Thursday, May 31, 2007

He went medieval on my ass!!!!

Oh man, I shoulda' knowed better. Guest blogging last week on Marginal Revolution I tread on Tyler's turf by posting about a German Artist, Sigmar Polke. Then here on ME, I posted again about another one, Anselm Kiefer. Now, with epic one-up-man-ship, Tyler has gone totally medieval and posted on Hieronymus Bosch, the OG of German painters.

Well played sir, well played indeed.

Evil Home Stereo. What good songs do you Know?

Proud of your stereo? Is it 500 watts? 1000? more? Well did you know there is a snobby cult of people out there who would dismiss your amp as "a pile of sand" and your speakers as "monkey coffins"? People who believe that "the first watt is the best watt", and use micro powered vacuum tube amps with specialty high efficiency speakers? For good or ill, I am one of those people.

So is Don Garber whose products are profiled in this month's Men's Vogue magazine (don't ask me how I know this). Take a look at this:

That bad boy puts out about 2 watts per channel, weighs over 25 pounds, costs over $2500 retail, and if you have a love of music and the right speakers, is a freakin' bargain and a half.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Another German conquers Paris

Anselm Kiefer’s “Falling Stars,” the first exhibition in the Monumenta series, runs through July 8 at the Grand Palais, 3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower, Paris;

It is going to be a big art summer in Europe. The Venice Biennale, Art Basel and Documenta XII (in Kassel Germany) are all happening in the next month, and there is a big new Anshelm Kiefer show in Paris called "Falling Stars".

From the NY Times:

While “Falling Stars” includes new paintings, Mr. Kiefer has transferred some of La Ribaute to the Grand Palais by building seven stand-alone houses, or galleries, each some 50 feet high, and bringing three concrete towers that normally stand on his property. This installation has in turn had the desired effect of occupying the palace, both physically and visually.

Awesome!! As I posted recently, Keifer is one of my favorite artists. All the Angus family budget is spent on our upcoming trip to Africa, so we won't be going, but MAN!!! Mungowitz, you go!!

Bad Day Meme, III

KKM forwards another "bad day" story, with a nice international flavor.

The Tokyo Report, Part I
I spent about a week at my parents' house. I spent a big part of it reading about sprawl, playing computer games, and watching a bunch of movies I should have watched over the past couple of years. It was fun. One point- game developers have a thing against Great Britain. I am sure of it. Every computer game I've played for Great Britain I've lost. They do have a thing in favor of the Soviet Union though. Go figure.

Coming to Japan started was an unpleasant experience, big thanks to American Airlines. I was flying from Atlanta to Chicago, and from there to Tokyo. Since my final destination is international, AA sent me to their "international check-in" and refused to check me in otherwise. I spent 1.5 hours in the line for the international
section. By the time I got to the counter it was "too late to check in your bags, sir." After several not-so-pleasant exchanges with the lady, she finally promised to get someone to take my bag to the plane.

The catch? The bag had to go through "special security."

The special security involved a dude literally dumping all of my neatly-folded stuff on a table and looking through it in search of a "weapon," sniffing my colognes, and then jamming it all back in. Charming.

I get to Japan. I get to the real estate office renting out my place without any trouble and get my key, even though I was running the risk of getting in late. Amazing!

As I leave the office, I realize that my rolling suitcase keeps careening and falling over. A block later, one of the wheels of my rolling bag falls off. Probably thanks to my dear friends at AA. The bag is way to heavy to carry. Taxi is an option but it costs about $200 a trip. I rule against the taxi.

I move through the crowd and get on on the subway, taking a breather every half a block. I successfully find the right subway and get out at the right station. My real estate office was nice enough to give me a map locating my apartment. Nice. I lose the map somewhere during exiting the station. Not nice. I figure that I remember where my apartment is "sort of."

I am slowly making my way through Roppongi, half a block at a time. Finally, I see my apartment. Things are turning up.

As I walk in I hit my head. The door is designed for someone at least a foot shorter than I. That's the 1st time of many I hit my head. I am just too darn tall for this country. Shower and toilet doors are no different. The 4th time it happens I start planning a negligence suit. Oh wait, I am in Japan...

A few general observations:
1. I am starting to understand how hot girls feel. People stare at me. They do not have a good reason to stare, like when your pants are unzipped. When I meet their eyes they look away, pretending that they weren't starting at all. But, their stares are still obvious and a bit discomforting.
2. Restaurants with English menus are expensive. Restaurants with pictures or a plastic replica of what your food would look like are not. That means that most of my dining experiences involve pointing.
3. Tokyo's subway system is really not hard to navigate. Everything is subbed in English.
4. Nigerian guys should stop offering me to go to "titty bars." I know that many westerners like those. I know that I live right off the strip club street. I know that Nigerian strip club owners have families to feed.
I am not impressed. The worst part is that I still can't find a way to rid of them. "I am not interested" certainly does not work. "I live here, I am not here go to a strip club" does not work. Even "I would like to talk to you about Jesus" works only for some. Hopefully they'll start recognizing me soon and won't bother me.
5. I have a huge office and a beautiful secretary. Life's looking up.

Terre Batu, I love you!

Tennis slams are brutal, especially for the men. It takes 7 match wins in a best of 5 sets format. The French open has just begun on the beaten earth of Roland Garros (of course its been going on long enough for all American male players to already have been eliminated). The main story again this year is Federer vs. Nadal.

That's Roger Federer, the Swiss tennis god profiled in the current Men's Vogue who has won 6 of the last 8 grand slams vs. Rafael Nadal, the Spanish beast profiled in the current GQ who has won the other two, namely the last two French opens, beating Fed in the semis and finals.

Federer had been slumping after winning the Australian open this year (beaten twice in the US this spring by Willie "cream and clear" Canas) but he made things interesting by beating Nadal in the finals of Hamburg on clay, his first win against Rafa on clay and Rafa's first loss on clay to anyone in his last 81 matches on the surface. However, Nadal won the other three big Euro clay tourneys (Rome, Barcelona, and Monte Carlo) and is 5-1 vs. Federer on clay

I'm picking Rafa to become the first man in history to win the French the first three years he played it. Who you got?

