Saturday, August 29, 2009

RTL-Day Minus 9: Quiet

"It's quiet." "Yeah, too quiet." Many bad movies, and now the Samoan RTL (right to left) driving switch, have this kind of dialogue.

And lots of other dialogue. Drudge is on the case. And the comments are worth reading. The Frank Zappa quote, for example.

But the comment I like is this one: "Don't let the man keep you down. Everyone that is against this should continue to drive on the original side. It'll work itself out." Yup, that'll work. Also, this interesting article, which I had missed before.

And, Salelolaga caves in to pressure to switch.

Blighty: where men are men and......

From our good friends at the AP:

LONDON – A British farmer who paid a new world record price for a sheep says the animal is the finest specimen he has ever seen.

Farmer Jimmy Douglas shelled out 231,000 pounds ($347,000) for the 8-month-old Texel ram called Deveronvale Perfection at an annual sale in Lanark, Scotland.

Douglas says the ram has "a great body and strong loin."

The British Texel Sheep Society says the fee paid Thursday is a world record, eclipsing a 205,00-pound price paid in Australia in 1989.

Society member John Yates says the ram will likely father pedigree lambs worth millions of pounds (dollars) for his new owner.

Breeder Graham Morrison, of Banff, Scotland, says he was staggered by the price but insists Deveronvale Perfection lives up to his name.

Man oh man oh man. "A great body and a strong loin"???? Really??? Does that guy realize he said that OUT LOUD???

Friday, August 28, 2009

Great Moments in Faculty Meetings

As chair, I have now been presiding over faculty meetings for fully 10 years. (Not one meeting. Just when we have meetings, I mean)

Sometimes, a shining beacon of comedy gold breaks through the tedium, and there are moments of transcendent joy. Today was such a day.

An administrator is describing to us the need to renumber courses. The current numbering system is: courses below 100, freshman. 100-199: pure undergrad. 200-299: mixed grad/undergrad 300+: pure grad

The administrator (a good guy, with an excellent sense of humor) says, "There are two reasons we have to renumber."

"First, we are running out of numbers. Lots of old courses still on the books, and it is hard to assign new ones." (Plausible, I admit, but a bit silly).

"Second..." (he starts to titter, through his nose, though trying to maintain a straight face) "we worry our students aren't getting enough credit for the difficulty of the courses. At other schools, students are taking courses with numbers in the 400s or even the 600s. Those seem a lot harder than courses numbered only in the 100s."

We all burst out laughing. But it TURNS OUT THAT THE ADMINISTRATION REALLY WANTS TO RENUMBER THE COURSES FOR THIS REASON! The higher the number, the harder the course!

At this point all hell breaks loose. People start shouting suggestions. I wish I had written them all down, but I only remember these three:

A. "We are like Spinal Tap University! Our courses are so hard, the course designations go to 1100!"

B. "We could just use course numbers from the real line between 0 and 1. There are PLENTY of numbers there!"

C. "Just multiply the existing course numbers by one million. Think how smart our students will be then! They will be geniuses if they make an A in PS10492488. They all get into law school!"

To the credit of my fellow admin guy, he was pounding the table and gasping for air at this point. It was truly hilarious. I am still chuckling about the incident even tonight. Great moments in faculty meetings....

RTL-Day Minus 10: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Dave Barry asks the question about the Samoan lane change, the one question we have all been asking: What could possibly go wrong?

Well, part of the answer is this: Some villages have refused to "go along." Switching models may work for regression; random switching doesn't work so well for games of coordination with multiple equilibria.

Another Reason Why I love Mexico

Mexico nabs 6 in theft of border-fence steel

TIJUANA, Mexico — Police in the Mexican border city of Tijuana say they have arrested six men for stealing pieces of the U.S. border fence to sell as scrap metal.

Holes in the border fence once were more commonly made by migrant smugglers, but fewer people are trying to cross because of a weak U.S. economy and a crackdown on immigration.

The Tijuana police department says the suspects intended to sell the steel sheeting as scrap.

The first two men caught cutting into the fence on Monday. An alleged accomplice was detained Tuesday with 11 pieces of fencing. The U.S. Border Patrol alerted police to three more suspects.

Police said Wednesday in a statement that the men may face federal charges because the fence area is considered federal property.

