlements right away.  As CATO puts it:  Deep Doo-Doo.

2.  The folks with their boxes all wadded up about GM food are just useful innocents for a cynical corporate play that's about protecting profits.  Stop doing that.

3.  Firstie Club!  A nice Jon Stewart story.

4.  That's not price-gouging, that's sustainable pricing!  And why it should be legal....

5.  Who is racist?

More after the jump...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Spectacular: Lake Wobegonomics Research from the New School

This is from the New York Times.  It was written by Teresa Ghilarducci, the Bernard L. and Irene Schwartz chair of economic policy analysis at the New School for Social Research

Six months ago, I visited North Carolina's state treasurer, Janet Cowell – the only Democrat in the administration now – and met with citizen advocates.. Our trip had impact, on us at least. On the plane coming home my colleague turned to me shell shocked, "How can it be legal to have so much poverty in such a wealthy state?" 

Ask two questions: How rich is the state? And what percentage of its children live in poverty? That's a working definition of good fiscal policy…. Let’s look at North Carolina. It is the 39th richest state, and yet it ranks 12th for the percentage of children living in poverty – only 11 states fare worse. 

Um, ma’am….if it is the 39th richest state, that means it's the 12th poorest state.  That means there are 11 states that are poorer. And if it is the 12th for percentage of children living in poverty….then again there are 11 states that are poorer. It’s exactly the same proportion, not out of line at all.  What's with this "And yet..." thing you got going?

Perhaps you believe that ALL of the states should have fewer children in poverty than adults in poverty, as a percentage, COMPARED TO OTHER STATES, but I’m a trained economist and I can assure you that averages don’t actually work that way. If some states rank higher for child poverty than overall wealth, then some state will rank lower. It’s just the way numbers work.

So, on to your question, "How can it be legal to have so much poverty in such a wealthy state?" 
(And putting aside the fact that NC has exactly as much poverty as our wealth would suggest).
That "illegal poverty" thing you bring up seems like a pretty radical solution.  I mean, we could make it illegal, and arrest poor people, or shoot them.  But I think that's a terrible idea.  Here's the thing: in any group of states, unless they are all identical, won't it be true that some are richer than others?  If you have a purely relative measure of poverty, then it will always be true that half the states are poor, because they are below median income.  We could increase income by 10 times, across the board, and half the people would still be below the median. 

Of course, this is fine, given that your answer to the question, "How much money should we give away?" is simply, "More."  It could never be enough.  And that's why those relative measures of poverty are so useful.  What has your knickers knotted, ma'am, is not poverty. It's inequality.  Let me assure that that is quite a different problem.  Most real solutions to poverty actually increase inequality.  Likewise, most solutions to inequality sharply increase objective (not relative) poverty.

I wanted to check to see where she got her PhD, because it had to be Berkeley.  Yup... Berkeley.

A kind reader suggested this is an appropriate illustration.

Nod to Joel R., for sending me the NYTimes piece in the first place.

I don't want to cause no fuss ....

....but can I drive your magic desert bus?


People, meet "Desert Bus", designed by Penn & Teller and widely considered the worst video game ever made.

How so, you ask?

The drive from Tucson, Arizona, to Las Vegas, Nevada, takes approximately eight hours when travelling in a vehicle whose top speed is forty-five miles per hour. In Desert Bus, an unreleased video game from 1995 conceived by the American illusionists and entertainers Penn Jillette and Teller, players must complete that journey in real time. Finishing a single leg of the trip requires considerable stamina and concentration in the face of arch boredom: the vehicle constantly lists to the right, so players cannot take their hands off the virtual wheel; swerving from the road will cause the bus’s engine to stall, forcing the player to be towed back to the beginning. The game cannot be paused. The bus carries no virtual passengers to add human interest, and there is no traffic to negotiate. The only scenery is the odd sand-pocked rock or road sign. Players earn a single point for each eight-hour trip completed between the two cities, making a Desert Bus high score perhaps the most costly in gaming.

 The game was never released (somehow the company that owned it went bankrupt), but it is available today, and is used as the basis of a "desert bus for hope" charity that has raised over $400,000  by taking pledges from people for playing the game a certain length of time. 

If you want to play this game, you can.

I personally live a version of this game multiple times each year. The drive from Norman OK to Santa Fe NM is 8 hours (at around 80 mph) on a flat boring road. My 2003 Honda Element doesn't pull to the right, but the only way I can fend off the frequent spousal demands for bathroom breaks is to let her play the same cuts off a Jim Gaffigan CD. Over......and over.......and over............



Alpha-Bet: A Better Ordering for Mankind

THE ALPHABET IN ORDER OF AESTHETIC SIMPLICITY,
SIMPLEST FIRST, THEN MORE COMPLEX:

I O U C J S L Z V N F E D P T X Y W M R B A K H Q G

The order of the letters we use, starting with A, is arbitrary. 
PLEASE USE THIS SYSTEM FROM NOW ON.  That is all.

With thanks to @cool_pond