Saturday, October 17, 2009

That just ain't right!

It seems like the "helmet" is designed to prevent the kid from breathing, but I wonder what was the intent?

Is it supposed to protect the lil fella from rain? fumes? from hurting his head in an accident?

epic fail

Friday, October 16, 2009

Head of the Charles

So....heading up to Beantown tomorrow.

The YYM qualified to row in the "Head of the Charles" event with his crew team from Raleigh Charter and Wake Rowing.

So, we are leaving in dawning, to start the freezing and the standing, so he can do some rowing. Very exciting, I have to admit.

Here is some background.

On the other hand, here is the weather report. Martin Kypta, are you smiling? I think it is nicer in Germany right now than in Boston....(HA! No, it isn't. Colder in Germany. Martin, you lose again)

Today's AFLAC Trivia....

Perhaps a hoax. But too good to check.

(Nod to J.E. Walker)

Weekend eye candy

Enjoy, people.

A match made in heaven

Diego Maradona and the psycho-analysts of Buenos Aires!  Argentina just slipped into the world cup, finishing 4th in the South America group with a 1-0 victory over Uruguay. Their volatile coach and uber-cheater, Diego Maradona reacted as one might expect:

To those who did not believe in us - and ladies forgive me - they can suck my ---- and keep on sucking it," he said. "I am black or white; I'll never be grey in my life.
"You lot take it up the a---, if the ladies will pardon the expression. This is for all Argentineans except for the journalists. I would like to thank the team for giving me the privilege to lead Argentina to the World Cup. Thank you to the Argentinean people who had faith.

"This is for those who did not believe in the team and treated me like dirt - but we still qualified with honour. They will now have to accept this.

In Spanish it was, "que la chupen, y sigan chupando"

If Diego gets the American treatment of having to go to counseling, he won't have a shortage of choices. Argentina leads the world in psychoanalysts per capita by a wide margin! Perhaps he could visit with celebrity shrink Gabriel Rolon. Here is a bit of his wit and wisdom:

In Mr. Rolón's diagnosis, Argentina suffers symptoms of bipolar disorder, evidenced in the gap between rich and poor. He also says the country has endured an abusive relationship with the U.S., which he says rigs the global economy in its own favor. Being No.1 in psychoanalysis, Mr. Rolón says, is "one of the few senses in which Argentina is privileged."

God I love South America!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Breaking Balloon News

Three news bulletins from CNN:

--A 6-year-old climbed into a balloon-like experimental aircraft built by his parents and floated into the Colorado sky. (3 pm)

-- A balloon-like experimental aircraft thought be carrying a 6-year-old Colorado boy has landed. (3:40 pm)

-- KMGH: Police say no one was found inside a balloon that was thought to be carrying a 6-year-old Colorado boy. (3:50 pm)

UPDATE: 3:54 pm--VIDEOIt looks just like a giant hot water bottle. Did the kid fall out/jump out? How awful.

UPDATE: 6:02 pm--Two extremes of possibilities
The good--kid is just scared (no question he untied the balloon and allowed it to escape), and hiding in the neighborhood. Doesn't want dad to be mad at him for letting the balloon get away. Ojala que es verdad!
The bad--the box that WAS on the balloon is not there. It fell off. The kid was in the box. They will find the box sometime soon. They will find the kid's body in the box.

Let's hope for the good.

UPDATE: 6:23 pm--THE GOOD WINS! Boy found alive. He was hiding in a box, in the attic, presumably trying to avoid the butt-whupping he thought he had coming to him.

What a feeling to have children. Wanting to hug them, spank them, kiss them, and yell at them, all at once. Poor little guy. Poor parents.

UPDATE: 7:14 pm--Video

Put your mind at ease, Judge Scalia

Last week, I posted about how Antonin Scalia had gone all Alan Ginsberg on us by lamenting how our "best minds" were being wasted on lawyering. I am not so sure he was right. Consider the following exchanges, all of which supposedly actually occurred in a courtroom:

Q: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?

A: Did you actually pass the bar exam?

Q: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?

Q: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?

A: Yes.

Q: And what were you doing at the time?

