Sunday, December 31, 2006

The squish-crunch of fresh mouse carcasses underfoot...

Anxious Angus writes with New Year's greetings, mentioning that
the Tragic Kingdom, near my home town, has some unwelcome neighbors.

Dee Sincavage, owner of one of the many ornamental plant nurseries for which Apopka is known, is hard pressed to pick her worst mouse experience since the infestation began last summer by chasing kids out of Camp Wewa.

Was it the morning she walked into her nursery and felt the squish-crunch of fresh mouse carcasses underfoot? The night mice chewed through plumbing, flooding her office and soaking her business records? Or just the daily ordeal of drowning and disposing of dozens of live mice caught in traps overnight?

"Gosh, they are all over the place," Sincavage said. "The stench is bad and the gnats around here are terrible from all the dead carcasses. It's just disgusting."

Counter-measures by health authorities, who have established a special rodent command center, so far have been only partly successful. Besides dispensing traps and bait, authorities launched an air assault by releasing 17 barn and screech owls expected to feast on dozens of mice a day. News of the buffet apparently traveled far, luring many more birds of prey to the area.

"We have more raptors than we've ever seen before," Overfield said. "They just line up along the telephone wires and dive down and pick stuff off."

So far, Overfield said, the infestation has not sickened anyone, although the smell of all the rotting carcasses trapped in the walls of many homes and businesses is certainly nauseating.

Oh, my. That's a lot of mice.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Rationality of Ideology

My main man at Clemson, Bill Dougan, and I had a paper in the Journal of Law and Economics in 1989, entitled "The Rationality of Ideology".

We tried to think of examples that our theory would explain, examples that standard rational choice theory might miss. We thought of some.

But here is a terrific one:

"Republican House staff members who are losing their jobs in the aftermath
of November's loss of control are hoping Democrats will re-extend the hand
of largesse to them next month. As the old Congress wound down in a scramble
of post-election activity, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered to
pay two months' severance to staff members working on some committees and in
House leadership offices. But her offer was scuttled - by Republican
lawmakers, who complained they didn't have the opportunity to study the
proposal and look at costs. The Senate already provides two months pay for
displaced staff members. One of the affected House staffers said his
comrades are mystified that a plan that would benefit employees of
Republicans would be killed by Republicans: 'We hope the Democrats revisit
it.'" [Wall Street Journal]

Now, that does NOT explain why these same yo-yos voted FOR all those roads bills, and earmarks. But the point is that the only way to establish an ideological reputation is when it costs you to do so.

(Nod to KL, who is neither rational nor ideological)

Monday, December 25, 2006

OJ, Gingerbread Nazis, and Holocaust Denial

Nicely done.

As fine a use of YouTube as I have ever seen. Just poses a question. Is he serious? Is he kidding? Is he making us wonder? It's just not clear. And that's why it is so wonderful. Very uncomfortable.

Sometimes, the Internet makes me happy.

Anglico Comes Up Big!

I had not looked at BlueNC, or Anglico's Blog, before.

But he does a pretty funny send-up of my candidacy. Fair enough, though: he links the web site, quotes actual claims by me, and then suggests people sign the ballot access petition. So far, so good.

But what he REALLY did was prompt a reader to make this comparison, in comments:

That's William Katt, in "Greatest American Hero."

Now, compare him to me:

Now, take away the fact that Katt is good looking, and in good physical shape, and you see that WE ARE TWINS. Except for those two caveats....

(If you are interested in my response to the post, you can see it here....)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Overheard at the Harris-Teeter

I am the cook in the Munger house (my wife bakes, sometimes fiercely, but draws the line at producing normal foodstuffs. When asked why, she says, "I went to law school, AND got married. If you do those two things, you should NEVER have to cook.")