Lifts and Unites

The old Playtex "Cross Your Heart" commercial for bras used to tout how the lingerie "lifts and separates." (A cartoon)

But this new Japanese bra induces voter turnout.

Nothing says "go vote!" like two four-inch metal cones. The people may not rise,
but that cold metal will certainly keep the young lady wide awake. Brrrr.....

The downside? Young men who try to "vote with their feet", or even their hands, are likely to get slapped.

UPDATE: If you REALLY want a life-like bra, one that depicts the actual political process in a democracy, you'll need this.

UPDATE AGAIN: Apparently, props are due to Pink Tentacle. So, props.

Obama's Health Care Plan

"Obama will make available a new national health plan which will give
individuals the choice to buy affordable health coverage that is similar to
the plan available to federal employees. The new public plan will be open to
individuals without access to group coverage through their workplace or
current public programs...To provide Americans with additional options, the
Obama plan will make available a National Health Insurance Exchange to help
individuals who wish to purchase a private insurance plan. The Exchange will
act as a watchdog and help reform the private insurance market by creating
rules and standards for participating insurance plans to ensure fairness and
to make individual coverage more affordable and accessible. Through the
Exchange, any American will have the opportunity to enroll in the new public
plan or purchase an approved private plan, and income-based sliding scale
subsidies will be provided for people and families who need it. Insurers
would have to issue every applicant a policy, and charge fair and stable
premiums that will not depend upon health status. The Exchange will require
that all the plans offered are at least as generous as the new public plan
and meet the same standards for quality and efficiency. Insurers would be
required to justify an above-average premium increase to the Exchange. The
Exchange would evaluate plans and make the differences among the plans,
including cost of services, transparent." [Obama for America]

Some additional commentary

I have no idea what to think about health care.

Some people can't afford, or will refuse to pay for, health insurance. If we are unwilling to let them die, or suffer huge debt and then jail them for it (a rather perverse policy: "You! Sick guy! Pay or go to jail!"), then SOME form of "care of last resort" option has to be available, paid for by the public (i.e., taxpayers). Right now we do this through emergency rooms, and make hospitals go bankrupt.

If an accused criminal can't afford an attorney, we appoint one. If a possibly gravely ill person can't afford a doctor, we....what?

What is Obama's answer? I want to know.

(Nod to KL, who has other questions, too)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Dude, like give us Barabas or something

So Bushie picked Bobby. Wow. Another Bush family lifer unilaterally picked by the US. The man who did so much as USTR to make the Doha round the rousing success it is today will now lead the World Bank.

Does anyone think this will work? Have the Bank staff and Eurocrats had their fill, made their point, and will now accept another Bushite? Is Zoellick's lack of an Iraq connection enough to get him by? Or will there be an open revolt?

I personally would rather see Mr. Zoellick replace Steve Irwin than Paul Wolfowitz. He has ample qualifications for that.

ps. To see my choice to run the bank, look here.

Y'all are in for it now

Thanks to Mungowitz for the invitation to blog with him. I'm not so sure about carrying any loads ("so lets roll another number for the road, I feel able to get under any load"...... Neil Young again!), but I'll try to fit in as best I can. For all of you who've been jammin' the net asking, that is 2T up above.

Wascally Wabbits

So Paul Wolfowitz has reflected on his demise and fingered the real culprits (OJ style): THE MEDIA!!!

Here is the money quote:

"I'm pleased that finally the board did accept that I acted in good faith and acted ethically"


Let me see if I've got this straight:
1. Board gonna fire Wolfie.
2. Wolfie cuts deal to resign in exchange for his name being "cleared".
3. Wolfie then, since his actions are no longer the issue, feels free to create a reason for why he's quitting and chooses to pin it on the media's stirring up the troops with their trash.

Well played sir, well played indeed.

ps. Given Bush's proclivity for hockey style nicknames, don't you guys think its apodictically certain he called Wolfowitz "Wolfie"??

Guest Blogger: Anxious Angus

At ME, we need new blood. Okay, some Viagra and some new blood.

Helping out with the latter, and making the former unnecessary through his manly long-time friend and co-author, Kevin Grier!

He'll be guest blogging for a while. I will be away for much of the summer, but KG can more than carry the load. Just like he has been carrying me for much of my career!

Welcome to Angus, and of course to 2T and the long-suffering she.

The Spatial Problem

JJ from NOLA sends a link that is going to get me in trouble. Thanks so much, JJ.

But, here goes:

Sexual Orientation Affects How We Navigate And Recall Lost Objects, According To Study Science Daily — Researchers at the University of Warwick have found that sexual orientation has a real effect on how we perform mental tasks such as navigating with a map in a car but that old age does not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation and withers all men’s minds alike just ahead of women’s.

The University of Warwick researchers worked with the BBC to collect data from over 198,000 people aged 20–65 years (109,612 men and 88,509 women). As expected they found men outperformed women on tests such as mentally rotating objects (NB the researchers’ tests used abstract objects but the skills used are also those one would use in real life to navigate with a map). They found that women outperformed men in verbal dexterity tests, and remembering the locations of objects. However for a number of tasks the University of Warwick researchers found key differences across the range of sexual orientations studied.

For instance in mental rotation (a task where men usually perform better) they found that the table of best performance to worst was:

Heterosexual men
Bisexual men
Homosexual men
Homosexual women
Bisexual women
Heterosexual women

In general, over the range of tasks measured, where a gender performed better in a task heterosexuals of that gender tended to perform better than non-heterosexuals. When a particular gender was poorer at a task homosexual and bisexual people tended to perform better than heterosexual members of that gender.


Now, class, look at that last paragraph in the story. "In general...." Wow! What an absurd inference. There are only two genders. There is no, "in general" from two observations.

It is equally consistent with the data to say:

1. Men's brains and women's brains are different. Men, on average, are better at spatial problems and recognizing their location. Perhaps not a lot better, and the best women are better than the worst men, but still statistically different in terms of comparison of means.

2. And there is a clear genetic basis for sexual orientation/preference, since within gender there are differences that group by sexual preference. If there were no genetic basis for homosexuality, then we would expect uniform distribution within gender.