That is the quintessential when life gives you lemons, make lemonade philosophy in action. Well done lads!

Hat tip to The Mex Files who suggest maybe the US should build a wall around its fence!

I am a Natural Leader. So was Hitler.

On the "Monkey See, Ass**** Do" front, I took the same test as Angus. The results....actually, they describe me pretty much perfectly. A little scary.

Your result for The Brutally Honest Personality Test...

Dictator- ENTJ

53% Extraversion, 53% Intuition, 70% Thinking, 80% Judging

Have you no soul? It's clear you have no heart and that your blood runs cold, but really, do you have even one redeeming factor? Sure. You're a natural born leader. So was Hitler. You just don't like people, do you?

You don't play games. You take charge. And there's very little room for mistakes in your world. You're forceful, intimidating and overbearing. Heard of the word "patience?" Trust me, it's a word and it's something you're sorely lacking. Believe it or not, you're not always right. Learn to have some patience for those who think differently from you, knobflap.

From the way people's knees knock when they see you, you should have realised by now that you're not exactly a "people-person." You're more of a "people-eater." You just ain't tuned into people's feelings and probably couldn't care less whether you were anyway. Maybe you're not from this planet but the rest of us are.

Sure, you're intelligent. So what? You have some semblance of power. Big deal. At least people LIKE the rest of us.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

RTL-Day Minus 11: UPROAR!

From the Jakarta Globe....

Note the picture of an apartment building, with a caption saying it is a bus. If the journalists in Jakarta can't tell an apartment building from a bus, how can the poor Samoans drive on the left?

Keynes: The Paul Krugman of Roosevelt

JM Keynes was to FDR as Paul Krugman is to BHO. In other words, really smart guy, really good economist, no sense of self-respect or need to honor what he knows. At least, he never let what he knew as an economist get in the way of what he believed as an ideologue.

Check this quotation from Keynes, which is actually one of the smartest and most concise summaries of the case against central planning that I have ever seen. Seriously, Keynes understood Lenin and central 1919. Just nailed it.

Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth.
Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become 'profiteers,' who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.

Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.

In the latter stages of the war all the belligerent governments practised, from necessity or incompetence, what a Bolshevist might have done from design. Even now, when the war is over, most of them continue out of weakness the same malpractices. But further, the governments of Europe, being many of them at this moment reckless in their methods as well as weak, seek to direct on to a class known as 'profiteers' the popular indignation against the more obvious consequences of their vicious methods. These 'profiteers' are, broadly speaking, the entrepreneur class of capitalists, that is to say, the active and constructive element in the whole capitalist society, who in a period of rapidly rising prices cannot but get rich quick whether they wish it or desire it or not. If prices are continually rising, every trader who has purchased for stock or owns property and plant inevitably makes profits. By directing hatred against this class, therefore, the European governments are carrying a step further the fatal process which the subtle mind of Lenin had consciously conceived. The profiteers are a consequence and not a cause of rising prices. By combining a popular hatred of the class of entrepreneurs with the blow already given to social security by the violent and arbitrary disturbance of contract and of the established equilibrium of wealth which is the inevitable result of inflation, these governments are fast rendering impossible a continuance of the social and economic order of the nineteenth century. But they have no plan for replacing it.

That's from "The Economic Consequences of the Peace," 1919. Keynes really deeply understood money, before he decided to become a flack and a shill for the dark side.

Paul Krugman? That's what I'm saying. Smart guy, rotten soul.

Anyway, I do a weekly radio show, on WPTF, with Bill Lumaye, 5-6 pm on Thursdays. I run a cheesy contest, with a "FABulous Prize" of a bumper sticker I made up, called the "KOIT CLUB" (I am the "Knower of Important Things," so that's KOIT, get it?). I read a quotation (this week, part of the quote above), and the listeners have to guess who it is. Hilarity ensures.

Got an email from a listener, after the show, who was incredulous:
When I heard you on the radio today I thought for sure you were quoting someone from the Austrian School of Economics. In fact, I tried to call and guess you were quoting Ludwig von Mises (my battery died).

Please don't take this wrong way, but I would like to know where you got that quote from. Please provide the book and the page number. You'll have to forgive me, but I am in utter shock that Keynes would make a statement like that and later go on to be known for what Keynesian stands for today. Can you provide some insight into how and why he made this huge transition?

