Wednesday, September 30, 2009


The Most Interesting Man in the World.... "He's been known to cure narcolepsy just by walking into a room. His organ donation card also lists his beard. He's a lover, not a fighter, but he's also a fighter, so don't get any ideas."

Craig Newmark links to this amusing roundup.

47% Pay No Federal Taxes!

From CNN....47% of American pay ZERO federal taxes.

A number of people have emailed me asking if this makes me mad.

Answer: No, not really. But I think this benefit of zero taxes ought to be extended to the other 53%. THEN you're talking. For now, here is the breakdown....
Percent AGI / Percent of total fed tax revenues
Top 1% 40.42
Top 5% 60.63
Top 10% 71.22
Top 25% 86.59

So, 15 million Americans (including Angus and me) are paying for 61% of all the foreign misadventures and cluster firetrucks of our government. You are welcome, all you deadbeats!

Part of the problem is that all the government programs, ALL of them, are being paid for by a small number of productive people. But the bigger problem is many of the "government programs" involve using my money to go kill civilians and poor people in other countries.

Stop doing that, Mr. Obama. Just stop it. (Yes, we complained about Mr. Bush, shut up)

Is Thomas Friedman "the stupidest man alive" ?

Well he certainly has stiff competition (most notably Donald Luskin (see here and here), but this NY Times column puts Sir Thomas directly in the running.

His argument is that "Red China has decided to become Green China" and since (according to him) going green is a zero sum game, they are going to bury stupid dumb corrupt America under a green on red avalanche:

Unfortunately, we’re still not racing. It’s like Sputnik went up and we think it’s just a shooting star. Instead of a strategic response, too many of our politicians are still trapped in their own dumb-as-we-wanna-be bubble, where we’re always No. 1...

There are, as you might imagine, a few problems with his argument. First off, he has no evidence that China has actually decided to go green. He mentions exactly two things. (1) An American "solar equipment maker" has opened a research center in China, and (2) A Chinese solar panel manufacturer told him that the party secretary of the town where the company is located told the Chinese business man that he wanted the party to support the business.

Oh my!

Even dumber than the notion that China, the world's biggest polluter, has gone green is the notion that going green is a zero sum competition. Friedman doesn't even try to argue for this point, he simply assumes it as self evident.

Friedman does find another idiot to quote here:

“If they invest in 21st-century technologies and we invest in 20th-century technologies, they’ll win,” says David Sandalow, the assistant secretary of energy for policy.

Oh my!

He then concludes, in classic stupidest man fashion, by completely undercutting his argument:

Of course, China will continue to grow with cheap, dirty coal, to arrest over-eager environmentalists and to strip African forests for wood and minerals. Have no doubt about that. But have no doubt either that, without declaring it, China is embarking on a new, parallel path of clean power deployment and innovation. It is the Sputnik of our day. We ignore it at our peril.

My conclusion: Thomas Friedman is a prime challenger for the position of stupidest man alive. We ignore him at our comedic peril.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


People, I have been asleep at the switch, out of the loop, up the proverbial creek. Did you know that there has been an Ong Bak II out for a while now

Me neither.

It is going to be released in some theatres in the States on October 23rd according to Yahoo Movies.

Even better, Ong Bak III is supposedly in production now too.

Tony Jaa is an amazing martial artist. I loved the original Ong Bak, even though it made little to no sense.

There is an awesome sequence in the Ong Bak II trailer (viewable from the Yahoo Movie link above) where Jaa runs up the front of an elephant, does a back flip and kicks the bejesus out of a bad guy on his way down.


The unholy trinity of health care reform

I actually think we are going to get a reform that is both worse than the status quo and worse than a pure single payer system. 

Kudos to our Congress!

As I understand it, insurance companies will not be able to refuse to cover some one, nor will they be able to charge high risk people a premium that reflects their risk. The price won't be uniform, but the maximum variation will be well below what it would take to correctly price the variation in risks.

As I noted before, this will make premiums for healthy people extra high. And as the WSJ pointed out yesterday, at least on the margin, it will make healthy people want to hold off from getting any insurance until they are actually sick. 

Problem solved, you say?

Ahh, but now it appears that the third leg of the trinity will be rule that it will be illegal to not have insurance!

So young healthy people will be forced to buy way overpriced (relative to their risk) insurance. Plus if said young healthy people make good money, they can look forward to paying more taxes to subsidize the purchase of said insurance by others.

Guaranteed Issue, Community Rating, Individual Mandate.  They sound so reasonable and innocuous, but they are freakin' lethal.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Caplan's Libertarian Quiz: Redux

So, some time ago I took Bryan C's "Libertarian Purity Quiz." (to paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, if you care more about testing purity than about actually affecting policy in the MIGHT be a Libertarian). As I noted then, I got a 54.

Took the test again. This time, 66. George Bush, you did this to me. I have jumped up more than 10 "purity percentiles" in a little less than four years.

Germany to the Left: NaNaNAHNa, Hey-Hey-Hey--Goodbye!

Wow. The German electorate spanked the parties of the left in the election yesterday.

Here was the final poll, not quite two weeks ago: And now for the actual results:
Linke (Left)--12%

Some interesting things:

1. D-land's next foreign minister will likely be FDP head Guido Westerwelle. This may be the highest world office ever held by an openly gay person. And that's part of the reason I like the FDP, even if they are sort of fuddy-duddy. They are pro-market, want to cut spending, and actually walk the walk when it comes to libertarian principles on sexual freedom.

2. That pompous ass Steinmeier got reamed. SPD should fire him. But SPD should fire a lot of people. They got smashed. Just smashed.

3. Oskar Lafontaine, with his ridiculous move to Der (correction: Die) Linke in 1999.... what now, dude?

4. Germany: A fundamental realignment? Will the US go the same way in 2010? Perhaps Obama really IS the best cure for what is wrong with the Repubs, by reminding us what nut jobs the Lefty Dems are?

5. Turnout in this race was historically low, just over 70%. That's way, way down. Fact is, nobody cares very much. That's how Angus and I like it: if politics becomes boring, because we all know that ALL the parties are corrupt, and government is incapable of doing anything but harm, the world would be a better place.

One more thing, though: Much of the "promise," such as it was, that got the CDU/CSU /FDP coalition into power is "We are going to cut taxes." Folks, deficits are future taxes, it's just that simple. If you don't cut spending, then tax cuts are actually tax increases on the future. If the new German government does not come to grips with the "gimme other peoples' money" mentality that has come to dominate German society, then the tax cut approach (already discredited by the Busholistas) will be disastrous.

Zombie Movies: An Appreciation of Slow

Had dinner Friday night l'etoile, here in Charlottesville. (Yes, I had the sweetmeats. Yum....lamb balls). Since Loren Lomasky was paying, we all did serious work in terms of wine and food. (Thanks Loren! And, to be fair, your "work" was more serious than any of ours. Well done, grabbing the full wine bottle from the waiter's hand and hugging to yourself, so it became, as you shrieked, "Mine! My baby. Mine.")

Anyway, at dinner we had the sort of excellent analytic conversation that often happens when you get academics and terrific wine together. I happened to be sitting across from Garrett Fagan, a truly capital fellow, a classicist from Ireland, now at Penn State. Kudos also to Ben P and Rachana K, though I won't "out" them completely.

Here is the question: what makes for a great zombie movie? What are the classes of zombie movies, and how are they distinguished from other similar, but non-zombie, movies? Dr. Fagan was clearly the smartest person at the table, since his knowledge of zombies revealed a deeply troubled mind, but the classification scheme we all came up with is important enough to share.

