Saturday, January 02, 2010

GPS: Doom, or Lifesaver?

What is it with these people in Oregon? It happened again, like it happened before. 100 years ago this sort of behavior would have meant the end of that strain of the human family. After all, there are no lifeguards in the gene pool. And men are idiots.

On the other hand, I have mostly had the opposite problem, about using GPS. Usually it happens when I am riding with a woman (either the LMM, usually, but during the campaign my manager, Barbara, wife of frequent commenter Tom). I can't get the women to trust the thing enough.

The problem is that (many) men think in terms of a grid, with the car being a point in two dimensional space. North, South, East, West, that sort of thing. Women (many, not all) think in terms of executing a sequence of instructions: Go to Red Lobster, turn right, then go a ways and turn left before you get to that BP station with the giant yellow tire. Women (many, not all) seem disturbed if you violate the sequence of instructions, to take a "short cut." Men (basically all) love the idea of short-cuts, and are (almost always) wrong about it being shorter. So the skepticism of women, as in the two Oregon cases above, is well founded. Not saying one is better, just saying there really is a difference between man directions and woman directions. Like here.

Still....let me give an example on the other side. After the Charlotte debate on Oct 15, Barbara and I were heading back to our hotel rooms. "Bertha" (my name for the female GPS voice) said to turn left on a particular road, call it Smith Road. Barbara refused, because she didn't know that way. ("We have to go over to the Roy Rodgers, then cut behind the Bojangles, and go past the Kroger, and then take the next left...Course that Kroger isn't there anymore. But it used to be.")

After 20 minutes, we pass Smith Road again, this time coming in from our left. It had cut straight through, while we did a ten mile loop. Clearly, it would have been much shorter to blindly follow the GPS. Barbara: "I know, I know. It would have been shorter, but I didn't know that way!"

Bottom line: when it comes to campaign managers on the road, or wives anywhere, anywhere at all, just do what they say. You will all be happier.

(Nod to Anonyman for the Oregon link)

Somali pirates are the Alan Greenspans of Kenya!

It's true people, the Associated Press wouldn't lie:

NAIROBI, Kenya – Property prices in Nairobi are soaring, and Somali pirates are getting the blame.

The hike in real estate prices in the Kenyan capital has prompted a public outcry and a government investigation this month into property owned by foreigners. The investigation follows allegations that millions of dollars in ransom money paid to Somali pirates are being invested in Kenya, Somalia's southern neighbor and East Africa's largest economy.

The article also features excellent quotes from gen-u-ine pirates:

Pirates in Somalia say they invest their ransom money outside their war-torn country, including in Kenya. One pirate who gave his name as Osman Afrah said he bought three trucks that transport goods across East Africa. A second pirate, who only gave his name as Abdulle, said he's investing in Kenya in preparation for leaving the pirate trade.
"Pirates have money not only in Nairobi but also other places like Dubai, Djibouti and others," said Abdulle. "I have invested through my brother, who is representing me, in Nairobi. He's got a big shop that sells clothes and general merchandise, so my future lies there, not in the piracy industry."

You gotta love the forward thinking, eh? After all you can't spend your whole career in the piracy industy.

I resemble that remark!

Very funny story in the WSJ about how weird economists are.

The best part was how Bob Hall wanted to pay people to trim his christmas tree (I am pretty sure that is not a metaphor for something else)!

The takeaways are that economists are:

(1) Cheap

(2) Greedy

(3) Have no social skills

They forgot that we are generally bad dressers and are often suspect in our personal hygiene!

Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss.

Top 10 disasters of the 2009 Obama administration (in no particular order):
1. Cash for Clunkers
2. War escalation in Afghanistan
3. Giant government health care expansion bill
4. Post office loses money hand over fist
5. Stimulus package
6. Expansion of "state secrets" doctrine
7. Big increase in unemployment
8. "Bailout" Geithner as Treasury Secretary
9. Skyrocketing federal spending
10. Huge federal deficits

Top 10 disasters of the 2001-2008 Bush administration (in particular order):
1. Cash for Car Companies
2. War in Iraq
3. Giant Medicare expansion bill
4. Post office loses money hand over fist
5. Stimulus "rebate" checks
7. Big increase in unemployment
8. "Bailout" Paulson as Treasury Secretary
9. Skyrocketing federal spending
10. Huge federal deficits

(Nod to Wes Benedict...)