One of the big meals I cook is the Italian Catholic traditional (sort of, it's a Rhode Island/Philadelphia ItaloAmerican custom) "7 Fishes" dishes meal for Xmas eve. That's one of the fun things about being Catholic, you get to go through chains of reasoning like this:

1. The Xmas eve vigil requires no meat, but fish is fine.
2. In America, we can celebrate by having a "7 fishes" tradition (I've seen 12, also) of 7 "meatless" dishes. Light things like lobster with butter and shrimp scampi.
3. But, one also gets together for big extended family meals. So you need something that finnicky kids will eat. So you make meatballs, which contain both beef and pork.
4. But, it would be rude NOT to eat those wonderful meatballs, because the cook went to that trouble. So you have one or two, in ADDITION to the 7 dishes of fishes.
5. Then, even after the kids are big, and will eat fish just fine, you still make meatballs, because it is a tradition.

In other words, tradition grows to encompass the exact opposite* of the supposed tradition, without contradiction.

Anyway, in order to get all the stuff I need for two days of cooking, I got up at 7:30 am, got ready, had a cuppa, and then was at the Harris-Teeter grocery by 8:30.

And the freakin' parkin' lot was FULL, already. I had never seen this before, so I have to report it, like an anthropologist might.

1. The store was roughly gender balanced, an equal number of men and women. But nearly all of the shoppers (and the store was nearly full!) were female. Large, small, old, young; hunting and gathering like they have been since...well, since there was a since. And these women had LOADED their carts.

2. Nearly all the workers were men. And there three or four men in EVERY AISLE, trying desperately to stock things. AND THEY WERE LOSING GROUND! Women were taking vegetables, of all kinds, directly off the big trolleys that they bring produce in on from the trucks. Women were pushing the trollyes out of the way, and in some cases literally elbowing the stock-men out of the way.

3. I heard one woman ask why there were no green beans. Stock guy said more were coming, but it was hard because everyone wanted them for green bean casserole. She stared at him, and said: "You are out of it because everyone wants it? I thought you made money selling food." I could have kissed her; a rational person. Wouldn't have minded, actually, since she was also quite fit and attractive. The point is that she is absolutely right. They can't be out of something they KNOW people want a lot of, since the answer is "Stock more." An unexpected run on rutabegas, sure, that could happen. But how can you be out of green beans when you know why people want them at this time of year?

4. I heard one other great conversation, between two stock men, 20 feet apart. They were both probably 25. A sloshing sea of women was surging around these guys, pulling cans off the shelves and checking lists.
Guy 1: "I knew she was going to torture me for that."
Guy 2: "Did she?"
Guy 1: "Oh, you know it. First she says I have to leave, then she says, 'Oh, you really hurt me, you broke my heart. I have to think.' So, I had to listen to like two hours of this crap. Women are just nuts."

5. There was a guy doing an imitation (intentional, I think) of Patton, right behind the swinging doors where they were bringing in stock from the trucks. The guy (who I couldn't see, but could hear clearly when the doors swung open for a trolley, and could still hear a little when the doors were closed) was saying:
"Gentleman, today is war. And you are losing. They are driving you back, and you bunch of candy-asses are just taking it. Get out there! Get out there, and get that stock up, you bunch of maggots! You are the lamest excuses for stockers I have ever seen! You make me SICK!"
I think he was kidding, because all of the stockers coming out were openly laughing, and shaking their heads. But the war metaphor was a good one, although some of those women shoppers were more like pirates. They would waylay a trolley and plunder it before the stocker even knew he had been boarded.

Merry Christmas, and happy cooking!

*this word was left out of original post.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Overheard at a Liberty Fund Conference.....

Overheard at a Libety Fund Conference, in Key West:

1. During discussion, a very serious time:

Older gentleman: "I found this passage very insightful, or at least provocative. It describes [he describes what it describes, at a bit of length, though not inappropriately so. Description involves metaphor of piracy]"

Younger gentleman: "Oh, I underlined that, too! It said, 'pirates'! I LOVE pirates."

2. During walk, in afternoon:

Older gentleman, very cultured fellow: "Oh, look, I went into that museum last time I was in Key West, 20 years ago!"

Younger woman: "How was it?"

Older gentleman: "It was only a mild rip-off, making it perhaps the most worthwhile attraction on this island!"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"...To See Ourselves As Others See Us"

Whoa, George, can you really not see how you come across, or do you really not care?

"I'm sleeping a lot better than people would assume."

