Saturday, June 02, 2007

Thank god there was no youtube when we were kids

Because if there had been, there would have been tons more videos like this only about Cedarville Ohio and Gotha FL instead of Vermont.

The video, titled "802", has been viewed over 70,000 times on YouTube, and was produced by Kevin Hartmann (center in the photo above) who (I am not making this up) calls himself "Dr. K".

About Vermonters, Kevin says , “We’re small, we might be a little boring, but we can have fun."

Which is exactly how we think of ourselves around here at ME.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Paintball Man

This is so great. For the last month, an Iraqi born artist, Wafaa Bilal, has been holed up in a room in a Chicago Art Gallery letting people shoot paint-ball pellets at him via the internet. Really. It lasts for two more days.

I heard a story about it on NPR (don't ask me why I was listening to NPR) this evening driving home from the casino and then googled him upon my arrival at chez Angus.

Bilal teaches at the Art Institute of Chicago. Here is another example of his work, but this extended performance piece is amazing.

Nicely done sir, kudos to you.

And then there was one.....

After the third round of the French Open, Serena Williams is the only American left in either the men's or women's singles. She next plays Marat Safin's sister with defending champion (and little ratty cheater)Justine Henin waiting in the wings. Congratulations Serena!

Now an open letter to the rest of American tennis: Can you not find any clay in the USA? I live in Oklahomie and we got plenty of it. Come on out and practice here next year maybe???


Are You Really a Poseur If You Can't Spell "Poseur"?

From JJ in NOLA:

In yet another sign that the apocalypse is nearly upon us, i read the following exchange at :
Guy : You ever try Kopi Luwak?
Girl: No, who is he?
Guy: It's not a he, it's the world's most expensive coffee.
Girl: That's not the coffee that's made from cat shit, is it?
Guy : It's not made from cat shit.
Girl: They pick the beans out of the cat shit.
Guy: Sort of.
Girl: So that posers like you can drink it.
Guy: You don't understand the concept of gourmet.
Girl: Maybe not, but I understand the concept of eating shit.

--Starbucks, Court St, Brooklyn

so I wikied it (is wiki now a verb too?):

"Kopi Luwak or Civet coffee is coffee made from coffee cherries which have been eaten by and passed through the digestive tract of the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus ). The animals gorge on the ripe berries, and excrete partially-digested beans in their feces, which are then harvested for sale. This process takes place on the islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, in the Philippines (where the product is called Kape Alamid), in the country of Vietnam, and the coffee estates of south India.

Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world, selling for up to $600 USD per pound, and is sold mainly in Japan and United States, but it is increasingly becoming available elsewhere, though supplies are limited.

So, I ask you, how could you all be so unhip that you haven't told me about this wonderful new and most reasonably priced commodity.

Obviously I need new friends.

I must point out, to the anonymous speakers at the Starbucks, that a "poser" is a difficult problem. A "poseur", by contrast, drinks hot beverages brewed from civet dung.

No, no, don't thank me.

(And, to JJ: any friends you had would be new. I'm just sayin')

Train Wreck: What Women Don't Want

Carpooling to work, with my good friend B. B just moved into a house
quite close to us in Raleigh, and is starting as a Research Prof at Duke soon.

Anyway, the house is beautiful on the outside, fantastic deck, overlooking a small lake. House sits on a hill, on a point that pokes gently out into the lake, so you have water views of about 140 degrees from the deck.

Inside, the house needs work. B's wife S has very impressive artistic sensibilities, and things (colors, textures, contrasts) that I wouldn't notice make her physically uncomfortable. So, they are working on the inside of the house, and there will be a lot of work to do. But S is really being a good sport about it, even though it will be months before the house is even close to right from her perspective.

Anyway, driving to work, B's cell phone rings. It's S, calling from KC, at a conference. They talk for a minute, then I clearly hear her say, "So, are you thinking about the living room?"

And I can suddenly see the future. There is going to be a trainwreck. B has been married more than 120 years, but he is going to blow this. There are many correct answers: "It's hard to picture without the furniture. But I was measuring the wall without windows, and thinking what art work to put up there." or "I am having trouble imagining how big the room will look, if we paint the walls with some nice colors. What do YOU think?" or any of a dozen other answers.

Married women, when they ask if their husband is thinking about {blank}, are saying (a) "I care about {blank}. Is it important to you, too?" and (b) "After you have acknowledged and validated my concern, then I can tell you what I wanted to do in the first place." Women just have conversations differently, and any man who has been married for more than a MONTH knows this.

And, to be fair, S is clearly going to do most of the work, most of the design, most of the worrying. She just wants a sounding board, a way of talking this out, of making it feel manageable. It's a big job, she's willing to do it, she just wants to feel like she is not doing it alone.

What does B say? He gives the Yogi Berra answer. Mickey Mantle asked Yogi, "What time is it?" Yogi said, "You mean right now?"

S asked, "Are you thinking about the living room?" An important room, the center of the house, the common area, where families gather. B says, "You mean right now?"

B finds this answer much funnier than S does. And I watch the train go off the tracks, the cars pile on top of each other, the dust rising.

The problem is we actually know how to talk to women. But we are seduced by our comedic talents. And we pay the price.

His Interest Was Compounded

A fine joke, from my good old friend Charles Statman.

Here's the lead-off....

On their wedding night, the young bride approached her new husband and asked for $20.00 for their first lovemaking encounter. In his highly aroused state, her husband readily agreed.

This scenario was repeated each time they made love, for more than 30 years, with him thinking that it was a cute way for her to afford new clothes and other incidentals that she needed.

(finish the joke)

Uncle Sam is the wind beneath my wings

From today's NYT comes a story : Where Now, for the Wind?

After talking glowingly about the increases in wind farms and wind produced energy the article turns dark:

"But the wind turbines rest on shaky financial foundations. And the industry faces a challenge in the marketplace, one that may well be crucial for the nation’s ability to wean itself from fossil fuels and deal with global warming"

Oh no!! That's awful, what is the problem?

"The problem is that the staying power of these companies is ultimately dependent on tax benefits from the capricious hands of lawmakers in Congress. A critical test comes at the end of next year, when the tax provisions fueling the initial wind power boomlet are due to lapse."

What you talking about Willis??

More than half the value in a typical wind project comes from tax incentives, so executives at the FPL Group concede that their program would again be halted if the tax credits lapse at the end of 2008.

Oh. Awesome. This makes ethanol look GOOD. This is the industry's "challenge in the marketplace"? That they are utterly dependent on my tax dollars to even exist? Bless their hearts.

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.