1. Most movies where baddie status is irrevocably conferred by being bitten by a baddie are NOT zombie movies. Obviously, this is true for vampire and werewolf movies (if a vampire bites you, you become a vampire, not a zombie), but it is even true for "almost zombie" movies like "28 Days Later." The point is that 28 Days Later, though a scary movie where the baddies all want to bite the remaining people, is simply not a zombie movie. Nonetheless, any true zombie movies must have biting-baddies. Necessary but not sufficient. That's the conclusion of the assembled worthies.

2. All true zombie movies require putrefaction, and severe mutilation of the zombie bodies. The advantage of this, in addition to be being visually horrifying, is that it introduces idiosyncratic locomotion and gestures. One zombie might be pulling himself along, because his legs are gone. Another limps and shuffles in a rotation way, because all the flesh is gone from one leg, and the opposite shoulder has been torn off, so that he has trouble keeping balance. Further character differentiation occurs because, though putrefaction occurs at a constant rate, the start time for putrefaction is the "death" of the human the zombie used to be. Thus, some zombies are relatively fresh and only slightly sour-smelling. Others are truly rotten, with pieces falling off just because the worms have crawled in, the worms have crawled out, the worms have played pinochle in his snout.

3. In all true zombie movies, the zombies are slow. No, don't argue, you are wrong. ZOMBIES. ARE. SLOW. There are scary, putrid sickness-acquired-by- biting-afflicted things in movies that are not zombies, because they are fast. Saying "I like fast zombies" is like saying "Zima is my favorite beer." Now, you are welcome to like Zima.^1 But Zima is not beer. Our table-jury was split on the question of whether slow thinking was sufficient. Garrett and I held out for the pure "slow means slow!" position, based on #2 above. How could something with no flesh below the knee be fast? Please. And, of course, since my authority is limited on these questions of...well, authority, I appeal to a real authority, none other than Simon Pegg, of "Shaun of the Dead" fame, who wrote this.

4. In the best zombie movies (and, yes, Day of the Dead, the 1985 Romero version, is THE best zombie movie, and if you don't think so you are likely not enough of a zombie fan to have read this far in the first place) actually teach you something about zombies.
a. What do they want? (they want to bite and eat human flesh)
b. Will other kinds of flesh satisfy, or at least distract them? (no. dead animals, pieces of dead humans, or even live animals will not distract zombies in the least. They want living human flesh, and they are drawn irresistably, though slowly, to human flesh.)
c. Does human flesh somehow sustain, or strengthen, zombies? In the strictest sense, no. Zombies do not digest, or derive satisfaction, or even really notice, human flesh. Zombies simply MUST draw close and bite. That's how they roll. Or shuffle.

5. Edged weapons, rocks, even physical blows....all of these are NOT part of the true zombie arsenal, though many of these will be used by the doomed human defenders. A real zombie movie is absolutely obliged to restrict its horror to exactly one kind of attack: overwhelming (in fact, limitless) numbers of slow-moving, silent, putrefying zombies shuffle toward the victim. The victim kills thousands, using every weapon, garden shears, or table leg that is close to hand. But ultimately the victim is overwhelmed, and is consumed or becomes a zombie (either outcome, after a spirited discussion at table, was deemed acceptable.)

An excellent review of some more serious literature on zombie movies here.

FURTHER READING, for newbies:
Pretend We’re Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture, by Annalee Newitz, Durham: Duke University Press, 183 pages, $21.95
Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema, by Jamie Russell, Surrey: FAB Press, 309 pages, $29.95
The Dominion of the Dead, by Robert Pogue Harrison, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 159 pages, $14
World War Z, by Max Brooks, New York: Random House, $14.95
Zombie Survival Guide, by Max Brooks, New York: Random House, $17.00 (to be published in early October!)

LAGNIAPPE: Red Dawn is NOT a zombie movie. It is one of the most unintentionally hilarious movies ever made, and it was Patrick Swayze's second movie (1 was "Outsiders"). But the band of renegade teenagers are MUCH too stupid to be real zombies. And zombies cannot shout, "WOLVERINES!" (WOW! Jennifer Grey, or "Baby" from Dirty Dancing, was also in Red Dawn. I did not know that...And, yes, Dirty Dancing WAS in fact a zombie movie.)

^1: I lied. No, you aren't.

UPDATE: Thanks to the commenter for pointing out I am an idiot, and linked Zima when I said "Day of the Dead." But, I submit that "Zimaroll" has considerable potential, now that "Rickrolling" is such a tired cliche. (No, I will not link a Rickroll)

UPDATE II: This, in commments, from Alex Zarley: An excellent new zombie movie, although it is in Greek (doesnt really take anything away from movie because dialogue isnt that essential in them), is to kako (the evil). The sequel, Evil in the time of heroes, a zombie movie that takes place in ancient greece starring billy zane, is due for release in Greece October 1. Alex: You are SO RIGHT! So, watch for To Kako II.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

redefining excellence

The Cards have clinched and A-poo has locked up the MVP. Life is good for me and Mungowitz.  We went to a lot of Cardinal games during our grad school summers, sitting in the uber-cheap left field bleachers, smoking cigars and chanting bad things about the people in the right field bleachers, all the while wondering if we would pass our exams, finish our theses, and obtain gainful employment (depending on the year).

This NY Times article proposes changing the definition of what it means to win the triple crown and talks about what a great year Prince Albert is having:

"If the Triple Crown tips a cap to the singular season, then attention must be paid to Pujols, who entered Saturday leading the National League home run race (with 47); third in R.B.I. (129); and first in OBP (.447). His .331 batting average was second to Hanley Ramirez’s .351."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stir Crazy

Meanwhile, back in Honduras, deposed president Marvelous Mel Zelaya remains hunkered down in the Brazilian embassy, some measure of calm seems to be returning to the capital, and the two sides can't even agree on what to talk about if they ever do talk. 

Basically, the current regime is about 65% of the way to successfully filibustering its way to the new elections.

Living in the embassy under tough conditions seems to be taking its toll on Mel as he is claiming that "Israeli mercenaries" are attacking him with radiation and toxic gasses!

Given earlier reports that Mel's crew was subsisting on rice and beans and had no AC or running water, I think those toxic gasses might not have been Israeli in origin.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A dedicated follower of fashion

Or, every girl crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

Or in this case, a weirdly dressed billionaire.

People, Warren Buffet is endorsing men's clothing. Successfully. Yikes!!

Take a gander, as they say in Iowa, of this picture of Warren with a homeless man:

Hard to believe that an endorsement by him would cause a Chinese clothing firm's stock to go up by 70%, it less than a month, but it did according to this story.

Everyone thinks Warren is such a great guy, but there he goes sabotaging America by increasing our trade deficit.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nice Try, Ed

Friend of Humanity Edward Prescott of Arizona State University sez:

"I don't know why Obama said all economists agree on [the need for a stimulus bill]. They don't. If you go down to the third-tier schools, yes, but they're not the people advancing the science..."

Now this is pretty funny. I guess Ed said "third-tier" strategically to get the idea of "places below him" across, but heck, I'll just put it out there, ASU is a "third-tier school" in Economics unless tiers are amazingly thick (and yes that probably makes OU a 4th tier one).

Plus, there are obviously a lot of economists at better schools than ASU who endorsed the stimulus. For example, is Princeton worse than ASU?

To modify an old expression, people who live below the Penthouse shouldn't throw stones!

And, no I was not in favor of a stimulus, which is amazing given what a low-tier, no advancing of the science job I have!

close to you

Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near?

Why do stars fall down from the sky, every time you walk by?

Just like me, they long to be, close to you

Full story here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy B-Day to Me, and Sadness

So, I'm 51 today. Hard to believe. Now I have been in a bad mood for 51 years.

Also, I'm a bit sad. I have meant to blog about this Danish tourism ad:
Okay, now of course, that is an actress. They are advertising that if young American come to Denmark they can get...well, you know what they can get.

