Saturday, July 31, 2010

We are still married

As Angry Alex says, "That's going to leave a mark, I think."
Dee Snider is fully capable of making fun of himself, by the way. His "best story ever"

Friday, July 30, 2010

Campus Map from XKCD

Mr. Overwater sends this link: Campus Map Image.

It's true, you know.

Random Observations

Random observations from the last two weeks...

1. The very staid and proper tour guide at the Chilean National Congress (Congreso Nacional) Building was talking to us about history. Then his cell phone went off: ringtone was Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy." Broke us up.

2. Same building, same tour. Guide tells us that the chairs of Diputados (House members) and Senadores (Senators) always face front. UNLESS the President is speaking, and then the chairs all face the center aisle, so that no one is showing the President his (her) backside. There is a door at the entrance, where the Prez walks in, called something like "The Door of the People," with lots of bas-relief bronze figures and faces of people. Since the Prez walks AWAY from that door, I guess that point is that the Prez is supposed to show the people her (his) backside. I point this out, rather loudly, but the tour guide either didn't speak English or saw fit to pretend not to have heard.

3. Entrevista con nuestro amigo Ernesto Silva.

4. Walking on Av. Don Pablo, near Cafe Melba, we heard a truck with loud music playing. I stopped, to hear what cool Latin music the driver was blaring. It was ... "Evacuate the Dance Floor," by Cascada. I wanted to go take a shower.

5. On the flight, on the way back from Santiago to Atlanta, we each got our own row of three seats to stretch out in. Yay! We were a bit giddy. So when the announcement comes on about how the TSA is concerned about our safety, and that means that under no circumstances can the people from coach go up and use the 1st class potties, and 1st class can't use our coach potties, the EYM unexpectedly pipes up, "Thank goodness the TSA is protecting us from bano class fraternization!" Loudly. I was so proud. When, 30 seconds later, the same interminable announcement had still not termined, the person got to, "And under no circumstances can anyone pass through the curtains." So, I shouted (I was giddy; three seats!), "I have no corporeal form! I can pass through curtains, because I have evolved into pure energy! If you strike me down now, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine." Several passengers cheered, but they mostly had their own rows, also, and so were giddy. The act played to mixed reviews among the crew, I'm sure.

6. Here at the Liberty Fund conference in Vermont, KPC friend R. Lawson pointed out a correction. I had said that I looked like an idiot, because of the trench coat in the Atlanta airport. He noted that in fact I looked like an idiot already, just one who happened also to have a trench coat. The trench coat was kind of gilding the lilly, he thought. Hey, Bob: Bite me.

Vegas is fun but I wish I was here last weekend

People! LeBron may have exited the playoffs early, but he pwnd champion Lamar Odom in a dance off at the Palazzo (right across the street from us) last weekend:

Soon after arriving at Lavo, a restaurant and nightclub at the Palazzo, a scene straight out of "West Side Story" breaks out when James and Lamar Odom, seated at a nearby table, engage in an impromptu dance-off to California Swag District's "Teach Me How To Dougie."

Odom, smoking a cigar, can't quite keep up. James celebrates by crossing himself and taking a shot of Patron.

C'mon Lamar, a stogie during a dance off is a rookie mistake. A Kardashian man should know better than that. Bruce Jenner: step up and mentor Lamar why dontcha!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Another burning question

People, has Mungowitz bought a motorcycle??

How many is enough?

Now I know Coach K is a genius, and I know that a lot of the big stars opted out, I know that it's only the FIBA World Championships, and I know about the trapezoid.

But, according to Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe, there are 6 point guards on the roster?

"After a six-day training camp in Las Vegas last week, USA Basketball trimmed its roster yesterday afternoon, and Celtics All-Star Rajon Rondo is one of the 15 players (including six point guards) remaining."

Let's see. There's Rondo, Billups, Westbrook, Rose, Gordon. That's 5. Does Steph Curry play the point? Really? If so, that's an awesome (and typical) Don Nelson misallocation of talent.

Even 5 is a lot though, innit?

Don't we need a bunch of bangers to soak up fouls and try to compensate for us not having dominant big men?

Wouldn't Nick Collison be a much better 3rd Thunder player on the team that Jeff Green?

I never thought I'd say anything like this and Tyler will likely hurt himself laughing, but where's Brendan Hayward? (OMG, I hate myself so much right now).
Can KD and the midgets win this thing?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We're baaaaAAAAACK!

The EYM and I left Santiago last night at 8 pm, on time. Each of us had a row to ourselves. That's the most I have ever slept on an airplane, probably five of the nine hour flight, maybe a little less.

The EYM didn't really sleep. He was playing Pokemon, on a Gamebay, vintage 1998. Once he started playing....played for six hours. Getting pumped for SC2, I guess.

We arrived in Atlanta, and waited 65 minutes in line for a 30 second check of passports. Just stupid. They had THREE stations open, and there were so many Americans waiting that they overwhelmed the rope line and ran out the door into the American arrival cloaca. "Visitors" had 7 stations open. Now, that's fine, there are more issues there, and it taks longer. But why worry only about budget cost, and not the cost of our time. Since that is only station 1, of 4 (you get your luggage, you go through customs, you recheck your luggage, and then you go through security, with a 20 minute wait and a bunch of aggressive bullies yelling at you), LOTS of people missed their flights. I had left three hours for my connection, because I had seen the US government in action. (And, to be clear, I don't really blame TSA, though it sounds like it. Congress has never funded the agency properly for what the agency is asked to do. I hate to be fair, but, it's not TSA's fault)

Anyway, waiting now for flight to Raleigh, and then I think I'll roll in the arms of Morpheus for a bit.

Oh...and it's hot here. I'm carrying a giant trench coat, and look like an idiot.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Does "lossless" REALLY mean lossless?

People, here at Chez Angus we are on a campaign to remove clutter. Target #1 is our CD collection.

I may be late to this party, but it now appears to me that you can finally have a truly high quality music system with a computer as the source.

I have gotten an asynchronous USB DAC, a quiet laptop, and a 1T external drive to store the collection on (yes, I got a LOT a rippin' to do).

But I am torn over what format to store the files. WAV or AIFF are uncompressed so they should be bit perfect copies (you can rip using an error correction package), but they are HUGE and we have a fair amount (>1000) of CDs.

Apple Lossless or FLAC are compressed but allegedly no musical information is lost in the compression. This to me sounds like the free lunch I've been warned against lo these many years.

Any thoughts or suggestions folks?

I guess I will try making a couple copies of some favored CDs in each format and listen to them "blind" letting Mrs. A choose the type of file to play.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Scrubbing the planet with a diamond crusted toothbrush

As we settle into the aftermath of the death of the "climate bill", it is worthwhile I think to consider the effectiveness of another government program designed to reduce carbon emissions, the ethanol program.

The CBO just released a report showing that the cost of a metric ton of carbon abatement via this program is $750!

By way of comparison, the WSJ points out that the price of carbon envisioned in cap and trade would be something around $25 - $30.

But that's not all. The NRDC points out that the CBO's estimates of abatement costs do not include "the emissions associated with land use change—i.e. the carbon dioxide that is released from forests or grasslands that are cleared and converted to farmland as a result of ethanol production—though the report notes that if those emissions were taken into account, the cost could increase substantially. Indeed analysis done by EPA shows that when you factor in the impacts of indirect land use chance, corn ethanol actually increases emissions relative to gasoline."


So our main biofuel program is fairly expensive and in all probability actually raises carbon emissions?

Is this a great country, or what?