Friday, January 01, 2010

The KPC approach for 2010... pretty much like the KPC approach for 2004-2009. And it can be summarized by our good friend Bucky:

Happy and Merry from Haus der Mungowitz!

Am Econ Assoc Meetings RAP VIDEO PREMIERE!

The Rap Video that has been "going back and forth for a century!" Check it here....

In 2010, whatever you do, don't welsh on Javaris!

This story is shocking even to this jaded old blogger:

NEW YORK (AP)—Washington Wizards teammates Gilbert Arenas(notes) and Javaris Crittenton(notes) drew guns on each other during a Christmas Eve locker room argument over a gambling debt, according to The New York Post.

Citing an anonymous source, the newspaper reports in Friday’s edition that the standoff was sparked when Crittenton became angry at Arenas for refusing to make good on a gambling debt. That prompted Arenas to draw on Crittenton, who then also grabbed for a gun, league security sources tell the Post.

Ready people? 1-2-3-YIKES!!

What do you think, fine them each 1 million and suspend for the rest of the season? Pete Rose them? I guess they could end up in jail, couldn't they?

1994? Or 1964?

At KPC, we distort, and you deride.

Still, feel free to comment, on my view on the question in the title of this post....

New Years Miracles

1. OU won a bowl game! Go Stoops!

2. Thunder have a 5 game winning streak after pulling one out last night against Utah (with me and Mrs. A in attendance). If the playoffs started tomorrow, Thunder would be in!

3. December of 2009 was the highest traffic month in the history of KPC! Thanks y'all. We are climbing up the Technorati ladder. Keep them links coming.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

I can! Canoe?

Some police go the extra mile. And get their man.

I can't believe that guy jumped in that water. And that the cops went after him. Ick.

(Nod to Anonyman)

Shareholder Value Destruction

Shareholder Value Destruction following the Tiger Woods Scandal

Christopher Knittel & Victor Stango, University of California Working Paper, December 2009

Abstract: We estimate that in the days beginning with Tiger Woods' recent car accident and ending with his announced "indefinite leave" from golf, shareholders of
companies that Mr. Woods endorses lost $5-12 billion in wealth. We measure the losses relative to both the entire stock market and a set of competitor firms. Because most of the firms that Mr. Woods endorses are either large or owned by large parent companies, the losses are extremely widespread. Mr. Woods' top five sponsors (Accenture, Nike, Gillette, Electronic Arts and Gatorade) lost 2-3 percent of their aggregate market value after the accident, and his core sports-related sponsors EA, Nike and PepsiCo (Gatorade) lost over four percent. The pace of losses slowed by December 11, the date on which Mr. Woods announced his leave from golf, but as late as December 17 shareholders had not recovered their losses.

The LMM Dances with Neanderbill

An unretouched photo, from the Duke Faculty Prom. (I'm serious; we have a prom).
Neanderbill dances with the LMM. Yes, he really is 18 inches taller than she is.

Rowland S. Howard has died!

People it has been a very bad week for the music world. On the heels of Vic Chesnutt, Rowland Howard has died of liver cancer.

I am a huge Rowland S. Howard fan. He was a member of The Birthday Party, the incredible, seminal Aussie punk/garage/noise/grunge band.

Beyond that, I loved These Immortal Souls, which I took to mainly to be a solo project and his collaboration with another one of my now dead heros, Nikki Sudden.

Man, Nikki Sudden, Epic Soundtracks, and now Rowland Howard are all dead.


Stupid Human Tricks

Article from the Wilmington Star News (I was in Wilmington to do a radio interview on THE BIG TALKER)

Man arrested day after leading Wilmington PD on chase through town

A man was arrested Tuesday night after he led police on a chase in Wilmington the night before, officials said. Johnnie Mack Shingler, 23, faces charges including speeding to elude arrest, driving the wrong way on a divided highway and driving without a license, according to Sgt. Matt Hardee of N.C. Highway Patrol.

Shingler is from the state of New York.

On Monday, Hardee said, troopers joined a pursuit, which was started around midnight Monday by Wilmington police who spotted a 1972 Plymouth Valiant driving without a license plate, Hardee said. The chase went from Wilmington, down Carolina Beach Road and toward Monkey Junction. At one point, Hardee said, the fleeing driver drove north in the southbound lanes of College Road. Rather than following, troopers tracked the driver from the other side of the road. Eventually, the driver ditched his car off of Trombay Drive, ran into the woods and escaped.

