30 December 2009

Avatar 3D

Skip it. The plot is predictable, the dialog is hackneyed, the characters are all cliche, and Cameron makes only a token nod to character arc. It's a pretty movie, but also a pretty bad movie.

29 December 2009

Change Blindness

I'm pretty sure I'd be in the 75% who didn't notice.
Brief Video
Wikipedia
Hat Tip

27 December 2009

Breakfast at Brennan's

Bananas Foster at the restaurant that invented the dish.

23 December 2009

Stretch Goal

In spite of my disappointing result in the 5k, I've decided to try and run a 10k in 2010 (and maybe a half the following year, but let's see how the 10 goes). I have registered for the Charles Harris 10k, which gives me about 9 weeks to train. My main goal is to just to finish but hopefully not in last place. Yesterday I ran the easier 2 mile route in our neighborhood in 20:34. That pace would have come in 99th out of 106 in my age group in last year's race.

20 December 2009

Weekend Scorecard

Bad News:
  • Saints - lost to the NFL team I most despise.
  • Liverpool - lost to last place Portsmouth.
  • Fantasy (American) Football - Second most points in the league this week. Eliminated by a team that scored 145 points less than me on the season.
  • Running - Managed to do worse than last year in the Virginia Highlands 5k even though I trained harder this year.
Good News:
  • Blaise won gold medal in the the D&Under tournament today.
  • Achieved "Novice" at Project Euler (it's harder than it sounds).
  • I remain healthy, employed, and well-thought of by most of the people whose opinion I value (though there's a distinct risk of a selection bias).
It felt like a pretty rough weekend, but most of the setbacks were (a) completely outside of my control and (b) in the end, just not very important.

Doodle Jump

Seriously addictive. Also, trevor topped myhigh score in about four
minutes.

19 December 2009

Virginia Highlands Christmas 5k

33:11 by my watch. Very disappointing.

18 December 2009

Project Euler Level 3

It's taken about nine months, but last night I finally moved up to Level 3 (novice). Completing 100 of these problems is a pretty substantial amount of work, and it sure feels like it deserves a better title than novice. It will take another fifty to get to Level 4. (sigh)

05 December 2009

BRFC 0-0 LFC

Dire. The first 60-70 minutes were completely without merit. Liverpool created some pressure and chances at the end, but got little value out of it. A poor match.

29 November 2009

EFC 0-2 LFC

Everton played well enough to deserve something, but it was Liverpool who managed convert two Yobo miscues into goals. Both keepers played quite well. Wiley did an excellent job of keeping control over a derby that had been scrappy and sloppy recently. Especially so, considering his notorious poor fitness.

In general, I would characterize the Liverpool effort as adequate, but no better than that. Ngog has looked promising, but not today. Gerrard has been on a stretch of poor form. Johnson seldom threatened. Aurelio had to fill in on the left, though he is the third choice. Benayoun and Riera were OK as substitutes. Aquilani did not even make an time-wasting appearance in stoppage time.

21 November 2009

Bah, humbug!

Once again, somebody else has clearly described an impulse that I shared but couldn't articulate. Christmas, taken as a whole, is a fairly absurd holiday. Scholarly research suggests Jesus was born in the late spring, fir trees were part of pre-Christian pagan rituals, the conspicuous consumption is the antithesis of Christ's teachings, and if you choose to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" you are likely to be pilloried. But wait, you say, sure there is excess, but I carry the true meaning of Christmas in my heart. Maybe you do, but if so you are part of a tiny minority. Jesus would be appalled by nearly everything about the modern Christmas celebration.

Every year, our household spends (what I think is) a ridiculous amount on Christmas presents, but not having studied economics, I couldn't put my finger on the exact objection. Tim Harford, has published an article at both his blog and the Financial Times, referencing a 1993 paper by Joel Waldfogel, has done so: the deadweight loss of Christmas is, if anything, underestimated at 15-30%. Harford points out that there are alternatives: charitable donations and more thoughtful gift buying (though I think the latter is only practical on a small scale). While Waldfogel's calculations (I admit, I didn't read the original article) avoid an evaluation of the utility we get from the enjoyment of giving and receiving, I also suspect it ignores the time and money spent hunting for gifts.

My gift-buying mantra has always been to find something the recipient will "use or use up", preferably something they wouldn't buy for themselves but to be honest that's just exhausting if you're finding presents for twenty people (some of whom you are unlikely to know very well).

18 November 2009

Two Edged Sword

I'm uncomfortable with this ruling. While it will make many feel vindicated (Americans are obsessed with fixing blame), it raises some uncomfortable questions in my mind. Most of the areas that flooded are below sea level. On how risky a site can someone build a home and still expect the government to protect them from natural disasters? (By the way, that's a pretty socialist position). American's distaste for socialism generally has to do with benefits other people get.

If I want to build my home at the lip of a volcano, can I blame the corp when lava streams through my living room? Obviously not, but surely there is a shared responsibility here. New Orleans isn't alone. The whole Gulf coast, much of the Atlantic coast (up to, say, North Carolina), and of course San Francisco and Los Angeles are other examples where an inevitable natural disaster (and make no mistake, whether in our lifetime, it is a certainty that those disaster will happen) will end up costing the American taxpayers billions of dollars (or whatever we're using for currency by then).

Rember the Maine

This post has nothing to do with William Randolph Hearst, the "liberation" of Cuba, or the unfortunate battleship. Instead, it is a cocktail I recently ran across. It's a pretty close relative of a Manhattan, with Cherry Heering and Absinthe replacing bitters. I'd say it's an interesting and worthwhile variation, worth the occasional drink but unlikely to supplant its cousin.

I found it via this list from SLOSHED; Marleigh got it from Oh Gosh!

