Saturday, August 25, 2007

What to do with your spare time

Summer is about over so your kids are going back to school leaving you with peace and quiet, or if you are a student, classes have started so you need something to occupy your time during the long boring lectures! Here are some quick KPC recommendations

(A) Read these books (now in paperback!!):

1. "Snow" by Orhan Pamuk. I was very favorably impressed and surprised. Its a real novel with a real and compelling story, not just an extended political statement. To my mind it is more accessible and tells a much better story than did "My name is Red". Highly recommended

2. "Stuart: A Life Backward" by Alexander Masters. I bought this on a lark off a Border's display and quickly became engrossed in the story. Stuart's own personality and actions (it's a biography of a homeless person in Cambridge England) more than overshadows Master's lack of literary chops. When the author gets out of the way and lets Stuart do all the work the book really really shines.

(B) Listen to this new music:

1."Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga"by Spoon. Britt Daniels has refined his sound down to the minimum at this point. He gets more out of less than anyone around these days and to me Spoon is the quintessential American Rock Band at this point. Their whole catalog is highly recommended. Listen chronologically and hear Daniels figure it out. It's like going chronologically through a book of Mondrian or Rothko pictures. Here is a review from Pitchfork.

2. The Stage Names by Okkervil River. This recording goes the other way from Spoon. Will Shef is completely over the top here. Grandiose and elegant. I am very impressed by the quality of lyrics and the way a variety of styles of individual songs combine to make a coherent, moving, whole. Here is Pitchfork's take.

US Open Picks

Ok, my handicapping of Wimbledon wasn't the greatest. I took a Williams to win on the women's side and took the field against Federer on the mens's. Venus hoisted the big plate, but fastidious Roger won his fifth straight Wimbledon title.

For the US Open, which starts Monday, I'm sticking with my "Williams" pick on the women's side, even though Venus seems a tad overconfident and Serena has been frustrating tournament directors all summer by pulling out of events. My backup pick if the Williamses flame out is Ana Ivanovic.

On the men's side, it's just stupid not to pick Federer, but I can't do it, so I'll take the field again. I am rooting for Nadal or Djokovic to win.

PS. Here is Serena's latest commercial , this one is for HP and it's pretty cool.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The rain in Spain....

Or reverse brain drain?

A study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found that more than one million potential immigrants, including scientists, engineers, doctors and researchers, are competing for 120,000 permanent US resident visas each year

The total number of applicants and their family members waiting for permanent residence in the United States in 2006 was estimated at 1,055,084. Additionally, there were some 126,421 residents abroad waiting for visas, making a worldwide total of 1,181,505.

I have two responses to this story:

(1) Is this the "line" the illegals are supposed to get in "like everybody else"?

(2) So our country's immigration policy is to tacitly allow large scale unskilled labor in while tightly controlling the influx of skilled labor?

It keeps getting harder for me to say this but, Is this a great country or what?

Stupid is as stupid does

For those worried that continued or increased immigration will destroy our pristine genius level gene pool, let me assure you that that horse has already left the barn. Incontrovertible proof can be found here (its 4+ minutes but well worth watching).

Wow. We have met the enemy and he is us!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mystery solved....

So, here's the solution to the mystery of the broken window. The things I know are in roman type. The things I suspect are in italics.

1. My wife and I went to a play. My son Kevin decides he is interested in having some foods he hasn't had before. He goes to Lowe's foods, a grocery we don't frequent, and buys fancy Spanish olives, a can of coconut chunks, and some cucumbers.

2. He gets home, and opens the olives. Has some. He chops some, first with a small knife, and then with a large cleaver. He makes samurai noises as he chops: "HIIIII-YAHHHH!" "WHAAAAAAA-HOWWW-AAH!" Olive offal flies, but he cleans it up.

3. The cucumbers. He chops the cucumbers with the cleaver; quite satisfying. Then he remembers we have a 30 inch machete in the garage. He gets the machete, and goes outside. He chops off the head of a cucumber. By this time he has switched to pirate noises: "GAR! Avast, there, ye cuke-lubber! Ye won't again see the light o'day!" Comes back in the house, another cucumber gets the plank.

4. He looks at the can of coconuts. He looks at the machete. He tastes the coconut, decides he doesn't like it. He looks at the machete, again. Now, the canned coconut is in a can much like a half-pint paint can: very sturdy. But the machete is nearly 3 feet long, and pretty sharp.

5. He goes outside, places the can of coconut on the ground, and winds up.

6. Making a loud samurai sound (back to samurai: "AH-HOOO-WHAAAH-HAI!"), he takes a full right-handed baseball swing at the can. The machete cuts the can slightly, and dents it a little more. A small amount of liquid, and a few pieces of chopped coconut, spill out in a splash pattern.

