Saturday, September 28, 2013

Grand Game! Real Estate Edition

Grand Game, Grand Game, Whatchoo Gonna Do?  Whatchoo Gonna Do When They All Read You?

This guy is some piece of work.  It turns out that the reason that real estate is expensive in San Francisco is not the bizarre web of restrictions on new building, or the requirements that people not sub-let, or the requirements that existing houses must be preserved at all costs.  The shortage is entirely the product of an artificial restriction imposed by dumb regulation.  But our boy wants to blame...greed! Check it out:

San Francisco has struggled to rehouse those who lose their homes. Scott Wiener, who chairs the city’s Land Use and Development Committee, says: “The number one challenge in the city is housing affordability. It’s not surprising that when you have a growing population and don’t build new housing, you see an explosion in house prices. In the last decade we’ve added at least 50,000 new residents to San Francisco, and produced very little new housing.”  (Editor's note:  The "speculators" would have loved to build new housing, but the law prevents it.  Not the state legislature, but the city of SF).

Though he doesn’t much care for the start-up douchebags, Redmond blames not individual tech workers for the current crisis, but property speculators and the lawmakers who have let them take advantage of their precious commodity: space. 

“If we had a major earthquake in San Francisco, the water mains all broke, and some guy showed up with a water truck and started selling water for $10 a gallon, people would be pissed,” he says. “That guy would be ridden out of town; he’d be attacked with sticks and pitchforks. But that’s what the real estate people are doing right now – and they’re getting away with it.”

Nice.  This fellow even gets in a shot in about price-gouging.  (Think about it:  If someone took in water after a major earthquake, they'd be more evil than someone who sits at home and says, "Someone should DO something!"  Really?)

 It's a tour-de-force of economic illiteracy.  I'm going to assign it as a class homework.  ATSRTWT

With a grateful nod to Brad H.  You were right, buddy.  This is awesome.

Auto-Brewery Syndrome

This has to be a hoax.  Such a great story.

You may have a beer belly, and not even drink.  Wow.

Maybe it's legit...  If a Duke microbiologist confirms it, it MUST be true, right?

UPDATE:  Tim Worstall confirms the tale.  Strange but true.  (The tale, not Tim Worstall).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dean Greco: The All Day Breakfast Party

Released soon:  the MOVIE!  100 Signatures.


Republicans Are Hopeless Hypocrites

A surprisingly fact-based and useful article in WaPo, by David Fahrenthold.  Worth reading in full.

"To assess what the first six [budget battles since 2010] accomplished, The Washington Post tried to measure the government in four different dimensions: federal expenditures, federal workers, federal rules and federal real estate. The first two were down, slightly. The third was way up. And in the fourth case, the government itself wasn’t sure what happened...The administration now counts 226 separate programs that aim to promote education in the 'STEM' fields: science, technology, engineering and math. Many overlap, according to outside audits. Some overlap substantially. This year, the administration proposed to consolidate them in the name of efficiency. The number should shrink, they said. All the way down to 110. Even in the deficit-obsessed House, many legislators thought that might be too few. 'A little overlap and a little duplication may not be bad,' said Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), whose appropriations subcommittee considered the White House plan. Wolf said the White House didn’t have good data on which of the 226 worked and which didn’t. So why take the risk of cutting a good one? 'I would rather err on the side of not doing something that puts us behind' other countries, Wolf said. Other legislators worried about institutions back home — museums, schools, hospitals — which got grants from this maze of overlapping programs. If it got simpler, they might get nothing. So the House said no. The Senate did too. The idea fizzled." [Washington Post]

Is this why I hate Republicans?  It's not the only reason, of course.  But, yes. Partly because if there is any evidence, it's that the whole "STEM crisis" is actually a hoax anyway.  Republicans just want to make sure they don't give money to POOR people.  Giving away money to rich people and corporations is no problem at all.

Nod to Kevin Lewis.

You Retard

This story is so fantastic, it's fantastic.  Here it is:

EDMONTON – A family has made its peace with Coca-Cola after discovering what appeared to be an offensive message printed on a bottle cap. 

Doug Loates had complained to the company after his daughter and her husband in Edmonton found the words “You Retard” under the cap of a bottle of Vitaminwater. Loates was initially unhappy with the company’s first attempt at an apology but says the second attempt from David Thomson, a vice-president with Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada, was more personal and he accepts it. 

The company has cancelled the promotion that paired randomly generated English and French words on the lids of bottled water. Loates found the message on the cap particularly offensive because he has a daughter who is developmentally delayed. 

A company spokesperson has explained that the problem was the word lists for each language were approved separately and that in French, “retard” simply means late.

You may recall that folks in Duke's Lit Department accepted entire papers generated using this technique.  Then, much too "en retard," they realized their mistake.

Nod and much love to most observant MK.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My life, and welcome to it

Here is a conversation, virtually verbatim, that I have at least once a week.

Usually, I "cheated" on her.  Now, I wouldn't mind if *I* dreamed about cheating on her.  She might plausibly blame me for that. But it's HER dream.  I get the blame, and none of the fun.  It's not right.

Why are Texas college professors so damn happy this year?

This is amazing. I recently saw 2 different rankings from surveys about best colleges / universities to work for.