17 November 2009

Wine tasting last Friday

This was the consensus choice:


I guessed Aussie Shiraz for this one, so I had the grape and hemisphere right. Keith said Chile and even mentioned Montes:


Here's what I brought:

Nerds Only

Brilliant.

15 November 2009

Blaise on TV (video link)

Here's the link to the video of the interview. There's a 15 second commercial at the start; Blaise's interview starts around 2:30.

14 November 2009

Silver Medal

A little disappointed, but he'll get over it.

In the semifinals

video

8th place

Trevor lost to a teammate by a respectable 15-11.

Into the round of eight

First time he's made it that far!

Trevor Fencing

video

13 November 2009

Flanders


I know I'm a few days late (or nearly a year early, I suppose), but I had run across this image several months ago and meant to post it on the 11th. I wonder how many men died within the view of this lens...

I found the image at the Library of Congress Prints and Photos Reading Room (You can click on the image to see a larger version; here's an even larger image).

Terrorism

I've linked to Bruce Schneier's site in the past, but today's post is especially worth your attention. It's pretty long, but it is a brilliant description of terrorism and what we're doing wrong (and right) about it. If you care about liberty or about overcoming terrorism, you should read it. I'd rather if you read it on his site (so his statistics show that you visited), but I've also posted it here.

November 13, 2009

Beyond Security Theater

Terrorism is rare, far rarer than many people think. It's rare because very few people want to commit acts of terrorism, and executing a terrorist plot is much harder than television makes it appear. The best defenses against terrorism are largely invisible: investigation, intelligence, and emergency response. But even these are less effective at keeping us safe than our social and political policies, both at home and abroad. However, our elected leaders don't think this way: they are far more likely to implement security theater against movie-plot threats.

A movie-plot threat is an overly specific attack scenario. Whether it's terrorists with crop dusters, terrorists contaminating the milk supply, or terrorists attacking the Olympics, specific stories affect our emotions more intensely than mere data does. Stories are what we fear. It's not just hypothetical stories: terrorists flying planes into buildings, terrorists with bombs in their shoes or in their water bottles, and terrorists with guns and bombs waging a co-ordinated attack against a city are even scarier movie-plot threats because they actually happened.

Security theater refers to security measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security. An example: the photo ID checks that have sprung up in office buildings. No-one has ever explained why verifying that someone has a photo ID provides any actual security, but it looks like security to have a uniformed guard-for-hire looking at ID cards. Airport-security examples include the National Guard troops stationed at US airports in the months after 9/11 -- their guns had no bullets. The US colour-coded system of threat levels, the pervasive harassment of photographers, and the metal detectors that are increasingly common in hotels and office buildings since the Mumbai terrorist attacks, are additional examples.

To be sure, reasonable arguments can be made that some terrorist targets are more attractive than others: aeroplanes because a small bomb can result in the death of everyone aboard, monuments because of their national significance, national events because of television coverage, and transportation because of the numbers of people who commute daily. But there are literally millions of potential targets in any large country (there are five million commercial buildings alone in the US), and hundreds of potential terrorist tactics; it's impossible to defend every place against everything, and it's impossible to predict which tactic and target terrorists will try next.

Feeling and Reality

Security is both a feeling and a reality. The propensity for security theater comes from the interplay between the public and its leaders. When people are scared, they need something done that will make them feel safe, even if it doesn't truly make them safer. Politicians naturally want to do something in response to crisis, even if that something doesn't make any sense.

Often, this "something" is directly related to the details of a recent event: we confiscate liquids, screen shoes, and ban box cutters on airplanes. But it's not the target and tactics of the last attack that are important, but the next attack. These measures are only effective if we happen to guess what the next terrorists are planning. If we spend billions defending our rail systems, and the terrorists bomb a shopping mall instead, we've wasted our money. If we concentrate airport security on screening shoes and confiscating liquids, and the terrorists hide explosives in their brassieres and use solids, we've wasted our money. Terrorists don't care what they blow up and it shouldn't be our goal merely to force the terrorists to make a minor change in their tactics or targets.

Our penchant for movie plots blinds us to the broader threats. And security theater consumes resources that could better be spent elsewhere.

Any terrorist attack is a series of events: something like planning, recruiting, funding, practising, executing, aftermath. Our most effective defenses are at the beginning and end of that process -- intelligence, investigation, and emergency response -- and least effective when they require us to guess the plot correctly. By intelligence and investigation, I don't mean the broad data-mining or eavesdropping systems that have been proposed and in some cases implemented -- those are also movie-plot stories without much basis in actual effectiveness -- but instead the traditional "follow the evidence" type of investigation that has worked for decades.

Unfortunately for politicians, the security measures that work are largely invisible. Such measures include enhancing the intelligence-gathering abilities of the secret services, hiring cultural experts and Arabic translators, building bridges with Islamic communities both nationally and internationally, funding police capabilities -- both investigative arms to prevent terrorist attacks, and emergency communications systems for after attacks occur -- and arresting terrorist plotters without media fanfare. They do not include expansive new police or spying laws. Our police don't need any new laws to deal with terrorism; rather, they need apolitical funding. These security measures don't make good television, and they don't help, come re-election time. But they work, addressing the reality of security instead of the feeling.

The arrest of the "liquid bombers" in London is an example: they were caught through old-fashioned intelligence and police work. Their choice of target (airplanes) and tactic (liquid explosives) didn't matter; they would have been arrested regardless.

But even as we do all of this we cannot neglect the feeling of security, because it's how we collectively overcome the psychological damage that terrorism causes. It's not security theater we need, it's direct appeals to our feelings. The best way to help people feel secure is by acting secure around them. Instead of reacting to terrorism with fear, we -- and our leaders -- need to react with indomitability.