Authorities found pictures of Shingler and his birth certificate in the car, Hardee said. – David Reynolds

1. A 1972 Plymouth Valiant? REALLY?
2. The guy left his picture and birth certificate in the car. IN. THE. CAR.
3. Monkey Junction?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gas Me With a Spoon: Three Articles....

Pain at the Pump: The Differential Effect of Gasoline Prices on New and Used Automobile Markets

Meghan Busse, Christopher Knittel & Florian Zettelmeyer, NBER Working Paper, December 2009

Abstract: The dramatic increase in gasoline prices from close to $1 in 1999 to $4 at their peak in 2008 made it much more expensive for consumers to operate an automobile. In this paper we investigate whether consumers have adjusted to gasoline price changes by altering what automobiles they purchase and what prices they pay. We investigate these effects in both new and used car markets. We find that a $1 increase in gasoline price changes the market shares of the most and least fuel-efficient quartiles of new cars by +20% and -24%, respectively. In contrast, the same gasoline price increase changes the market shares of the most and least fuel-efficient quartiles of used cars by only +3% and -7%, respectively. We find that changes in gasoline prices also change the relative prices of cars in the most fuel-efficient quartile and cars in the least fuel-efficient quartile: for new cars the relative price increase for fuel-efficient cars is $363 for a $1 increase in gas prices; for used cars it is $2839. Hence the adjustment of equilibrium market shares and prices in response to changes in usage cost varies dramatically between new and used markets. In the new car market, the adjustment is primarily in market shares, while in the used car market, the adjustment is primarily in prices. We argue that the difference in how gasoline costs affect new and used automobile markets can be explained by differences in the supply characteristics of new and used cars.


Qualitative Effects of Cash-for-Clunkers Programs

Eugenio Miravete & Maria Moral Rincón
University of Texas Working Paper, October 2009

We document how automobile scrappage incentives similar to the '2009 Car Allowance Rebate System' (CARS) may influence drivers' tastes in favor of fuel-efficient automobiles. Between 1994 and 2000 the market share of diesel automobiles doubled after Spanish government sponsored two scrappage programs. We show that demand for diesel automobiles was not driven only by better mileage; that gasoline and diesel models became closer substitutes over time; and that automobile manufacturers reduced their markups on gasoline automobiles as their demand decreased. These programs simply accelerated a change of preference that was already on its way when they were implemented.


Malapportionment, Gasoline Taxes, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Lawrence Broz & Daniel Maliniak
University of California Working Paper, November 2009

Gasoline taxes vary widely among industrialized countries, as does support for the United Nations’ effort to curtail the use of fossil fuels to address the climate change problem. We argue that malapportionment of the electoral system affects both the rate at which governments tax gasoline and the extent to which governments participate in global efforts to ameliorate climate change. Malapportionment results in a “rural bias” such that the political system disproportionately represents rural voters. Since rural voters in industrialized countries rely more heavily on fossil fuels than urban voters, our prediction is that malapportioned political systems will have lower gasoline taxes, and less commitment to climate change amelioration, than systems with equitable representation of constituents. We find that malapportionment is negatively related to both gasoline taxes and support for the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (where “support” is measured as the duration of the spell between the signing of the Protocol and ratification by the domestic legislature).

Nod to Kevin L, who walks)

Sneak peek at Andy Roddick's tennis wardrobe for 2010

Izod has really outdone themselves!!

Flip Saunders has had enough!

Flip went medieval on his team's sorry ass after the Wizards lost to my Thunder last night. Here are some selected quotes:

“This team, the last five years, has been known as one of the worst defensive teams. … We couldn’t stop anybody out there.”

Spots will be open. If guys don’t like it, that’s fine but that’s the way it’s going to be,” 

“I’m not going to sit there, stand there and look at that any more. You evaluate for 30 games where you’re at. Right now, where it’s going, it ain’t getting done.”

“Guys want to come out of the zone and play man-to-man, but they can’t guard anybody. I can go out there on that floor and take anybody on our team on one-on-one at 52 years old and drive right around them,” Saunders said. “We’ve got to wake up. As I told them: Don’t think it can’t get any worse, because it can. There’s no question it can. We’ve got to have a sense of urgency.

