Saturday, November 27, 2010

You Had Better Go Back to Your Bars, Your Temples...

Beauty Queens and Battling Knights: Risk Taking and Attractiveness in Chess

Anna Dreber, Christer Gerdes & Patrik Gränsmark
Stockholm University Working Paper, November 2010

Abstract: We explore the relationship between attractiveness and risk taking in chess. We use a large international panel dataset on chess competitions which includes a control for the players’ skill in chess. This data is combined with results from a survey on an online labor market where participants were asked to rate the photos of 626 expert chess players according to attractiveness. Our results suggest that male chess players choose significantly riskier strategies when playing against an attractive female opponent, even though this does not improve their performance. Women’s strategies are not affected by the attractiveness of the opponent.

Which of course made me think of this. Darn women. Darned risky moves.

Toucha Toucha Toucha TOUCH Me! I wanna be a better player!

Tactile communication, cooperation, and performance: An ethological study of the NBA

Michael Kraus, Cassey Huang & Dacher Keltner, Emotion, October 2010, Pages 745-749

Abstract: Tactile communication, or physical touch, promotes cooperation between people, communicates distinct emotions, soothes in times of stress, and is used to make inferences of warmth and trust. Based on this conceptual analysis, we predicted that in group competition, physical touch would predict increases in both individual and group performance. In an ethological study, we coded the touch behavior of players from the National Basketball Association (NBA) during the 2008–2009 regular season. Consistent with hypotheses, early season touch predicted greater performance for individuals as well as teams later in the season. Additional analyses confirmed that touch predicted improved performance even after accounting for player status, preseason expectations, and early season performance. Moreover, coded cooperative behaviors between teammates explained the association between touch and team performance. Discussion focused on the contributions touch makes to cooperative groups and the potential implications for other group settings

I have always said, you just can't beat those early season touches. Those are the best.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Ou est la plume de ma tante?

Mrs. A and I are on Staten Island visiting my aunt for Thanksgiving. She, for some reason, has taken exception to my choice of headwear, saying it makes me "look like a cuckoo-bird".

Here we are, after dinner last night in a pizza joint that serves a pretty good GF pie (among other things). People, you be the judges:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bike theft: "You are so big and strong!"

Stanley Milgrom used guys with white coats. But it turns out all he needed was a cute blonde.

As one of the commenters says: "Good lord, are men ever stupid."

The earlier video is perhaps more disturbing. Actually, it just IS more disturbing.

What's disturbing is that I wonder if I would have treated the white kid and the black kid the same. I'm not sure. Just not sure. Disturbing.

UPDATE: A commenter asks, "Isn't this just statistical discrimination?"

"Just statistical discrimination"? Um...yes. But the point is that I knew what was going on, and I *still* found myself watching the black kid and getting madder, thinking, "It looks like he's stealing that bike."

Racism is persisting in a biased race-based belief even when evidence to the contrary is clear and convincing. I knew the trick, but I still was watching the black kid and getting mad.

When I was at Wash U, with Angus in grad school, sharing our office with Steve from "Day-ton," I went out on night late to ride my bike home. I saw a black kid sitting beside my bike, and immediately thought, "Is he stealing my bike?" In my defense, it was 3 a.m., and an odd time to be just sitting beside a bike in a parking area.

But I thought, don't be an asshat racist. Just go over there. As I walked up, he tried to hide the bolt cutters under his leg, and struck up a conversation. I asked if he had seen any really big rats around, since something had chewed the cable on my bike lock nearly through.

He jumped up, took his bolt-cutters, and sauntered off, whistling.

I reported the attempted theft. The Wash U po-po was all excited, "We know that guy." (My description had been, "Black guy, medium height, orange shirt.")

Next day, they called me in to do a photo line-up. Nine photos. Now, I am not making this up, people. Of the nine, four of the photos were of white guys. Of the remaining five, four were black and white photos. The remaining one was in color. The color It was a black guy with an orange shirt.