Refuse to Be Terrorized

By not overreacting, by not responding to movie-plot threats, and by not becoming defensive, we demonstrate the resilience of our society, in our laws, our culture, our freedoms. There is a difference between indomitability and arrogant "bring 'em on" rhetoric. There's a difference between accepting the inherent risk that comes with a free and open society, and hyping the threats.

We should treat terrorists like common criminals and give them all the benefits of true and open justice -- not merely because it demonstrates our indomitability, but because it makes us all safer. Once a society starts circumventing its own laws, the risks to its future stability are much greater than terrorism.

Supporting real security even though it's invisible, and demonstrating indomitability even though fear is more politically expedient, requires real courage. Demagoguery is easy. What we need is leaders willing both to do what's right and to speak the truth.

Despite fearful rhetoric to the contrary, terrorism is not a transcendent threat. A terrorist attack cannot possibly destroy a country's way of life; it's only our reaction to that attack that can do that kind of damage. The more we undermine our own laws, the more we convert our buildings into fortresses, the more we reduce the freedoms and liberties at the foundation of our societies, the more we're doing the terrorists' job for them.

We saw some of this in the Londoners' reaction to the 2005 transport bombings. Among the political and media hype and fearmongering, there was a thread of firm resolve. People didn't fall victim to fear. They rode the trains and buses the next day and continued their lives. Terrorism's goal isn't murder; terrorism attacks the mind, using victims as a prop. By refusing to be terrorized, we deny the terrorists their primary weapon: our own fear.

Today, we can project indomitability by rolling back all the fear-based post-9/11 security measures. Our leaders have lost credibility; getting it back requires a decrease in hyperbole. Ditch the invasive mass surveillance systems and new police state-like powers. Return airport security to pre-9/11 levels. Remove swagger from our foreign policies. Show the world that our legal system is up to the challenge of terrorism. Stop telling people to report all suspicious activity; it does little but make us suspicious of each other, increasing both fear and helplessness.

Terrorism has always been rare, and for all we've heard about 9/11 changing the world, it's still rare. Even 9/11 failed to kill as many people as automobiles do in the US every single month. But there's a pervasive myth that terrorism is easy. It's easy to imagine terrorist plots, both large-scale "poison the food supply" and small-scale "10 guys with guns and cars." Movies and television bolster this myth, so many people are surprised that there have been so few attacks in Western cities since 9/11. Certainly intelligence and investigation successes have made it harder, but mostly it's because terrorist attacks are actually hard. It's hard to find willing recruits, to co-ordinate plans, and to execute those plans -- and it's easy to make mistakes.

Counterterrorism is also hard, especially when we're psychologically prone to muck it up. Since 9/11, we've embarked on strategies of defending specific targets against specific tactics, overreacting to every terrorist video, stoking fear, demonizing ethnic groups, and treating the terrorists as if they were legitimate military opponents who could actually destroy a country or a way of life -- all of this plays into the hands of terrorists. We'd do much better by leveraging the inherent strengths of our modern democracies and the natural advantages we have over the terrorists: our adaptability and survivability, our international network of laws and law enforcement, and the freedoms and liberties that make our society so enviable. The way we live is open enough to make terrorists rare; we are observant enough to prevent most of the terrorist plots that exist, and indomitable enough to survive the even fewer terrorist plots that actually succeed. We don't need to pretend otherwise.


12 November 2009

The Scale of Things

The University of Utah Genetic Science Center has posted a very cool interactive graphic showing objects in relative scale. You can move the slider under the image to zoom in from a coffee bean all the way to a carbon atom. If you don't usually follow my links, you should make an exception this time. Unless you hate knowledge. You know who you are.

Today's Latin Lesson

A couple of millenia ago Vergil wrote in the Aeneid, "Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit". It's a pretty famous quote, as Latin goes. Robert Fagles offered this translation: "A joy it will be one day, perhaps, to remember even this." I ran across the translation here, which links to a New York Times interview with Fagles here.

I've often wondered whether Springsteen realized he was echoing this ancient sentiment in one of my favorite songs, Rosalita: "Someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny". I mentioned this a couple of years ago to an old friend who observed that "Come sit by my (side)" is probably an older sentiment.

09 November 2009

LFC 2-2 BCFC

To a neutral, this was probably an entertaining game, but no partisan is likely to feel satisfied. As against Fulham a week ago, Liverpool was unable to capitalize on a dominant first half. Early on, Ngog showed a moment of brilliance to put Liverpool ahead, but then the Reds conceded yet another header. Worse, with time expiring, Jerome blasted a long range shot with Reina away from his line to put the Blues ahead. When Riera pulled up lame, Benitez called on Gerrard, who was clearly not fully fit. A partially fit Gerrard is better than some, but it was a risk. In the second half, Ngog shamefully ended a brilliant run with a dive in the box and Gerrard converted the penalty.

Except for that, the referee did a fine job, allowing the players to play the game.

If you watched the match with the footage of the goals removed, and were asked to guess the final score, I suspect the consensus would have been 4-0.

I believe Liverpool, with a fully fit Gerrard, Aquilani, Torres, Riera, Johnson, and now Benayoun should manage qualification for next year's Champion's League, but sadly, at this point, that or perhaps a run in the FA Cub constitute about the zenith of their realistic ambitions.

06 November 2009

Blaise on TV

The local CBS affiliate did a feature from Centennial this morning, including a brief interview of our son. The video doesn't appear to be online, but here's a still.


(link)

05 November 2009

Housing Tax Credit

Like Cash for Clunkers before it, it is a poorly thought out program meant to be a stimulus but in fact is just a windfall. In both cases, most of the recipients were going to buy anyway. The money does get folded back into the economy, but so would giving the money away randomly.

These are two bad ideas. More disappointingly, both were renewed when the initial version ran out of money.

31 October 2009

A Positive Trend

The news is not all bad.