Q: She had three children, right?

A: Yes.
Q: How many were boys?

Q: None.

A: Were there any girls?

Q: How was your first marriage terminated?

A: By death.

Q: And by whose death was it terminated?

Q: Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?

A: All my autopsies are performed on dead people.

Q: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?

A: Oral.

Q: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?

A: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.

Q: And Mr. Dennington was dead at the time?

A: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy.

My View on Angus' "Cheap Dollar" Post

Wow, there is quite a bit here to comment on. Angus said some things about the dollar....

1. There are some things I know more about than Angus. Not many things, and not much more, but some. Social choice theory, Hayek's later books, campaign finance law. But the intersection of monetary theory and trade? Please. Not only does Angus understand this better than I do, he understands it better than almost anyone. So, on the merits, and given that he is making quite a simple point, I would defer to him.

2. Besides, on the merits, I agree with him on the main point, completely. Who gives a crap about the dollar? Why should we care what currency the rest of the world uses? The dollar is big enough, and the U.S. is big enough, that the rest of the world can switch if it wants. Besides, money is by and large a veil, though "when the veil flutters, real output sputters." That just means that you need something stable, limit discretion of the Fed, and then go back to making stuff and selling it. Seignorage is basically theft, anyway. Let it go.

3. I'm not sure the actions of the Fed "helped avert catastrophe," as Angus claims. But in a comparative sense, compared to 1933-1936? You bet: catastrophe then, caused by Fed, no catastrophe now, possibly helped by Fed (though Fed did cause problem in first place; see below). Bernanke did NOT contract the money supply and force everyone with upside down balance sheets to liquidate. So, Angus said, "Unlike the Fed of the 1930s..." and he points out that the weakness of the dollar is at least partly because of "vanishingly low interest rates." I just don't see anything to disagree with there.

4. Now, one could easily criticize Angus for being a big Fed-lover, and wanting to have Greenspan's baby. After all, it was Greenspan who suppressed interest rates artificially, and inflated the housing and asset bubble. Yet Angus has consistently defended Greenspan, right. Oh...wait...that's not right, as even a casual reading of previous posts can show (commenters: Google is your friend. Read before you say stupid stuff). There's this, and then there's this, and (I could go on). Angus has hammered the Federizer Bunnies consistently for years.

5. Finally, BOTH of us have consistenly hammered Porkulus. That canard ("You support the stimulus?") is not even worth considering.

Legend or Not....

A "fish story" or not, this is quite amusing....


All at once, Bruce got a big run on his line. This thing went all around the boat and took more than twenty minutes to bring up to the surface. When they got it up to the surface, they could not tell what it was. It looked prehistoric.

Steve Jr. put a gaff in it and the two men dragged it aboard the 33 foot boat. As soon the big creature hit the deck, it went crazy, attacking them. It was an eel over 6 feet long, weighing close to 100 pounds. It had a mouth full of sharp teeth and was extremely pissed off...In the midst of thrashing around, the creature fell down below onto the floor between the two sleeping men, Erik and Ken. When they heard the thud and turned on the light, the eel raised its head right above Ken’s face. Erik rolled over and grabbed his 9 mm pistol. Steve Jr. started yelling. “Don’t shoot the gun in the boat! We’re 120 miles from land!” Next thing you know, all four fishermen were on the deck and the gigantic eel had sole possession of the bottom of the boat.

[snip, involving beer and squealing and running around] Then they hatched a new battle plan. Steve Jr. went out on the deck to get the beast’s attention. The eel attacked and Steve Jr. climbed up on top of the captain’s chair. Ken threw a blanket on top of the giant eel while Erik and Bruce beat the hell out of it with a steel gaff and a large ice chest lid. After the creature was finally subdued, they put it into a large ice chest, and closed the lid on it.

The four brave sailors all got themselves a beer and were laughing at the situation when the lid of the ice chest was suddenly knocked off and the eel sprang out onto the deck and resumed his attack.. Bruce stated that the eel was clearly out for vengeance. The four men each picked up something and the fight was on. After beating the creature with gaffs, ice chest lids and fire extinguishers again, they once more subdued the massive carnivore and put it back into the ice chest. This time, they tied the lid down and put another ice chest on top of that one. Eighteen hours later they returned to the dock and started unloading the boat. None of them was anxious to open the lid to the ice chest, in fact, they did “rock, paper, scissors” to determine who would pop the lid!