The sad part? I watched that commercial intently, several times. And I have clearly passed some kind of age threshold, because I have zero interest in the pretty blonde girl. I just want to hold that cute baby. That is a GREAT baby. If I go to Denmark, can I hold that little baby? If so, I may go.

UPDATE: They pulled the ad! How can I ever find that baby now?

Um, Could you move that paper a bit more to your right please?


The Culture that is Germany X

Man I love Reuters!

"German naturists will soon have their own 18-km (11-mile) long trail for hiking in the nude and some enthusiasts have been trying it out before the official opening next May.

Heinz Ludwig, who runs a nearby campsite, has led the project to create the nudist trail that meanders up and down the Harz mountain range in central Germany, overcoming some local protests by pointing out its potential boost for tourism.

"I think it's a great way to promote tourism here," Ludwig told Reuters on Tuesday after Bild newspaper published a picture of two women wearing nothing but rucksacks on the trail. "There's already been a lot of interest in it."

The trail runs between the village of Dankerode and the Wippertal dam. Naturism fans have been monitoring progress of the trail in Internet chatrooms for months and a band of naked hikers took a test walk on the not-quite-finished trail in May.

The trail is being marked with special signs warning the uninitiated that they could encounter nude hikers.

"If you don't want to see people with nothing on then you should refrain from moving on!," reads one warning sign."

When the guy says it will promote tourism, does he mean voyeuristic tourism, or that throngs of nudists will come hiking there?

42 seconds of He-double matchsticks

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wow, Stan Musial was a REALLY GOOD baseball player

He made more all star appearances than years played! At least according to Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown:

"Pujols, 29, and Musial, 88, are close. They were seen laughing and chatting at Busch Stadium in the days leading to the MLB All-Star Game this summer in St. Louis. They’ve talked strike zones, bat weights, salaries and golf. They’ve talked ball.

Pujols’ friends say he admires Musial’s skill, of course, and is amazed by Musial’s longevity. In 22 seasons, Musial played in 24 All-Star Games. He took his first big-league at-bat as a 20-year-old in 1941, and hit until he was 42 in 1963."

Yes friends, you read that right. 24 All Star Games in 22 seasons. Wow! He was GOOD!!

Now, I have to ask, did they used to play more than one all star game per season? Or is this just another example of the MSM getting it wrong?


Oh what a tangled web we weave.......

Check out this awesome excerpt from this Newsweek interview with Lula da Silva:

NW: You often criticize the privatization process. But thanks to the sale of state companies even the poorest Brazilians have cell phones, and former public companies like Vale have become world-beaters under private ownership.

Lula: But the state could have done the same things.

NW: Except that it didn't.

Lula: It didn't because the Brazilian elite used public companies for their own ends. When you do that , any company will go broke, anywhere in the world. I think the privatizations were a mistake.

And then it gets even better:

NW: The Mercosul trading bloc, which Brazil leads, only allows full democracies that respect human rights as members. Does Venezuela qualify?

Lula: Give me one example of how Venezuela is undemocratic.

NW: Thirty-four radio stations closed by the government in one weekend. Repression of independent trade unions and government persecution of political rivals. Gangs linked to the government of Hugo Chávez vandalizing the only independent television broadcaster.

Lula: That's not the government's version.

NW: Is there any doubt?

Lula: Let's be frank on one thing. First, each country establishes the democratic regime that suits its people. It's a sovereign decision of every nation.

32 seconds of Heaven

Inquiring minds

Hey Dr. Mungo: WHO WON?????????

signed,  The Universe

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sadly for Paul Kedrosky, newspapers are not dead

Because if they were, no one would be mocking him on the interwebs for his extremely weak and bogus op ed on tennis challenges.

First, PK doesn't seem to know much about tennis:

The rules allow three incorrect challenges per player per set. In a best-of-five-sets match (which is normal for men), that means at least 18 available challenges per match, none of which carry over from set to set.In other words, use ’em or lose ’em. A player can get an additional challenge if the match goes into a tiebreaker, or if a fifth set goes overtime.

Best of 5 matches are played at the 4 major championships and in Davis Cup ties, meaning that they are an aberration, not the norm.

Second, he does not seem to know what the word substantial means:

And the rewards for challengers can be substantial. For example, the No. 10 seed at the Open, Fernando Verdasco of Spain, averaged 0.4 challenges per set and had a sparkling 43 percent success rate. If he challenged once per set, like Federer, and his challenge success rate fell to a similar 30 percent, it could mean one more point to him in a three-set match. If his success rate didn’t fall as much, however, and he challenged twice per set it might mean as many as three more points in a five-set match. Either way, it could be the difference between winning and losing.

Third, he seems to think that winning a challenge gives you the point (see the above quote). It does sometimes, but often winning a challenge just causes the point to be replayed.

Fourth and most importantly, he seems to forget that the status quo is neither player challenging much. If they both increased their challenges and were equally good at it, then there would be exactly zero net advantage to either player. In other words, in *equilibrium* challenging more cannot be a competitive advantage (not even a tiny one like what he cites in the quote above).

Aside from that, the piece was terrific!

By the time we got to Woodstock....

...we were half a million strong, and everywhere was a song and a celebration.

If the interwebs don't crash, KPC will spin the little red dial to 500,000 today and someone will win fabulous Mungo swag.

I'd like to thank Mungo for inviting me to tag team with him lo those many years ago, Tyler for encouraging me to blog, and y'all for getting involved as well. 

We are stardust, we are golden, we are caught in the devil's bargain, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.


American Efforts at Weisse Bier

On this trip to the beach, I tried three varieties of American weissbier.

The tale o' the tape:

Surprisingly good, in fact excellent: Sierra Nevada "Kellerweis" Hefeweizen. Much, much better than I expected. Looks and tastes just like wiessbier, in fact. Well done. My new favorite, #1 American beer.

Surprisingly good, because it is not horrible: Michelob Dunkel Weiss. Again, much, much better than I expected. Not actually great, just better than I expected. If you are stuck, this beer will in some ways remind you of a real dunkel. For an An-Busch product, outstanding, though.

Surprisingly bad, bordering on terrible: Sam Adams Weiss. Awful. Appalling. Why did they even try? Tastes like a generic beer, no head, clear amber appearance. Supposedly "retired" (i.e., discontinued to end the sucking), but still available.

Video of Dawn at Wilmington

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Paul Strikes Gold

Paul comes up big, showing that "The Internet has many corners." I read more than 40 of those ads, and found every one to be enjoyable.

I especially liked the one that listed the location as "OK OK OK OK OK." Perhaps Ms. Angus is trying to sell Angus, and we found out about it?

Saturday, September 19, 2009


A fantastic KPC contest, with a FAAAAAAABulous prize!

The 500,000th hit on this site will receive a free, collectible "Munger for Governor!" t-shirt from the 2008 campaign.

So go out there and click like crazy! The current count is in the red box, on the right side, about two screens down.

(Winner has to REALIZE s/he has won, and send me an email with her/his snail mail address, to qualify)

UPDATE: A commenter points to this. Nice.

Also, another commenter notes that the "counter" does not update. Yes, there is a pretty long lag. But all hits are recorded at the Sitemeter website, and so I will have the IP address of the BIG WINNER. All we need is for the winner to send me the physical address, and I'll check to see that the IPs match.

Plus, let's open this up. ANYONE who comes in between 499,997 and 500,003 is a winner. Just check sitemeter to see if you are in the lucky interval, and then claim your FAAABULOUS prize! As the xkcd folks note, the 500,000th person, or any specific number, will likely be some schlep looking for a graphic on "Google Images," and will never even know that s/he qualified!

UPDATE 2: Only about 500 hits away from that FAAABULOUS PRIZE! Just check at Sitemeter

I Hate It When I Don't Know What to Think....

Okay, now what is the deal here? I mean, what is REALLY the deal?