FFC 3-1 LFC

Between injuries, illness, and match congestion, Liverpool fielded a lineup that peppered with reserves. For the first half, Liverpool completely dominated play, except for about 30 seconds of productive possession by Fulham. Unfortunately, during that time, Insua and Kyrgiakos managed to leave Zamora largely unmarked in the box, and Fulham took the lead. Near the end of the half, Torres, given a split second on the ball, knocked in the leveler.

About the second half, the less said the better. The tastefully named Erik Nevland gave up possession repeatedly, but redeemed himself with the second cottager goal. Whatever creativity was on the pitch in a red jersey came off in succession: Torres, Benayoun, Kuyt. This last change came after Degen (unfairly) and Carragher (deservedly) were sent off. Down two goals, the likes of Insua, Kyrgiakos, Ayala, Voronin, Babel, and Eccleston never looked like they would break down a disciplined Fulham side.

Next is a trip to Lyon on Wednesday with Liverpool needing a result.

27 October 2009

H1N1

The Big Picture posted this graphic and said it suggests "Swine Flu worries are wildly overblown". One out of 200 people infected dying sounds pretty bad to me. That Bubonic plague is ten times worse is not comforting. In any event, it's interesting. The world can be a scary place.




Link to post at The Big Picture
Link to original at Information is Beautiful.

Cocktail Update

I wrote this over a month ago and it's been inexplicably languishing in my drafts folder ever since.

Over the past few days, I've crossed three cocktails off the list of those that I haven't tried (or can't recall trying).

Gimlet - I made it with Plymouth gin and Rose's lime. Better than nothing in a pinch, but I'd prefer a Daiquiri. After an exhaustive thirty second web search, I was unable to determine whether there is a name for a Daiquiri made substituting Rum with Gin. It might well be a Gimlet, though apparently the original Gimlet called for Rose's lime juice, whereas a Daiquiri calls for simple syrup and freshly squeezed lime.

Blood and Sand - I used Famous Grouse, Killepitsch, Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth, and store-bought orange juice. Based on the color, I had assumed that Killepitsch was made mostly from cherries, but I may have been mistaken. I'll give the drink another try once I acquire some Heering.

Sidecar - I used Pierre Ferrand cognac, Grand Marnier, and a freshly squeezed lemon. Top notch.

PS - I bought some Heering, but now need some O.J.

25 October 2009

LFC 2-0 MUFC

Liverpool again faced their nemeses without skipper Gerrard, and again rose to the occasion to took three deserved points, with excellent performances from Benayoun, Lucas, Mascherano, and especially Carragher. Vidic and Mascherano were both sent off, both on a second booking, both due to Manchester United having pushed so far up to try to level after Torres's clinical finish. David Ngog, after an apparently poor performance midweek against Lyon, finished the game with a cool goal off Lucas's pass. Liverpool still have a lot of work to do, but at least this will stem the tide of arguments that they or their manager are finished.

Against a squad of Manchester United's quality, you can scarcely afford for any player to have a poor game to hope to win, and I am hard pressed to name a Liverpool player.

Next up - Benitez will likely field a youthful squad to face the Gunners at the Emirates on Wednesday. Dare I hope to see Aquilani?

PS - Jermaine Pennant blames Benitez. I would argue that paying 6.7 million for Pennant was one of Benitez's biggest transfer blunders.

24 October 2009

All those miles

I have flown a sick number of miles this year. Historically, the
highest level for Delta was platinum, which requires 75,000 miles to
qualify. I'm currently over twice that.

My flight from Prague to Frankfurt was delayed by about two hours
because heavy fog in Frankfurt forced the airport to increase the time
between arriving flights landing. This meant that I missed the second
leg. When I got to FRA, they told me they'd waitlist me on a flight to
JFK but that there was only one seat not checked in.

I don't know if that's true, but I did get on the plane. I will get
home about five hours late but at least I will get to sleep in my own
bed.

Sent from my iPhone

20 October 2009

Death Penalty

I know some people's answer would be to eliminate appeals (an awful idea given the number of death row convictions which have been overturned by DNA evidence).

I've got an idea. Let's get rid of the death penalty. Mostly, we already don't execute criminals. Let's just stop pretending like we will. Everybody currently sentenced so (and anyone else who would have) will instead get life without parole. Nobody will be executed wrongfully. Crime rates, I can assure you, will not go up. We will no longer be included in the group of nations who uses capital punishment (do we really want to be in this club?).

(CNN article)

A330

The seats have a shell over the back. It feels like you have less
space but I think that's not so. The pockets are on the shell so
futzing around with them shouldn't be felt by the person in the seat
in front of you.

4B to AMS

Usually Delta uses 767s but this is an A330.

Nathan Myhrvold on Science

Nathan Myhrvold is a very bright fellow.

The sequel to Freakonomics, the less cleverly titled Superfreakonomics, has a chapter on climate change that has been stirring quite a controversy. Myhrvold addresses some of the controversy in this article.

Here are two quotes which struck me:
Science works by having an open dialog that ultimately converges on the truth, for the common benefit of everyone. Most scientific fields enjoy this free flow of ideas.
The politicization of science has a terrible impact on the unfettered discourse of ideas that is so important to making progress.


Hear! Hear!

H1N1

I've read a couple of books about the 1918 flu, which was a pandemic and a particularly virulent strain. Since reading them, I take influenza very seriously. It seems unlikely that this year's H1N1 will be notable in a historical context, but that misses the point.

I have a friend who recently expressed concern about getting a flu vaccine. About 36,000 Americans die every year from the flu. Every year. From the flu. I get the vaccine every year, and I plan to get both the seasonal and H1N1 shots (the H1N1 strain was identified too late to be included in the seasonal vaccine).

I find it fascinating that so many people are more worried about a vaccine, which might make a handful of people ill (even possibly fatally), when it is protecting you from something that every year makes between 15 and 60 million Americans ill (and in thousands of cases, fatally so).