Thank you, (Name)

I hear you, even though your battery died. It's pretty amazing.

They hate me, they really hate me!

In a comment on a recent post, John Thacker Esq. called me an assh***.

So I decided to take the "brutally honest personality test" and it turns out that HE WAS RIGHT!!

Here is my result:

Your result for The Brutally Honest Personality Test ...

Crackpot - INTJ

27% Extraversion, 73% Intuition, 87% Thinking, 67% Judging

Here is their description of me:

People hate you.

Paris Hilton hates Nicole Richie. Lex Luther hates Superman. Garfield hates Mondays.But none these even rates against the insurmountable hate, people have for you.

I mean, you're pretty damn clever and you know it. You love to flaunt your potential. Heard the word "arrogant" lately? How about "jerk?" Or perhaps they only say that behind your back.

That's right. I know I can say this cause you're not going to cry. You're not exactly the most emotional person. You'd rather spend time with your theoretical questions and abstract theories than with other people.

Here is what they think I look like:


Stay boring my friends

more here.

Jasper Johns, political savant

Tyler has credited JJ with being one of the top 3 living artists, but I would like to point out that, even in 1961, JJ knew Oklahoma was a Red State!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This is Wrong. Duke IS the Douchiest

The Top 25 Douchiest Colleges

(Duke is ranked #2, only because the authors are such haters that they didn't want Duke to be #1 at ANYTHING.)

La Paz trumps Amsterdam!

by offering cocaine instead of mere marijuana in the drug tourism market.

That's right parents, be worried when you kid tells you they're going to do a semester abroad in Bolivia:

"Tonight we have two types of cocaine; normal for 100 Bolivianos a gram, and strong cocaine for 150 [Bolivianos] a gram." The waiter has just finished taking our drink order of two rum-and-Cokes here in La Paz, Bolivia, and as everybody in this bar knows, he is now offering the main course. The bottled water is on the house.

The waiter arrives at the table, lowers the tray and places an empty black CD case in the middle of the table. Next to the CD case are two straws and two little black packets. He is so casual he might as well be delivering a sandwich and fries. And he has seen it all. "We had some Australians; they stayed here for four days. They would take turns sleeping and the only time they left was to go to the ATM," says Roberto, who has worked at Route 36 (in its various locations) for the last six months. Behind the bar, he goes back to casually slicing straws into neat 8cm lengths.

Phone call for Rick James!!!

RTL-Day Minus 12: Why Not?

As promised, today some arguments about why it might be a bad idea to switch sides for driving in Samoa.
1. An Australian engineering expert, Professor Thomas Triggs of Monash University, told the court on Thursday he predicted more accidents and road deaths if the change goes ahead.

He feared mostly for pedestrians, who were very likely to forget which direction to look when crossing the road. "Habit is extraordinarily difficult to change," Prof Trigg said.

2. It was also "extremely concerning" that most Samoa cars are US-style left-hand-drives.

Drivers will not only have poor visibility from the outsides of the road but their headlights will be dangerously misaimed into oncoming traffic. Headlights would need to be replaced, a costly process for the nation.

Lesa said PASS witnesses giving evidence had been heavily critical of the failure to consult publicly or carry out a feasibility study on the move. "There's a lot of talk of the whole thing being ridiculous and crazy," he told AAP.

3. For car owners, the switch is also expected to drive the value of their vehicles off a cliff, since about 14,000 of the country's 18,000 vehicles are designed to drive on the right. Although such cars will be allowed after the changeover, they are likely to become less desirable.

"To be really quite frank, we find [the change] ridiculous," says Sina Retzlaff-Lima, whose Apia Rentals rental-car company has 40 cars made for driving on the right side of the road.

4. Islanders against the move have set up a group called People Against Switching Sides (PASS). It claims that 14,000 of the island’s 18,000 cars are designed for driving on the right and buses will have to be reengineered (by using a blow torch or power saw) to change their door access.

No wonder we have trouble exporting democracy...

...given that the product we produce domestically is of such low quality, it is perhaps not surprising that it hasn't been a best selling export.