(Nod to JJ, who never gets lost, ever)

Some Foundational Speculation About Morals

KL sends a quote, and some thoughts:

"The more researchers learn, the more it appears that the foundation of
morality is empathy. Being able to recognize -- even experience vicariously
-- what another creature is going through was an important leap in the
evolution of social behavior. And it is only a short step from this
awareness to many human notions of right and wrong, says Jean Decety, a
neuroscientist at the University of Chicago." [WP]

KL continues:

I give much credit to Ken Binmore for having already formalized the connection between empathy and morality: "We are all players in the game of life, with divergent aims and aspirations that make conflict inevitable.

In a healthy society, a balance between these differing aims and aspirations
is achieved so that the benefits of cooperation are not entirely lost in
internecine strife. Game theorists call such a balance an equilibrium.
Sustaining such equilibria requires the existence of commonly understood
conventions about how behavior is to be coordinated. It is such a system of
coordinating conventions that I shall identify with a social contract...Such
coordination is facilitated with the aid of a fictional game that will be
called the game of morals. The game of morals that I shall study is a twin
for the game of life except that it offers the players extra moves that are
not available in the real world. To be precise, each player has the
opportunity to appeal at any time to the device of the original
position...Once the game of morals has been introduced to serve as an
Archimedean point, it is possible to define a 'fair social contract' in the
game of life. A fair social contract is simply an equilibrium in the game of
life that calls for the use of strategies which, if used in the game of
morals, would leave no player in the game of morals with an incentive to
appeal to the device of the original position. A fair social contract will
therefore be an equilibrium in the game of morals, but what must never be
forgotten is that it must also be an equilibrium in the game of life -
otherwise, it will not be viable. Indeed, the game of morals is nothing more
than a coordination device for selecting one of the equilibria in the game
of life...I am one of those who are persuaded by the biological arguments
that attribute our relatively big brains to the pressing needs of a thinking
animal who lives in a society along with other thinking animals. I therefore
see morality as being intrinsic to our nature. It is because we need the
ability to empathize with others that we have developed a sense of personal
identity - not the reverse...The chief function of the 'I' is to act as a
mirror of others in our own minds and to reflect the manner in which we are
similarly mirrored in the minds of others...This is why game theory is so
important if we are ever to understand what lies at the root of being
human...What lies inside our heads is a result of biological and social
evolution. Insofar as these processes are complete, we think as we think and
we feel as we feel, because it is in equilibrium for such thoughts and
feelings to survive in the game of life...It seems evident to me that
empathetic identification is crucial to the survival of human societies.
Without it, we would be unable to find our way to equilibria in the games we
play except by slow and clumsy trial-and-error methods."

"Free" Means You Don't Get It. But You Can Beg!

Dutch boy MM writes:

It’s the same group that put together Big Brother in the late 90s here, thus beginning the reality TV stuff. When I read this I didn’t even flinch, as there’s all kinds of stuff like this on the teley here. (i.e., in Netherlands) This is a blog entry, (SCARED MONKEYS)...

Leave it to the Dutch to create the most tasteless television known to mankind. A primetime show is going to feature a terminally ill woman who will quiz on primetime television 3 people who are suffering from kidney failure and are desperate for a kidney transplant.

The winner will get the kidney, the other two will have their hearts (and lives) broken on national television as they know their chances for success are limited. The Netherlands is suffering from a shortage of organs for transplant. In most of the civilized world, there would be appeals to the humanity of people, in the Netherlands it is a primetime entertainment show.

Sick, just sick…

Source for news article here.

If we had markets in organs, or some way to pay donors, not just compensate them for their expenses, many of these people would be able to get kidneys.

Instead, in the land of "free" medical care, they are going to make them beg in public for their lives. And two of them will die, or else live like cripples for a few months. Nice.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Dartmouth Kerfuffle

Interesting goings-on at Dartmouth.

I was there for just a year, as a visitor. An account of one incident while I was there....

My good friend Todd Zywicki is now a trustee, bless his heart. Todd, good luck. You are fighting the good fight. (Another bit, from ACTA)

KC Johnson gives some background.

And, in a promising and on-going series, John Bruce gives some recollections and discussion. Very interesting. And...waa hoo wah, yall.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Kumar Goes to Bojangles

I don't want to press the "Bad Day" meme TOO far.

But my good friend Kesav Kuppa M. sent me his own version. Two pieces of background.
1. Kesav is a principal in the shopping website/search engine "How to be Websmart." Most important is the search tool Ultimate Pricechecker. Use it, shop it, love it. I am totally addicted.
2. Kesav's family comes from India, but he is a native of the subcontinent of New Jersey. He wears blue contacts, has strong views against virginity (hoping someday soon to lose his own) and is assumed by all southerners he meets to be Mexican. He's at Duke Law School, and no one knows why. Including Kesav. Kesav's bad day:

As I sit here laughing, I thought I would share my misfortune with those who I have shared misfortune all year. The incredible series of events which have happened to me this past week border on the absurd, and if Dante wrote the Comedy, I threaten to write the comedy 2: updated for modern times. To put this all into perspective, it is 5:23 pm when I write this email.

While any one of these events would be sad in its singularity, in their totality they beget only laughter. So here's the story. I hope your summer is going better than this.

1. On the day to drive home, my alarm doesn't go off. So I wake up late. Nice.

2. I burst out the door ready to seize the day. It's drizzling. Better.

3. I start driving my car with all of the weight in the back. It drives like a turtle. It takes me about 30 seconds to get it up to 15 miles an hour. At this rate, I suspect I will be home some time in August.

4. Car speeds up. Oops. I forgot breakfast. And to use the facilities. I stop at Bojangles.

5. Bad idea. What should have been a 5 minute stop becomes 30 minutes, at least. Between coffee and a biscuit and egg with sausages and the fact that the nearest piece of literature is the word bojangles on my napkin, this is not a happy time.
There is some sort of courtesy country music videos on the tv.

6. Get in the car. stomach growls. I think it's trying to digest the fat. Hurts, but I need to keep driving.

7. As the sun comes up, it starts getting hotter. A good time to turn on the air conditioning. I press the air conditioning button. Hot air comes out.

8. 40 minutes later - hot air is still coming out. Probably a better idea not to use it.