I worry about herd immunity.

The CDC has a FAQ about the vaccine.

19 October 2009

Health Care: Private Insurance Working Fine

I ran across this in this week's update at News of the Weird; it got it from KPIX-TV. Original story here.
Blue Shield California twice refused to pay $2,700 emergency room claims by Rosalinda Miran-Ramirez, concluding that it was not a "reasonable" decision for her to go to the ER that morning when she awoke to a shirt saturated with blood from what turned out to be a breast tumor. Only after a KPIX-TV reporter intervened in September did Blue Shield pay the claim. [KPIX-TV, 9-25-09]
The good news is that a biopsy found the tumor benign.

17 October 2009

First place

He fenced well all day; those late bouts are a real test. Trevor
finished 11th.

Fencing tournament in progress

Sent from my iPhone

14 October 2009

USA 2 - 2 Costa Rica

The US had more possession and more chances, but Bryan Ruiz had two excellent finishes that gave Los Ticos a two goal lead. With Davies and Dempsey out, Bob Bradley went with Casey and Holden, but neither could summon past glory. Feilhaber given the nod over Ricardo Clark also struggled.

Late in the second half, Michael Bradley scored a goal on a rebound from a Donovan strike, and an American equalizer was within reach. Rogers came on for Holden, Torres for Feilhaber, and finally Cooper for Casey. Rogers and Torres exerted influence on the game as soon as they arrived. Unfortunately, Onyewu went down with a knee injury shortly after the Cooper came on, so the US had to try and find a goal a man down.

Immediately after Costa Rica had announced its second substitution, a player came up injured. The coach tried to amend the substitution to remove the injured player, but the attempt was rebuffed. He persisted and was sent off.

Finally, in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Jonathan Bornstein headed home the equalizer on a corner, which was enough to give the US first place in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament.

Costa Rica's only consolation will be that Argentina beat Uruguay. Facing the CONMEBOL fifth place team after being seconds from qualifying is bad enough; facing Argentina would be insult on injury.

Obama Nobel redux

I try to avoid bloviators (excluding myself), so I don't know how apopleptic they've been over the Obama Nobel prize. I assume it's been pretty bad. This article observes that in the 12 days between his inauguration and the deadline for Nobel prize nomination, Obama took several significant actions which represented a dramatic (and to most of the rest of the world) positive change in direction for the US.

The award was premature and arguably counterproductive. Still, most Americans have no comprehension of the damage was done to America's reputation by the Bush/Cheney arrogant foreign policy. Sadly, a great many of them don't even care.

12 October 2009

Olympic pool

We toured the Ga Tech campus today. The pool is not only Olympic sized, it was the very one used in the '96 games.

09 October 2009

Save the Boobies

Sure, but there's much more at stake.

Schrödinger humor

In Las Vegas last weekend, Sean and I were at a craps table at the Flamingo, trying to imagine made up names for craps bets, since things like "horn high midnight" are already taken. We were laughing about a Boston, or a Mae West, and I suggested a Gutenberg. Sean countered with a Schrödinger, in which the dice are thrown inside a sealed box and you have simultaneously won and lost the bet. We thought it was hilarious. We may have been drinking.

I had meant to post about it and forgot but was reminded by theWAREHOUSE.

the Catholic Church has lost its way

The title is something either you already agree with or I'll never convince you of. I understand that many have strong feelings about abortion, but that the church only offers advice of abstinence as a prevention of unwanted pregnancies, to my mind, makes it nearly as culpable as doctors who perform abortion. I certainly believe it is complicit in AIDS deaths.

Today, Americans will die because they can't afford health insurance.

Tomorrow.

Every day.

The church, I suppose, has to exist in a world of absolutes: abortion is a sin, and nothing that allows abortion can be permitted. Politics exist in a world of compromise.

I don't know about you, but my world is more of the latter than the former.

(link)

Premature

I'm pleased that as Obama took office, he reversed the absurd and counterproductive policy of only talking to countries who agreed with him. I travel abroad for work, and my reception as an American has improved since January 20.

I'm a big admirer of Obama, and I hope that during his administration, he does something to earn a Nobel prize. I think it's a dubious award, though, and likely to feed a domestic backlash by the crazies.

07 October 2009

Politics Again!?

OK, here's the thing. The last administration was a train wreck on an epic scale. History, not I, will judge eventually of course, but I don't think it is likely to be much kinder. The reason I keep bringing it up is on the chance that there's somebody left reading this still who buys the Republican rhetoric. The idea of association with Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter would be enough to dissuade me, but there you have it.

Several weeks ago, I ran across a guest article at Barry Ritholtz's excellent, The Big Picture. I haven't read Bailout Nation, but I plan to get around to it. The article is by (small "l") libertarian Doug Casey, and it considers the question: Was Bush (fils) the worst president ever?

Casey observes "Not that there’s any real difference between the two parties anymore…", and I agree. I support Obama, but not particularly the Democrats. On the other hand, I'd be hard pressed to name a Republican I support at the moment, but pendulums swing.

Prague Castle


A week and a few hours ago, I walked from my hotel up to Prague Castle. It's about two miles, the last half mile is uphill. The view is very good; this picture does not do it justice.

03 October 2009

29 September 2009

Zurich

Misty, tidy, chilly. Awful picture, but that's the view from gate A62.

28 September 2009

Phones on planes

I am sitting on a plane waiting to fly to Zurich and then on to
Prague. The guy a couple of sears over just had a long phone
conversation about, well, nothing. But i heard every word he said. The
thought of listening to that sort of vapid nonsense for eight hours is
chilling. It is nonsense to suggest that phones interfere with the
navigation systems, but they could well lead to homicide.