Well the Wizards are 7th from the bottom in points allowed, but they are in the middle of the pack in FG% allowed. I find them more objectionable on the offensive end, where they are next to last in assists.  

However their real problem lies with management. They have 3 super-chuckers (Butler, Gil, and Jamison) often on the court at the same time and many of their players are complete knuckleheads (Blatche, Stevenson, Haywood, Young).

Plus Flip is a lousy coach. He kept KG out of the NBA finals while in Minnesota, he totally lost his team in Detroit, and no one pays any attention to him in DC.

He's right that at least one spot will be open, and I think it will be his! 

One last thing, I would pay cash money to see Flip play one on one vs. Antawn (0r really any of the Wizards except Boykins). I bet Flip would emerge with a broken nose at the very least.

Montesquieu Reincarnate!!

Montesquieu famously had this amazingly racist explanation of the different "characters" of nations. And it was based! Weather causes "certain" people (for the racist M, that would be "dark" people) to be lazy and no 'count. Check this:

Spirit of the Laws: Book XIV. Of Laws in Relation to the Nature of the Climate

1. General Idea. If it be true that the temper of the mind and the passions of the heart are extremely different in different climates, the laws ought to be in relation both to the variety of those passions and to the variety of those tempers.

2. Of the Difference of Men in different Climates. Cold air constringes the extremities of the external fibres of the body;[1] this increases their elasticity, and favours the return of the blood from the extreme parts to the heart. It contracts[2] those very fibres; consequently it increases also their force. On the contrary, warm air relaxes and lengthens the extremes of the fibres; of course it diminishes their force and elasticity.

People are therefore more vigorous in cold climates. Here the action of the heart and the reaction of the extremities of the fibres are better performed, the temperature of the humours is greater, the blood moves more freely towards the heart, and reciprocally the heart has more power. This superiority of strength must produce various effects; for instance, a greater boldness, that is, more courage; a greater sense of superiority, that is, less desire of revenge; a greater opinion of security, that is, more frankness, less suspicion, policy, and cunning.

In short, this must be productive of very different tempers. Put a man into a close, warm place, and for the reasons above given he will feel a great faintness. If under this circumstance you propose a bold enterprise to him, I believe you will find him very little disposed towards it; his present weakness will throw him into despondency; he will be afraid of everything, being in a state of total incapacity. The inhabitants of warm countries are, like old men, timorous; the people in cold countries are, like young men, brave.

Now, unbelievably, check this!

The Income–Temperature Relationship in a Cross-Section of Countries and its Implications for Predicting the Effects of Global Warming

John Horowitz, Environmental and Resource Economics, December 2009, Pages 475-493

Abstract: Hotter countries are poorer on average. This paper attempts to separate the historical and contemporaneous components of this income–temperature relationship. Following ideas by Acemoglu et al., we use colonial mortality data to account for the historical role of temperature since colonial mortality was highly correlated with countries’ average temperatures. The remaining income–temperature gradient, after colonial mortality is accounted for, is most likely contemporaneous. This contemporaneous effect can be used to estimate the consequences of global warming. We predict that a 1°C temperature increase across all countries will cause a decrease of 3.8% in world GDP. This prediction is robust across functional forms and an alternative method for separating historical effects.

Wow! Global warming allows lefties to be racists! Yikes!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Doing the least with the most

The Painted Area (tag line: "In Hubie We Trust") lists its underachievers of the decade in a very informative and entertaining post. 

The winners were:

Baron Davis
Tim Thomas
Lamar Odom

And its underachieving team of the decade: 

The Dallas Mavericks.

Quien es lo mas Loco?

People, who the craziest? Janet Napolitano or Al Queda?

Janet of course made her case by claiming that "the system worked" in the aftermath of the attempted Christmas firebombing of a commercial airliner full of people. I guess if "the system" she's refereeing to was to rely on an incompetent bombmaker and a gutsy Dutch guy, then she's right. Otherwise, not so much.

Al Queda made its case by claiming "credit" for the attack. Umm, fellas, you do realize that the attack totally failed, right? The guy only hurt himself, we have him in custody, and in all probability we will learn a bit about your training networks and operations. 

While it's close, I have to give the nod to Janet due to her amazingly smart ideas about how to combat this latest threat: no blankets and no bathrooms in the last hour of flights!