-- President George W. Bush, as quoted in the most recent issue of People

Because they have a soul?

(Nod to KL, who never sleeps)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Manuel Ayau

Interesting, and inspiring, bio over on my pal Hispanic Pundit's blog.

Reminds me of another friend's take on the problem with nearly all modern
policies, and politics, on the poor. We ask ourselves what causes "poverty."

But poverty is the natural state of man. If you fail, if you don't develop effectie institutions, you stay in poverty.

What we need to study, and talk about, is what causes wealth. Except that we already know that: property rights, independent courts, constitutional republic as a government form, and capitalist economy with effective financial institutions.

Why don't most nations have those things? Some of it is education. But some of it is that politicians can't claim credit for letting wealthy citizens keep their wealth. So, we fight poverty, and take money from the rich and give it to government agencies to burn in a thousand smoky little fires. Voters see the smoke, and assume something useful is being done.

What we need to do is NOT fight poverty. What we need to do is fight the things that prevent us from becoming wealthy.

Great Moments in Marriage

A funny story from J.G. at Eternal Recurrence.

Reminds me of "Great moments in marriage," tho.

Here's one: We are at a party, full of Duke glitterati and people from the Durham community, with a lot of visitors from New York thrown in. A little over my pay grade, or at least over my cultural scale of conversation.

At our table of ten, other woman tells story of getting married in Catholic Church, though she wasn't Catholic (hubby-to-be was, is, VERY Catholic). Had to do classes, make promises, etc.

My wife says, "Oh, we had to do that, too! I'm Catholic, but Michael isn't. And something funny happened to us, didn't it, Michael? Tell them!"

I stare at her, say, "Okay...." and then tell this story.

We had to go to classes, and take a test for compatibility, before getting married in 1986. After three weekend (I was commuting down to DC from Dartmouth, in NH) meetings, we had the final debriefing. The priest kept shuffling papers. Then, he turns red, and just blurts out, to me: "Have you told her about your problem? Don't you think you should? It will matter for the marriage. And I'm not sure the church can sanction this union."

I was fairly hung over, as I had been for many of these Sunday a.m. at 8:30 meetings, since we always went out the night before. Thinking quickly, I said, "What?"

It took him a while to work up his courage, making guttural sounds. Finally, he said, "Your problem....the problem with your....(bright crimson bald head now, on priest)....your IMPOTENCE!"

[Apparently, in one of the questionnaires, not really paying attention, I had answered that "YES", I was impotent.]

[This was funny, in part, because Donna had direct evidence, about 7 hours earlier, that I was actually NOT impotent, at least not when I visited her.]

So, she starts giggling, and pretends to cough. I stare at the priest, and mumble about being sorry, I must not have been paying attention. He is mortified (NOTE: How can a celibate priest give advice on sex and marriage, in the first place?) We finish the meeting very quickly, and get the blessing of the church, once it turns out I can make the girl pregnant, so she can do her Catholic duty and reproduce like a wild rabbit.

So, I finish telling this story at the party, and there is hilarity. Good job, I'm thinking to myself, way to be a good dinner guest.

As soon as it quiets down, my wife, who is looking pure daggers at me, says, "My GOD, Michael, not THAT story!"

After we get home that evening, I spend the rest of the night in husband purgatory, teetering right on the brink of husband hell. And I'm not even Catholic!

EPILOGUE: I have no idea what story she actually meant, by the way. When she starts speaking to me, I'll let you know. Should be no later than the end of January.

UPDATE: Anonyman wrote this in comments, but it deserves light in the post itself....

Nice story. Of course, you could have had the exact opposite problem, as I did (no, not impotence)at a recent "holiday" party at my signifcant other's office. I showed up, on time for once, got us drinks, and joined her talking to a group of women from the office. I had given her the drink I retrieved for her and remained there as a dutiful husband. I then proceded to spend the next half hour listen to women discuss not only their own birthing experiences, but those of other women they had known. I stood there motionless, thinking I was scoring points by not leaving, not laughing (at the wrong things), and not vomiting over everyone's shoes. When we finally left, I sat silently in the car waiting to receive my praise for being so polite and well mannered. After about 10 minutes of stony silence I couldn't take it and asked her if everything was OK. To my surprise I was severly rebuked for "just standing there" and "not contributing to the conversation". When I pointed about that I had no "birthing stories" to share, and it was all I could do to keep myself from being sick as I stood there, she told me I should have made somthing up rather than just not say anything. So mm, next time just make it up, it's better than telling the wrong story, or saying nothing at all.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Which One is the Parody?