Sent from my iPhone

My ride to Zurich

Sent from my iPhone

26 September 2009

LFC 6-1 HCFC

Terrible defending allowed Hull to equalize early on, but the outcome of the match was never really in doubt. At every moment, Liverpool looked more likely to add to their lead than concede a second goal. Torres was clinical in his dismantling of the Hull defense. He completed his hat trick so early in the second half that some at Anfield might not yet have returned to their seats.

Away matches this week at Fiorentina and at Stamford Bridge will prove much sterner tests.

Homecoming 2009

Awful

In general, the 2005 vintage was an excellent one across the major wine producing regions. I have tasted at least a couple dozen 05 Bordeaux and until last night they had ranged from good to fantastic. This Croix de Beaucaillou has bucked that trend, delivering a poor excuse for a St Julien. As David said "This wine is everything I hate about California Cabs." There are good California Cabs, but this would not be among them. Oh, and it wasn't cheap.

25 September 2009

Flooding around Atlanta

We live near the top of a hill, our house will never serious flood problems (though we did have a puddle of water on the basement floor.

Others around Atlanta can't say the same (pictures).

19 September 2009

WHUFC 2-3 LFC

Dodgy defending by Liverpool made this a close game, but at least it was entertaining. Torres's first goal was pure quality, while Kuyt's deflection of Gerrard's header cost my fantasy team 3 points. Strangely, Benitez had Carragher and Skrtel on opposite sides from their normal assignment, and Carragher had an awful first half.

West Ham seemed content to concede possession (or unable to prevent it), but Hines and Cole looked dangerous when the ball did occasionally find its way to that end of the pitch. Reina looked unsteady, though I'm not sure you can pin either conceded goal on him.

I shouldn't be surprised to see a different and weaker side in Leeds Tuesday.

14 September 2009

Just how wrong can you be

I'm guessing that Donald Luskin wishes it weren't so easy to see year-old articles talking about how wrong the economic worriers were.

Here's a quote: "...we're on the brink not of recession, but of accelerating prosperity".

Nice.

12 September 2009

LFC 4-0 BFC

It was a comfortable and deserved win against a club that doesn't have the quality to compete for a top league finish. Kuyt's goal surely looked offside, but then Benayoun's disallowed goal looked onside. Twice Gerrard was denied by superb saves by the keeper.

Benayoun was brilliant, and Lucas looked comfortable in a holding role. Degen finally made his league debut, and he looked decent. He should be well rested, finally registering a league appearance fourteen months after signing.

11 September 2009

Expect to pay more for gas

If the EIA is right, gas prices are about to start rising. Note that the Q409 increase YoY is based on a seriously depressed Q408 demand. Still, my observation is that the market responds to the trend, and more demand means upward price pressure.

10 September 2009

One Year

Tuesday came and went without my noting that it had been one year since my first post. I have found the exercise has been challenging and worthwhile. Let's see if I can make it to two.

07 September 2009

25 Cocktails

Off-focus has listed 25 drinks every bartender should know; the list having originated at Bar Smarts. I'm certain that I've not yet tried four of them: Bellini, Blood and Sand, Pisco Sour, and Stinger. I can't swear to three others: Gimlet, Mai Tai, and Sidecar. Seven seems a small enough number that crossing the remainder off the list seems practical.

Oh, and in a brief interview at Nola.com, David Wondrich suggests that the Ramos Gin Fizz deserves to be the considered the quintessential New Orleans cocktail over the Sazerac. Wondrich is one of the foremost experts on the cocktail. He may be right, but I prefer the Sazerac (and it's a lot easier to make).

Original

A weekend good enough for a derivative is good enough for an original.
This is a daiquiri. Sweet and sour and not frozen. Yum.

05 September 2009

Fireman's Sour

Almost a daiquiri; tasty and worth trying. If you don't mind a drink
that's pink.

New Recipe

I am always happy to find a recipe that looks tasty, I haven't tried before, and can be built from the contents of my bar. Bonus points are awarded for brandied cherries. Marleigh Riggins Miller and David Miller provide an excellent cocktail resource at Sloshed; the most recent entry offers just such a recipe. I plan to try one this evening. Given that I only have enough limes for two and we have house guests, I'll probably run out and stock up.

Fireman's Sour
  • ½ oz grenadine
  • ½ tsp simple syrup
  • 2 oz light Puerto Rican rum
  • juice of 1 lime

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a sour glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lime wedge and a brandied cherry (or two).

03 September 2009

The Economist on Health Care

Once again, the economist provides a brief, clear, and dispassionate analysis.

Health Care Debate

Here's what I know:
1) Health Care in the US is broken.
2) Obama has proposed doing something.

Here's what I surmise:
The Republicans disagree with #1, because they offer no solutions, only object to Obama's.

Claims that the free markets are working in health care are fairly easy to refute.

Stop the Presses

A black man was arrested in Harahan. The only reason it was reported is that this one happens to be a professional athlete.

One of the best parts of having left New Orleans is that I am seldom reminded of this backwards redneck enclave surrounded by the river to the south and civilization on the other three sides. When we lived in River Ridge, we had to pass through Harahan to get, well, almost anywhere. Harahan is proud of it's small-town law enforcement mentality, but it always appeared to us that stopped drivers were inevitably African American. What a coincidence.

31 August 2009

The view from 6E

If I look behind me to my right, I can easily tell whether the
lavatory is occupied. I can tell when someone has finished with the
facilities without turning, as the loud flushing sound is
unmistakable. It sucks (did you see what I did there?) but it's still
betterthan coach.

Greetings from 6E

Originally in 4C, I agreed to swap to 3A to allow a Czech gentleman to
sit with his wife and son. Then a young Mexican gentleman asked to
swap so he could sit with his girlfriend. I could hardly refuse,
though to be honest, the seat next to the designated crew seat is not
the best. C'est la vie!