9. I push the "drop window down" button. The window ROTATES IN ITS SLOT - forward actually. Very geometric in its circular progression, but absolutely not the way a window is supposed to work. Ok. Windows out.

10. I push the sunroof button. sunroof is stuck. Ok, sunroof is out.

11. I push the "circulate air from the outside". It smells like rotten eggs. I consider taking my shirt off - but then I think, half naked blue eyed indian in a slow car going through west virginia. Shirt should stay on. I begin sweating.

12. Good thing I have easy pass. That way I can speed through tolls. Oh wait. the easy pass is not connected to my family's account. I have to stop an pay tolls.

13. Since I can't use the window, I have to actually open the drivers door and pay tolls.

14. 540 miles. It's a long drive. My bumper has come off the hinges, and is hanging off the back of the car.

15. I almost get pushed off the road by a truck, because I am in his blind spot. That is fun.

16. I get home. Awesome. Actually make it in good time.

17. My car needs to get serviced. So I need to unload my very adroitly packed car. Not awesome.

18. I get a new computer. Good. It's a sony vaio, and I am already in love. The chugger still sounds like a honda, but the new one is whisper silent. Beautiful. I use the pricechecker of course, and save some money online. I can't believe a laptop can be this silent.

19. Takes about 4 hours to transfer stuff over. Not good, but done. fall asleep.

19-2. Try to log on to my homes wireless network with my new computer. Have the 26 digit passkey and everything. The wireless network is so secure, even I can't get in on it. I end up stealing free wireless from our neighbors.

20. Casenote - not even close to done. At this rate...I don't know if it's worth doing. See farther.

21. thursday - Try to order contacts (regulate) online. My prescription is about 3 years too old. Not good. Need to get an appointment.

22. 830 am friday. At eye doctors. Turns out the duke insurance card - the one they say keep in your wallet - is not the one you are supposed to keep in your wallet for eye appointments. So I have to pay cash.

23. Get home. Dad calls - he had taken car this morning to the shop. Turns out that there are a lot more problems with the car than they thought. They are going to need to keep it overnight. So with the eye drops still in my eyes, I pick him up and come home.

24. Lunch. Nap. I'm exhausted.

25. Wake up. Dad is at computer. Apparently my car has something wrong with the rear suspension. To paraphrase "its a death trap for long distance driving" and would cost way too much to fix. Its ok for short distance driving.

I pause to think if 400 miles to milwaukee is short distance. Maybe if the relativity theory could be flipped.

26. Family decides - have to junk car. No car in milwaukee. I jump onto howtobewebsmart and rent a car to get up there.

27. Sister calls. She may be coming home for a job from Kuwait early, somewhere around August 3. That's exactly two days before I am booked to go to Kuwait.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bad Day

I had a bad day.

Travelling to visit with my good friends Bill Keech (Carnegie-Mellon U) and Carl Simon (UMich), to encourage them to work on a book with my name on it. We were also going to see some baseball, the Pirates vs. the Marlins, with Public Choice star Dennis Epple and his wife Mary, also a very interesting academic talent, as well as with Bill's SDS colleague Kristina Fong.

Flight leaves at 11:00 am. I leave the house at 9:15, knowing the airport is only 8 miles away on the interstate, and there won't be any traffic. Except there is traffic: total standstill, parking lot city. I have no idea what it was, 'cause I got off at the first exit and took surface streets and went in through the secret back entrance to RDU.

So, it's now 9:55, still good on time. Except that the computers are down at USAirways. They are processing about 1 person every two minutes, and there are 30 people in line. I get to the front, but the head guy calls out for anyone who hasn't tried the computer kiosks (which were NOT working) to try them. Ten people went ahead of me (I had tried, already), and when the computers STILL didn't work they waited, AHEAD OF ME, in line at each of the stations where there was a human.

I point this out to the guy who was supposed to be directing people. He sends ANOTHER group of ten ahead of me, and then told me, "You can go right after those people. You thought I forgot you, didn't you."

I said, "No, I think you are the son of a World War II concentration camp guard, getting his sadistic jollies from ordering people around." He walked away, which was likely the right thing to do.

I get my boarding pass. 10:30 now. I had checked a bag, hoping I could get through security faster. Security is TOTALLY blocked, no one moving. I start to get in the shortest line, but one of the TSA stormtroopers barks, "Stay in the line we tell you, SIR." By "sir" he clearly meant "shithead;" you could tell from his tone.

10:50: I'm through security. It suddenly occurs to me that the baseball tickets, 11 of them, purchased from a scal....from a reseller of tickets, and so uncheap, are in my checked bag. This can't be a problem, though: it's a direct flight. Not even U.S.Airways can lose a bag on a direct flight.

Gate is third on the right, so it's close. I run up....and see that the plane is delayed 45 minutes. Under the circ's, not a bad thing. I go get some coffee, and talk to the pretty Ethiopian ladies at the coffee shop. We are old friends, and talk every time I come through, which is perhaps once a week on average. The youngest one is getting married, and the two older women are giving her a savagely hard time about the impending wedding night. "It will be for you not fun at all, but at least it won't last long. He'll fall asleep in no time." Younger woman is so embarrassed she hides her face in the muffin bin. Hilarious. Women are rough.

Flight leaves, we get into P'burgh. We wait a little on the tarmac. But I have called Bill K on my cell at his house, and let him know we are late. (he doesn't have a cell phone, having been transported by time machine from the 1830s).

We wait for the bag at baggage claim. Long time. I notice a black pull bag, just like mine, with the SAME PINK THREAD, same color and everything, tied to the handle. Notice that it is NOT mine, BECAUSE I CHECKED THE LABEL. I notice that it belongs to a woman from Kentucky. I have a bad feeling about this....those bags look VERY similar.

After a few minutes, the bag is gone, so I assume I am just being paranoid.

Bill goes to get his mini-Cooper. Now, Bill is 6'8" tall, and weighs about 160 lbs. He has to fold himself to get into the mini-Cooper. I go to talk to the baggage claim people, who tell me, "Oh there are more bags to be unloaded from that flight." It has been an hour; the flight had 30 people on a tiny plane too small for me to stand up. I think baggage people pull a Kissinger: Henry Kissenger, when he was a prof., famously just wrote: "This is awful! Rewrite completely, and hand it back in." Then, when he read it the first time, it was already a second draft. Baggage guys just want you to go away, so they can argue about their vacation days with their supervisor.