I am ashamed to admit I went through with it, pointing out ("j'accuse!") the one color photo guy. The local Dick Tracies were VERY excited; "That's the one, all right, that's him, yepper!"

They told me he would be charged, and I would be called as a witness. But apparently when they called St Louis police to do the arrest, the kid ran. He ran out into a street, and was hit by a taxi. He died the next day.

The point is that I have some baggage here, on the whole black kid stealing a bike with bolt cutters thing. "Just statistical discrimination?" It is unjust statistical discrimination, I'm afraid.

life in an alternative universe

Brad Delong says this:

Thus, I would confidently lecture only three short years ago that the days when governments could stand back and let the business cycle wreak havoc were over in the rich world. No such government today, I said, could or would tolerate any prolonged period in which the unemployment rate was kissing 10% and inflation was quiescent without doing something major about it.

I was wrong. That is precisely what is happening.

People, what has the government done?

Let's see, there's the TARP, the Stimulus bill, the GM bailout, the Fed buying mortgage backed securities, cash for clunkers, the Fed pushing short rates to effectively zero, the credit for homebuyers, the extension and re-extension of unemployment benefits, a big deficit financed increase in discretionary spending (aka last year's budget), and now the Fed has commenced QEII.

Nothing "major"? Really?

It's kind of an interesting syllogism at work here. (1) The government can always control the state of the economy, (2) the economy is still bad, therefore (3) the government has not actually attempted to control the state of the economy.

If only there was a term for this kind of thinking!

Just in case you're tired of turkey

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Grand Game: Freakishly Self-Important Edition

This screed by Mark Ames could be a remarkably witty and carefully executed satire.

But I fear it's not....and so let's play the Grand Game! What's your favorite passage? I like #3, near the end, of course:

3. Anytime anyone says anything libertarian, spit on them. Libertarians are by definition enemies of the state: they are against promoting American citizens’ general welfare and against policies that create a perfect union. Like Communists before them, they are actively subverting the Constitution and the American Dream, and replacing it with a Kleptocratic Nightmare.

Some good stuff there. I, for one, never knew that the Communists were bent on replacing the American Dream with a "Kleptocratic Nightmare." In fact, equating Libertarians and Communists seems almost Hayekian, in a deeply confused (or satirical, I can't rule that out) way.

Note to Mr. Overwater: There's some Left Wing Authoritarianism for ya, bud.

Happy Thanksgiving from Nassim Taleb

He sees 25 years into the future, people! And it's not good:

"The great top-down nation-state will be only cosmetically alive, weakened by deficits, politicians’ misalignment of interests and the magnification of errors by centralised systems. The pre-modernist robust model of city-states and statelings will prevail, with obsessive fiscal prudence. Currencies might still exist, but, after the disastrous experience of America’s Federal Reserve, they will peg to some currency without a government, such as gold."

Yep, it's the middle ages with coffee-makers for us.

Is anybody besides me getting real tired of this guy? Yes, asset returns have too fat of tails to be correctly modeled by a normal distribution. Thanks, pal. We already know that. It doesn't make you a prophet.

Carrboro Culture

A performance by "The Pretense" or Vampire Weekend, or Nickelback, or something.

With multiple camera angles. Nice.

The EYM is the one with the white American flag sweatshirt, and the one boxing glove, MJ style.

I like how they incorporate the fire alarm into the aural montage. It could be accidental, but it is not clear how you could know that. Pretense just happens, after all. It isn't planned.

In Soviet Russia (and Miami), sneakers wear YOU!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Not Sure About This...

So, a guy gets arrested for possession of a firearm in a Planned Parenthood parking lot.

Except, he was wearing the sidearm in a holster, clearly visible. He has a permit for the gun. In fact, he has a concealed carry permit. And he wasn't near the building, he was in the parking lot.

I'm good on the whole "It's private property, you can't have a gun here without permission." He should have been asked to leave. TOLD to leave, in fact, and arrested if he resisted or made any threats.

But he was just straight up arrested.