It actually takes a little effort to figure out which of these is "real," and which is the parody.

Just from the way he says, "and I'm Ed Glaeser," you can tell this is a pretty darned self-pleased group. In fact, from Glaeser's facial expression, he appears to be pleasing himself right there on camera!

The original

Skit (funny in its own right)

Skit (even better, but still not as good as the original)

(grateful nod to Tommy the Wannabe Wannabe, hereafter TTWW)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Props, and a lot of love!

Midnight Eastern Time: It's over.

Props, and lot of love, to Chris L, to Betsy N, and to all those who nearly kicked the giant corporate butts of SLATE! Thanks to my nutjob friends at DoL, who didn't complain. Thanks to the students at Duke who voted on a Friday night. And thanks to the crazy philosophers in Brisbane, Oz, who made this a cause. (And I especially mean you, Rosenberg!). Thanks to faculty and others everywhere, who took a little time and voted, when it didn't make sense.

The final tally, as far as I can tell (UPDATED at 10 am Saturday), on the "Best Podcast" vote:

SLATE Daily Podcast 1128

EconLib Podcast 1067

that's a difference of 61 votes, or they won by less than 1.5 percent.

That's pretty great for a site run by one guy (Russ Roberts), with a tiny staff and a vision of the power of economic ideas.

Good on ya, Russ!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


The Dem party website has a drop-down labeled "People". Click on it, and you go here....

Lots of stuff there. I looked in vain for "White men over 30 who live in cities". That is a big part of the voting population...but there is nothing for them.

Are the Dems just writing them off? I know that the Dem motto is, "Vote for Us, And We'll Give You Other People's Money!" But, still: shouldn't you pretend that you are not just an extortion racket, based on the Jesse Jackson model writ large?

"Give me money or I'll call you [fill in as appropriate here, given your "People" category on the Dem website]"

The Dems are wholly taken in by the illusion that F. Bastiat debunked so brilliantly:
"The State is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else."

The state CAN'T take care of everybody. But I would have thought the Dems would at least pretend to be interested in people who pay taxes, rather than just those who suck down all the benefits.

(Nod to KL for the links, though don't blame KL for my interpretation)

UPDATE: Wrong link before; sorry! Better now....

Help! Shire Network News is Catching Up!

Vote for EconTalk! Help us! Go here, and click on "EconTalk", then "OK."

You can vote once per day, and voting closes tomorrow (Friday). So, two votes, please! You, yes, YOU!

Oh, I am going to MISS this lady....

Anonyman sends this link....

In what was likely her final legislative act in Congress, outgoing Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney introduced a bill Friday to impeach President Bush.
The legislation has no chance of passing and serves as a symbolic parting shot not only at Bush but also at Democratic leaders. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has made clear that she will not entertain proposals to sanction Bush and has warned the liberal wing of her party against making political hay of impeachment.

BubBYE, sweetie, BubBYE now!

He makes me laugh.....

Excerpt from Christopher Hitchens' piece forthcoming in Vanity Fair:

Why Women Aren't Funny
by Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, January 2007

Be your gender what it may, you will certainly have heard the following from a female friend who is enumerating the charms of a new (male) squeeze: "He's really quite cute, and he's kind to my friends, and he knows all kinds of stuff, and he's so funny ? " (If you yourself are a guy, and you know the man in question, you will often have said to yourself, "Funny? He wouldn't know a joke if it came served on a bed of lettuce with sauce béarnaise.")

However, there is something that you absolutely never hear from a male friend who is hymning his latest (female) love interest: "She's a real honey, has a life of her own -- [interlude for attributes that are none of your business] -- and, man, does she ever make 'em laugh."