I go back to look at the silent, unmoving baggage claim belt. Bill, by this time, has gotten into a tiff with the parking Gestapo, who told him he has to move along, and can't park or even wait with his car. This is because....I have no idea. For some reason, because some guys crashed some planes (and that was bad, I admit), the authorites decided that AIRPORTS are terrorist targets, even though the total number of attacks on airports is zero. That's like having a traffic accident, and then putting up a guardrail around your garage. Bill asks if he can go inside and tell me that he is going somewhere else (not clear where, and remember that neanderBill has no cell phone), and the cop starts yelling at him. (I later defended the cop to Bill. If the guy were smarter, he'd have a better job).

I go back to baggage claim office. Three guys, I'm not making this up, are having a sprited argument about vacation days in SEPTEMBER. More than 3 months from now. I try to interrupt, and one of them angrily says, "Sir, just a moment. We are on break." (Look for that union label! You can't outsource baggage guys to Bangalore, so they can still rock those union work rules). Finally, the dispute is resolved, presumably by letting ALL Of them take all the vacation they want. One of the guys takes my card, and cell phone number, and says he'll call right away if he hears anything. The reason the other bag, the one that belonged to the woman from Kentucky, had disappeared was that the baggage guys had taken it off the rack. They had that bag, and said they would try to track her down. They only had her Kentucky address and phone, but still....a lead.

I say I'll call, soon. And, to his credit, this guy (Jerry) tells me to make sure and call HIM, directly. He writes his direct number on a piece of paper, and says he'll make sure they get the bag. I mention the Pirates tickets, and that does seem to get their attention. "Let's see, 2 o'clock's at should be okay. We'll get it for you."

We give up, and drive to P'burgh. Pretty far away from the airport. My cell phone rings. It is Sharon, wife of neanderBill. Nice to talk to her, but my heart is pounding. I was hoping they found my bag. Five minutes later, cell phone rings again. It is....Sharon again. I hand the phone to Bill, muttering about Bill not needing a cell phone since he just bogarts everyone else's for free.

We meet Carl, start planning our book activities, sitting outside. I mention how upset I am about the tickets, and how I am nervous. Bill and I go inside, to buy some coffee. My phone rings, and both drop it and kick it, trying to answer. Pick up the phone, and it is....Carl. He says, "Just checking: Has the airline called you yet?" (We had been apart about 45 seconds at this point). I yell, "Asshole!" into the phone, which gets the attention of everyone in the fairly large room by the coffee stand.

We get back out, Carl is VERY proud of himself (why should today be any different?) for the phone gag. I call the special direct number, hoping my man Jerry has come through. I had really gotten the impression he would work for this, once he found out about the baseball tickets. It rang 20 times or so. Nada. So I call the main number. A woman answers; I ask for Jerry. "Oh, he has left for the day. Can I help you?" Remember, Jerry had taken notes, a description of the bag, and had the name of the person who had MY bag. And now, over the phone, I have to START OVER, since no description of any kind had been entered into the claim record.

Fortunately, I heard the other line ring, and the woman asks me if I will hold. She comes back on, laughing: "Did you say your name is 'Munger'? Well, you are in luck! The woman on the other line has your bag! We can deliver it to you in two to four hours from the time she gets it to us. She says she will have the bag back to us by 5, at the latest."

5? Two to four hours? THE GAME STARTS AT 7! DIDN'T JERRY TELL YOU WHAT WAS GOING ON? "Sir, I'm sorry, let me see if I can expedite, we can't."

Me: "A taxi. Put the bag on a taxi. I will pay you $100 to deliver that bag."

Her: "We can't. Liability issues."


So, we all climb into Carl's 1931 Caravan (I swear, it had wooden spokes), and head for the airport. It's 4:45 now, and traffic is JAMMED. We get out of the city, and it breaks up a bit. In fact, looks pretty good. We are flying along...but then we notice that traffic heading INto the city is totally backed up. (I said, "Maybe they are going to the Pirates' game?" We had a good laugh at that.)

We get to the airport, and call as we are pulling in. The nice lady (Lisa) has my bag out at the curb when we pull in. We get the bag, and Lisa gives us directions for a route that will get us off the interstate 5 miles before the city, and may get us to the game on time after all.

And, to be fair to Lisa, her directions were terrific. We got to the game just in time to buy scorecards and beer, and were seated in time to see the leadoff guy come to the plate. An outstanding game, the beer was good, and the company was...well, the beer was good. And great to see Dennis Epple, a fine man and a political economist of note.

At one point in the game, the Pirate third baseman runs in a slow roller, and bobbles it. Hard play, but a major league third baseman has to pick that up and make a throw. Carl insists this is an error, I call it a hit. Carl points out that the official scorer called it a hit. *I* point that the whole reason to KEEP score at a game is so you don't have to accept the official scorer's calls. "If you want the official score, you can just XEROX it, Carl! Have a little courage! That was an error!" (Sharon Keech, a fine intelligent and perceptive woman, except for her marriage choices, backs me on this 100%)

Things devolve a bit. I accuse Carl of being a socialist pussweiler, unable to hold people responsible for their mistakes. And I note that the official scorer is probably a union man also, like the airport baggage guys, and wants to avoid extra effort (it takes longer to write "E-5" than it does to mark it as a hit). Carl says...well, I'm not going to say what Carl said, but if I had followed his instructions I would have needed a new pencil to keep score with.

Later, a grounder goes cleanly, untouched, through the shortstop's legs. "A hit! A workers' paradise hit!" I shriek. I notice that there is a mustard-covered jalapeno from the hot dog Carl is eating, sitting on my pants leg. I'm not saying Carl threw it. But if he didn't, then jalapenos can fly.

A bad day, but it ended very nicely. You can't go wrong with baseball.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Time is passing very, very, very, very slow

Dutch boy MM sends this link.

An excerpt:

Sanchez: I think I’m having an overdose and so is my wife.