University of North Carolina, with a long history of defending free speech the administration happens to agree with, has axed a student club, Youth for Western Civilization. (What did they axe them? No, I mean "got rid of."). The reason is that the faculty adviser made a joke about defending himself. Here is the News and Observer story, from Saturday morning's paper.

Another story, about the events of last spring. The N&O story about local grumpiness, back in April. Also, an Inside Higher Ed story on l'affaire Tancredo. So, in no particular order, some things that confuse me.

1. Tancredo, and all the other "we hate brown immigrants, but blue-eyed immigrants are good" people, are wrong. I personally think the way to discredit Tancredo is to let him speak, and then quote him verbatim and in context. He is a ham-handed goofball, but the protests at UNC made him look like a martyr.

2. Using violence and intimidation to shut down an invited speaker is bad. It doesn't matter if it is 1964, and the speaker is a civil rights leader, or if it is 2009 and the speaker is Tom Tancredo. (UNC has a sad history of administrative thuggishness on free speech, I should note.) You can't take over a room, pushing and shoving, go up on stage, and break a window, and then say you favor free speech. The kids who shut down Tancredo's speech are thugs and bullies, and the system exonerated them. That's wrong.

3. But....but. What obligations do we have to ensure that a group gets to be a group on campus? Chancellor Holden Thorpe fired the adviser of the UNC group for making a joke about a gun. The "joke" was simply that the guy was good at target practice: "I have a Colt .45, and I know how to use it. I used to be able to hit a quarter at 50 feet seven times out of ten." Wow. I have posted videos of my son and me using guns to shoot targets. Would I lose my job if I worked at UNC?

4. The so-called "joke" was in the context of anonymous flyers posted around campus where the leftist thugs were again threatening violence. (You may say that no violence was threatened. But if the UNC lefties can say that "Western Civilization" is code for "White Supremacist," then I can say, "Go to this prof's house, and here is his address" is code for "physical threat." That's the problem with claiming that there are codes: you can make up stuff you think they meant, instead of what you know they said). And the flyers clearly included the adviser's name, photograph, home address and telephone number with the caption, "Why is your professor supporting white supremacy?" That is an exhortation to go confront the guy. AND THE FLYERS ARE ANONYMOUS.

5. On the other hand...Youth for Western Civilization openly calls itself "right wing." They are completely, totally wrong on immigration, and most other things. They call Obama's speech in Cairo "An Inspiration to Islamic Terrorism." * So, now suppose that they can't find a faculty adviser, and that means that they can't exist as a student group. Is that right? Should the faculty have an implicit veto on which groups students can form, based on ideology? I assume that the left-o storm trooper kids have an easy time finding a faculty adviser for their window-breaking and thuggish censorship of invited speakers. Should we censor student groups based on whether faculty endorse the ideological content of the group's mission?

*I do have to point out one passage in this article. Remember, this was actually published on the YfWC website!

In his speech, Obama goes on: “It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.” Really? Have the monasteries of Europe, the libraries and universities of Byzantium been suddenly replaced by an Islamic madrassa in Egypt? I would hope that the folks in favor of Western Civilization had a little more concept of the history of Western Civilization. Yes, it actually is true that the libraries of Islamic scholars really, really were the sources for much of what we now know of Greek and Roman history, literature, and poetry. Perhaps the author should take a class in Western Civilization?

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Are we crazy"?? "Maybe!!

Bulls Win! Bulls Win!

Durham Bulls win 3rd Gov's Cup (IL AAA World Series) this decade. Yippee!

Glen Beck: Libertarian?

"Beck is 45, tireless, funny, self-deprecating, a recovering alcoholic, a convert to Mormonism, a libertarian and living with ADHD. He is a gifted storyteller with a knack for stitching seemingly unrelated data points into
possible conspiracies - IF he believed in conspiracies, which he doesn't,
necessarily; he's just asking questions. He's just sayin'." [TIME]

I assume that Mr. Beck is not really a Mormon, either. Both Libertarians and Mormons expect people to have a consistent set of beliefs.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Harry Shearer dishes on polysci

DIA: You were a politics major at UCLA, but I've also read that you did some graduate work at Harvard. What was that all about?

Mr Shearer: Firstly, it was about staying out of the draft. Secondly, it was about urban government. And thirdly, it was about discovering that I really had had enough of academe, most particularly since my writing style—given my proclivity for mimicry—had grown as tediously unreadable as that of any other "political science" practitioner.

Gee, he says it like it's a BAD thing!

Whole article here.

Money, Sex, and Love

Fatal (Fiscal) Attraction: Spendthrifts and Tightwads in Marriage

Scott Rick, Deborah Small & Eli Finkel
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, February 2009

Although much research finds that "birds of a feather flock together," surveys of married adults suggest that opposites attract when it comes to emotional reactions toward spending. That is, "tightwads," who generally spend less than they would ideally like to spend, and "spendthrifts," who generally spend more than they would ideally like to spend, tend to marry each other, consistent with the notion that people are attracted to mates who possess characteristics dissimilar to those they deplore in themselves (Klohnen and Mendelsohn 1998). In spite of this complementary attraction, spendthrift/ tightwad differences within a marriage predict conflict over
finances, which in turn predict diminished marital well-being. These findings underscore the importance of studying the relationships between money, consumption, and happiness at an interpersonal level.


Why Love Has Wings and Sex Has Not: How Reminders of Love and Sex Influence
Creative and Analytic Thinking

Jens Förster, Kai Epstude & Amina Özelsel Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin, forthcoming

This article examines cognitive links between romantic love and creativity and between sexual desire and analytic thought based on construal level theory. It suggests that when in love, people typically focus on a long-term perspective, which should enhance holistic thinking and thereby creative thought, whereas when experiencing sexual encounters, they focus on the present and on concrete details enhancing analytic thinking. Because people automatically activate these processing styles when in love or when they experience sex, subtle or even unconscious reminders of love versus sex should suffice to change processing modes. Two studies explicitly or subtly reminded participants of situations of love or sex and found support for
this hypothesis.

(Nod to Kevin L.)

Lifted from the comments

KPC mainstay Kunal weighs in with the pithy essence of the difference between China and India:

"Sadly, China, with its oppresive one-party state, can only censor with a broad-brush - they've banned all of Blogger. By contrast, in India, with our superior multi-party censorship apparatus, more targeted displays of intolerance are possible."

Yes, people, it's sad but true: no KPC for the Chinese. They do get KFC, but it's a poor substitute at best.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

She Crossed Her Arms, She Must Like Me!

Mimicry and seduction: An evaluation in a courtship context

Nicolas Gueacuteguen
Social Influence, October 2009, Pages 249-255

Recent studies have found that mimicking the verbal and nonverbal behavior of strangers enhances their liking of the individual who mimicked them. An experiment was carried out in two bars during six sessions of speed dating for which young women confederates volunteered to mimic or not some verbal expressions and nonverbal behaviors of a man for 5 minutes. Data revealed that the men evaluated the dating interaction more positively when the woman mimicked them, and that mimicry was associated with a higher evaluation score of the relation and the sexual attractiveness of the woman. Mimicry appears to influence perceptions of physical attributes in addition to personal and social attributes.

(Nod to Kevin L. Women always mimic him, for some reason)

AK v. Cans

AK wins. (My annual fall post to remind you all that we ain't right, here in NC)

Mrs. Wilson: Pretty Darned Sensible, Everything Considered

T. Friedman: Tired of Democracy, Need Dictatorship

wow, amazing article.

since the American people don't agree with Friedman's little schemes, we need a dictatorship. And for some reason he assumes that the dictator will agree with him.

Enforcing government defined happiness

It can be a tricky business. Consider the current news from Gross National Happiness pioneer, Bhutan:

Bhutan has warned its citizens over cutting down thousands of young trees every year to make prayer flags, a threat to the tiny kingdom's lush scenery and the government's duty to bring "Gross National Happiness."