The iPhone is not ideal for self portraits.

D09

Not the movie, the rating. Fencers are rated from A to E. Most fencers are unrated, even the lowest rating requires a pretty difficult tournament result. Blaise has long been E rated, and has narrowly missed earning his D more than once. Yesterday he won a D1 rated tournament which means that he was finally awarded his D rating. Well deserved. Congratulations!

30 August 2009

Katrina

Yesterday was four years since hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Most of the land under the greater New Orleans area had been swamp and marsh. The land beneath the French Quarter, Uptown, and the Gentilly, Metairie, and River Ridges were higher, but none were very high to begin with. Development meant draining, which resulted in already land already low sinking further.

The city had flooded several times in the past, and a fairly elaborate system of levees and drainage canals were built and maintained. When confronted with a dizzying array of demands for public funds, it is difficult to overspend on a risk that is uncertain, infrequent, and in the future.

The canals and pumps are used frequently and are among the world's most advanced. Rainfall of inches can come in one afternoon in New Orleans, and that might tax the drainage system of a lot of cities, even those that aren't flat and below sea level.

But the levees are different. They sit, silent sentinels waiting for the lake to rise. Over the years the levees have been maintained and raised. On August 29, 2005, the levees were breached in several places. The Army Corps of Engineers is blamed for the flooding, but from my chair a thousand feet above sea level and five hundred miles away, it seems like scapegoating.

For me, the lesson of Katrina is that it is hard to be prepared for a sudden environmental disaster, even one you know might be coming. If five years earlier, everyone in New Orleans had been studying the levees, were convinced they were inadequate, and had demanded that much more tax money be spent on improving them (even if that meant paying more taxes), the outcome would have been different. But there was no such involvement, no such outcry. Lone voices, perhaps, but on a small scale.

Climate change induced by carbon emissions are, I believe, the planet's Katrina. I'm not optimistic that enough people will make the sacrifices necessary to prevent a much larger disaster. The US is the largest single producer of CO2; we will soon be surpassed by China. The rest of the world could cut their emissions by half, and we'd still have a problem. The US can't cut emissions without lowering our standard of living, and Americans have lost the willingness to sacrifice. China can't grow its economy fast enough at current emissions rates.

After the levees were breached, it took merely days after the flood surge receded to patch the holes and drain the city. It took weeks to make much of the city habitable. Four years later, there are many houses still abandoned since being flooded. It has been years, and New Orleans will never be the same.

29 August 2009

BWFC 2-3 LFC

It was a scrappy match, and Bolton will feel hard done by a fairly generous second yellow on Sean Davis early in the second half. Johnson has been excellent, especially going forward. Insua continues to look promising, but probably second choice once Aurelio returns. But with Agger out with a back injury, Skrtel still nursing a jaw injury, and Hyppia playing in German, Kyrgiakos earned his first start. II blame an unsettled back line for much of Liverpool's early season struggles.

A title challenge is unlikely, especially with Chelsea racing out of the blocks. Still, I'm hoping for entertaining football.

Pervasive

It's not possible for everyone to be above average. However, not only is it possible for everyone to believe themselves above average, apparently they do.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is certainly rampant in the US.

(hat tip: Best of Wikipedia)

27 August 2009

Just Plain Silly

It appears that Americans haven't quite cornered the market on clueless.

Angry drunk holding a pint glass (made of glass): dangerous.
Angry drunk holding a ping glass (made of plastic): harmless.

Story here, hat tip: Schneier on Security

26 August 2009

Martini

I've been giving my liver a break, well, sort of a break. I might have wine with dinner, and a big tasting every two or three weeks, but I've been mostly off cocktails for a while. I'm out of rye, which is tragic, and so tonight I made a Martini. Two, if you're counting, but shame on you if you are. I used the Aviation gin, which is just top notch, and some M&R dry vermouth. Really, really good. I stirred them (Bond is simply wrong), but I think you really need to chill the glass beforehand (and I didn't). It deserves better vermouth, I think. Still, it is a great cocktail.

Cheating, surely

Shameful. Or perhaps I should say shameless. I watched a replay, and was sickened as Brazilian "Croatian" Eduardo happily celebrated the converted undeserved penalty kick. Arsenal would have advanced in the competition without the tainted goal. Never mind UEFA, I'd love to see a manager with the stones to suspend a diver. I'm not talking about a player who goes down too easily after contact, but one who obviously simulates contact where it didn't exist.

(later) I had typed this up yesterday, and wasn't sure whether I wanted to post it. Then Wenger showed his colors (nearly every manager would have done the same. Without a hint of irony, Wenger said “I find it a complete disgrace”. He was referring not to his cheating player, but to the idea that Eduardo is being singled out.

24 August 2009

Inglorious

We watched Inglorious Basterds yesterday. Tarantino is not afraid of violence, and this movie has plenty of it. But it was entertaining; I'd recommend it. (Rotten Tomatoes: 87) Bradd Pitt was very good, but the movie belongs to Cristoph Waltz, a previously little-known Austrian actor.

There are some nice twists (I'll say no more lest I spoil anything).

Convertible

The weather this morning in Atlanta has been beautiful: 69f/20c, sunny, dry. I took the top down, only to find myself behind a garbage truck on the road out of my subdivision. The aroma was not very pleasant, and with the top down, you get it in its full glory. Once I got out of the subdivision, traffic was too heavy for me to pass the truck, but thankfully it turned off after a short distance.

Once I got to Spalding though, the smell returned. At first I thought it just residual, but then I noticed a telltale wet trail on the road. Sure enough, a half block ahead was another garbage truck, redolent with the sour smell of rot. Eventually it turned off the road. Bleccch.