Operator: Overdose of what?

Sanchez: Marijuana. I don’t know if it had something in it. Can you please send rescue?

Operator: Do you guys have fever or anything?

Sanchez: No, I’m just, I think we’re dying.

Operator: How much did you guys have?

Sanchez: I don’t know. We made brownies. And I think we’re dead. Time is going by really, really, really, really slow.

The full audio. Very nice. As Brian Sorgatz points out, "This guy was really, really, really, really unqualified for his essential job as a gun-toting addiction counselor who makes surprise house calls."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

New Hit

Heard a new country song last night.

"I want to check you for ticks!"

That's the title. Yes, it is.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Poo, But No Christopher Robin

I don't read often....

...but the discussion on the Comparative Jobs blog (actually, American and Comparative Jobs, but on the Comparative side) is so appallingly juvenile that I have to recommend it.

One person even gives us: "Anonymous said...
Fight! Fight! Fight! I want to see you guys square-off by the bike racks.

5/16/2007 10:25 AM "

At least SOME one has some sense of proportion. Well done, 10:25 am.

And then the posts that follow:

Anonymous said...
Ooooh. Good poo-flinging there. 9:51--your turn.

5/16/2007 10:46 AM

Anonymous said...
I may be a second-rate political scientist, but I'm a first-rate lover.

Ask your wife if you don't believe me.

5/16/2007 11:26 AM

Anonymous said...
OOOOOOOOH! Snap! Oh no you di-int! Excellent poo return volley. Back to you, 10:33. May I suggest a "yo momma so fat" joke?

5/16/2007 11:43 AM

Anonymous said...

What kind of sicko are you? Get out of here before we reveal your IP address!

5/16/2007 12:06 PM

Anonymous said...
Oh no! Juvenile threats against the guy who is pointing out how juvenile this entire discussion is. Well played, 12:06. I will go cower in shame now while you grown-ups return to your serious debates as to whose department can beat up whose. Oh, by the way here's my IP#: Do you want my e-mail address too? Blood sample? Writing sample?

5/16/2007 12:28 PM

Anonymous said...
As always on the Interweb, opinion + public forum + anonymity brings out the assholes.

You have GOT to read this. Fascinating. I predict heavy involvement by 2nd and 3rd grad students at "top" universities, who don't yet realize they will never publish anything in a good journal in their entire lives. Pride goeth before a fall in the poo. Say hi to Tigger for me. TTFN.

Qualifications for HIgher Office?

"I've regretfully come to think the key to presidential campaign success
isn't the candid 'authenticity' that took John McCain so far (but not far
enough) in 2000, but a ruthless message discipline--a complete unwillingness
to take the media's bait. That's the instinct displayed by George W. Bush in
2000 and 2004, by Hillary Clinton right now, and by Mitt Romney a few
minutes ago when he more or less ignored a question about why he
flip-flopped and endorsed a no-new-taxes pledge. Romney's steely discipline
makes me think he's a real contender."

-- Michael Crowley, The New Republic

So...the ability to focus on the television, to ignore the point of questions, and to pretend that you cannot load the dishwasher, even if shown how repeatedly? In other words, a studied incompetence so highly developed that questions don't even make it through the outer abrasion shields?

That means the best training for running for Prez is: TWENTY YEARS OF BEING A HUSBAND!

So THAT'S why Hillary is so good at this!

(Nod to KL, who certainly ignores all MY questions, and rightly so)

Pee Your Pants for the Brewers

Tofe sent me this last week, but I was skeptical.

It's still up, though, so it must be legit. Or, as legit as something like this could be.

Pee your pants for the Brewers!

I have never seen a full Brewers season where they make the playoffs. Born in July 1982, I missed that amazing World Series run. It’s been a long 24 years- the longest playoff drought in baseball. With a young team of quality stars and shrewd management, we’re boldly making our move. I get so excited thinking about the Brewers now, a little pee comes out. In fact,

When the Brewers
make the playoffs
I will pee my pants

(Nod to Tofe. If the Brewers win, he'll use one of those big plastic Duke cups, rather than his pants. He has standards)

Philadelphia Leads the Nation in Electoral Innovation

Need cash? Target the campaign of the self-made millionaire on election day!
Especially juicy since get out the vote efforts in Philly depend on
"Walking Around Money." Apparently, these crooks wanted to taxi around,
or perhaps take a limo?


(Nod to RL, a gentle soul with a cruel sense of humor. Except for the gentle soul crap, a pretty good guy.)

Why Do We Hate Market, But Trust Politicians?

From Slate:

The price of human eggs is rising. Average U.S. donor compensation: $4,217. One clinic says it pays $15,000. Students at top colleges are being offered "tens of thousands of dollars." An expert quotes high-end fees of $50,000 to $60,000. Reasons: Low supply, high demand. Maryland legislators are proposing to ban egg sales. Objection to rising prices: The money is becoming so good that potential donors can't rationally evaluate the health risks. Rebuttals: 1) Drop the paternalism. 2) The price is set by supply and demand, so if you limit the price, you'll make it impossible for some couples to get eggs and have kids.

The money is becoming so GOOD that donors can't rationally evaluate? Why not, the money is becoming "good" because some couples are desperate to have children, and
we are preventing transactions that, if allowed, would produce enormous increases in human welfare without harming ANYONE?

(Nod to Anonyman, who has excellent gluteal bulges, all on his own. No, really: they're real. I've felt them.)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

5 Second Rule

May 9, 2007, NYT
The Curious Cook
The Five-Second Rule Explored, or How Dirty Is That Bologna?

A COUPLE of weeks ago I saw a new scientific paper from Clemson University that struck me as both pioneering and hilarious.

Accompanied by six graphs, two tables and equations whose terms include “bologna” and “carpet,” it’s a thorough microbiological study of the five-second rule: the idea that if you pick up a dropped piece of food before you can count to five, it’s O.K. to eat it.

I first heard about the rule from my then-young children and thought it was just a way of having fun at snack time and lunch. My daughter now tells me that fun was part of it, but they knew they were playing with “germs.”