7. But mostly, the machete launches the can like a well-hit baseball. It strikes the window hard, still rising. The sharp edge of the can cuts a chip into the wood.
A fair amount of the liquid, and the cubed coconut, spill out of the can onto the deck.

8. Kevin picks up the can, looks at the glass and thinks, "Oh, no!", and puts the can down deep in the garbage. He goes up to bed. He leaves the glass on the deck, and in the window frame. He doesn't clean up the coconut. He pretends to be asleep.

An addendum: Kevin asked me, "Why are you embarrassing me like this?"

My answer: Next time, Kev-o, pick up the glass. And clean up the coconut. If *I* clean it, I blog it.

DIRTY DAVEY: Where do you want your mug sent? The baseball-like action wins you the prize....

Get into your music (and burn down your garage?)

This is a pretty cool video about Ruben's tubes, which I didn't know about at all. I thought I was retro by having and using an old Tektronix analog oscilloscope but evidently, that ain't nothing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Old Yeller Dog Food

Kroger introduces "Old Yeller" brand chunk dog food.

From the release:

“The movie is a timeless classic that transcends generations, and we believe this brand will appeal not only to original fans, but to the millions of Americans who share the same kind of special bond with their beloved dogs,” said Barry Vance, Kroger senior corporate category manager.

“Bringing Disney’s Old Yeller brand to a trusted retailer like Kroger was a natural fit,” said Christopher King, category director, Disney Consumer Products FMCG. “Disney’s Old Yeller dog food is for those dogs that are part of the family.”

MacMan, who is usually the nicest and most sensitive guy on earth, has the following suggestions for tag lines for ads:

Your dog will be rabid for Kroger's Old Yeller!

Kroger's Old Yeller: Before you shoot him.

If your dog could talk, he'd ask for Kroger's Old Yeller as his last
meal. Make it his next.

That's sick, MacMan. Good job!

A Pretty Good Point....

This seems like a pretty good complaint to me.

(Nod to MacMan, who always has good complaints)

Selena, We hardly Know ye....

Angus raises a pretty good point. Strange to imagine that Michael Vick's friends are all the bad guys. Maybe, I don't know what happened, but quite a leap of faith.

Regardless of how that shakes out, the irony is that Selena "Lacrosse Witch Hunt" Roberts was one of the first, and shrillest, to advocate that the Duke lacrosse players rat out their compatriots. Why did she shriek such invective about the necessity for lacrosse players to rat out their boys, and yet hate on Vick's "associates"?

As Angus notes, this would "only make sense if [they were] innocent."

Of course, the lacrosse players WERE innocent, and so Selena's incredibly scathing critique was wholly misplaced. Nothing happened, and so it is hardly surprising the lacrosse players did not rat out their friends. (Excellent background here)

Further, the lacrosse captains, and the attorneys of the accused, offered to cooperate, but were told by Mike Nifong that he was not interested in their statement.

So, Selena (1) got the facts wrong, since the lacrosse guys DID cooperate, and (2) got the advice wrong, since it is hard to imagine ratting out your friends WHEN THEY DIDN'T DO ANYTHING!

On Michael Vick: I don't know if he did anything or not. But if his friends want to talk to the police, I would have thought Selena would approve, given her advice to the lacrosse players. Or maybe Selena just has different standards for different (shall we say) situations.

PS: I should note that I talked to Selena Roberts for a story some years ago. And this was really quite a good, and fair story. She caught an inconsistency, and pointed it out, against political stereotype. I wonder, as Angus does, what has happened to change her.

A two parts!

A mystery will be posed today, and solved tomorrow.

My wife and I get home, after having gone to see a play.

On driving up, we see in the driveway...a rather large end of cucumber, fresh, wasn't there when we left three hours earlier.

On the counter inside: An empty olive jar (expensive olives), and lots of cucumber pieces here and there. Another large cucumber end over by the fireplace. One son is gone to the lake for two nights, and so can't be implicated. Other son, Kevin....asleep, or pretending to be.

I get up in the morning, get my tea and the Sunday paper, and go out to back deck to read and watch the hummingbirds (we have a dozen or more hummingbirds that fight for sugar water supremacy from our feeders. extremely entertaining)

When I open the back door, I am met with this scene: broken window, glass everywhere, and two strange puddles, with what appears to be chopped onions or some other small white cubes of foodstuff in the puddles.

I try to piece this together. Out in the middle of the deck, there is this puddle:

I have drawn lines to help you see the splash pattern, and a circle to call attention to the white foodstuff cubes.