On the one hand we have a President promising painless pie in the sky and on the other we have the opposition claiming that Obama wants to kill your grandma.

Who wouldn't want to buy that?

And we keep getting distracted by side issues, like the presence or absence of a "public option".

To my mind, the biggest issue is cost. We have just been given a figure of 9 trillion in additional Federal debt expected over the next decade. This number assumes fairly large tax increases over the current situation and does not reflect additional debt that might accrue due to health care legislation.

If we are going to insure everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions and not let premiums reflect risk, then premiums for healthy people are going to go up, not down, and the subsidy required for lower income folks to hold these policies are going to be extensive.

The government can't make reality go away by legislation, and they cannot borrow unlimited amounts of money without seriously adverse consequences.

Musique Concrete?

This is a stereo system by artist/designer Ron Arad. A transistor amp, turntable and tower speakers all set in concrete. A cool and striking design.

Hat tip to the hordes of MOMA who pushed me out of my comfort zone.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

RTL-Day Minus 13: Um....Why?

To follow our lead (lede?) story....Samoa plans to switch from driving on the right, to driving on the left, just 13 days from now.

KPC readers want to know: WTF?

Some arguments for the switch--
1. The main reason for Samoa's switch is that two of its biggest neighbors, Australia and New Zealand, drive on the left-hand side, whereas Samoa currently drives on the right, as in the U.S. By aligning with Australia and New Zealand, the prime minister says, it will be easier for poor Samoans to get cheap hand-me-down cars from the 170,000 or so Samoans who live in those two countries. It could also help more people escape tsunamis, says [Prime Minister] Tuilaepa.

2. In a TV address about the road change last week, the prime minister warned that "the only thing to fear is fear itself." [Ed: Now, THAT is a good one. Unfortunately, the PM also appears to think that people should fear tsunamis (see #1, above). So, the only things we have to fear are fear itself, and tsunamis....and sharks. Amongst our fears are....]

3. [The prime minister] listed a series of other steps, including declaring Sept. 7 and 8 national holidays. The government has also set up a "training area" near a sports stadium where drivers can practice the fine art of driving on the left side of the road.

Tomorrow: The other side speaks out, with arguments against.

(The view from Oz....Can anyone find a web site for "People Against Switching Sides", or PASS?)

Education: yer doin' it wrong

In Peru, the government recently delivered a boatload of laptop computers to over 2,000 school kids in indigenous communities. There's just one big problem. In 50 of the 73 communities where the computers were sent, there is no electricity to keep them running (these are not self cranking types).

As it turns out though, this is actually a big improvement over the last program like this. In that case, the computers were set up in English (!!!!) and the batteries were defective.

Plus, not to worry because the government is pledging to soon deliver 2 solar panels to each of the communities that got laptops but don't have electricity!

No word on how these panels would be utilized or how an electric grid for a village could run on two panels (maybe they are VERY BIG panels?).

Here is the full story (in Spanish). Hat tip to the inimitable Otto.

Breaking news! Bernanke to be re-appointed

Story here

The Devil went down to .....Lima?

looking for a pageant to win.

One thing I really enjoy about Latin America is the intense national rivalries and even hatreds between the component countries. Which, to Mrs. Angus's dismay, I love to stir up. When in rural Peru, I'd ask "I had this great drink in Chile called Pisco, do you guys have that here?" and sit back and enjoy the show (works just as good in Chile, by the way).

Well, Bolivia and Peru are at it about who own the intellectual and historical property rights over a giant female devil costume:

A diplomatic storm is brewing between Peru and Bolivia. Bolivia's president has accused Peru of thievery. Peru's Congress issued a bristling denial. Bolivian diplomats are threatening to take the dispute to an international tribunal at The Hague.

The two Andean neighbors are tussling over a costume in the Miss Universe pageant.

Last week, in the event's national-costume competition, Peru's candidate, Karen Schwarz, wore an elaborately embroidered outfit with a massive horned headpiece. It was inspired by practitioners of a timeless Andean ritual known as La Diablada, the Devil's Dance.

Bolivia's Culture Minister Pablo Groux said what's really fiendish about the costume is that it's a rip-off of Bolivian culture. He maintains La Diablada originated in the 12,000-foot-high Bolivian city of Oruro and that Peru's imitation is threatening the national brand -- and the tourist industry. Bolivia formally protested to Peru's government and says it has protested to the Miss Universe pageant. 