Political economy of speed cameras when the ticket price is not set close to equilibrium price

The State of Arizona has taken down their automated speeding ticket cameras. This despite an initial argument that it increases safety and only enforces that law with a 10 mph cushion above the speed limit. The State failed to see the unintended consequenses. So after paying 20 million to put up the cameras, the Arizona Politicians are now realizing the huge cost in time that they were imposing on their drivers by making them slow
down 5 to 10 miles per hour. I would also guess that the transaction cost to collect their tickets is fairly substantial. More evidences of the motive is the State of Arizona made it a Civil Penalty to avoid litigations cost that would reduce their net revenue (rent).

It looks like the folks with the pickaxes may have had more sense than the legislature did when the cameras where installed. A ticket may improve public safety but it still has a price that needs to be considered. Also note the revenue from the camera was 50% lower than initial projections, how did that play into the calculations?

(Thanks to JS for the guest post! Those are good questions, sir. What is happening in the rest of the country, and world, with those automatic cameras?)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Peruvian Restaurants in Chile

Lots of Peruvians in Chile. And lots of Chilenos like to go to Peruvian restaurants. We have been to several, but two were remarkable. I recommend them.

1. Restaurante Barandiaran. Old school, very colorful, perfectly serviceable, and as cheap as comida peruana should be. Very close to the Manuel Montt metro stop in Providencia on the Red Line. They claimed to have cui (guinea pig) which of course I ordered, but they said they were "out." Not sure if they ever realy have it, but I certainly disgusted everyone at the table. Very good cebiche, big portions, good drinks (pisco sours big and well executed, not too expensive, nice cheap wines), and cheerful if somewhat spotty service. If you want a "real" Peruvian restuarant that is cheap and easy to get to, La Barandiaran is your place.

2. La Mar. One of the five best restaurant meals I have ever had, and I can't think immediately of what the other four are. Remarkable. Remarkably good service, remarkably good food, remarkably self-consciously trendy, and remarkably expensive. Each pisco sour is $8. They are good, but...yikes! Wine reasonable, but then it's Chile. A nice cortado after the meal will set you back another $7. That's a pisco sour and a coffee that EACH cost more than some of the entrees at Barandiaran. But, the food at La Mar is miraculous. They call themselves a cebicheria, and...yes. We got a sampler (diversa) of three kinds of cebiche, and (very unusual for Chile) they had actually used some SPICE, including aji or red chilis. Terrific fresh ingredients, beautiful. For dinner, the EYM had pulpos a la brasa con chimichurri parrillero, or grilled octopus with a green sauce. Astonishing. Saying it was the best octopus I have ever tasted is an understatement. It was better than any octopus that I could have imagined. I had shrimp, scallops, and fish in an almond sauce, which was tremendous. Dessert was fine, the bill was shocking, and it was well worth it.

UPDATE: I have to add that ANY of the "El Otro Sitio"s are extremely fine choices for comida peruana. Had a most extended and inebriated almuerzo there today, and...two thumbs up. The "diversa" sampler of cebiches was worth the price of lunch on its own. And excellent pulpo.

Superheroes Take On Westboro Bab-Tisk Church

I was amused. Best sign: "How the *&%$ do magnets work?" or maybe "All glory to the Hypno-Toad!"

Or maybe you have a favorite yourself.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

You lie like a rug

One of the last things we did in NY was hoof it down to Chelsea and visit one of my favorite galleries of all time, Cavin-Morris.

They had a terrific show of new-wave Berber rugs. Crazy, colorful, and wonderful.

We bought one.

Friday, back at home here at Chez Angus, I get a call from the gallery. The Times did a story on the show and used my rug as their featured photo.


And here is our rug. I love how it has the core of a traditional design but is also completely insane. I can't wait til the show is over and we get to have it in our home.

Eclipse: La Saga

The EYM was a bit bored with my stay at home ways. We had an early supper (5:30, which is at least 3 hours before dinnertime here), and I was ready to start reading stuff for the evening.

He wanted to do something. It was Saturday night. So, I suggested a movie. Karate Kid just started here, and that looks cute, so I proposed that. He looked a bit startled. So we went to see the new Twilight movie, "Eclipse." (Eclipse was not is first choice either, but there is really nothing else showing except kid movies). I had not seen the others, but how complicated could it be?

Complicated. But the movie was fine. In fact, I liked it a lot, but then I have always like chick-flicks.

Some odd things, though.

1. We had a hard time catching the bus up the hill to the theater. The buses either have the wrong routes on the front lights (they don't change from the previous run) or the lights are off. This is tough, because it is dark. You can't see the number of the bus until it is beside you, doing 30 km/hr or more. And there are 8 different buses that stop (or as it turns out, don't stop) at that bus stop. Kevin finally flags one down, and he stops 50 meters up the street. The drivers get paid based on whether they are on time, not whether they pick up passengers. We were lucky he stopped at all.

2. A sales woman, basically a beggar with some trinket to sell, latched on to me outside the theater. I told her no, twice. She physically pressed up against me, and got on the escalator in this position. I do not react well to such things, and pretty much shouted at her, right in her face. She was amazed at the reaction, I could tell. (At least, she started crying, ran up the escalator, and then ran back down). Clearly, the expected value of the tactic is high enough that it pays her to try it. Angus and I should hire out as anti-beggar phage cells in Latin American malls. We would reduce that expected value calculation in no time.

3. At the theater, I said, "Dos para Eclipse, a las diez y nueve, y diez" (the movie was at 7:10, and they use the 24 hour clock, like we should). The guy stares at me, so I repeat the request. He stares some more, and says, in perfect American-accented English, "Two what? Do you want two TICKETS?" Now, all they sell is tickets at the ticket booth. Perhaps "Two for Eclipse, at 7:10" is not the normal request he gets, though that is the literal translation of what I always ask for in the States. But this guy didn't just speak English, he spoke American. What else could I have possibly been asking for?

In any case, I am a fan of the movie. And forget Edward, honey. A big slice of Jacob is what Bella needs.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Apparently, Sammy likes Johnny!

BTW, how did Cassell NOT get to play Gollum in LOTR?

The EYM: Uptown Saturday Night

Guest column: The EYM on crutches, bravely heading out into the night.

EYM here—on assignment. One of my primary goals in tagging along to Santiago was to experience some of that legendary castellano hablado nightlife, the kind that starts at midnight and doesn’t end until lunch the next day. I’d say I made about a D+.

But, as you faithful (bored?) readers know, I’m a cripple. I did my best with what I had, and maybe my expectations were too high, but you know I had a decent Saturday night.

It started off, as do all good nights, with a little bit of what the kids these days call “pregaming.”** Now I assume that the phenomenon of drinking in your house before going out is not a new one, but the terminology may well have changed since the repeal of prohibition, so… “pregaming.” Wine, piscola (pisco and coke), piskola (pisco and Inca Kola, a hypercaffinated, bubble gum flavored soda from Peru), and—for courage—straight pisco. So I was ready to go. In fact, I was so ready to go that I wore only jeans and a polo shirt, a stark contrast to the Chilenos with their heavy coats and keffiyehs. (Two problems: everyone down here seems to think that 4° C is actually 4° F, and keffiyehs are SO 2008.***)

I set off at around 11 pm, a reasonable time for the night to begin among the jovenes. Maybe a bit on the early side, but it is winter down here. Took the metro downtown, where everyone under 25 got off at the same stop, the one I had been planning on taking. So it looked like my plan was a good one.

Walked across the river with a cohort of fellow merrymakers, the whole time being bombarded by individuals hawking hot fried things. My target was the Pio Nono in the Bellavista barrio. I had heard that this was where all the happening nightlife was located, and the signs there designated it Santiago’s “barrio cultural and bohemio,” so I thought these would be my people.