Now, why is this? Why is it the case?, I mean. Why are women, who have the
whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend not to
know what I am talking about.

All right--try it the other way (as the bishop said to the barmaid). Why are men, taken on average and as a whole, funnier than women? Well, for one thing, they had damn well better be. The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men. In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle. An average man has just one, outside chance: he had better be able to make the lady laugh. Making them laugh has been one of the crucial preoccupations of my life. If you can stimulate her to laughter?

I am talking about that real, out-loud, head-back, mouth-open-to-expose-the-full-horseshoe-of-lovely-teeth, involuntary, full, and deep-throated mirth; the kind that is accompanied by a shocked surprise and a slight (no, make that a loud) peal of delight?well, then, you have at least caused her to loosen up and to change her expression. I shall not elaborate further....

As the bishop said to the barmaid? Yikes.

(Nod to KL....who asks, "Does this mean a woman can't be President?" It might, K, it might. But then George Bush is not often funny INTENTIONALLY.)

Mail Green, Chum!

Elder younger Munger points out that an anagram of "Michael Munger" is "Mail Green, Chum!"

He intends to use this phrase often after he starts college, he says.

Fun with anagrams.

It IS pretty fun. For example, from "Hillary Rodham Clinton," you can get the motto of her wedding night with Bill:

Roll in a loin rhythm cad!

And for every night since:

Cryin' troll, land him a ho'!

UPDATE: Anxious Angus notes that "Angelic Hummer" is a better MM anagram. Also notes that he has pointed this out before,

which ya know is quite true

Gotta give props where the props is due!

(the mini rap is all part of the service; no extra charge)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Son, My Campaign Manager

So, the elder younger Munger, on learning of Nature Boy's entry into the Gov campaign for '08, suggested a slogan:

"Munger....Legitimate, by Comparison."

Recalling my law, by analogy to Mencken:

"No man, having a teenage son, can be a pompous ass and not know it."

Too Much Time, Or Too Little Sense

Comments on this post, about getting rid of the urban "rats with wings" blight....well, you just have to read them.

A sample, tho, worthy of Monty Python:

Posted by: Norman Ski on 10:13pm Wed 29 Nov 06
This is preposterous! Pigeons performed a vital role in assisting communications in both World Wars and should therefore be encouraged to breed in higher numbers in order to remind us that we must never forget. Perhaps the money would be better spent erecting a large memorial of a Rock Pigeon or perhaps a Feral Pigeon - I'll leave that decision to the council. I don't think a Wood Pigeon memorial would be particularly appropriate because I don't think they did too much for us during the war. Other than food.

Posted by: Norman Farnsbarns McArthey on 11:56pm Wed 29 Nov 06
I say train the blighters to do an honest days work and to earn their right to live in Her Royal Majesties Royal borough. Maybe they could be trained to assist the police as they could spot crime while on high and report back to the station swiftly. The more aggressive ones could become a sort of elite police flighting unit that could intervene in violent incidents that are sadly becoming all to common in our wonderful town.

Posted by: jhona rantambore on 11:59pm Wed 29 Nov 06
Kill them with axes.

Posted by: Mrs D. Smithers on 12:05am Thu 30 Nov 06
I was once saved from certain death when a pair of woods grasped me by the shoulders and flew me from the path of an oncoming car. Now these feathered heroes follow me everywhere and they often speak to me too. I will be going out tomorrow tooled up to protect this noble race of animals and if I find the marksman then it will be me or him. I say NO to the slaughter of the innocents and am willing to lay down my life in their defence. As for them being the spawn of Satan, well, that is obviously a comment from a very deluded person, get help is all I can say to that, everyone knows they are God's messengers.

(Nod to TS-K, who is pretty absurd herself)

Vote Podcast, Please!

A favor:

Vote for EconTalk as the "Best Podcast" site.

It would help out Russ Roberts a lot. And we ALL want to help out Russ Roberts! I mean, just LOOK at the guy. Have you ever seen someone who needs so much help?