And then there's this bizarre story that he was looking for a woman, a woman for whom he has neither phone number nor address. And he "forgot" the name of the web site they communicate on. AND he has met the woman for coffee. He just has no idea how to get in touch with her.

The evidence that he was up to no good? He had MAPS in his car, ammunition, and binoculars. The foul fiend! Wait...I have those things in MY car. That must mean I am up to no good, right? (What it means is that it's hunting season, here in NC)

The coolest part? He is a Minnesota state legislator. Really. He was going to chair a key committee, but not now.

Man, those armed rednecks up north freak me out. Thank goodness I live here in good ol' civlized Dixie.

(nod to @LauraLeslie)

Hello From Mr. Tootie Thrills Tanzi!

On my recent return from Sweet Home Oklahoma, I was honored to pass on the greetings that Mr. Tootie had given me for Hobo and Tanzie.

To say the least, Tanzie was excited!

Easley: It Just Doesn't Make Any Sense

The two best reporters on state politics in NC are Laura Leslie and Rob Christensen. And since Gov. Easley yesterday pled guilty (sort of; Alford plea) to a felony, it was time to check in.

I got to talk to Laura, which was fun. She's really great. Great voice, knows everyone, very fair. And I got to say, "It just doesn't make any sense!" How profound.

And this morning I got to read this piece by Rob C. Exactly right, again very fair, to the point.

Makes me proud to be North Carolinian. Two really first rate reporters. Plus, Rob wrote the BEST book on North Carolina political history. I use parts of it in class. A very fun read, with a nice balance between personalities and good research. On the LL side of the ledger, Laura is a blogger, and she tweets, from @LauraLeslie. Finally, though, and I mean this in a purely paternal way of course: Laura is somewhat cuter than Rob.

Viva Gridlock!

Can we has more gridlock, pleeees? All us turkeys here at KPC sure HOPE so! Credit: Signe, PDI
Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Holidays, from the grinning gridlock brothers!

Should the IMF enable Argentina?

Argentina is seeking "technical assistance" from the IMF to help design a new inflation index.


Well, the past (in more ways than one) and current President have made the inflation numbers a political football, firing statisticians and deliberately underreporting inflation by a large magnitude.


Well, among other reasons, Argentina had issued a lot of inflation indexed bonds and allowing the real inflation rate to be officially reported would have cost the government a lot of money.

Which is exactly why the IMF should NOT be getting involved here.

Making this into a technical issue of coverage or method and not an issue of systematic fraud and abuse will cover the government's tracks and protect it against potential lawsuits by holders of indexed debt.

The Kirchners have been crapping on the IMF for years. It's hard to imagine that the organization has such low self esteem that they are willing to enable their tormenters just to get their foot back into the door.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Grand Game! Edition--The Nation

The Nation is...well, they are even more batshit crazy than usual.

What is your favorite absurdity?

(Nod to RB)



Anatomy of unemployment over the last four years, by county.

Kobe Bean Bryant: I owe it all to Michael...JACKSON??

What a fantastic column by Adrian Wojnorowski.

Here's the highlight:

Out of nowhere one afternoon, Michael Jackson made a call to the irrepressible and isolated Kobe Bryant, and so much changed for him. From a distance, the King of Pop could sense so much of his own obsessive genius within the prodigy. Bryant was the 18-year-old wonder for the Los Angeles Lakers, and no one knew what to make of a restlessness borne of a desperate desire for greatness.

“He noticed I was getting a lot of [expletive] for being different,” Bryant said.

They would talk for hours and hours, visiting at Neverland Ranch, and Bryant has long been fortified by the lessons Jackson instilled about the burden of honoring true talent, about the ways to open your mind to be smarter, sharper and insatiable in the chase.

“It sounds weird, I guess, but it’s true: I was really mentored by the preparation of Michael Jackson,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports.

Bryant isn’t much for nostalgia and sentimentality, but it hung in the air as he cut into his steak over dinner recently in the fourth-floor restaurant at the Graves Hotel. Jackson is gone, but Bryant is going on 15 years with the Lakers.