The first real indication that I had left Topeka somewhere along the wayside were the PACKS OF WILD DOGS CHASING MOVING CARS. This doesn’t happen in the US because we think that euthanizing wild dogs is more humane than letting them be run over or freeze to death, but there’s no accounting for taste. I walked up and down the busy but not terribly busy Pio Nono, where there must have been 40 bars and discotheques (playing Britney Spears and Cascada) in a quarter mile, none of which I would ever consider going into. I’ve been called many things, including a cultural egalitarian—but never by someone who hadn’t mistaken me for someone else.

On some side streets there were huge, cheesy discotheques with big lines and at least 10 visible bouncers. There was a Greek themed one, a Jamaican themed one, a rock and roll themed one. From these, too, I demurred. Then, walking down the middle of the Pio Nono, I saw the Long, Extremely Tall Arm of the Law: 4 carabineros trotting on HUGE horses. I felt like an Inca. A very, very law-abiding Inca, since these Pizarros had automatic weapons to go with their horses.

Eventually at around midnight, I ducked into a small bar on the outskirts of Bellavista from which I heard live music. I sat watching a decent set by some locals (I think their name was A Bass, Some Drums, 2 Guitars and 4 Moustaches) and ordered 2 piscos on the rocks. They finished at about 1:30, and I caught a taxi home.

The taxi driver was effusive, excited about an American audience. He explained to me that George Bush had armed the whole world as a result for his lust for oil (my Spanish still isn’t that good, and he was rather excited about this idea). He also explained that Barack Obama isn’t a gringo because he’s black. I am not sure if the two points were related.

**Edidad's note: EYM is 20. But drinking age is 18 in Chile, like in any civilized nation.

***Edidad's note: I would have said 2000, the second Intifada. But things come and go...

Government in Action

Some time ago, Las Condes (a municipality in Santiago) decided to widen a road near UDD, where I am hanging out. The road wasn't THAT busy, but they thought it would be useful to widen, for some reason. (Maybe the contractor was a big supporter of an elected official, whatever). The widened road now looks like this: That is, the entire "new" lane is blocked off behind a fence. A very sturdy, permanent looking fence, quite expensive. Why? Here's why:

Yup, they didn't move power lines. Now either they should have moved the power lines, or not added a new lane. At least, that's how I would have done it. When I asked what the deal was, I was told, "There were no funds available to move the power lines." Looking at the second picture above, you can see that there is a LOT of brush and trash piled up behind the fence. It has been nearly ten years.

The Chilean reaction to this, and to most government actions, is a half-smile and that Gallic-Ibero-Roman shrug. No one can shrug like people with a Mediterranean heritage.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Snow, and Lots of It

Baby, it's cold outside. Compare that view to just a few days ago...
The taller mountains are especially snowy.
People keep saying that this is unusually cold. One lunch mate here said that this was the coldest winter for nearly ten years. Since I had been told the same thing (well, coldest summer, then) in Germany last year, I doubted the claim.

But it's true. It is apparently VERY unusually cold here right now. It's actually dangerous.

Perhaps it's me. I made Germany cold last year, and Chile cold this year. Soy poderoso!

Why Academics Can't Be Administrators

Rob Jenkins is kind enough to say he builds on an idea I had. But in fact his conception is quite a bit better, and more clear, than mine.

There is a piece of comedic gold in the comments. I'll let the commenters tell the story:

1. honore - July 22, 2010 at 09:21 pm
Another precious chart to reduce ourselves to.
Where's the quadrant labeled "High Dysfunction, Low Accountability"?

2. luder - July 23, 2010 at 07:24 am
Okay, I didn't read the column (maybe later), but isn't "four quadrants" slightly pleonastic? Could you really have, say, five quadrants? Three? Seventeen?

3. erskine_seminary - July 23, 2010 at 09:00 am
Um, no. By definition you can only have four quadrants.

"Honore" is (I'm guessing) a 50 year old female associate professor in a third rate English department. She is incapable of thinking or writing clearly, and in literature today that counts as a talent.

"Luder" didn't read the column, admits it, but feels moved to criticize the fact that "four quadrants" is redundant.

"Erskine" doesn't KNOW what pleonastic means.

Cash Reserves: Evil?

The Grand Game, in Raleigh!

During the Roosevelt Administration, government officials repeatedly tried to find ways to tax what they called "retained earnings." Those rat bastard businessmen were trying to INVEST! And that meant that profits were not being fully taxed. Something must be done. In fact, I would attribute much of the second dip, in 1936-7, to business uncertainty about tax treatment. The Roosevelt officials even went so far as to threaten businesses with prosecution for taking LEGAL tax breaks.

The Obama administration is now considering doing the same thing, in a variety of ways, increasing taxes on investment and productivity. The result will be lower investment and productivity, which may snuff out the recovery.

But that's not what today's Grand Game is about. Today I want to thank KPC friend BR for pointing out this article, in the Raleigh paper. A large company has the gall to hold large cash reserves, instead of paying out profits (so that the profits can be taxed), or reducing prices (which they would do...I'm not sure why having cash reserves means you should cut prices. It just doesn't follow).

Anyway, as frequent readers know, the Grand Game is where we ask you to check out the article, and point out the absurdity you find most amusing! I'll go first:


Is reconciliation just more torture?

In a searing and tremendous essay in Guernica, Susie Linfield pretty much argues exactly that. This is a must read, people, though it's brutal at parts.

It includes statements of incredible eloquence by Rwandan victims:

For the so-called survivors, genocide is the crime with no sentence, the problem with no solution, the crime with no end. “What’s the use of looking for mitigating circumstances… ?” asks Berthe Mwanankabandi, whose parents and eleven siblings were murdered. “What can you mitigate? The number of victims? The methods of hacking? The killers’ laughter? Delivering justice would mean killing the killers. But that would be like another genocide… Killing or punishing the guilty in some suitable way: impossible. Pardoning them: unthinkable. Being just is inhuman.”

As well as statement of incredible cynicism by Rwandan perpetrators:

“I am even a better person” as a result of the genocide, Pio Mutungirehe promises. “I married a Tutsi. All that upheaval of the genocide was of benefit to my psychology.” Pancrace Hakizamungili, also a convicted génocidaire, testifies that “I am a man improved by the experience of those cruel things… I was a good and pious boy; I have become a better and more pious boy, that’s all. If I may put it this way, I have been purified by wickedness.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ed Leamer knocks it out of the park (again)

Leamer has a fantastic essay in the Spring 2010 Journal of Economic Perspectives (ungated version here) reacting to Angrist & Pishke's semi-triumphalist piece on the "revolution" in applied econometrics. My favorite part, reproduced below, hits on something I complain about to my students all the time, namely the practice of eschewing any attempt to obtain more accurate point estimates in favor of using confidence intervals that only have an asymptotic justification despite having a decidedly finite sample. Anyway, I'll just shut up and let Ed preach it:

It should not be a surprise at this point in this essay that I part ways with Angrist and Pischke in their apparent endorsement of White’s (1980) paper on how to calculate robust standard errors. Angrist and Pischke write: “Robust standard errors, automated clustering,
and larger samples have also taken the steam out of issues like heteroskedasticity and serial correlation. A legacy of White’s (1980) paper on robust standard errors, one of the most highly cited from the period, is the near-death of generalized least squares in cross-sectional applied work.”

An earlier generation of econometricians corrected the heteroskedasticity problems with weighted least squares using weights suggested by an explicit heteroskedasticity model.
These earlier econometricians understood that reweighting the observations can have dramatic effects on the actual estimates, but they treated the effect on the standard errors as a secondary matter. A “robust standard” error completely turns this around, leaving the estimates the same but changing the size of the confidence interval.