Perhaps the best part of the whole story is the name of the Peruvian candidate: Karen Schwartz??? Are you kidding me??

The second best part of the article is that a Peruvian newspaper researched the issued and found that Chile first used the costume in a Miss Universe contest in 1983.

Chile!! That most hated of countries to a Bolivian. Took their coastline and took their costume.

(of course, all this was a tempest in a teapot because Miss Venezuela won the contest for the second year in a row and the 6th time overall)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tiger: Good, or Makes You Choke?

Is Tiger Woods Loss Averse? Persistent Bias in the Face of Experience,
Competition, and High Stakes

Devin Pope & Maurice Schweitzer
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, June 2009

Although experimental studies have documented systematic decision errors, many leading scholars believe that experience, competition, and large stakes will reliably extinguish biases. We test for the presence of a fundamental bias, loss aversion, in a high-stakes context: professional golfers’ performance on the PGA TOUR. Golf provides a natural setting to test for loss aversion because golfers are rewarded for the total number of strokes they take during a tournament, yet each individual hole has a salient reference point, par. We analyze over 1.6 million putts using precise laser measurements and find evidence that even the best golfers - including Tiger Woods - show evidence of loss aversion. On average, this bias costs the best golfers over $1.2 million in tournament winnings per year.


Dominance, Intimidation, and 'Choking' on the PGA Tour

Robert Connolly & Richard Rendleman
Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, May 2009

Extending the work of Connolly and Rendleman (2008), we document the dominance of Tiger Woods during the 1998-2001 PGA Tour seasons. We show that by playing 'average,' Woods could have won some tournaments and placed no worse than fourth in the tournaments in which he participated in the year 2000, his best on the PGA Tour. No other PGA Tour player in our sample could have come close to such a feat. We also are able to quantify the intimidation factor associated with playing with Woods. On average, players who were paired with Woods during the 1998-2001 period scored 0.462 strokes per round worse than normal. Although we find that Woods' presence in a
tourname nt may have had a small, but statistically significant adverse impact on the entire field, this effect was swamped by the apparent intimidation factor associated with having to play with Tiger side-by-side. We also demonstrate that Phil Mickelson's performance in major golf championships over the 1998-2001 period was not nearly as bad as was frequently mentioned in the golf press. Although Mickelson won no majors during this period, he played sufficiently well to have won one or two majors under normal circumstances. Moreover, his overall performance in
majors, relative to his estimated skill level, was comparable to that of Tiger Woods, who won five of 16 major golf championships during our four-year sample period. Thus, the general characterization of Woods as golf's dominant player over the 1998-2001 period was accurate, but the frequent characterization of Phil Mickelson choking in majors was not.

(Nod to Kevin L, who never chokes)

RTL-Day minus 14: Please Sir, Can I Have Samoa?

(...and a one, two, one two three four)

So....just 14 days from now, Samoa will be the most recent nation to change sides of the road for driving. Interesting article, in WSJ.

And, as always when a nation decides to do something ridiculous, we at KPC will be reporting the progress, or the giant cluster firetruck, every day.

Right to Left Day - 14: Here is a chart of those nations that have made the change in the recent, and not even that recent, past.... (Credit: Same WSJ article)

KPC: Your source for going the wrong way, worldwide....

Skip and Larry Go For a Bike Ride, And It Makes CNN

My sympathies are for my ex-Duke colleague Skip G., and for often times Duke visitor Larry Bobo. What are they supposed to say? And why did CNN pick it up? And why am I blogging about it?

(nod to RL)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I need some Horsepower!

Saturday at MOMA with the hordes. Van Gogh's Starry Night playing the role of the Mona Lisa (i.e. people lined up 12 deep surrounding it). Luckily most of the special exhibits were relatively open. There was one that I didn't even want to look at called "Designed for the Stage", drawings by artists for operas, plays, etc. But there I found gold!

Diego Rivera took a commission to do a set design for a play called Horsepower in the early 1930s.


Here is a drawing, which is now my favorite piece by Rivera ever.

Thank you hordes for driving me out of the main galleries and into the nooks and crannies of MOMA!!