We’re reminded about germs on food whenever there’s an outbreak of E. coli or salmonella, and whenever we read the labels on packages of uncooked meat. But we don’t have much occasion to think about the everyday practice of retrieving and eating dropped pieces of food.

Microbes are everywhere around us, not just on floors. They thrive in wet kitchen sponges and end up on freshly wiped countertops.

As I write this column, on an airplane, I realize that I have removed a chicken sandwich from its protective plastic sleeve and put it down repeatedly on the sleeve’s outer surface, which was meant to protect the sandwich by blocking microbes. What’s on the outer surface? Without the five-second rule on my mind I wouldn’t have thought to wonder.

I learned from the Clemson study that the true pioneer of five-second research was Jillian Clarke, a high-school intern at the University of Illinois in 2003. Ms. Clarke conducted a survey and found that slightly more than half of the men and 70 percent of the women knew of the five-second rule, and many said they followed it.

She did an experiment by contaminating ceramic tiles with E. coli, placing gummy bears and cookies on the tiles for the statutory five seconds, and then analyzing the foods. They had become contaminated with bacteria.

For performing this first test of the five-second rule, Ms. Clarke was recognized by the Annals of Improbable Research with the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize in public health.

It’s not surprising that food dropped onto bacteria would collect some bacteria. But how many? Does it collect more as the seconds tick by? Enough to make you sick?

Prof. Paul L. Dawson and his colleagues at Clemson have now put some numbers on floor-to-food contamination.

(Here is the link to the article, in the J of AM. All part of the service, here at the End)

(Nod to Anonyman, who counts to five very slowly. I've seen him.)


Bastiat Prize

Bastiat Prize 2007: Submission Open

IPN's Bastiat Prize for Journalism was inspired by the 19th-century French philosopher and journalist Frédéric Bastiat. The prize was developed to encourage and reward writers whose published works eloquently and wittily elucidate the institutions of a free society: limited government, rule of law brokered by an independent judiciary, protection of private property, free markets, free speech, and sound science. The prize (a total of USD $15,000) will be split among First, Second and Third placed winners.

Judges this year will include: former British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Lawson of Blaby and 2002 Nobel Laureate, Professor Vernon Smith.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

If Only UNC Had An Econ Department.....

TO LEARN, TO DREAM...TO MAKE MILLIONS: Couldn't Mr. Edwards have learned about economics by reading a book, or taking a course? He's all about the public service, of course, as usual....

Edwards says he worked for hedge fund to learn more about financial markets

By: NEDRA PICKLER - Associated Press Writer

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said Tuesday that he worked for a hedge fund to learn more about financial markets and their relationship to poverty in the United States.

Edwards won't disclose how much he got paid as a consultant to Fortress Investment Group, but said he did keep the money.

"It was primarily to learn, but making money was a good thing, too," the 2004 vice presidential nominee said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He said the amount he was paid will be revealed when he releases his financial disclosure forms.

Fortress Investment Group, founded in 1998, describes itself as "a leading global alternative asset manager" with approximately $35.1 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2006. The company is headquartered in New York with affiliates around the world.

Fortress was the single biggest employer of Edwards donors during the first three months of the year. Donors who listed "Fortress" as their employer contributed $67,450 to Edwards' campaign and supporters who identified their employer as "Fortress Investment Group" gave $55,200 to the campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Edwards said it's legitimate to ask questions about whether there is a contradiction between campaigning against poverty while working for a hedge fund that is designed to make rich people richer. He said the job was a complement to his position as the head of a poverty center at the University of North Carolina.

"I didn't feel like I understand, and to be honest with you still learning right now, sort of the relationship between that world and the way money moves in this country through financial markets," Edwards said.

Edwards said he also spoke to some Wall Street investment firms such as Goldman Sachs besides exploring the position with Fortress. He said his role was to advise the firm about what he saw happening economically in the United States and during his travels overseas...


(Nod to Anonyman. Can a person drown in bile?)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Higgs on Science

Bob Higgs makes some points that are so obviously true that they have completely escaped us. A very fine article. And evidence that blogs are an outstanding way of getting important ideas to many people quickly.

Peer review, on which lay people place great weight, varies from important, where the editors and the referees are competent and responsible, to a complete farce, where they are not. As a rule, not surprisingly, the process operates somewhere in the middle, being more than a joke but less than the nearly flawless system of Olympian scrutiny that outsiders imagine it to be. Any journal editor who desires, for whatever reason, to knock down a submission can easily do so by choosing referees he knows full well will knock it down; likewise, he can easily obtain favorable referee reports. As I have always counseled young people whose work was rejected, seemingly on improper or insufficient grounds, the system is a crap shoot. Personal vendettas, ideological conflicts, professional jealousies, methodological disagreements, sheer self-promotion and a great deal of plain incompetence and irresponsibility are no strangers to the scientific world; indeed, that world is rife with these all-too-human attributes. In no event can peer review ensure that research is correct in its procedures or its conclusions. The history of every science is a chronicle of one mistake after another. In some sciences these mistakes are largely weeded out in the course of time; in others they persist for extended periods; and in some sciences, such as economics, actual scientific retrogression may continue for generations under the misguided belief that it is really progress.


(and a grateful nod to DoF, who adds some more interesting thoughts)

Wait, I thought WE won

So the Brits have their lacy black undergarments in a knot over a wink?

We won the Revolutionary War. Sure, the French fleet played the decisive role, we won very few pitched, set-piece battles, and our soldiers were often tattered bands of irregulars. And King "Cut and run" George III decided he had better things to do with his troops.

Still, we won. We won over the principle that birth makes one person better than another. Even GWB had to stand for election, twice. You may think his birth helped him, but it doesn't define him. GWB didn't win because of his birth. He won because Al Gore and John Kerry are two of the biggest empty suits in the history of politics.

If I want to wink at the Queen, I'll wink. Even if I were President. She is not elected, she has no authority except control over millions of pounds of financially and genetically in-bred wealth and property.

If he had MOONED her, sure, that would be an outrage. But momentarily misspeaking, "17....1976" and then winking....Give me a break.

That isn't in the top 100 of GWB's most appalling blunders.

The Brit newspapers can all just line up and BITE me.