“We would always talk about how he prepared to make his music, how he prepared for concerts,” Bryant said. “He would teach me what he did: How to make a ‘Thriller’ album, a ‘Bad’ album, all the details that went into it. It was all the validation that I needed – to know that I had to focus on my craft and never waver. Because what he did – and how he did it – was psychotic. He helped me get to a level where I was able to win three titles playing with Shaq because of my preparation, my study. And it’s only all grown.

“That’s the mentality that I have – it’s not an athletic one. It’s not from [Michael] Jordan. It’s not from other athletes.

“It’s from Michael Jackson.”

I don't think I'll be able to get the smile this gave me off my face all day.

Advice to Grad students: get Hitched!

Interesting paper from Cornell. Here's the abstract:

Using data on 11,000 graduate students from 100 departments over a 20
year period, I test whether graduate student outcomes (graduation rates, time to degree, publication success, and initial job placement) differ based on a student’s gender and marital status. I find that married men have better outcomes across every measure than single men. Married women do no worse than single women on any measure and actually have more publishing success and complete their degree in less time. The outcomes of cohabiting students generally fall between those of single and married students


Markets in everything: Holiday gift card edition

Mrs. Angus suggested I title this post, "for the woman who has everything"! But I figured, why be sexist?

TSA will kill three planeloads of Americans in next few years

TSA is killing us. Yes, I recognize that the post-9/11 driving craze was because planes were not safe ENOUGH.

But let me put it this way: Instead of looking for bombs, we should be looking for terrorists.

The underwear bomber had a bomb in his underwear. And we had information, from the guy's own DAD, that the kid was a terrorist.

So our conclusion is that we should do a little profiling, and focus on people who have spent time in Yemen, and who are FAR more likely to be terrorists?

No. Our conclusion is that we will assume, as a matter of policy, that all people are equally likely to be terrorists, and put all our effort into looking for bombs.

At a minimum, it seems to me that you want to equate the marginal safety productivity of the two types of investment. This podcast gives good evidence we are failing the basic "equate at the margin" condition for Pareto optimality.

The point being: I don't object to security at airports. But we are overinvesting in airport security, and underinvesting in intelligence. Ditch the scanners, and spend that $20 billion on intelligence. And, yes, profiling.

The problem is that air safety is a constraint, not the objective function. We want to minimize cost of air travel, and maximize convenience, choice, and comfort, subject to the constraint that there are no bombs or terrorists on board. So we should be arguing about the trade-offs between cost and comfort/convenience. Instead these Niskanen-esque bureau-bozos are frantically trying to MAXIMIZE air safety, so they can increase their budgets. It's public choice 101.

UPDATE: George Will makes the right points.... "What the TSA is doing is mostly security theater, a pageant to reassure passengers that flying is safe. Reassurance is necessary if commerce is going to flourish and if we are going to get to grandma's house on Thursday to give thanks for the Pilgrims and for freedom. If grandma is coming to our house, she may be wanded while barefoot at the airport because democracy - or the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment; anyway, something - requires the amiable nonsense of pretending that no one has the foggiest idea what an actual potential terrorist might look like...The average American has regular contact with the federal government at three points - the IRS, the post office and the TSA. Start with that fact if you are formulating a unified field theory to explain the public's current political mood."

Big ups to Mungo

Over at MR, Tyler has a lengthy homage to Timur Kuran.

Timur is joint in polisci and econ at Duke.

You know who was instrumental in getting him there?


Well done, lad.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Two wrongs don't make a right

I agree with Tyler that the TSA's obsession with American genitals is not the worst thing our government is doing in the war on terror.

Warrant-less wiretaps, renditions, torture, assassinations, civilian deaths are all clearly worse, and I am strongly opposed to all those things.

But that doesn't make the TSA policies right, and it doesn't mean I cannot or should not rail against them.

That's the part of his argument I don't agree with.

HP Printer: It doesn't work, he doesn't pay

So, his HP "All in one" printer didn't.