Why should one worry about the length of the confidence interval, but not the location? This mistaken advice relies on asymptotic properties of estimators. I call it “White-washing.” Best to remember that no matter how far we travel, we remain always in the Land of the Finite
Sample, infinitely far from Asymptopia. Rather than mathematical musings about life in Asymptopia, we should be doing the hard work of modeling the heteroskedasticity and the time dependence to determine if sensible reweighting of the observations materially changes the locations of the estimates of interest as well as the widths of the confidence

Yes! Amen!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Don't you ever call me Shirley

So now the administration is falling all over itself to apologize and offer another job to the woman they were falling all over themselves to fire, like, one day ago?


And the NAACP is doing the same two-step?

Phone call for Jesse Jackson! (oh, he's already well on the case).

We are still really screwed up on race in this country, aren't we?

And someone needs to send out an APB on Tom Vilsack's spine (among other parts).

I however, have a much better idea than re-instating Ms. Sherrod:

Fire all of her erstwhile colleagues and get rid of the Department of Agriculture!

There is no baby in this bathwater, so why not?


I finally got a Kindle! And I like it. It's so ez to use. You can control the font size. It's ergonomic.

My only complaint?

You can't read the damn thing in the dark!

And so it begins...

Now the ratings agencies don't want their clients to use the ratings they get!

I am not making this up:

S&P, Moody's & Fitch "are all refusing to allow their ratings to be used in documentation for new bond sales.....Each says it fears being exposed to new legal liability created by the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law".

Who cares? Well,

This is important because some bonds, notably those that are made up of consumer loans are required by law to include ratings in their official documentation. That means that new bond sales in the $1.4 trillion market for mortgages, autos, student loans and credit cards could effectively shut down.

There have been no new asset backed bonds put on sale this week, in stark contrast to last week, when $3 billion of issues were sold".

Is this a great country or what?

We visit the Congress, and the White House

Last week, we went over to Valparaiso and had a nice lunch with Diputado Ernesto Silva, a an elected member of the Camara de Diputados. We ate in the private dining room of the Diputados, way up high in the Congress building, overlooking the harbor. Breathtaking.

Yesterday we went with Princeton Prof. John Londregan to visit the Ministry of Finance, in La Moneda, which is Chile's White House / Old Executive Office Building wrapped into one. There appears to be a rule that the Moneda guards, special Caribeneros (at least the men), have to be at least 1.8 meters tall, without their imposing cavalry boots (with spurs). I felt small among these giants. The goose stepping, the Prussian style uniforms, and the military bearing of the men is a little disquieting to an American. But this is in fact the very seat of government, and we were lucky to get to go in and have an interview with two Finance officials. (The Minister was going to try to meet with us, but not surprisingly he was busy). We had a very nice hour long interview on the future of the economic system, and talked a lot about Public Choice and regulation. It is interesting that the government now in power faces the same problem that Reagan faced in 1980: How to dismantle the apparatus of regulation, and education bureaucracy, while (1) increasing private sector productivity, (2) encouraging new jobs, and (3) managing to stay in office. The next election is four years away, but it's tough. Reagan had only limited success, and the Republicans from 2000 sold out all their principles just so they could focus on (3). The problem is that the way to stay in government is to expand government, by hiring new bureaucrats who depend on the program for their jobs. Buena suerte, Chile! I hope you do better than our miserable sell-out Republicans did.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nuclear Launch Detected

SC2. July 27.

I just hope the Terrans don't suck. The first game was fun, but if you could click
fast and accurately, Zerg was almost unbeatable just by running a rush.

This is exciting.

(Note: I had written WC2. Yuck. Sorry. Thanks to John Thacker to pointing out the embarrassing error)

Jedi Census

Jedi census.

Never underestimate the power of those who oppose initiating the Force.

Back to the dust bowl

Man, we had a great day yesterday in NY. Saw "The secret in their eyes", at Angelika, had terrific tacos and grilled elote at The Corner Deli in SoHo and then topped off a great trip by seeing Calexico play at the City Winery.

Calexico is touring as an 8 piece band and, while I expected it to be good, they blew me away. I only have a couple of their early CDs and their joint EP with Iron & Wine, but they have added a lot to their sound. If you get a chance to see them, I wouldn't pass it up.
Now it's back to OK and my PhD students and my half finished projects, and my Mr. Tooty.

Tough Night Last Night

Very nice day, visiting Adolfo Ibanez University. More on that soon.

But after the nice day, we had arranged to meet Juan Pablo and Eugenio for dinner, some pizza, which I wanted to try in the Chilean fashion.

Unfortunately, there some setbacks.

1. I miscommunicated (my fault) with Juan Pablo. I thought he was going to pick us up, and he thought we were to meet at the restaurant. (Tiramisu, really great pizza, first class crust, nice place). So he went to the restaurant at 8:30, and we stood out on the corner in the cold until 9.

2. Went back to the room, to check and see if Juan Pablo had left a message. No, he was still waiting at the restuarant (again, my fault). Walking back down, I didn't see a big curb in the dark. Fell very hard, landed on my bad knee, bloodying it, and hit my head hard enough to see stars and ponies. Got up, went out to the corner to tell the EYM, and pretty much passed out. Was holding up by grabbing a street light, almost fainting. EYM not happy, tried to get me to go back inside, but I wasn't feeling like traveling.

3. Felt a little better (it was COLD) soon, we walked inside, EYM on crutches trying to hold me up. Then, I felt well enough to take cab to restaurant. EYM volunteered to pay cab (2k pesos, or less than $4), and then we got out of the cab, and saw Juan Pablo standing beside his car. It was 9:15, so he had waited a long time. We go inside, and there is a long wait. But....Tiny EYM to the rescue! They see the crutches, and we get a table. Sit down, relieved and hungry, and the EYM says, "Damn. I left my wallet in the taxi." I run out, sort of, to see if it was on the ground. Nothing. We have to cancel credit cards, get new hotel keys, new BIP card, and new driver's license for the EYM.

Still, the pizza was tremendous. Really good.

Tim Groseclose! Today's your lucky day

Details are here my friend.

Hat tip to Dr. Newmark.

Monday, July 19, 2010

We were just KIDDING about all that Commerce Clause stuff!

Commerce Clause? Nah, we was just funnin'. It was a tax increase all along. Surprise!

Remember, Candidate Obama promised that NO ONE with an income below $250k would get a tax increase.

Now.... EVERYONE IN THE U.S. is getting a significant tax increase, based on an entirely new tax. New York Times Story. And CATO analysis. And Randy Barnett analysis.

Wow. Also yikes.


Futbol! We went to see Colo-Colo. Big. After about 20 minutes, I wanted to buy a CD of their fan-songs, so I could burn it. I am not a Colo-Colino, it appears. Still, beautiful. Here was the view from our seats (click on picture to embiggen). And here is a short movie, so you can hear the horrible "songs." Made me long for vuvuzelas. Almost.

Oh, and the game. The Colo-Colos scored on their first possession, in the first minute (!) and then again in the 90th minute. Roberto Cereceda got the big rojo in the 55th minute, and Colo-Colos played a man down from there. The O'Higgins lads were just demoralized, always a step slow and consistently losing every header or contested ball. The O'Higgins fellows did have one clear breakaway, on the left side with only the goalie to beat, but the player inexplicably passed it instead of shooting, and they lost the chance. Couldn't score, or even threaten, even though they were playing 11 on 10, after the red card. Here is the O'Higgins web site.