And, while you are at it, vote for a REAL winner: Betsy Newmark's blog, "Betsy's Page", is the frontrunner in its category. Help a sister out!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Crowding Out....With Crowds of Government

From our boy Stossel:

"...ABC's '20/20' went to Sioux Falls, S.D., and San Francisco. We asked the
Salvation Army to set up buckets at their busiest locations in both cities...even though people in Sioux Falls make, on average, half as much money as people in San Francisco, and even though the San Francisco location was much busier -- three times as many people were within reach of the bucket -- by the end of the second day, the Sioux Falls bucket held twice as much money."

(Nod to KL, as always)

S. Levitt's Dream Site

It is ALIVE! It's ALIVE!

The site of all data....

(Nod to KL, who knows all, and tells even more)


How mortifying.

We like to get our dogs, Tanzie (short for "tanzanite") and Hobo (short for "moron") all riled up, and then let them out the door, screaming "Get the squirrel! Get the squirrel! BITE the squirrel" or whatever.

The dogs get so excited they start baying and howling, the exercise is good for them. We have an acre, and an electric fence, so though the dogs can run around like nuts for a few minutes, barking at shadows, they aren't going anywhere.

Tonight, the older younger Munger had some friends over.

The UPS truck pulls up (as it does twice a day, this time of year), and I yell to my wife, "Brown is here!" since Brown is usually bringing something for her, either for her work as an attorney or some gift. (Yes, we call UPS "Brown." We didn't make it up).

So, just as the UPS is getting back into his truck, the dogs crowd up to the door, because they know what is coming.

And, I start shrieking, "Get the Brown man! Bite the Brown man!" The dogs howl, I open the door, and the dogs streak out to the road so they can bark at the truck as it goes around our property to the main road.

The dogs are really into it, so I continue: "GET HIM! BITE the BROWN man!"

I turn around, and my son and his two friends are peering down the stairs at me.
Not my proudest moment as a parent.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Better Late Than....

The Autograph Man
A baseball player answers his fan mail 15 years later.
By Bryan Curtis
Posted Friday, Dec. 1, 2006, at 4:33 PM ET

....When I got my hands on the envelope, it immediately became one of my favorite possessions. To look at my penmanship is to see a child who has labored just to write his Fort Worth, Texas, return address in a straight line. The envelope has a brown rectangular stain where a baseball card rested against it for years. Carman has affixed his return-address label—he lives in Naples, Fla.—and, touchingly, added additional postage, since I had included a then-current 29-cent stamp. The card, No. 154 in the 1989 Topps set, bears his big, looping signature, signed with a bright-blue Sharpie.

Fifteen years ago, I figured Carman as a good candidate for a quick response. With the Phillies, he was a reliable southpaw who chewed up starts (35 in 1987, good for fourth in the National League), before leaving the majors for good in 1993. Where Carman showed greater promise was as a wit, a more cerebral version of Jay Johnstone. After enduring years worth of questions from benighted sports writers ("How'd it feel out there today, Don?"), Carman compiled a list of 37 suitably vapid answers that could be applied to almost any query. These included: "Baseball's a funny game"; "I just want to help the club any way I can"; "I didn't have my good stuff, but I battled 'em"; and, a personal favorite, "We have a different hero every day." Carman posted the list above his locker with a note that told writers, "You saw the game … take what you need."

As it turns out, I am not Carman 's only recent correspondent. In October, a Philadelphia TV station reported that Doug Ferraro, 23, received an autographed card from Carman in response to a letter that he had mailed out 16 years before. This was now a legitimate mystery, so I called Carman in Florida to find out what happened.

"My wife told me it was time to clean the garage," Carman said. "So, I started digging through the stuff and found a box behind my tools. I opened it up and saw it was a bunch of fan mail, 200 to 250 letters." For Carman, this was a slight embarrassment. During his career, Carman had worked diligently to sign and return every one of the two or three letters he received each day. Judging from the date of Ferraro's card and the price of my stamp, he must have gotten our batch of letters some time in 1991, the year he left the Phillies for the Cincinnati Reds. "That year was the year I moved; I got a different house," he said. "I even remember putting them in the box, because it was unusual for me to do that. I thought I'd watch a football game and leisurely do them. It never got done."