Print, that is. So he asked HP for some assistance. But HP insisted he should have to pay for tech service, even though should still have been under warranty.

So, he went all Mungowitz on its ass!

(Two people sent me this video. Can't imagine why...)

Article on "Security"

Nice article on TSA "security" checks.

It's the costly signal thing, as I have argued elsewhere. There is no actual content to the searches.

I was trying to explain it to a kid at Duke. I think it's like Nyquil. Nyquil tastes bad on PURPOSE. Given two identical (save for taste) cough medicines, people choose the one that is tastes bad, assuming it must be stronger. Nyquil has secured a niche by tasting like battery acid, ON PURPOSE.

And now TSA is trying to win us over the same gentle way. You gotta be cruel to be kind. Some fun ideas for messing with the man. MARCO!

(Nod to @lauraleslie for the 2008 article)


Very cool map of US political history, by my boy D. Sparks.
His description of what's going on, on his web page.

Grand Game: NYT Ed Page

This is a remarkable piece of innuendo.

Let's play the Grand Game! What is the most nonsensical, unsupported assertion here in the op-ed?

For me, it's the claim that "Wall Street" and "Republicans" are on the same side. If you look at the contributions to Obama, and the contributions for the past decade to Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, that is a LOL miscue. And that is just what was disclosed: Goldman basically bought its own bailout, by paying off Obama and his boys.

Even Michael Moore got THAT part right (I was screaming and laughing during the movie, because the smackdown on Dodd and Frank was so brutal!)

Sufjan Stevens has lost his marbles!

Check out this performance where he appears to be wearing a ton of cut up post-it notes on his body (and to have badly failed a modern dance class):

The performance is part David Byrne, part Parliment/Funkadelic, part IDM, but I have to admit the song is actually pretty good.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

People: Do NOT eat Wheaties!!

Because from what I learned today, they make you very, very, very dumb.

Let me break it down for you. First, Tyler sends me to a Brad Delong post about medicare. Then I see a link to another Delong post called "Joe Klein has really eaten his Wheaties today". Intrigued, I checked it out, only to come to the horrifying discovery that Wheaties must be really bad for your brain.

Here's Klein:

Perhaps it isn't a coincidence that so many of the people whinnying the loudest are prominent members of the financial community, the sector that has had the most to do with hollowing out our manufacturing base....

People, you just know that this bizarre claim is submitted without any evidence or proof! It's a real head-scratcher. The Goldman-Sachs destroyed our manufacturing sector? Really? How? This is nuts.

Here's more Klein:

There is, for example, Glenn Hubbard, who was featured on the New York Times op-ed page recently in defense of the deficit commission, describing the problem this way: "We have designed entitlements for a welfare state we cannot afford." This is the same Glenn Hubbard who served as George W. Bush's chief economic adviser when Dick Cheney was saying that "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." One imagines that if Hubbard was so concerned about deficits, he might have resigned in protest from an Administration dedicated to creating them.

Wow. First, one can easily and logically consistently believe both of the following: (A) Our entitlement programs are unaffordable and (B) deficits don't matter.

Saying entitlements are unaffordable means you want entitlement spending cut. It's the SPENDING THAT MATTERS. Deficits, to a first approximation are future taxes so, yes one could hold the view that, while deficits don't matter, spending does, and the future path of our entitlement programs put us on a path to too high spending.

I am an example of someone who believes both (A) and (B) above, so is Milton Friedman.

Look, I am not a Glenn Hubbard fan by any stretch of the imagination, but there is really nothing necessarily hypocritical in simultaneously espousing the two views being attributed to him by the wheat-and-milk-addled Klein.

The last bit, that anyone who didn't resign from the Bush administration has no legitimate standing to discuss future entitlement spending, is just plain asinine.

People, Brad is a smart guy, so I figure he knows Klein is full of it. Thus I view his post as an elliptical, but important PSA on the ill effects that Wheaties have on brain function.

Thanks Brad!

I just picked out Mungowitz's Xmas present!

More info here.

Merry Chistmas Mr. Mungo!