Friday, November 21, 2014

State of the Union Address

An apt summary, and nicely brief, of all of Pres. Obama's SOTUs to date.

He notes that it has been fun, and that the women (at least) in the audience should be very happy.  When it turns out that even this limited claim is not true, and the audience screams, the President makes gestures with his hand that are out of time with his words (teleprompter problem, perhaps?).

Then Joe Biden (wearing a fake beard, I think; it's hard to tell) howls in glee.

And then some Republican shouts "You lie!" or something like that.

And the President goes into attack mode, saying "You won't be here much longer..."

Finishing with the immortal words, "No one enjoys seeing a man dance."  How very insightful.

With thanks to Ed Wood for the score, and to M.K. for a terrific assist in finding this gem.

Ping Pong Balls

On "Ellen," it's raining ping pong balls.

Why, oh why, do we even have an FCC if stuff like this can happen?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We Get Letters: The Seen and the Unseen

From a avid aviation reader:

Article in Vanity Fair on airlines and safety...

On page 2 there a superb section expanding on "Cockpit Resource Management." Studying economics has given me a deeper appreciation of this revolution in aviation. 

Preventing arrogance from disrupting complex systems appears to be a central challenge of economics/political science. The fact that the aviation community did this in an institution famous for attracting arrogant [people, especially pilots] seems like a remarkable achievement. I think it is fair to say this feat was a key contributor to plummeting accident rates the past three decades.  The author does a superb job walking the reader through a very complex/technical mishap. 

Flops at the end, though. "It seems that we are locked into a spiral in which poor human performance begets automation, which worsens human performance, which begets increasing automation. The pattern is common to our time but is acute in aviation." 

So much pessimism. In 2013, there were 224 worldwide commercial aviation fatalities out of 3.1 billion passengers served. We're "locked into a spiral" of safety advancements so spectacular that we've reduced the odds of death down to one in 45 million. 

Hard to imagine a human activity that is more safe. It would make more sense for Vanity Fair to lament the progress of eliminating bathtub hazards. Aviation has something in common with the free society and market economies. Three pure miracles of human achievement, and people obsess on the negatives and totally ignore the miracle. 

An interesting perspective:  Are we done with this safety thing?  Mission accomplished and all that?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Everyone should enjoy your work

This is an actual email that I received this week:

Dear Author,

I’m Simona Vinerean (editor at Expert Journals) and it's a great pleasure to invite you to contribute your best knowledge to Expert Journals! I thought you might be interested in a new publishing opportunity, with extra benefits for you!

As authors, we are all too familiar with the traditional (and expensive) way of publishing our articles. But, what if you could get more benefits out of this process?

Luckily, at Expert Journals, you can benefit of a fast peer-review process of your theoretical or empirical article and you will get published in an open-access system (because everyone should enjoy your work), at a low fee of only 150 Euro.


Thank you so much for reading this email!

We look forward to receiving and publishing your paper!

Have a fantastic week!

Warm regards,

Simona Vinerean

I am pretty confused about exactly what the "extra benefits" are for me here. I am also confused about how the "traditional" way of publishing (i.e. peer review) is expensive.

Maybe someone can straighten me out in the comments? In the meantime, I just add the "Expert Journal of Economics" to my list of crap that doesn't count when you see it on someone's vita. Sadly that list gets longer almost every month.


The Donkey Diaspora is beginning.  Apparently this truck pulled up to the Russell Senate Office Building, and then just hauled ass.

Click for an even more departing image.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Atila Takes His Shot

A guest post from my friend Atila A (Duke Econ prof.).  He has been saying for years that he was going to get his hunting license and go out to get some deer meat.  But, this year, he actually did.  And got a deer on his first day out.  The story... (I should note that Atila was VERY excited about this, and in reading it's hard not to share his excitement.  Unless you are a vegetarian, and even then deer hunting is way better than industrial meat farming.  Or unless you are just squeamish, in which case it's time you OWNED your carnivorism.  Meat doesn't come in paper packages with shrink-wrap; it's an animal.)

Story of My Shot… 
It was the first of many things in a human life. The first day of the deer season in NC, a breezy morning, probably the first winter we had ever felt in our guts this year in NC, my first hunt with a gun, my first shot and a clean kill… Not everything was perfect though, which made the whole experience more worth to hear about. The tree stand I was on was looking over a bushy area to my right. Not an easy position to shoot for a right hander, and definitely not for a first-time shooter. In addition, some young pine trees were obstructing my view. Here comes the deer from my very right, I have to tilt heavily to the right, I sight-in, pull the trigger, and Joel, the well-seasoned hunter that I was fortunate to hunt with, and I were harvesting our game next. 

A very clean kill. That was my first shot and the only shot we made that day. Joel was very impressed. He said, “you were in the military in Turkey, right?” Yes, I was indeed… He also asked if I felt the adrenalin rush. “Not really” I said. Pretty cool and mature response for a first time hunter who shoots a deer at his first shot. Yes, I am a cool guy… That is a true story, hundred percent… yet it is the rosy, brave side of it. There is another hundred percent true, yet more real and fun side to it. Here it is: I was looking for an orange hunter vest and cap at Walmart when I got the call from Joel around 9am. I heard it is easier to find hunter stuff at Walmart, otherwise I would never stop by a Walmart. Anyway, he picked me up from home at 9:40am. I stuffed my pockets with two slices of some sourdough bread and cheese for lunch, a bottle of tap water, oh and two small milky way bars, leftovers from Halloween. We had not got too many kids at our door, so I thought I should offer one to Joel. And yes, my orange vest and cap. 


Sunday, November 16, 2014

PSR: A Gem

Sometimes, there is a thread on PSR that amuses me.  Here's one:

Theory Presenter: [Snipping 75 minutes of reading without eye contact.] " as you can see, I have reconceptualized and reconsidered and -icized and -atized until this problem I talk about is clearly both like and unlike what Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Plato, and Arendt implied by choosing one word instead of a universe of other words in these few sentences no one else has really talked much about." 

Theory Search Committee Member: "Well, certainly, but since we have clear answers about this philosophical problem deriving from Augustine's flirtation with manichaeism [snipping 15 minutes of bibliographic citations] ... what could we turn to in order to understand why what you have presented improves our understanding of the problem at hand?" 

Audience Member In the Back: "Data."* 

*This totally happened.