(If O'Higgins sounds like a strange name for a soccer team, it's a funny name for anything. Bernardo O'Higgins is THE primary signer of the Chilean Declaration of Independence. So he is called "El Libertador." He was Irish on his father's side (Ambrosio O'Higgins) and Basque on his mother's side (his father and mother were never married, at least not to each other....) But at first he was pretty much just declaring independence from France and his mother; he was 30 and getting sick of getting bossed around. When Napolean kidnapped and imprisoned el Rey de Espana, Bernardo had himself declared the second "Supreme Director" of Chile, and then declared independence from France, which controlled Spain, in the name of the King of Spain. So the "independence" was really an assertion of the rights of the King of Spain to control Chile, rather than the French. Stirring words, huh? They did finally declare a more traditional independence, after O'Higgins let/ordered (not clear) some of his boys execute Jose Miguel Carrera, apparently because they could. He was no Thomas Jefferson, but when it comes to liberty in Latin America you take what you can get, I suppose)

All Hail Robert Gober!

Went to the Whitney Sunday afternoon to see the Gober curated Charles Burchfield exhibit. Fantastic! Highly recommended.

Burchfield hit the ground galloping as a 20 year old kid with a style that combines early Mondrian and Van Gogh. He lost his touch in mid life, and then impressively pulled it together to make great pictures again in his 50s and 60s.

The first and last rooms of the exhibit are total stunners with one knockout piece after another.

Plus the notes on the pieces are extremely well done.

If I hadn't seen "curated by Robert Gober" I never would have went and Mrs. A and I loved it.

In fact, for the first time ever, she took longer viewing the exhibit than I did!

Good Choice for WV Senator to Replace Byrd

The LMM is very excited about the selection to replace Sen. Robert Byrd of WV.

His name is Carte Goodwin. Here he is with that well-known cougar, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
The LMM likes him because he is hot. Oh, golly, I'd better get home. I think the lawn needs to be mowed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Someone's in the kitchen with China

People, I am so tired of hearing about how China's fixed exchange rate is ruining America. We don't need any help ruining America, we are doing it just fine all by ourselves.

I wouldn't even put China's exchange rate policy in the top 10 list of bad things about China.

Lets see....

1. Their support for regimes like North Korea
2. Their throwing of a spanner into possibly helpful international agreements
3. The massive censorship of information they attempt to impose on their citizens
4. Their incredible pollution problem
5. The fact that their citizens cannot move freely around the country
6. The fact that their citizens cannot freely practice any religion they might choose
7. The degree of command and control that the party imposes on the economy
8. The fact that their citizens cannot freely choose the number of children to have
9. The level of infanticide caused by the previous item
10. Their actions and attitudes toward Tibet and Taiwan


Recycle Me This

Kento sends two funny links about recycling, reusing, and using public transport. Not sure the authors thought they were funny. But they are.

Link the first

Link the second

I especially like the response by David Bain in the WAPO article. The reporter asserts that he is a hypocrite. Mr. Bain's defense is that no, he's an idiot.


A good day on "whore island"

Ate dosas here (2nd best dosa I ever had in the USA!).

Saw a movie here ("Where the road ends, the Taliban begins").

In the evening we saw the inimitable Sklar Brothers perform here ("Welcome to Whore Island, do you have your passport?").

BTW, despite recent movements of the Euro, I can tell you people that hordes of europeans are here dropping major cash.

Driving and Property Rights in Chile

Driving here seems pretty tough. VERY aggressive drivers, and the "informal" sector is large. Some vignettes.

1. Speed limits are generally 100 km/hour, max. I've seen people blow by us at least 50 km/hr more than that. In overloaded, topheavy vans and pickup trucks.

2. In Buin, we saw a pickup truck driving the wrong way on an access road, a BUSY access road. A caribenera was standing about 20 meters away, placidly directing (actually, waving ineffectually at) traffic.

3. In Valparaiso, just up the street from the capitol building, an "entrepreneur" had placed four buckets full of water on parking spaces across from his little car wash place. Juan Pablo got out, moved one of the buckets, and parked. The guy comes over, and insists Juan Pablo pull ahead to make more room. And the guy volunteered to "protect" the car, for a fee. Now, parking is "free" on the street, but this was clearly a threat to damage the car or otherwise cause trouble. Juan Pablo paid the fee. So, in a way, nice, because it means you can park if you pay, instead of driving around looking for nonexistent "free" parking. But ... those buckets are simply theft, part of the "informal" sector that plagues Latin countries.

4. In Providencia, we pulled into a "pay" parking spot. But the guy has none of the parking permits you are supposed to buy, and there is no machine. So... Juan Pablo pays him. Now, the pay is less than the official fee, so Juan Pablo and we are better off. And the guy gets to keep the full fee, himself, so the GUY is better off. But the transaction is "informal" and none of the fee goes to el gobierno.

5. In a shopping mall, on Manquehue, we see a woman in an enormous SUV (rare here) (I mean SUVs are rare, women are quite common) try to back out. There is not much space, but she is not coming close to succeeding. (Generally, when I see a female driver and a car in reverse, I find a safe spot to watch, because it is likely to be entertaining, but peligroso). So, after three back and forths, not coming within five feet of the car behind her, she rams it into drive and goes FORWARD, over the parking curb. But this curb is a good six inches high, so she high centers the SUV. She puts it in four wheel drive, so that the front and rear tires alternately spin, and touch the ground, and pop up the front and then back of the car, like a teeter totter. The car jerks forward, until the rear wheels catch the curb. And then she is out. The whole thing, once she put it in drive, took only 4 or 5 seconds. Worth seeing.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

BobLee Says: Those Poll Cats....

It is true that most of us think that most people agree with us.

And it appears that we are astonished that the majority could possibly disagree! After all, 'most everyone I talk to thinks like I do, right? Well, no, but most people think that.

BobLee talks about those "private poll" cats.

Free Advice, and Summer's Nice!

Got another note from Kevin Lewis. He's on a roll. I reproduce the email, with emendation or comment.

As I write this, President Obama is lodged several hundred yards away from the house where I spent much of the summer during my childhood. No, my family isn't rich; several families got together to buy the house at a rock-bottom price in the 1970s. Over the years, many people visited, including the infamous legal minds of Robert Bork and Jeffrey Rosen. The house is now owned -- and has been massively upgraded -- by Bill Ruger (as in Ruger firearms).

I'd also like to use this opportunity to give the GOP some free advice. First, as I've said before, you do NOT want to do so well in the mid-term elections that you gain clear majorities in both houses of Congress. There is a strong negative feedback loop built into the current political environment, such that a solidly Republican Congress before the 2012 elections will probably make it easier for Obama to get re-elected, effectively securing his policies. The GOP should target a slim majority in one house and a slim minority in the other -- in other words, enough to block but not enough to be seen as dominant. Second, with Obama currently at 40-50% approval, the GOP seems to think they have a good chance of beating him in 2012, but this is still wishful thinking. Instead, it's likely the GOP will re-enact the 2004 election in reverse -- nominating a less-than-compelling candidate to go up against a crisis-tested president.

Obviously, anything can happen between now and November 2012, and Republicans could nominate someone with broad appeal. But will they? IMHO, here are the probabilities (first number is for winning nomination, second number is for beating Obama):

Romney: 40% * 30%
Palin: 20% * 20%
Pawlenty: 10% * 40%
Huckabee: 10% * 40%
Daniels: 10% * 40%
Gingrich: 10% * 30%

How's That Working Out for You?

As KPC friend Kevin Lewis notes, "What a great title!"

The Sicilian Region's Experience with Planning and Control

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Pat Riley and the Heat scored an unbelievable coup getting Wade, Bosh and James.

Adding Mike Miller was terrific and Udonis Haslem rates at least as a very good pick up.

Even Jo-el Anthony is aaight (who can doubt the ability of superman's father).