(Nod to GameBill)

Russ Roberts--Rapper?

It can't be true; it must be true; it can't be true.

(Nod to Mr. Reasonable)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

He liked it so much he expropriated the company!

Remember the old ad for electric razors, where the geezer exclaims, "I liked it so much I bought the company"?

Well something similar just happened in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez attended the Africa- South America conference on Margarita Island (where Mrs. Angus and I honeymooned) and apparently had a great time at the conference hotel, because he has decided to have his government expropriate it!!

I am not making this up. Here is coverage in Spanish from Argentina and here from the Associated Press.

Here is a tidbit from the AP story:

"Chavez issued a decree last week ordering the "forced acquisition" of the Margarita Hilton & Suites and its marina. The president's order was reported by Venezuelan media Tuesday, after being published in the Official Gazette on Friday.

The decree clears the way for Chavez's government to expropriate the hotel. It's unclear how much Venezuela will pay or how soon.

Chavez last month hosted a summit at the hotel with leaders including Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, and suggested the hotel could become the headquarters of a new bloc of African and South American nations."

God I love South America. Anything can happen there.

The global savings glut re-visited

A new NBER working paper by Jagannathan, Kapoor and Schaumburg (ungated version here), argues that global imbalances + institutional failures caused the great recession and that the financial crisis was "just" a symptom.

The failures are:

"The inability of emerging economies to absorb savings through domestic investment and consumption due to inadequate national financial markets and difficulties in enforcing financial contracts through the legal system;

the currency controls motivated by immediate national objectives;

and the inability of the US economy to adjust to the perverse incentives caused by huge money inflows leading to a breakdown of checks and balances at various financial institutions.

The financial crisis in the US was but the first acute symptom that had to be treated. A sustainable recovery will only occur when the natural flow of capital from developed to developing nations is restored."

Interesting paper, not very technical. There is certainly something to the argument, but I am not sure this is anything like the major root cause of our current problems.

Who gives a crap about the dollar?

Abstract: Not me!

People, the dollar is "weak". The dollar has fallen from around 1.32 to the Euro in March to around 1.48 today and from around 100 Yen to the dollar in April to around 89 Yen to the dollar today. In some quarters, this is cause for hand wringing and hysteria.

You know what? I don't care. In fact, I am kind of happy. We dealing with the end of a huge recession, with unemployment still rising. A cheaper dollar will encourage exports and help GDP growth. Plus, there are extremely liquid and thick forward and futures markets for the dollar. If fluctuations threaten your business, you can easily insure against them.

We were faced with a financial crisis and potential meltdown that many thought would rival the Great Depression. Unlike the Fed of the 1930s, the Bernanke Fed (eventually) responded with a battery of unprecedented policy actions that, to my mind, actually helped avert catastrophe. With vanishingly low interest rates here in the States, it is not really a surprise that the dollar is weak.

To those who lament the potential loss of status as an international reserve currency, I say "who cares"?  Suppose the world's governments decided to hold Euros as reserves instead of dollars. The dollar would fall further in the short run and we would lose some seignorage revenues, but the world as we know it would not come to an end. 

There are certainly reasons to be concerned about our growing national debt and what it might do to inflation down the road, especially given that the Bernanke Fed actually crossed into third world territory with its purchases of government debt during the crisis, but "what will it do the special international standing of the dollar" is not one of the reasons for concern in my book at least.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The lion in winter

Here he is people, Pluto Lee Grier, aka Mr. Tootie. He's pushing 11 now but still going strong.

Lin Ostrom Lecture

Fun to watch her. She is a badass.

(Nod to Art Carden, World's Whitest Man)

He's not talking about Kareem!

Very nice piece by Paul Romer about the Ostrom Nobel.