Himalayan Buddhists put up prayer flags for good luck or to help the dead find the right path to their next life. The more flag poles put up for the departed the better, and Buddhist monks say fresh poles must be used each time.

Having failed to convince its citizens to switch from wood to steel for prayer flags, the government of the Himalayas' last Buddhist kingdom is growing bamboo, which it hopes will be an attractive alternative.

"The pressure on forest is from all sides -- from flagposts to hydropower. We are discussing this every day," Agriculture Secretary Sherub Gyaltshen, said.

Bhutan's constitution, which emphasises the importance of Gross National Happiness over Gross Domestic Product, stipulates the country must have at least 60 percent forest cover.

Himalayan Buddhists believe winds will carry positive vibrations of tantric symbols written on the prayer flags in yellow, green, red, white and blue to represent the five elements, and 108 prayer flags are put up when someone dies.

So I guess my question is, what actions produce national happiness? What the people obviously want to do, or what the government wants them to do? Why wouldn't a program to plant renewable prayer flag seedlings be the way to address this issue?

Or maybe is this actually a weird reverse prisoner's dilemma problem, where everyone individually would like to stop with the prayer flags already but can't risk the stigma from being the only one who quits? And the government really is doing their people a favor?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

the "it" man of Norman

Mrs. Angus and I practice yoga at a space called Pilates Plus in Norman. It houses a variety of entrepeneurs with business ranging from yoga to accupuncture to reflexology to........... intuitive touch?

Here is a photo of the sign on the side of the car of one of the business people housed there:

I especially like how Mr. it has carefully matched his headband to his pocket square!!!

Lula Strikes Again!

Last spring, Brazilian President Luis Ignatio Lula de Silva kicked up a ruckus when he pinned the blame for the financial crisis on "white, blue-eyed bankers".

Now he has decided to clear the air and dispel any possible misunderstandings:

"What I wanted to say is more noteworthy today than it was then. What I wanted to say was that it wasn't the indigenous or the black population who should pay the bill [for the crisis] but those really responsible, the blue-eyed bankers.

"It was the rich who were responsible for the crisis. And we weren't going to allow them to put the blame on the poor people of the world, as always happens when there is an economic crisis", President Lula said.

Yikes! Does Lula really think that Geithner and Bernanke were going to pin the US financial meltdown on poor people in South America? And only his courageous rhetoric stopped them?

Get a grip sir!

Hat tip to Boz

The best sentences I've read this month

are written by John Cochrane and Luigi Zingales:

"The big banks know the government will bail them out, and they are already bigger, more global, more integrated and "systemic" than ever. They are making huge trading profits—profits that must someday turn to losses. If brokerage and banking are "systemically important," they cannot be married to proprietary trading. Yet the financial-reform plans do not even talk about breaking up this marriage—they hope simply to regulate the behemoths instead."

The whole article is well worth reading for its take on the "blame it on Lehman" meme.

Monday, September 14, 2009

France joins Bhutan

In the quest to measure "gross national happiness". In this case though, President Nic has commissioned a couple of heavy hitters to create an alternative index to GDP. Here is an article on what they've come up with:

"Sarkozy asked U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel economics prize and a critic of free-market economists, and Armatya Sen of India, who won the 1998 Nobel prize for work on developing countries, to lead the analysis of growth tracking.

Sen helped create the U.N. Human Development Index, a yearly welfare indicator designed to gear international policy decisions to take account of health and living standards.

Their report, delivered to Sarkozy on Monday, recommends shifting the emphasis from gross domestic product, which measures economic production, to well-being and sustainability.

The report recommends looking at household income, consumption and wealth rather than production in the economy as a whole for a better reflection of material living standards. Non-market activities such as house cleaning should also be tracked, it says.

More prominence should be given to the distribution of income and wealth, as well as to access to education and health.

Attention should also be given to whether countries are over-consuming their economic wealth and damaging the environment, the report says."

OK, got all that? Our index measures house cleaning, income distribution, access to particular goods and services, plus measures of over-consumption and environmental damage.

I will have to see if I can find the actual report and see if Stiglitz and Sen were so foolhardy as to list a concrete quantitive formula containing all this that could be computed.

Let me conclude by saying that on a 0 - 100 scale, my happiness today is around 97.34!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Tale of Two Rookies

Matthew Stafford the overall #1 pick making his pro debut for the Lions:

16-37 for 205 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs and a QB rating of 27.4

Mark Sanchez the overall #5 pick making his pro debut for the J-E-T-S Jets:

18-31 for 272 yards, 1 TD, 1 INTs and a QB rating of 84.3

Need I even say that the Lions lost (for 18th straight time) and the Jets won?

The good people of Michigan shouldn't despair (about football at least) as another rookie quarterback, Tate Forcier (I am not making that up) led the Wolverines past Notre Dame yesterday in a thrilling game.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

They got the dial-up blues

Remember the old joke, "it'd be faster to send it by carrier pigeon?". In South Africa it appears to be actually true:

"A South African information technology company on Wednesday proved it was faster for them to transmit data with a carrier pigeon than to send it using Telkom , the country's leading internet service provider.

Internet speed and connectivity in Africa's largest economy are poor because of a bandwidth shortage. It is also expensive.

Local news agency SAPA reported the 11-month-old pigeon, Winston, took one hour and eight minutes to fly the 80 km (50 miles) from Unlimited IT's offices near Pietermaritzburg to the coastal city of Durban with a data card was strapped to his leg.

Including downloading, the transfer took two hours, six minutes and 57 seconds -- the time it took for only four percent of the data to be transferred using a Telkom line.

SAPA said Unlimited IT performed the stunt after becoming frustrated with slow internet transmission times.

The company has 11 call-centers around the country and regularly sends data to its other branches.

Telkom could not immediately be reached for comment."

The best parts of this story are (1) the pigeon's name, and (2) the last sentence!

Hat tip to Mrs. Angus

Friday, September 11, 2009

Statistical Analysis: Yer doin' it Wrong!

The study on the determinants of college graduation rates is making a big splash. However, its analysis is, with all due respect, crap. Correlation is not causation, there are generally multiple explanations for a correlation and it is not correct to simply pick one and assert its truthfulness.

Consider this part of the story:

Students shouldn't settle for less in a college: Thousands of bright, qualified students apply only to lower-ranked schools where their grades and tests scores are above those of the average student. But the new study finds that those who attend such "safety" schools are far more likely to drop out than those who get into "reach" schools. "It is counterintuitive," Bowen says. "You might think that if Sally goes to a school where she is top dog, she will have a much easier time graduating. But that's not true. She has a better chance of graduating if she goes to school with other people as talented she is."

Well, his (Bowen is one of the authors of the study) interpretation of the correlation certainly is counter-intuitive. It is also almost certainly incorrect! How about this instead: Students who pick an easy school when higher quality options are available to them are not very interested in higher education and are signaling by their very choice that they are unlikely to complete a degree. The last sentence in the quote above should read: "She has a much better chance of graduating if she WANTS to go to a school with other people as talented as she is".

In other words, a lack of desire to get a college degree is driving both the choice of an easy school and the failure to graduate.

I am not saying that my interpretation is 100% correct, but it least it posits a causal mechanism that makes the correlation un-puzzling. The authors, to me are being almost willfully dense. They admit their view is "counter-intuitive" but can't bring themselves to think about anything else.

The next paragraph in the story makes the same mistake again:

Admissions tests don't predict graduation: SAT and ACT test scores are no help in predicting who will graduate from many, if not most, colleges. The widely used tests do help identify those likely to succeed at elite schools, the study found. But for many less selective colleges, students with higher scores were actually more likely to drop out.