But, Zydrunas? Juwan Howard?

Holy Moly! Can you say "bottom of the barrel"?

Then it turns out, from somewhere under the barrel, Penny Hardaway wants another shot?


Ledell Eakles: call your agent!

So what will Miami's rotation look like?

Are they going to forgo a point guard? Or will Chalmers start?

Is Bosh really not going to play center?

How about Chalmers and Wade at guard, Lebron & Bosh at forward, Antony at center, with Miller and Haslem getting decent minutes off the bench?

Seems to me the Heat need to stop collecting ancient big men and sign another guard.

Wow, I guess me and Penny are on the same page after all!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Santa Rita Winery

Juan Pablo drove us out to the Santa Rita winery today, near Buin, south of Santiago.

Got there, went on a tour, then had a simply amazing lunch. Early in the tour we walked past some of the vineyards. Inside the actual bodegas, which are huge, it's pretty dark. The best quality "Reserva" bottles are stacked this way both to preserve the corks and to keep them safe(r) in case of earthquake. The most recent earthquake broke a lot, but SR is back in business now. This is a picture of the oak barrels for the first aging, before the bottles. The pic is a little blurry, because I shut the shutter to 1.5 seconds because it was so dark.
We got the EYM some sporty bike gloves, because the crutches were giving him blisters.
The room where we had lunch is spectacular. It is the Dona Paula restaurant.

We were hungry. And, then, we weren't. Tremendous food. Kevin and I split a lobster appetizer, and then I had bistec a la pobre. Then dessert. Then we staggered outside for espresso, and to make this movie.

Then we went to the Museo Andino, which was the collection of pre-Columbian and more recent artifacts of the previous owner of SR. A big day in the Maipo Valley.

Blago Ring Tones

Your ring tone. This could be your RING tone. For free....

“I (expletive) busted my (expletive) and (expletive) people off and gave your grandmother a free (expletive) ride on a bus. Okay? I gave your (expletive) baby a chance to have health care.”

(Nod to Mr. Overwater, who KNOWS from Illinois)

cool beans!

The economics job market may be going more paperless.

When I was a lad, "Job Openings for Economists" was expensive and sent by snail-mail. It has long gone to an electronic version, but the process of handling and evaluating applications remains (in my experience at least) paper heavy.

Now VOXEU and are promoting a joint job market site that, among other things, allows reference letter writers to post their letters online (which is great, I love doing references for law school applicants and just writing one letter and posting it to their centralized site), and search committee members to post evaluations of candidates (presumably only for the other search committee members to see).
I hope this catches on in the US. I may be hopelessly trapped in the backwoods and backwaters, but I've never heard of before? Any US econ recruiters out there that are already using that site?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Behold: Rufino Tamayo's granchildren!

Cool! Judge May ACTUALLY Be A Libertarian

Lots of the droolers on Fox News claim to be Libertarians. Glenn Beck, por ejemplo. Um... no. A deranged lunatic shovel murderer, perhaps.

But Judge Andrew Napalitono, who I have to admit has said some actual Libertarian things before, said.... some MORE Libertarian things. Can this be tolerated, in the land of "We distort, you deride"?

(Nod to Anonyman, now an ex-ex-Libertarian himself)

It's Good to Have a Hobby

We all need a hobby. The EYM's hobby appears to be damaging himself.

Last year: L'affaire chair.

This year: Stress fracture in his left foot, quite an ouchy one. He ran home, down the mountain, from UDD to the apartment. That's about 8 km. Not that hard a run, 15 deg C, downhill most of the way, sunny. But he apparently caused a stress fracture, and then, for good measure, showered and changed clothes and went to Metro and then walk to the home of poet Pablo Neruda. He walked at least another 7-8 km, wearing very flat minimalist Keds loafers.

We got him some good crutches. I hope that if he stays off the foot for the three or four days, REALLY staying off the foot, no weight on it, it will heal up enough so that he can walk a little, at least.

In the meantime, he is crutching away. This is very useful, actually. It is hard to cross at Santiago cross walks. (locally known as "The Kill Zone"). Juan Pablo and I push Kevin out into the intersection, and the cars stop. Even Santiaguenos won't hit a kid on crutches. We are thinking of renting him out to groups, to help with the crossing. You can get him cheap!

And this way when we fly back, we'll be able to get on the plane early. "Look, Tiny Tim here and I need some extra time. Do you mind?"

Jobs, Reserves, Exchange Rates, & Trade

There is a big interwebs kerfuffle brewing on manufacturing jobs, currency and financial account manipulation and free trade. Economist's View has a post with links and some analysis that is well worth reading.

Here are some points to consider:

1. The current global trading system is very very far away from free. To criticize any current outcome and blame it on free trade is simply incorrect (If you don't believe me, take a look at "Travels of a T-shirt" or "Misadventures of the Most Favored Nations").

2. The dollar doesn't have to adjust for relative prices to adjust. The relevant relative price is the real exchange rate. US exports can become more competitive with a fixed nominal exchange rate simply by US prices rising more slowly than those of their trading partners. Higher productivity growth in the US would produce this effect.

3. Everybody has a comparative advantage. Statements like "America apparently has little left in the comparative advantage department" are non sequiturs.

4. I do agree that financial account manipulation should be discouraged, but it is way too simplistic to say it's good for China and bad for the US. It's good for US consumers, especially low income consumers and it's bad for Chinese consumers, especially higher income consumers.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Adventures in arithmetic

Or Eating soup with a fork.

The administration is now claiming that the $862 billion stimulus package has created or saved between 2.5 and 3.6 million jobs.

Lets suppose this is true and do some arithmetic.

Lets assume that 3/4 of the 862 billion has been spent, and the number of jobs is in the middle of the range, say 3 million (that should prove I'm an economist, eh?).

Remember these jobs are not permanent, they are "job years".

So, 862 billion x .75 / 3 million = $215,500 per job year!


Nice work guys. See you in November.

Econ Econ uber alles

I am stuck underneath the Goethals bridge for the foreseeable future! Here though is a self-serving tidbit from USA Today:

"Recent college graduates lucky enough to nab jobs are earning less, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which said that 2010 graduates' average starting pay was $48,661, down 1.3% from 2009...."

However, "Offers for economics majors rose 2.1% to 50,885; those studying finance got a 0.0% bump to $50,356."

Come and join us!

Seriously, beyond the miniscule differences in starting salaries, and my obvious bias (though I was a business major in college), I believe econ is a much better undergraduate major that finance. Econ BA + Finance MBA is a great combo though.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

At the office....

There is smog and fog this time of year down in the valley. But up here at UDD, it is beautiful, and usually sunny.

The view from my office window (they made me pose here, usually I am in the position of the camera, looking out from my office):
And two of my hosts, Juan Pablo Couyoumdjian and Maria Jose Dominguez, kind enough to pose also. I am apparently somewhat larger than they are.

Tickle Me, Congressmen

Your Congress at work....

The wrinkly old men that we elect to Congress are so horny and gross that the American taxpayer shells out on average $1 million a year in settlements to sexually harassed Hill staffers, according to the Office of Compliance. The level of perviness fluctuates from year to year — in 2007, 25 staffers were paid a total of $4 million.

Wouldn't such settlements possibly be of interest to voters, the media, and opponents of the crotch-grabbing perv-boys? It sure would! And that is why Congress passed a law saying that no one can obtain this information! Sure, it's only $1 million. But how can this expenditure of public funds be justified in secret? Read this story from Politico. Amazing. Also not surprising.