Now, there is also the broken window, which in terms of direction lies exactly at the midpoint of the splash pattern in the previous photo. Some[thing] bounced, or was launched, from the splash in the previous photo. And it was launched with such velocity that it not only broke the window, but also carved out a fresh gouge 1/2" into the wood window frame (circled). Had this object, whatever it was, not hit the wood it would clearly have gone through the next window as well. It had to be heavy, have a sharp edge, and be travelling fast.

Now, beneath the window there was another puddle. No splash pattern, just a puddle. Same white foodstuff cubes. Looks like this:

So, here's my question, for all you "Children of the Cheese": WTF? What happened here? A slushy ice ball from the neighbors house, bounced once and hit the window? An alien invasion?

The answer: tomorrow here at KPC. Commenter who comes closest to the correct answer (and my judgement on that is FINAL, btw) gets a free "Munger 4 NC Gov" stainless steel coffee mug! mailed to the address they provide.

(A note: my son Kevin has not told me the answer, so I don't know either. And I am very interested to find out, so that I can kill him)

This has got to stop

Over the past year, I have seen Selena Roberts of the NY times sports section go from a feisty, funny writer to an over the edge shrill caricature. Her latest piece, an apology for Michael Vick, has pushed me over the edge.

She actually portrays Vick as a victim of his posse!

"The first to fail Vick was Davon Boddie, a cousin and personal chef."

"The first to flip on Vick was Tony Taylor, a fast friend from Newport News, Va., with an arrest record for drug trafficking and a traffic record for reckless driving."

"The latest to betray Vick is Quanis L. Phillips, a friend since middle school."

"Group dynamics can collapse under pressure. Vick has been abandoned, left to contemplate a plea deal that could imprison him and ruin his N.F.L. career. He is stunned, those in his camp say. Snitching is a street sin, isn’t it?"

I guess I have to say the obvious. Hey Selena: Micheal Vick isn't in the position he is in because he was betrayed by his crew. He is in the position he is in because apparently he repeatedly and heinously broke the law and acted despicably. The only was he's been betrayed is if he is innocent.

I'm surprised Roberts didn't write that the dogs had it coming for betraying Vick by not being good enough killers. Maybe she can cameo (a la Melo) in the next stop snitchin' video.

Giving credit where credit is due

I never thought I'd be saying this but I gotta give it up for my man Lester Thurow!! Really!! The erstwhile merchant of American doom nicely debunks the China Monster here.

He points out that the reported double digit aggregate economic growth rates coming out of China conflict with some disaggregate reports from the same sources and conflict strongly with the historical relationship we have observed between electricity consumption and growth. He puts China's actual growth at somewhere between 4.5% and 6%.

So China is still a long way off from catching the US in total size of the economy, more than 100 years according to Lester, and they are an order of magnitude further away from catching up in per-capita terms.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Practice makes perfect!!

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo sports gives some backhanded praise to the Oklahoma football program for how they handed their 7th (not a misprint) and most recent conviction for violating NCAA rules:

First some trash talkin':

Hey, what do you expect from a program whose "Sooners" nickname honors people who prematurely seized (stole) land back in 1889 and whose interlocking OU logo kind of looks like a pair of handcuffs?
(lol, we are guilty on both counts!)

he then goes on to give credit to current coach and state-wide god, Bob Stoops for his handling of the latest affair:

On the back end, though, Oklahoma, led by its coach, Bob Stoops, actually conducted a real investigation, made quick, tough self-punishing decisions and in the process showed how to do things right when things inevitably go wrong.

but Wetzel just can't help hisself (Barry Switzerism), its just too funny:

While praising a coach and a repeat, repeat offender program for how it dealt with a scandal is a bit absurd – after all 1) how about not having a scandal in the first place? and 2) since they've had plenty of practice isn't it about time they did it right – in reality the way OU dealt with this was, sadly, by NCAA standards, somewhat remarkable.

Hey, there is no such thing as bad publicity, right??

KPC, advisor to the stars!

Recently KPC reported that the frequent debating schedule was seen by some as detrimental to non-front running candidates. Apparently Barak Obama was listening as his campaign manager announced that the Senator would be cutting back on his debating. Here is an excerpt:

Unfortunately, we simply cannot run the kind of campaign we want and need to, engaging with voters in the early states and February 5 states, if our schedule is dictated by dozens of forums and debates. Ultimately, the one group left out of the current schedule is the voters and they are the ones who ask the toughest questions and most deserve to have those questions answered face to face.

Therefore, after this week, we will only be attending the five DNC debates through the sanctioning period of December 10, Univision, and the two Iowa debates previously mentioned. Candidate forums - where candidates appear sequentially will be considered, but we are unlikely to accept many of these. Instead, Barack will spend his time answering questions directly from voters in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and elsewhere. We simply cannot continue to hopscotch from forum to forum and run a campaign true to the bottom up movement for change that propelled Barack into this race.

Smart move?

Hat tip to Matt Yglesias