Here is the pithy essence:

Economists who have become addicted to skyhooks, who think that they are doing deep theory but are really just assuming their conclusions, find it hard to even understand what it would mean to make the rules that humans follow the object of scientific inquiry. If we fail to explore rules in greater depth, economists will have little to say about the most pressing issues facing humans today – how to improve the quality of bad rules that cause needless waste, harm, and suffering.

Cheers to the Nobel committee for recognizing work on one of the deepest issues in economics. Bravo to the political scientist who showed that she was a better economist than the economic imperialists who can’t tell the difference between assuming and understanding

Cost Benefit Analysis

Interesting "greatest good for the greatest number" problem, in the Philippines.

Several feet of rain. Dams about to burst. Authorities have to release very substantial amounts of water, even though it means villages downstream will likely be washed away. Because if they DON'T release the water, the dams will break and even more people will be lost.

"The release of water from the San Roque Dam flooded the Agno River, flooding at least 30 towns and dozens of villages downstream...'There was really heavy rain, so water had to be released from the dam, otherwise it would have been more dangerous,’ Nathaniel Cruz, the government’s chief forecaster, told The Associated Press." (article)

This happened in NC during Hurricane Floyd, in 1999. Authorities were blamed for "killing" people, but in fact the release of water almost certainly saved lives and reduced the total damage. You lose the dams, the floods are MUCH bigger, and then you have to rebuild the dams.

The problem is that the same thing is true about opportunity costs of a monetary nature. Dams are physical, but so are school buidlings and teaching resources. If we decide we are going to save everyone, with programs such as an unlimited focus on special needs children, or people with handicaps, then another generation of children are going to get swept away when the dams burst.

You can't save everyone. As I always tell my students, an economist is someone who believes, sincerely believes as a matter of moral justice, that the infant mortality rate should be positive.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rated R Articles on Sex and Choosing

Arbitrary Social Norms Influence Sex Differences in Romantic Selectivity, Eli Finkel & Paul Eastwick
Psychological Science, October 2009, Pages 1290-1295

Men tend to be less selective than women when evaluating and pursuing potential romantic partners. The present experiment employed speed-dating procedures to test a novel explanation for this sex difference: The mere act of physically approaching a potential romantic partner (vs. being approached), a behavior that is more characteristic of men than of women, increases one's attraction to that partner. This hypothesis was supported in a sample of speed daters (N= 350) who attended a heterosexual event where either men (eight events) or women (seven events) rotated from one partner to the next while members of the other sex remained seated. Rotators were significantly less selective than were sitters, which meant that the tendency for men to be less selective than women at events where men rotated disappeared at events where women rotated. These effects were mediated by increased self-confidence among rotators relative to sitters.
“Anything From Making Out to Having Sex”: Men's Negotiations of Hooking Up and Friends With Benefits Scripts

Marina Epstein, Jerel Calzo, Andrew Smiler & Monique Ward
Journal of Sex Research, September 2009, Pages 414-424

Popular media and academic literature often portray men as happy beneficiaries of nonrelational or casual sex — a view that is consistent with traditional notions of masculinity. This study examined the validity of this notion, using semistructured interviews to explore ways that 19 college-age men defined and enacted “hooking up” and “friends with benefits” scripts. Men's definitions reflected both standard and alternate conceptions of these scripts, and their experiences indicated variability in intentions and outcomes. Whereas a few men embraced the no-strings-attached nonrelational scripts, most rejected the script or enacted an amended version that allowed for greater relational connection. Further, their experiences were not all positive and were not all devoid of emotional connection. These alternative enactments challenge the pro-masculine, universally positive conceptualization of nonrelational sex portrayed in the media and in some empirical research.


Marriage and the City: Search Frictions and Sorting of Singles

Pieter Gautier, Michael Svarer & Coen Teulings
Journal of Urban Economics, forthcoming

This paper develops and tests a model where cities play an important role as marriage markets. The idea is simple. Cities are dense areas where singles can meet more potential partners than in rural areas. To enjoy those benefits, they are willing to pay a premium in terms of higher housing prices. Once married, the benefits from meeting more potential partners vanish and married couples move out of the city. Attractive singles benefit most from a dense market and are therefore more likely to move to the city. Those predictions are tested and confirmed with a unique Danish dataset.