Again, it's counter-intuitive unless you consider that highly qualified people picking an easy alternative are showing their actual lack of interest in the endeavor and thus are intrinsically less likely to complete said endeavor.

Putting students who don't want to go to a competitive college into a competitive college is NOT going to raise graduation rates in any significant way. Putting them into one or two year (instead of 4 year) certificate/professional training / apprenticeship programs or just getting off their backs and letting them go to work is a better way to make them happy and improve the economic health of the polity.

Lumaye News Quiz

Here is the weekly news quiz I do on the Bill Lumaye show, every Thursday. What do you think?

Which of the following international news stories is UNTRUE? One of these stories is ridiculous, and made up. The other three are equally ridiculous, but entirely true and real. Which one is false?

A. (Where’s Waldo?) Boaters and fisherman in Florida are urged to look out for a missing robot submarine, nicknamed “Waldo.” Waldo the robot cost about $100,000. It also was equipped with a detector to find red tide, a toxic algae bloom. That was valued at another $30,000. Scientists aren't sure if Waldo sank, or is just floating around somewhere.

B. (Origin of “Hot Dogs”) On a cold April day in 1901, at New York’s “Polo Grounds,” the concession guys weren’t cold stuff. They got the idea of putting long “dachshund sausages” in warm rolls, and selling them. “Get yer hot dachshund rolls! Get yer red hots!” They sold like crazy. Sports cartoonist Ted Dorgan was up against his deadline, and needed an idea. He was interested in the way the new “hot dachshund rolls” were selling. But he didn’t know how to spell “dachshund,” so he depicted concession sellers hawking “hot dogs! Get yer hot dogs!” The cartoon was so captivating that it was reprinted. And the hot dog name stuck.

C. (Japanese First Lady Rides UFO) Forget Nancy Reagan and her astrologer. Japan's about to get a first lady who claims her soul rode a UFO to Venus. In her book "Very Strange Things I've Encountered," Miyuki Hatoyama says she traveled to Venus in a triangular UFO while her body slept. "It was a very beautiful place and it was really green," she wrote. Because of his large eyes and prominent forehead, her husband, new PM Yukio Hatoyama has been called "the alien" himself. Maybe the election in Japan is a sign of a new era in intergalactic relations.
D. (Pepsi Can Surprise) Fred DeNegri was grilling in his backyard tiki bar in Ormond Beach, Florida, when he popped open a can of Diet Pepsi, took a big gulp and started gagging. He emptied out the can down a sink but something heavy remained inside. He shook the can until something resembling "pink linguini" slid out, followed by "dark stuff," wife Amy DeNegri said. But the heavy object inside the can never came out, she said. The DeNegris took pictures before calling poison control and the FDA, which showed up the next day to examine the can in question and collect it for lab testing. The couple received a copy of the completed report last week from the Food and Drug Administration Office of Regulatory Affairs, which had good news: It was NOT a mouse. It was, however, almost certainly the remains of a frog or a toad.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

RTL-Day Plus 3: Main Problem is Buses

It appears that the main problem in Samoa has been the bus system. MANY people depend on buses, and there are fewer than 20 legal, converted buses in the entire island nation. The BEEB tells us about it.

Excerpt: "A few of the bus owners did not believe that we would proceed [with the change]," Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said after meeting a group of them on Wednesday.

Actually, I think they were just waiting for sure that a whack job like you was actually going to go through with this plan, Mr. PM, before they took a blow torch to their buses and cut a new door on the other side.

Radio NZ Int'l has some more on the bus dust-up....

Nonetheless, and contrary to some overheated predictions made on this VERY blog, the switchover seems to have gone pretty well. The economic expense will still be quite large, in the short run, but all transitions have short run costs.

We Get Letters--Doping and Science

From RL, in CA:

This piece- on whether Lance's blood levels show possible indications that he doped during Le Tour de France is interesting, but the science is either not well explained or unclear or both.

The main accusations seems to be based on a study of seven riders in 2007. All seven saw their hemoglobin and hematocrit levels decrease by just over 10%. Thats a small sample for the Tour, and I think its debatable whether the riders represent a homogenous group from which one can draw a random sample from, or whether the different types of riders - "General Classification (GC)" competitors who are in peak condition and trying to win the whole thing, sprinters who maximize their speed only at the end of flat stages, climbers who only maximize effort on mountain stages, domestiques who are the unheralded pack horses, and the others who try to get lucky one day here or there and conserve their energy the rest of the time (since they cannot beat the GCs, the climbers, or the sprinters unless they get really, really lucky and find themselves on one day with more energy and the right set of circumstances).

I think it is possible that the GC's train in such a way (or are special to begin with) that their blood levels do not decrease during a three-week grand tour without a study of the GCs. Or they are cheats. Armstrong was not peaking during Italy- in fact, he struggled- so comparing his blood levels from Italy vs two months later in France may not be fair - a better comparison would be to a previous TdF he rode.

From our perspective, the best part of the article is that the proposed solution: have a group of "experts" deliberate... And we all know how effective and unbiased a group of SCIENTISTS can be... Especially if, say, a political scientist or a lawyer, gets to enjoy agenda setting powers.

Teleprompter Failure: Valley Forge

What if BHO's teleprompter failed, at Valley Forge?

Here's one view of one possibility....

Carriage is a pumpkin, glass slipper doesn't fit

Melanie Oudin lost to Caroline Wozniaki 6-2, 6-2 last night and that will probably be the last we hear from her in big time tennis. At least allow me to hope so, because the era when human backboards reigned in women's tennis (Chrissy Evert, Tracy Austin, Arantxa!!) was a brutally boring time.

The media coverage of this "phenom" was ridiculously over the top. People, she is 5 foot 6 inches tall and has no weapons to speak of. Her run at the Open was one of those pseudo "hot hand" episodes that seem so amazing for the person doing it, but given all the matches and all the players will definitely happen from time to time.

She seems like a sweet kid (although there was a lot of Monfils type yelling out there on the court) and I wish her well. My number one piece of advice to her would be to get a new coach, preferably one that wasn't a scumbag.

ps. the ever entertaining Wikipedia informs us that Arantxa's nickname is/was "The Barcelona Bumblebee". How sweet is that?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Culture that is Thailand

A Thai man is keeping more than 4,600 scorpions as pets to atone for the years he spent cooking the arachnids to sell as snacks.

Scorpions, insects and worms are commonly eaten in Thailand, especially in the northern regions.
But after years of serving up scorpions, Suang Puangsri, a practicing Buddhist, felt it was time to befriend them instead.

"Although I was happy to have money, I felt suffering deep inside as they were being harmed by me," he told Reuters. "I felt scared that I was committing a sin."

The 38-year-old has given up the bottom floor of his two-storey home to the scorpions, who scuttle about a 6 meter by 5 meter (19 ft by 16 ft) enclosure decorated with branches and stone so that very little light and heat come in.

Suang buys up to one kg of live cicadas and other inspects daily to feed his pets, who have stung him so many times that he says he is immune to their venom.

He also spends at least an hour every day meditating inside the enclosure, often placing scorpions in his mouth.

So clearly, another title for this post could have been: Karma reparations: yer doin' them wrong.

He has stopped torturing scorpions (at least partly stopped, I doubt the scorpion enjoys being inside his mouth), only to start torturing and killing cicadas instead.

Turns out that this guy is not alone:

Suang's fixation with scorpions is unusual, but not totally unheard of in Thailand.
Earlier this year a Thai woman went into the record books for spending 33 days and nights with 5,000 live scorpions. She also held a 7-inch live scorpion in her mouth for 2 minutes and 3 seconds.

The full story is here.

Big Doings

In October, Built to Spill is releasing a new record called "There is no Enemy". The Mountain Goats are releasing a new record called "The Life of the World to Come". Jonathan Lethem has a new novel, "Chronic City", coming out and Orhan Pamuk has a new novel coming out in English called "The Museum of Innocence.