It's tough enough working on the Hill. These kids don't make much. And they count their own value, as staff, based on the "size" of their Member. Do we really have to pay, with tax dollars, for those same Members to harrass and grope them? And if we do have to pay, shouldn't we know which Members did it? I am not saying that the identities of the victims be revealed. But why not the identities of the Member whose actions resulted in the settlement? Sure, I realize that the settlements all come with a nondisclosure provision, and a provision denying guilt of the Member. But this is not a criminal proceeding, this is an expenditure of public money.

KPC demands an immediate full accounting of public expenditures, paying hush money to staff! I bet a lot of these old perverts are big "family values" guys, too!

George Steinbrenner has died...

That's it, that's all I've got.

Still, a strange feeling. He seemed immortal, in an evil, twisted sort of way.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day II: The Sun

It is quite common, in winter, in Chile to see the sun only ... well... not.

But today: Wow.

The sunset lighting up the foothills, the view out the apartment deck (first rate deck, glassed over, about 1.5 meters by 6 meters, with nice chairs, on a corner overlooking Avenida Apoquindo. The best deck I have ever had in a hotel, I think, because of the view.

Looking south from the balcony:

Looking east, toward the econonomic disaster that is Argentina:

(Yes, it's more than 100 kilometers to Argentina, but you can smell bad policies a long way off). (UPDATE: A commenter points out that we COULD be smelling Maradonna's coaching. Quite true; Argentina has had many smelly adventures lately, on every front...)

We dined at the apartment tonight. I was excited about camarones, and the excellent local EVOO. At the UniMarc grocery, we found most of what we needed, though they had basically no decent seafood. Got frozen camarones, hoped for the best.

The EYM cleaned the spinach, and I cooked up some pasta. Tri-color penne, with sauteed onions, sliced green chilis, some very nice salty capers, and some beautiful fresh Italian parsley. (How can Chile not have fresh shrimp, but have fresh parsley, in winter?) Lots of beautiful EVOO, from Kardamili. Some Imperator balsamic aceito, and the salad was good to go. (The Imperator balsamic vinegar was a bit sweet, perhaps, but the EVOO was wonderful). The spinach must have been fresh, within one day. Great espinaca. Why?

The shrimp and pasta dish was only okay, because the shrimp were not much. I covered that with ajo and pimienta roja de cayena, and the EVOO helped a lot. If you have great olive oil, spanking fresh parsley, garlic, and green chilis to go with pasta, who needs shrimp? We did manage to choke it down, with a 2009 Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc. Neither of us is a big white wine fan, but when Concha y Toro is $8 bucks U.S., you have to go for it.

The EYM went out after dinner to explore "muchos lugares lejos" on the Metro. He is wearing a silky black MTV jacket. Last night, an overjoyed and overdrunk visiting Spaniard in a pick up truck (really) tried to pick up the EYM. When the EYM politely demurred, the man said, incredulously, "You are dressed like that, and you are not gay?" Maybe Senor Espana can call the Federal Trade Commission, about misleading advertising.

It's a city of 6 million, and the EYM is determined to meet them all. On the subway.

Tomorrow: I ride the Transantiago! I wrote about it, and now I research how things are going on the new bus system. (The "new" bus system had a pretty big role in ensuring the defeat of the previous presidente, so this is a big deal here). El Mercurio even called me, back in 2008, to say, "Isn't our bus system hilarious?" I had to agree, yes, it is.


It's ice cream time!

Apparently, now there are 32 flavors....

House Where Mungowitz Not Raped Torn Down

The house where the "Mungowitz Rape" never happened was torn down.

Mike Schoenfeld, communications god-king of Duke University, was asked if the house where Mungowitz was not raped held any special meaning for the University.

"Who?" said Schoenfeld. Sad, really, that he would pretend that this incident that never even happened had never happened. Typical.

Now, it's true that the problem with identifying the house as the place where Mungowitz was not raped, at least according to some observers, is that there is no reason to stop there. Other people, more famous people, were not raped there. George Washington was never raped in that house. More recently, Mahatma Gandhi was not raped there, on several occasions. In particular, Mr. Gandhi was not raped in the house on December 21, 1978, or any other earlier, or later, nights.

Most recently of all, Chrystal Mangum was not raped at that house.

In fact, we could make a really long list of people not raped there.

So, I hope that the media will start to refering to the house at 610 N. Buchanan Street in Durham as the "house where Mungowitz was not raped," since that is as good an identifier as the ones the media insists on using.

Can you help?

(Nod to BH)

It's all just a matter of degree

Tyler reviews a book on the rise and fall of Prohibition in the USA, which seems to argue that alcohol was a big problem before prohibition and that the policy "worked" in some sense of the word.

But however besotted turn of the century America was though, it paled before the levels reached by their European forefathers:

Both anecdotal and statistical evidence indicate heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages, heavy over time, heavy over space, and even heavy over social class to a certain extent, although the rich consumed more than the poor.

Three examples of temperance from the sixteenth century make the exceptions that prove the rule. The Venetian Alvise Cornaro promoted temperance in word and deed. He wrote a book, Discourses in favour of a sober life, in which he advocated a diet of extreme renunciation, confirmed by his own example; he drank only not quite .4 of a liter of wine a day, which is more than half a modern bottle of wine.

In The Life of the Duke of Newcastle, written by his wife, the duke received praise for his temperance; she wrote, "In his diet, he is so sparing and temperate, that he never eats nor drinks beyond his set proportion." His set proportion was three glasses of beer and two of wine a day.

The final exception to prove the rule was a temperance society founded at Hesse in 1600. Its members agreed to restrict their drinking to seven glasses of wine with each meal.

In other words, "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet".

This quote is from here, well worth reading in its entirety.

bad samaritans

When I have a simple question, I rarely use Google, I just ask Mungowitz!

For some reason, this tends to piss him off mightily and I get some fairly pointed info about the value of his time and the ease of use of major search engines.

That ususally doesn't stop me though.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Wonderful Dinner, and La Copa Mundial

Juan Pablo took us to an Argentine restaurant, "Don Carlos," for dinner. Three words: Tree. Men. Dos. Stupendo. Wonderful.

The EYM gets to order the vino tinto (he's 20, drinking age here is 18). He orders a Gran Tarapaca syrah (about $10 the bottle, btw, nice). Waiting for the wine, we order a round of Peruvian-style Pisco Sours. Yum, and here's to you, Senor Pizarro.

For food, we order some sausage, prieta and chorizo, and some terrific empanadas and a round of provoleta (fried cheese with tomatoes). (Yes, prieta is Chilean blood sausage. It is AMAZING. Tyler C., eat your heart out: I had prieta, and you didn't! Just deal with that.)

Then, salads. I wanted paltas (avocado) and we all had some version of tomatoes. The avocado was okay, but not outstanding.

Then, meat. This is an Argentino restaurant, and that means meat. I had wanted goat, which in Mexico is cabrito but here in Chile is called chivito. But they were out, so I had to settle for lamb. Best lamb I have ever had. Tender, grilled and salty, melts in your mouth. Like meat lollipops. Outstanding. The EYM has chicken, and Juan Pablo orders a meal fit for Fred Flintstone: a huge breaded piece of beef, and a vat of papas fritas. He struggles manfully, and defeats the meat, but is lost for the rest of the evening.

The EYM and I, having only NORMALLY overeaten, were ready for postre. And there were some strange desserts. We went for it: The EYM ordered "zapillitos en almibar," which the menu describes as "tiny pumpkins in syrup." WTF? And I ordered "Postre Vigilante," the batata y queso dessert.

The zapillitos en almibar turned out to be delicious, but essentially inedible. Not sure how to describe it. The little squares of pumpkin - sugar reduction were something between the consistency of crytallized honey and fudge, though pumpkin flavored. And they were resting in a thick simple syrup, also pumpkin flavored. One bite and the EYM was saying "yum!" Three bites, and he couldn't eat any more, having lapsed into a hyperglycemic coma.