(Nod to AE, who loves queens, and the UN, and other authoritarian structures)

UPDATE: The backrub. THAT was a blunder. You don't touch an elected leader of another country to give them an uninvited backrub. That was appalling. Of course, in 1938, when the Germans decided to give all of Sudetenland a backrub, THAT was okay. I guess it just depends who is getting the backrub....

Monday, May 07, 2007

Someday We'll Look Back on This, and It Will All Seem Funny

But not now.

Canadian coin with a bright red flower was the culprit behind the U.S. Defence Department's false espionage warning earlier this year, the Associated Press has learned.

The odd-looking – but harmless – "poppy coin" was so unfamiliar to suspicious U.S. Army contractors traveling in Canada that they filed confidential espionage accounts about them. The worried contractors described the coins as "anomalous" and "filled with something man-made that looked like nano-technology," according to once-classified U.S. government reports and e-mails obtained by the AP.

The silver-coloured 25-cent piece features the red image of a poppy – Canada's flower of remembrance – inlaid over a maple leaf. The unorthodox quarter is identical to the coins pictured and described as suspicious in the contractors' accounts.

The supposed nano-technology actually was a conventional protective coating the Royal Canadian Mint applied to prevent the poppy's red color from rubbing off. The mint produced nearly 30 million such quarters in 2004 commemorating Canada's 117,000 war dead.

"It did not appear to be electronic (analog) in nature or have a power source," wrote one U.S. contractor, who discovered the coin in the cup holder of a rental car. "Under high power microscope, it appeared to be complex consisting of several layers of clear, but different material, with a wire like mesh suspended on top."

The confidential accounts led to a sensational warning from the Defence Security Service, an agency of the Defence Department, that mysterious coins with radio frequency transmitters were found planted on U.S. contractors with classified security clearances on at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the contractors traveled through Canada.

One contractor believed someone had placed two of the quarters in an outer coat pocket after the contractor had emptied the pocket hours earlier. "Coat pockets were empty that morning and I was keeping all of my coins in a plastic bag in my inner coat pocket," the contractor wrote.

But the Defence Department subsequently acknowledged that it could never substantiate the espionage alarm that it had put out and launched the internal review that turned up the true nature of the mysterious coin.

Meanwhile, in Canada, senior intelligence officials expressed annoyance with the American spy-coin warnings as they tried to learn more about the oddball claims.

"That story about Canadians planting coins in the pockets of defence contractors will not go away," Luc Portelance, now deputy director for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, wrote in a January e-mail to a subordinate. "Could someone tell me more? Where do we stand and what's the story on this?"


(Nod to RL, who isn't scared of Canadian money, and I can prove it. In fact, he actually wants MORE of the darned stuff)

Why Liberals are Losing the Court

Interesting. The left lost the Congress, but fortunately the Republicans managed to show themselves to be incompetent and corrupt. So the Democrats got it back.

But what about the Supreme Court? There just seems to be a disconnect, and I notice it myself all the time, when we talk about abortion or civil unions. (I am on the "left" side on both issues, by the way.)

You have to try to make arguments, and understand the other side. Instead, the left has gotten lazy, and just assumed that the Court will back up their secular state religion of group rights and female empowerment.

As John Yoo, law professor at UC Berkeley and former lawyer in the Bush
Justice Department, put it:

"Rather than develop reasoned responses to the Court or the arguments of
conservatives, liberal critics resort to the mystical for easy answers. They
suggest that irrational religious faith or pure Catholic doctrine handed
down from the Vatican drives the Justices. It is much easier to dismiss your
opponents as driven by mysterious forces than to do the hard work of
developing arguments built on human reason


John Edwards, and some of the other Dem candidates, are now trying to act like they have religion. And religion was apparently okay when it was Dr. MLK doing the preaching. (I'm not sure the Rev. Al and the Rev. Jesse believe in anything other than their own fundraising....)

But you aren't going to appeal to the religious unless you make real arguments. Dismissing them as primitives is going to result in a disaster for those of us who believe in individual human rights.

(nod to KL, who believes)

Friday, May 04, 2007


Not sure why this is so amusing. But it amused me.

If you move the mouse around quickly, there is excellent action.

(Props to BS, who is unique. Thanks be to God.)

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Wow. Some of you folks have too much time on your hands.

A YouTube video, on "Mrs. Munger's Class."

Sent to the End by....well, I'll just say it was a grad student who may be in grad school for quite a while.

Good gravy. Let's break for lunch.

UPDATE: Holy cow. There's a whole series. Appalling.

Clip 1
Clip 2
Clip 3
Clip 4

UPDATE II: All right, I take it back. This was a real find, after all. Apparently Disney chose especially funny looking people from yearbooks, and then FAILED TO GET THEIR PERMISSION TO USE THEIR IMAGES. Said funny lookers sued, and Disney bailed.

Surely, there were funny looking people who worked for Disney would have donated their images.

Anyway, the grad student who sent this gets a smiling puppy dog from me. Great stuff. I had never heard of it.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I See Dumb People....

The mayor sent me this link.

He got it from my main guy, Russ Roberts. His post was here. The comments....well, some people just believe in magic, and that's all there is to it. Boogabooga. Abracadabra. Clutch hitting. All magic.

As fine a piece of baseball humor writing as I have ever seen.

And, of course, Fire Joe Morgan.

The Big Kite

Parachute "big kite".

Pretty impressive visuals. Looks perfectly real.

For some reason, people think it IS real, when it would be awfully dangerous.

But it can't be.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tag Clouds

Here is an obvious, but very concise, way of analyzing debates, or almost any political phenomenon: TAG CLOUDS!

What interested me was the focus of Clinton and Edwards. Both had just a few main concepts, and they were VERY different.

And you can really see the effects of either strategy or personality. Wonkiphonetics don't play very well. Candidates need to be Hemingway, not Faulkner. Look at the word totals for the debate:

1,872 - Senator Obama
1,766 - Senator Clinton
1,518 - Senator Edwards
1,281 - Governor Richardson
1,180 - Representative Kucinich
961 - Senator Biden
912 - Senator Dodd
753 - Senator Gravel

I actually Biden talked more than that, but maybe it's because he is like fingernails on a blackboard to me.

(Nod to TK-S, who knows stuff)