Yes, beloved government of mine, that's the appropriate lesson to be learned here. 

Blankets and bathrooms are the real enemy.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Starry, Starry Bush Roads

Anonyman writes, "They followed a forest road for 35 miles?!? GPS doesn't seem like their biggest problem."

About this
, I mean.

What's your favorite thing about this incident? Here are two of MY favorite things:

1. Thinking about the conversation the LMM and I would have if I got us that lost in the mountains, for three days, using GPS. "STOP and ask for directions!" "Ask WHO? Besides, I know where we are. Look at this map!" "I told you not to...." and "I think there are some lights up ahead," and so on.

2. The woman's name is Starry Bush-Rhoads. No, really. They got lost for three nights in the mountains on bush roads, and her name is....well, you see my point.

The Grand Game!

Sometimes here at KPC someone sends a link that is just SO sweet that we have to examine it, savor it, and then leave it by the side of the road to rot.

While Sweden has a large state and well developed public services, in Japan government social expenditure makes up an unusually small part (compared to other OECD countries) of its Gross National Income. The same contrast exists among US states - even between neighbouring states like Vermont and New Hampshire. Vermont takes the big government route and New Hampshire the small. But despite the contrast in how greater equality is achieved, Sweden, Japan, Vermont and New Hampshire all enjoy good health, lower rates of most social problems - i.e. all the benefits of greater equality.

Here is just such a link, a set of "studies" so noisome, so nonsensical... well, enjoy. Here is the "evidence" page. This is a rare combination of almost painful self-importance and bad social science.

J. Gruber joins the dark side

People, did you know that any money you actually get to keep is simply a temporary tax break generously allowed to you by a beneficent and magnanimous government?

Me neither.

But according to Gruber, the so called "Cadillac tax" on generous health plans, is not a tax at all, but rather just a partial mitigation of an existing tax break:

"The assessment proposed in the Senate is not a new tax; it is the elimination of an existing tax break..."

Now, I don't deny that what Gruber is saying is true in a weird world where we start with everything belonging  to the government, but have we really come to that? Maybe so.

By the way, not only is it not a tax, it's also magic:

"So in the end, we have a policy that provides the necessary financing to pay for subsidies to low-income families; induces employers to buy more cost-effective health insurance, lowering U.S. health-care spending; offsets a bias in our tax system that favors more expensive insurance; and raises wages by $223 billion over 10 years."

No word yet on whether or not it will cure male pattern baldness, but I am hopeful!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I have written about nachas before. But about sports.

Today, I had to take the YYM down to the Urgent Care Clinic, because he had pink eye, and we needed some antibiotic eyedrops.

On the way home, we were talking about theories of the origin of the moon, and the problem of caclulating mass, and LaGrangian points (I had not heard of these...)

The YYM is quiet for a minute, and then says, "I was wondering the other day about kinetic energy of a bullet. So I calculated the kinetic energy of a .50 caliber bullet from a M-82".

(I'm thinking, okay, not so hard, you just need estimates of the mass of the bullet, and the muzzle velocity....Still, very cool that he would actually try to calculate it!)

He goes on, "And I wondered how fast a small car, say a Smart Car, would have to be going to have the same kinetic energy."

He looks over. "About 16 miles per hour. A .50 caliber round from an M-82 sniper rifle has the same kinetic energy, at least when it leaves the barrel, as an empty Smart Car traveling at 16 miles per hour."

This, for a father, produces a flood of pure hormonal nachas. To think that this is an interesting question is pretty great. To be able to solve for it is a sign that he actually has learned something in physics. And to bring it up in casual conversation, as a random factoid, ensures his admission to the club of geek-nerds.

I'm so proud....

(UPDATE: I haven't checked the algebra. He may have gotten it wrong. But it SOUNDS about right, in order of magnitude)

Vic Chesnutt, R. I. P.

American poet/songwriter Vic Chesnutt is dead

Wow, this is very bad news. I was very late in arriving at an appreciation of Vic. It didn't happen until Mrs. Angus and I saw him play live in a bizzaro "super-group" called "The Undertow Orchestra" which was him, David Bazan (Pedro the Lion), Will Johnson (Centro-matic), and Mark Eitzel (American Music Club). 

We went because of Bazan and Johnson, but Vic stole the show.

Check out his music if you haven't had a chance, starting perhaps with "West of Rome" or "Silver Lake".