Plus, just to get things started, Richard Powers' new novel, "Generosity: An Enhancement" will be coming out on September 29th.

Our modern world is truly a bounteous and wonderful place.

Dilbert goes to Mumbai

What happens when you apply professional US-style management to Indian textile factories you ask?

A hint of the answer can be found here, along with lots of amazing photos of what Indian textile factories look like before the pointy haired ones come in and start managing.

I worked in a factory in rural Ohio in the 1970s that I thought was a dump, but it looked like the JPL compared to these contemporary photos.

Hat tip to Gabriel M.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Riddle me this!

Why is the USA virtually mum on the electoral fraud and now harsh repression of the opposition in Iran, but seemingly blind to any nuances and insistent on the return of Zelaya in Honduras?

The Monroe doctrine? The fact that Honduras is a friendly country to us compared to Iran and you should always treat your friends more harshly? Are we just trying to get on Chavez's good side? Is the Honduran case somehow more egregiously bad?

Or are we just hypocrites?

We Get Letters--Faculty Governance

As part of our occasional "We Get Letters" series, here is one from a friend who let guilt rule her/him, and now is learning more than s/he wanted to know about faculty governance.

There were 4 candidates for the position of [representative] to something called
the [many headed governance monster]. Against my better judgment I did not withdraw my name from consideration after being nominated, and to my shock I won by a plurality, which has been the customary way college-wide elections to committees have been decided.

This time the second-place finisher complained that the college's bylaws (in discussing the conduct of meetings) stipulate a majority decision, so s/he demanded a runoff. The head of our college's [assembly] (whose email I am forwarding) consulted the President of the [assembly] and the [guy who wrote down the rule manual]. Below s/he reports their Solomonic ruling--we are to keep voting until someone gets a majority of the votes.

This may make for a fascinating experiment if all four original candidates
agree to stand in the subsequent rounds.

Emailed response:

Dear [people] -
I have heard back from [guy] and want to let you know that based on his assessment and that of [another guy], we will need to hold a runoff election for the [assembly] seat. Because of the way our bylaws are currently written, we also cannot limit the election to the top two vote getters. Rather, all of the original candidates have the right to stand for election if they wish. I will be getting in touch with [other candidates] to see whether they want to run again. I also need each of you to tell me whether you are willing to stand for the runoff.

If you have questions or want more details as to why the runoff needs to happen in this way, please don't hesitate to get in touch. My plan is to start the runoff voting by noon on [day] and close it at the end of business on [next day].

Thanks, [Person]

So....the decision is that the runoff will continue until someone gets a majority. And ALL FOUR candidates will continue to be on the ballot. An excellent natural experiment. At the Libertarian Convention this year, this kind of thing brought us...BOB BARR! After six ballots, I should note....

Monday, September 07, 2009

RTL Samoa: Video

From the BEEB

"Stop," from the SF Chron

The UK Guardian calls the switch "smooth."

TVNZ is less optimistic.

People Figure Stuff Out

I had no idea about this, but an interesting article about the Dutch village that eliminated traffic signals.

Can you imagine having no traffic lights or signs or any other way of keeping cars and people apart? The results would be dangerous chaos, right?

Well, they have a lot a faith in human nature in the small Dutch town of Drachten. Its main intersection is a busy place, where cars and trucks compete with people on bicycles, and others on foot.

The normal civic response - here and elsewhere - has been to put in more traffic lights, divide the roadway into lanes - control things. But the response in Drachten has been the opposite - they took the controls away.

A funny thing happened. The accident rate around the intersection went down - way down, from more than eight a year to fewer than two.

Another article. Brilliant. Excerpt:

The project is the brainchild of Mr Monderman, and the town has seen some remarkable results. There used to be a road death every three years but there have been none since the traffic light removal started seven years ago.

There have been a few small collisions, but these are almost to be encouraged, Mr Monderman explained. "We want small accidents, in order to prevent serious ones in which people get hurt," he said yesterday.

"It works well because it is dangerous, which is exactly what we want. But it shifts the emphasis away from the Government taking the risk, to the driver being responsible for his or her own risk.

"We only want traffic lights where they are useful and I haven't found anywhere where they are useful yet."

Mr Monderman, 61, compared his philosophy of motoring to an ice rink. "Skaters work out things for themselves and it works wonderfully well. I am not an anarchist, but I don't like rules which are ineffective and street furniture tells people how to behave."

Of course, John Stossel and John Staddon have made this argument in the U.S.

RTL Day: Updates....

5:30 am Apia time: It's quiet. Almost time for the church bells and police / fire sirens the announce the switch. Nice last minute video from NZ TV3 here....

UPDATE 1: I had not heard this before, but it makes some sense. The government has banned ALL alcohol sales, starting today (Sept 7), and extending throught the 2-day "holiday." Not that banning alcohol sales will keep people from drinking. But there is a special population whose attention might be gotten through a ban on alcohol sales. When they ask why, they will be told about the lane switch. And, of course, there will be a mandatory blessing. All the nightclubs and bars have to close by 10 pm, through Sept. 12.

UPDATE 2: Almost 9 a.m. now in Apia. This story, just posted, has very little content. I searched and searched for a webcam, set up somewhere in Apia or one of the other cities. Disappointing. CNN had nothing, at least not yet.

UPDATE 3: A BBC Story....Could the UK switch? UPDATE 4: This from the Samoa Observer.... (published 9:30 am Apia time)
The road switch happened at 6am today. So remember to keep left.
Chief Executive Officer of Land Transport Authority, Leasi Galuvao, urges that as most important. “And drive carefully,” said Leasi. “Stick to the speed limit.”
Leasi thinks drivers will be cautious the first few days of the switch.

The time of most concern is when motorists believe themselves adjusted to the new conditions and press the accelerator a little harder. That’s why the safety messages will persist up to three months from now, Leasi said. LTA’s technical unit was yesterday afternoon praying the rain would stop so that they could complete the remaining directional arrows at intersections in town before 6am today.

Road signs on poles are still being vandalised, with some pushed down with their coverings still on, Leasi said.


Right to Left Day. TODAY.

The always reliable BEEB is on the story.

Buses threaten strike. Although it is not really a strike, since the law says the buses are not ALLOWED to run if they don't have a door cut in the left hand side. Useful video from NZ TV3.

Bus owners want compensation from Government to change the side of the door of their buses to make it safer for passengers to embark and disembark. They put the price at $50,000 – which includes the cost of transferring the location of the steering wheel from the left to the right.

Government, through Land Transport Authority (LTA), wants only the location of the doors changed. But bus owners say the steering wheel needs also to be relocated for the sake of safety when vehicles are required to change to travelling to the left side of the road from tomorrow.

LTA offered free licensing for a year. That amounts to a total $2,360 – which bus owners say is nowhere near enough as compensation. Nor is the time given them to make the conversion anywhere near enough, they say. LTA believes otherwise.

The comments here in the Samoan Observer (Apia/Savalalo) are interesting....

Sunday, September 06, 2009

RTL-Day Minus 1: TOMORROW is Driverdämmerung

Tomorrow in Samoa: Twilight of the Driver--Driverdämmerung!:

(götterdämmerung -- Dictionary: göt·ter·däm·mer·ung or Göt·ter·däm·mer·ung (gŏt'ər-dăm'ə-rŭng', gœt'ər-dĕm'ə-rʊng')

A turbulent ending of a regime or an institution. [Comes from "Götterdämmerung," an opera by Richard Wagner, from German, twilight of the gods : Götter, genitive pl. of Gott, god (from Middle High German got, from Old High German) + Dämmerung, twilight (from Middle High German demerunge, from Old High German demerunga, from demar, twilight).]