My sweet potato dessert, slices of thick candied sweet potato on thick slices of cheese, was a classic Argentino dessert. (here, in Spanish). Wonderfully simple, the contrast in textures of cheese and dessert, and the contrast in sweetness and creaminess from the cheese. Very nice.

Then, cappuccino all around. Cappuccino a bit watery, but okay.

Of course, we were watching the finals of la Copa Mundial. The restaurant is only three blocks from the Embassy del Pais de Espana, which was rocking. The game was really quite boring, except for the specialist viewer (pretty much everyone south of Nuevo Laredo). But AFTER the game: the restaurant erupts in cheers, and clapping.

Walking home, past the Spanish Embassy, we could hear the cheering and yelling inside. The hard-eyed caribineros out front almost smiled, I think. People were blowing horns (car horns, though we did see some vuvuzelas sticking out of car windows), and waving Spanish and Chilean flags out the windows of cars and apartments. There was a distinctive celebratory horn blow pattern: Beepbeep... Beepbeepbeep (2, 3, repeated over and over).

I took a movie of the cars on the Avenida Apoquindo. You can hear the horns (this went on for hours, sometimes dozens at once), and you can see, at the end, an entrepreneur selling Spanish national flags. There were dozens of these guys on the street, within minutes of game's end.

And I took a picture out the window of the hotel, looking west on Apoquindo. The light looks funny, because I set the shutter for 1 second because it was getting dark.

On the way home, we noticed a large building, just a bit west of the hotel. Quiet, darkened, high gates. Turns out to be the.... Dutch Embassy. Heh. Heh heh. Maybe the Dutch Ambassador had gone to the party at the Spanish Embassy, to pay off his bet.

Time for Mr. Nappy now. A tiring day.

Lebron Links

1. Wow, I agree with Jesse Jackson about something!

2. Good story about the history of the LeBron-Wade-Bosh BFF saga.

3. LeBron says LeBron should have gone to the Knicks on Benthamite grounds.

Mungowitz, Su Hombre en Santiago de Chile

The EYM and I are here for the next month, nearly, in Santiago de Chile.

Got in late this morning, after the overnight ick flight from Atlanta to Santiago.

The intrepid Juan Pablo picked us up at the airport, after it took us 2 hours to get through customs. Chile has a rule that they charge visitors the same charge for a "reciprocity" visa that those countries charge Chilenos. Thanks, America, for costing me nearly $300 for "reciprocity," just to enter the country.

Chile is also really paranoid about bringing in food items. So I asked the EYM to make sure that he didn't have any opened food containers, or plant matter, in his luggage. He says, "What about this?"

He holds up a big sandwich baggie full of creamy white powder. He sees the look on my face, and says "What? It's protein powder. Is that bad?" I tell him to throw that away, right away, and walk away quickly. I do NOT want to try to explain to Chilean Customs why we need to bring 100 grams of white powder into the country.

The lines are long, but they move along. When we got to the hotel (Apart Hotel, La Gloria 30, Las Condes), I noticed I was missing....MY BACKPACK! The one that had my laptop, books, and myriad "things of great importance."

Juan Pablo, by this time having graduated from intrepid up to unflinching, drove me BACK to the airport. (The EYM caught 40 winks in the hotel). We got to the airport, and since I knew where I left the backpack (the x-ray booth at the "Nothing to Declare" desk), we tried to get there. But, of course, you can't get there. At all. You can't go back up the cloaca of the "Arriving International" wing, without getting shot (and rightly so, no complaints). But neither could I get back to the TOP of the International Arrivals digestive system, unless I was arriving on a new international flight.

We knocked on a bunch of doors, and tried to find an official who could help us. After knocking for nearly ten minutes on one promising door (it said, "vacated baggage," in English; don't know what that means, but like I said, promising), an august official of the Chilean PDI appeared. Rather, one of his eyes appeared, behind a crack in the door. Juan Pablo explained. PDI guy looks at me and says, "Passport?" I nod, eagerly.

I am ushered in. Left to stand in a corridor for a few minutes. A second PDI fellow, one who spoke no English, appears and escorts me down a hallway to yet a third PDI guy, one who is so important that I think he actually lives in this underground grotto. PDI 3 begins to speak to me rapidamente en espanol. I try to tell him that I don't speak Spanish (though my "don't speak Spanish" is WAY better than my "don't speak German," from last summer). Then, I SEE MY BACK PACK, ON A SHELF, right behind PDI 3! I point to it, and say "Alla! Es mio, el backpack negro!"

PDI 3 is most skeptical. "Es SUYO? Verdad? (What is in it, he asked, I don't remember the Spanish, but I undestood it.)

I answered: "Libros, papeles, laptop computer..."

PDI 3 is overjoyed: "Libros! Son SUYOS?" Takes one out, and before I can see, covers up the cover completely with both hands: "Este libro, que dice?" (What does it say?)

I can't see the book, because he is hiding it. There are ten books in the pack, and so I just cleverly stare at him bug eyed. At this point, I haven't slept in 28 hours, and this seems surreal. Fortunately, I realize that I had put a name tag, with my ...well... name and address, on the backpack, just like checked baggage, just in case. I point to the tag, and say, "Mira! Mi nombre, Mike Munger, Carolina del Norte, como en el passport."

PDI 3 is pleased: a positive ID. He spends (seriously) at least two minutes comparing the info in my passport (name, address) to the info on the tag (name, address). Then he takes the pack over to a giant desk covered with scraps of paper, and digs around. He finds it: a black notebook with looseleaf paper. The paper is full of rubber bands holding together groups of pages, and paper clips and post it notes. He finds a blank space on a page, and writes laboriously in cursive longhand. I peek, and he is writing down the an inventory of the contents of the backpack. Then he writes down my name, address, and passport number, and draws a line for my signature.

Then he asks me to check the backpack, and make sure that none of the contents had been stolen. I had to pick up each item, tell him that it was in the backpack, and then he checked it off his inventory. But, since his inventory was composed ONLY of those things that were in the see the problem. Still, okay, we were making progress. After all the items in the backpack were checked off as being in the backpack, I signed with a flourish and thanked the man. He called me "Don Miguel" and wished me "buena suerte" and escorted me to...The Customs Area!

As the door closed behind me, I realized that I did not have the paperwork to get through Customs. I had just BEEN through Customs, 90 minutes earlier, and had handed in my paperwork that had been stamped at Immigration Control. Now, all I had was a passport and a backpack. By this time, the morning rush of international flights that crowd Arturo Moreno Benitez airport had long gone. The huge Customs hall had just me, and about 30 customs agents, all staring at me. The place is well lit, and it's hard to act casual in those circumstances.

I decided to play dumb, and just headed for the door, bypassing everything. One guy asked me to stop, and he came over. I showed him my passport, and said, "I forgot my backpack, and came back to get it." He frowned, pointed at the cloaca, and said (in perfect English) "You came back through there?"

"No, no, I came through the vacated luggage office, there." I pointed at the door right behind me, which was in fact where I had come out, and he had seen that.

He asked if I had the arrival papers, and I told him I had just been through Customs 90 minutes ago, and had just come back to get my backpack. I held out my backpack, as evidence (I'm not sure of what, but evidence).

I was sure that my Chilean Maxwell Smart would sneer, and say, "Oh, the old 'I've already been through Customs' trick. They always try that one!" But no, he just said, "Have a good visit. Make sure you go out the main door."

Back to the hotel, a long nap, and then a fine meal with Juan Pablo and the EYM. On which more anon.