 One was in the Chronicle, and it had 11 Texas schools,  including 3 of the top 4!*

The other was in Forbes, and of 25 schools, 6 were from Texas including 2 OF THE TOP 3!

The first list had Abilene Christian, Angelo State and Baylor at the top, the second had Texas Tech and Texas.

Did the State of Texas give out huge across the board raises this year? Is Texas just a happy happy state? Have higher ed employees in Texas fallen victim to the Stockholm Syndrome?

OU made the Forbes list at number 16.

I have to say of all the universities I've worked at or visited, the best was CALTECH (which is number 18 in the Forbes survey), and OU is tied for second with CIDE in Mexico City.

The CALTECH experience was awesome. They paid me more than I asked for. They leased a car for me (I made the payments, but they handled all the details). They would give you money to go to a conference IN ADVANCE (I mean meal money and such). I was only a visitor but got to pick my classes and teaching times. They were tremendously generous with entertaining speakers and picking up the tab for large parties to go to dinner. There were seminars all the time, interesting people visiting, or in residence, always someone around to argue / discuss ideas with. I got a ton of work done, learned a lot, and just generally had an amazing year.

Robin and I also had a fun and productive time during our year visiting at Duke (thanks again, super-Mungo!) But CALTECH was Shangri-la.

What was your favorite workplace and why? And please also share any thoughts about what could be in the water in Texas!

*thanks to loyal KPC reader Gerardo for pointing out that the first list is alphabetical!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Honey do's and Honey don'ts

I was not aware of how much political clout US beekeepers possessed.

Here's a fascinating story about "food fraud", aka tariff evasion, in the honey market.

Here are some of the impressive bits:

After U.S. beekeepers accused Chinese companies of selling their honey at artificially low prices, the government imposed import duties in 2001 that as much as tripled the price of Chinese honey. Since then, little enters from China legally.

and this:

The raid on the ALW office on North Wabash Avenue occurred seven months later, after U.S. honey producers had warned Commerce and Homeland Security that companies might be smuggling in cheap Chinese honey. Low prices made them suspicious.

People its a very sweet deal indeed when you can get the government to create a monopoly for you and also get it to go after any "cheaters" with "armed federal agents, all wearing bulletproof vests."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I got your warrior princess right here, bud

In a simply stunning display of cluelessness, avarice, and ugly american-ness, Mindy Budgor is cashing in on the hospitality of the Masai people.

One of the commenters at the link above provides some spot on perspective to Mindy's self-absorbed story:

"This is a very wonderful article. As an African man who became a full professor in an American university in just two weeks, I appreciate Mindy's struggle. I was visiting the University of ** when I asked a young man named Josh how many African professors there were. Josh, who was a prince in his own suburb in New Jersey, exclaimed: "None, of course. It would be too hard for you Africans." We must change this, I insisted, and asked what I had to do to become a full professor. "You must shotgun a sixpack and toke on a bong," he said. "But you can't do that. You are too weak and will be wasted in no time." I told my parents I was being sponsored by the Chronicle of Higher Education to become a professor, then I went to Josh's dorm room, where I spotted a six-pack. I immediately shotgunned every beer. "Give me a bong now, " I said, amazed at my own audacity. He did so, shocked by my perseverance. I managed to hold in my coughs, although my lungs were bursting. Later I took part in the Saturday night ritual where I danced the "Full Professor Dance." This is why I sympathize with Mindy and applaud her remarkable book. I look forward to spearing lions with her on the Serengeti soon."

Now, it does usually take more than 7 years to "dance the full professor dance", but it doesn't involve adult circumcision or lion spearing.

At least not in my case.  Mungo??

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday's Child

1.  Not as many happy returns.  For REI, that is.

2.  Poverty porn.  It's an industry, and a lot of rich people are getting richer from it.

3.  Imagine there's no logic.  I wonder if you can.  ACA wipes out wide variety of private insurance plans.  That would be okay, if we were going to single-payer.  But we are not.

4.  Okay, so maybe drones really ARE worthwhile, after all.  Drone buzzes the Queen Bee, in Germany.  Apparently it was a "Pirate Party" stunt, protesting drone observation of citizens.  Me gusta.

5.  Interesting piece by Brendan Nyhan on scandals, scandal coverage, and the effects on voters.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wiping Out Chavismo?

There are so many things to like about this story.

We think sometimes about the face of socialism, but it turns out the problem is cleaning the other end.  How can you have a toilet paper shortage?  And, if you DO have a toilet paper shortage, how can you believe that nationalization of the toilet paper factory is going to make things BETTER?  Excerpt:

The Venezuelan government has taken over a toilet paper factory to avoid any scarcity of the product. 

The National Guard has taken control of the plant, and officers will monitor production and distribution. Earlier this year officials ordered millions of toilet rolls to be imported to counter a chronic shortage. 

Last week President Nicolas Maduro created a special committee to tackle the problem, which the government blames on unscrupulous traders. The government ordered the temporary occupation of the Manpa plant in the northern state of Aragua, state-run Radio AVN reported. In a tweet on Thursday, Venezuela's Vice President, Jorge Arreaza, said authorities would "not permit hoarding of essential commodities, or any faults in the production and distribution process." 

Nod to Tommy the Tenured Brit

More on the story, sent by Anonyman...