The Sexual Double Standard and Adolescent Peer Acceptance

Derek Kreager & Jeremy Staff
Social Psychology Quarterly, June 2009, Pages 143-164

The belief that women and men are held to different standards of sexual conduct is pervasive in contemporary American society. According to the sexual double standard, boys and men are rewarded and praised for heterosexual sexual contacts, whereas girls and women are derogated and stigmatized for similar behaviors. Although widely held by the general public, research findings on the sexual double standard remain equivocal, with qualitative studies and early attitudinal surveys generally finding evidence of the double standard and more recent experimental vignette designs often failing to find similar results. In this study, we extend prior research by directly measuring the social status of sexually permissive youth. We use data collected from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to relate adolescents' self-reported numbers of sexual partners to a network measure of peer acceptance. Results suggest that the association between lifetime sexual partnerships and peer status varies significantly by gender, such that greater numbers of sexual partners are positively correlated with boys' peer acceptance, but negatively correlated with girls' peer acceptance. Moreover, the relationship between boys' sexual behaviors and peer acceptance is moderated by socioeconomic origins; sexually permissive boys from disadvantaged backgrounds are predicted to have more friendships than permissive boys from more advantaged backgrounds. Our results thus support the existence of an adolescent sexual double standard and suggest that sexual norms vary by both gender and socioeconomic origins.


How Willing Are You to Accept Sexual Requests from Slightly Unattractive to Exceptionally Attractive Imagined Requestors?

Achim Schützwohl, Amrei Fuchs, William McKibbin & Todd Shackelford
Human Nature, September 2009, Pages 282-293

In their classic study of differences in mating strategies, Clark and Hatfield (1989, Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 2, 39–54) found that men and women demonstrated a striking difference in interest in casual sex. The current study examined the role of an imagined requestor’s physical attractiveness (slightly unattractive, moderately attractive, and exceptionally attractive) on men’s and women’s willingness to accept three different requests (go out, come to apartment, go to bed) as reflected in answers to a questionnaire. We tested two hypotheses with a sample of 427 men and 443 women from three countries. Hypothesis 1 states that men, relative to women, will demonstrate a greater willingness to accept the “come to apartment” and “go to bed” requests but not the “go out” request for all three levels of requestor attractiveness. This hypothesis reflects Clark and Hatfield’s main findings. Hypothesis 2 states that the physical attractiveness of a potential partner will have a greater effect on women’s than on men’s willingness to accept all three requests, and particularly for the explicit request for casual sex. The results partially supported Hypothesis 1 and fully supported Hypothesis 2. The discussion highlights limitations of the current research and presents directions for future research.

(Nod to Kevin L, whom EVERYONE finds attractive)

I think they were off by two

According to Money Magazine, I have the 3rd best job in America: College Professor.

They kind of jumble up two very different kinds of jobs into one entry though:

3. College Professor

Median salary (experienced): $70,400
Top pay: $115,000
Job growth (10-year forecast): 23%
Sector: Education

What they do: Teach and grade papers, of course. But profs also spend about half their time doing research and writing articles and books about their field.

Why it's great: For starters, major scheduling freedom. "Besides teaching and office hours, I get to decide where, when, and how I get my work done," says Daniel Beckman, a biology professor at Missouri State University. And that doesn't even take into account ample time off for holidays and a reduced workload in the summer. Competition for tenure track positions at four-year institutions is intense, but you'll find lots of available positions at community colleges and professional programs, where you can enter the professoriate as an adjunct faculty member or non-tenure track instructor without a doctorate degree. That's particularly true during economic downturns, when laid-off workers often head back to school for additional training. More valuable perks: reduced or free tuition for family members and free access to college gyms and libraries.

Drawbacks: Low starting pay and a big 50% salary gap between faculty at universities and community colleges. If the position is at a four-year university, you'll probably have to relocate, and you'll be under pressure to constantly publish new work to sustain career momentum.

How to get it: For a tenure track position, you'll need a Ph.D. But all colleges want at least a master's degree and prefer plenty of teaching experience.