A turbulent ending of a regime or an institution, indeed. Turnabouts will be difficult. (Götterdämmerung was the fourth in Wagner's "Ring" Cycle, so I guess the Ring Roads should be okay). Although I keep hearing that one way streets will be a "special problem." Why? No one said to change directions. Just change lanes. I can see why turning OUT of a one-way street onto a two way street will be tricky. I expect that the morning will look and sound something like this, at about the 4 mins 30 second mark in the video...

Also, remember, Samoa is the latest place in the world. Tomorrow almost never comes, in other words, because Samoa is barely east of the International Dateline. The switchover starts (as I noted yesterday) with some radio reminders and police roadblocks. By 6:00 am local (in other words, 1 pm Eastern Daylight Time in the U.S., a seven hour time difference between Raleigh and Apia), the switch will be in full Götterdämmerung.

If it matters, the weather forecast for tomorrow is cool and wet, a high of 81 deg F and morning rain.

Regulate this!

Alan Blinder in today's NY Times points out that the financial regulation we are likely to get is not the financial regulation that we might actually need. That is to say he expects that there will be additional consumer protection and pay limitations forthcoming (which he deems to be of second order importance), while things of first order importance like making derivative markets more transparent or creating new rules to deal with the potential failure of large financial firms may go unaddressed.

Well worth reading.

I am going to lose some of Mungo's libertarian street cred here, but I think that increasing the transparency of, and collateral behind, derivatives is a very good idea. I am not a fan of legislating pay limits or having a government panel set them.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

RTL-Day Minus 2: Nuts and Bolts of the Change

Our Samoan friends are dealing, as best they can, with the prospect of the road change. Here are some nuts and bolts discussions of the costs of the switch, and the exact sequence of events. Excerpt:

Police checks of vehicles and driver’s licences;
Drink driving enforcement campaign.
Encouragement: Police reminding all road users of the switch.
The following activities have been scheduled for the switch day:
Engineering--Between 0600hrs and 0610hrs remove tape from line markings and covers from signage.
Education--Radio and television reminders of switch, including associated speed limit changes between 0000hrs and 0400hrs;
Radio broadcasts begin again at 0500hrs ahead of switch and reminders continue until midnight.
Between 0600hrs and 0610hrs remove tape from line markings and covers from signage.
Radio and television reminders of switch, including associated speed limit changes between 0000hrs and 0400hrs;
Radio broadcasts begin again at 0500hrs ahead of switch and reminders continue until midnight.

Oh, and they are going to ring the church bells. I think I would just go to church and STAY for two or three days.

48 hours left. We'll see.

The match of the week (so far)

Taylor Dent beat Ivan Navarro last night, winning the 5th set tiebreaker 11-9. Both guys played serve and volley (Dent went to net 109 times, Navarro 146) with accurate and huge serves (Dent made 70% of his first serves with a top speed of 147 mph, Navarro 81% with a top speed of 130).

The full match stats are here.

After the match, Dent commandeered the umpire's microphone to thank the crowd and took a victory lap around the Grandstand, slapping hands with the crowd. He is coming back from two spinal fusion surgeries and has a great attitude about the sport as revealed in his post match interview.

Next up for Taylor is the most handsome Scottish person in all of history, Andy Murray.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Jobless Recovery

from the WSJ:

"The economy is experiencing another huge increase in productivity in the third quarter. Nonfarm labor productivity grew at an annual rate of 6.6% in the second quarter. Look for something in that eye-popping range for the current quarter. Here’s a rough sketch of the numbers: Today’s jobs numbers showed that the Labor Department’s index of aggregate hours worked by Americans was at 98.9 in August, down steeply from a second quarter average of 99.7. That’s from a combination of job cuts, reductions in overtime and other cuts to work shifts. Let’s assume there’s no change in hours worked in September. That would mean the total amount of hours that Americans worked in the third quarter would be down at about a 2.8% annual rate. The economy seems to be on track to grow at an annual rate of 3% or more. More output and fewer hours worked means more productivity in the neighborhood of 6%. You’ll be hearing a lot of talk about a jobless recovery in the months ahead. The upside is that this is good for corporate profits. The downside is that workers will suffer even after the economy comes back."


Mothers in Law, Part Deaux

I endeared myself to my then future MiL the first time I entered her house. In the kitchen, on the wall, she had framed and mounted a picture of Bill Clinton and John Paul II. I couldn't help myself, I blurted out "Cool picture! It's the pope and the dope!"

I was reminded of my heinous verbal indiscretion by this picture, on the front page of the WSJ today:

It's just too easy, but just too fun: Dumbbell, meet Dumbbell

Change you can believe in, and drink

Blue Matter compares Pepsi and Coke logos over the years.

I had not realized this difference. Interesting.

RTL-Day Minus 3: Why Can't We All Just Get a Lane?

Several MSM sources have now weighed in, including Gwynne Dyer (published many places, but locally in the Pacific here...)

And the Canadians noticed...

Randy James, for TIME, asks, why is it different?

The BEEB solicits comments, though no one has yet commented, as of this writing.

And the Daily Mail, that paragon of Brit journalism, has this. An interesting article, with some history. I'm not sure it is all true, but it is interesting. (And that pretty much describes MOST of British journalism, doesn't it?)

UPDATE: A Brit posts on the change. But she gets the date wrong, and expresses the hope that...well, read for yourself. Why move from right side to left side?
The answer is money. The Government wants to slash the number of big, expensive, fuel-hungry American cars being imported into the country. Instead, it’s hoping that ex-pat Samoans living in Australia and New Zealand will send cheaper-to-run right-hand-drive models to the folks back home.

No. NO, NO, NO. The concern is not for the fuel costs, but for the cost of smoking, pollution-emitting junkers. The PM wants MORE of these old junkers, and it is easier to get them from the Commonwealth island nations. Also, as I have noted repeatedly, the Samoan PM worries that American cars cannot escape tsunamis, because....well, I have no idea why he thinks that. But he does.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Radio Quiz

Every week, on the Bill Lumaye show, I do a call-in quiz. This week's was, I thought, better than average.

Which of the following international news stories is UNTRUE? One of these stories is ridiculous, and made up. The other three are equally ridiculous, but entirely true and real. Which one is false?
A. (Sick Terrorist Released) One of our closest allies released a convicted terrorist, a man convicted in an open, honest trial, of killing hundreds of people. This terrorist, on returning home, was greeted as a hero, and paraded around the streets with the leader of the country. The reason for the release was that the terrorist was not feeling well, though he did perk up quite a bit when he got home to such a boisterous celebration.
B. (Airbus Subsidy Suit at WTO) The U.S. is demanding that the European Union stop subsidizing the airplane manufacturer, Airbus. But this suit was brought before the U.S. took over, and offered much larger (three times larger) subsidies to its own auto companies General Motors and Chrysler. If the U.S. wins the Airbus suit, they will have to pay much larger fines if the EU sues about our automobile subsidies.
C. (Fly to Havana) President Barack Obama this week announced that he is lifting all travel restrictions for Cuba. Travel to Cuba has been restricted since 1974, and has been nearly impossible since 2003. Two U.S. air carriers, American and Air Tran, announced that they would begin regular service from Miami’s airport to Jose Marti International in Havana, in time for the (I’m quoting now) “2010 winter snowbird season.” I think, I’m not sure, but I think that 10,000 Canadians have already bought tickets for January.
D. (Island Lane Switch) A small island nation in the Pacific has decided to switch from driving on the right to driving on the left. This is in spite of the fact that ALL the 20,000 cars in the country are Left Hand Steering, and all the buses and trolleys have doors that open on the right hand side. The Prime Minister who made the decision to force the switch thinks that older, cheaper cars from NZ and OZ will now flood into his country, making it easier (quoting now) “for citizens to increase our mobility, and to escape tsunamis.” (Quick, kids, get in the car, a tsunami is coming!)