Carman could hardly bear to throw the letters away. But at age 47, he didn't have the enthusiasm to pick through them, either. So he paid his son Jackson, who is 8 years old, $4 to open and sort them. Then they sat down together, with Jackson, who never saw his father play, marveling at the rapturous odes inside. ("Dear Mr. Carman: You are my favorite baseball player. … ") At first content with merely signing the cards, Carman got caught up in the spirit and started writing notes to the now-grown kids. He lugged the envelopes down to the Naples post office, where he discovered that most of them included 25-cent stamps. "I told the postman I needed 250 10-cent stamps, and 250 4-cent stamps, and he just looked at me like, 'What are you doing?' "

Only one of the letters gave Carman pause. Like nearly every other ballplayer, he made regular visits to local hospitals to see the terminally ill. It turned out that one letter was from a man whose wife Carman had visited. The woman had died, the man wrote, and he thanked Carman for brightening her final days. That lovely sentiment was now at least 15 years old. Carman perched over a piece of stationery for 20 minutes before he carefully scratched out his opening lines: "I know it's far in your past, but it's something that meant a lot to you. I know you carry her with you still." He wound up writing three pages. He's still waiting to hear from the woman's husband.

After his playing career, Carman earned a degree in sports psychology from Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. He now works for Scott Boras, baseball's most rambunctious player agent, tending to the psychological demands of his clients. Even though he's been out of the game for more than a decade, new fan letters arrive in his Naples mailbox two or three times per week. The letters—presumably from grown-ups trying to recapture some small ecstasy from their childhood, when there was nothing more wonderful than receiving a piece of mail from a major-league ballplayer—contain the same platitudes. "Most of them say, 'You're one of my favorite players,' " Carman says. He is trying to answer them in a timely fashion.Bryan Curtis is a Slate staff writer. You can e-mail him at


(Nod to MM, our man in Europe)

I Like Big Gaffes, You Know I Cannot Lie....

NDP Leader Jack Layton, a little overshadowed yesterday by the arrival in the Commons of the new Liberal leader Stéphane Dion, still managed to bring things to a hilarious halt when demanding that the government stop subsidies to large energy companies. It all went wrong when Layton tried to say "big gas."

"Will the Prime Minister finally get something done and do something the former government would not, and cancel the subsidies to big oil and big ass — big gas — and start putting ..." That's as far as Layton got — before the Commons dissolved in laughter.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, deadpan, managed to reply: "I promise to get to the bottom of it."

Then, in an apparent nod to his own issues with weight, Harper added: "I am really not sure whether I should take what the leader of the NDP says personally."

Layton had no explanation for his big-ass gaffe."Mr. Speaker, my apologies. I have no idea what was crossing my mind today. This House is in a strange place today."


(Nod to RL, who knows from gaffes)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Brother Blogger Down!

Lord Sutch, author of "Signifying Nothing," is off-line in St. Louis, as many of his fans have no doubt noticed.

(may be back up by the time you read this, of course).

But I pinged him on email, and learned that his power had been out for more than 50 hours, following the winter storm that hit St. Loo this week. He runs the site on his home machine as a web server.

I asked for details, and got this back:

I'm fine, except for being a little bit cold (I've been camping out in
my office, which has heat but isn't all that comfortable). I just
booked a hotel room for tonight in case my power isn't back - the
power company's estimates for when power will be back are pretty much
useless, although they said Friday that some customers might not have
power for 5 days (i.e. until Wednesday).

At worst, about 1/2 million Ameren customers were without power; as of
now, that's down to just under 400,000. In my zip code, the number
of outages actually went up since Friday before finally coming down a
little in the past couple of hours. What's most irritating is that
there is power within 2 blocks of my apartment (there's a large
shopping mall within 1/4 mile that briefly lost some of its power on
Saturday, but the power company had them fixed very quickly), but for
some reason they seemed to have skipped over my neighborhood.

Yikes! For details on the storm, you can see this, or this. I hope Ameren's motto, "365 and then some," is not an estimate how many hours it will take to restore power....

Be strong, Lord Sutch. The crack staff of Ameren is on their way!