People, I would wax so bold as to assert that tenured professor at a research university is actually the greatest job in the world!


Dannny D finds a sign of the impending apocalypse...

Simon on Williamson

Organizations and Markets, Herbert Simon
Journal of Economic Perspectives, Spring 1991, Pages 25-44

"In classical and neoclassical economic theory, markets are at the center of the stage...The economic world of the neoclassical textbooks is a world of transactions ...The description of the parties who participate in these transactions is minimal. However, as soon as firms are elaborated to become more than simple nodes in a network of transactions, to be producers - transformers of 'factors' into products - difficult and important questions arise for the theory. A large part of the behavior of the system now takes place inside the skins of firms, and does not consist just of market exchanges...This raises the question of why there are firms at all...These
questions about the scope of activity and operation of firms have spawned a vigorous cottage industry, a branch of which is sometimes called 'the new institutional economics,' which tries to explain when activities will be carried out through the market and when they will be carried out within the skins of firms, and tries to explain also how it is possible for firms to operate efficiently. In the literature of the new institutional economics, two ideas that play a major role in the explanations are 'transaction costs' and 'opportunism' (for example, Williamson 1975, 1985)...

(Nod to Kevin L)

Could be worse.....

I posted before about the EYM getting a tat: "Gogol" in a symmetric ambigram on his leg.

Fortunately, the LMM got an email lately that helped her put things in perspective. Here is what she sent to me:

Just got email from college roommate, [name]. Had told her about [EYM's] tattoo. She sent message that she just found out her [son] had a tatoo last Thanksgiving when he was wrestling with his older brother on the floor and his shirt pulled up. Think her [son] is a year or so older than [EYM]. His tattoo says "Budweiser."

Something like this, perhaps? Hopefully NOTHING like this (NWS)


Econ Nobel. Yippee! Lin is a WONDERFUL person. I have to admit that Bob Tollison actually predicted Lin winning as a possibility, on Saturday night, at Cowboy Ciao in Phoenix. Good one, Bob.

Congrats to Williamson, too. But on a personal level I am so happy for Lin.

Lagniappe: Read the idiots who are posting here. Several are proud that they have never heard of Ostrom or Williamson. Why in the world be proud of ignorance? Though, I guess we all want to do what we are best at. (I enjoyed reading the pain in this thread. Does that make me a bad person?) I did also enjoy the "Well, they had to give it to a woman." Geez. Lin is a fantastic scholar, and has builts a real intellectual powerhouse there at the Workshop at IU.

UPDATE: A person on the Econ thread posted this:

google scholar: citations for most cited work:
Arrow has 8300 citations Stiglitz gets 5958
Krugman gets 5005 phelps 1624
prescott 4129...... and ostrom: 7299

So you ("Who the fuck are these idiots? Never heard of them... ever. ") can argue about whether she should have got the Nobel prize but one thing that's unarguable is your ignorance.

(Here are Lin's cites, btw: Notice that the 7,299 refer to ONE BOOK, this one. What have YOU done today?)

(Full disclosure: I study transactions cost political economy, and have often used Lin's work in class. And, she is certainly a friend. I have been to her house, and had lots of dinners with her. So I may be biased in her favor. Still, the data above show that the bias is not entirely unjustified.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I do not think it means what you think it means

Word for the day: mentor

Hickson, whom (Lebron) James has mentored during the offseason, had 15 points and six rebounds and was the only Cleveland starter playing in the final minutes as the Cavaliers held off several Bobcats runs.

Hickson followed James around all summer, working out whenever they could find the time and hanging out with James’ family.

Nice, eh? Way to go Lebron? Well, not really. Check out King James' version of mentoring:

“I see the potential in him. If he just had a good work ethic, that could help him,” James said. “He learned more about being a man also, growing up, being around me and my family and things like that—I think it helped him.”

Well if JJ Hickson has learned anything about being a "man", he pretty much has to go up and punch LBJ right between the eyes, doesn't he?

"My name is JJ Hickson.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die!"

And then he'll get traded to the J-E-T-S JETS!