22 August 2009

In Defence of Lucas

In the past I have been a critic of Lucas, Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder, and while he and Benitez are likely to receive more unwanted attention after articles like this, I think it's time people backed off.

1) He wasn't priced at a premium. At 6 million pounds, he was not a terribly expensive signing by Liverpool standards; he's probably performed about as well as anyone should have expected.

2) For the most part, his appearances have been as a substitute, or because preferred players are injured. Only the most resolute scouser would suggest that Jay Spearing is likely to be much better.

3) He's young. He's still only twenty two, he can mature and improve. He'll never be Steven Gerrard, but every team needs squad players, too.

It is fairly easy to argue that, recent performance notwithstanding, he has been given more playing time than the quality he's shown warrants, but to that, see #2. When Aquilani heals, the Italian is likely to be the first choice. And the truth is that Lucas has looked much better so far this year.

Whether he is good enough for Liverpool's ambitions is a different question, but Lucas works hard, and can only be as good as the talent he was born with. After Gerrard, Mascherano, and Aquilani, he is Liverpool's fourth choice central midfielder. How does he compare to other clubs' fourth choice at central midfield?

19 August 2009

Journalistic Ethics

Investor's Business Daily recently posted an editorial (against Obama's plan) saying:
"People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."
Professor Hawking, of course, has lived in the U.K. his whole life. Further, he has stated:
“I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high quality treatment without which I would not have survived.”
When they learned that they had managed to get it completely wrong, IBD did the unconscionable. They posted a corrected version with this note:
Editor's Note: This version corrects the original editorial which implied that physicist Stephen Hawking, a professor at the University of Cambridge, did not live in the UK.
That part isn't so offensive. What is unforgivable is that they removed the reference to Professor Hawking entirely. They got a fact wrong, and when called on it, they didn't admit that their fundamental premise was wrong, they just pretended like they hadn't said it in the first place and that the conclusion predicated on the false premise was still valid. That is the sort of intellectual dishonesty I'd expect from Fox.

There is a much better writeup in the Columbia Journalism Review.

US Health Care

The current US Health Care system has a surprising number of proponents. Well, surprising to me. In general, I have a pretty low opinion of insurance companies. Really of any industry where there is more marketing than product (I'm looking at you, Coca-Cola). We spend more than any other country on health care. Most Americans believe that we therefore receive the best health care, but the evidence to support that is, well, hard to find.

Where does the hundreds of billions extra that we spend in health care go? Insurance companies, to be sure. Doctors, some of whom are absurdly overpaid. Attorneys, and lots of them. Medical supply companies. And big pharma. Nearly all of that money stays in the US economy to be spent here again, so there's some value there. Still, I'd rather have the money in my pocket, thank you very much.

The current, employer-subsidized system has, as best I can tell, only a couple of advantages. One, it is an incentive to be employed, and that's a good thing. Theoretically, insurance companies compete for business (see? a free market), but what they do (like cell phone companies, etc.) is create captive markets. Once you're locked in, the market is not so free.

Wikipedia has a pretty extensive article on health care reform in the US. I might even read it.

One last thing that supporters of the current system seem to conveniently ignore. At current trends, we will soon not be able to afford it. So the question is, should we be thinking about changes now, or wait until we run out of money?

18 August 2009

New Toy

I have added another component to the pile of no-longer-wanted technology in our house. I went to Best Buy and bought one of these. The picture is very impressive (better than HDTV).

We now have two unneeded DVD players to go with about five old computers and a 27" Television.

17 August 2009

Back to School

Not the kids, who returned to school last week, but Raegan, who is starting at Kennesaw State today. In the mid 90's, she attended U.N.O. in pursuit of a teaching certificate, but the May '95 flood interrupted that.

16 August 2009

Climate Change? Feh!

This just confirms what the rest of the world already knows about Americans. We're a little clueless sometimes.

THFC 2-1 LFC

The match started poorly, and Liverpool had bad luck when Carragher and Skrtel crashed heads. Skrtel eventually left the match (and perhaps should have much sooner). Most of the first half was pretty dire, but Spurs created chances, with Reina's heroics denying Keane. A fortunate rebound from a free kick fell to Assou-Ekotto who blasted the ball into the top far corner. Liverpool could have no complaints about the score at half.

In the second half, Liverpool finally started to attack, and Johnson showed why he had been coveted when his run prompted a poor challenge by Gomes, with a Gerrard penalty kick the result. Three minutes later, Carragher held back Defoe and Liverpool defended the set piece poorly as Bassong headed home the winner.

In open play, Liverpool never deserved to win this match, though how Assou-Ekotto wasn't sent off for his assault on Voronin is beyond me.

As happened last year, Liverpool left White Hart Lane disappointed. There were few bright spots to pick out for Liverpool. Benayoun may have been the best player in red, and he only played thirty minutes. Johnson played well, most others held to form from last year. I wouldn't be surprised if Skrtel misses action with his jaw injury. Lucas wasn't awful, but neither did he show the quality that I want. Aquilani, get well soon.

D9

All four of us saw District 9 yesterday afternoon. When I can, I try to know as little about a movie as possible before watching it. I don't watch much TV, so it's really not that hard. I knew almost nothing about this one, except that it featured insect-looking aliens.

It is very good, deserving its current 88 from Rotten Tomatoes.

Peter Jackson produced, Neill Blomkamp directed, and Sharlto Copley is terrific in the lead.

When I typed "District 9" in Google, the first suggested search was "District 9 sequel".

My main complaint is that an important part of the premise is just not plausible scientifically. It won't bother most people; science fiction is, after all, fiction. But part of the science, if it could happen at all, couldn't happen nearly as fast as it does (and needs to for the plot to work). It's a nit - I recommend the movie.

Grey Goose, etc.

Darcy O'Neill has an interesting post on vodka, and why you should be suspicious of "premium" vodkas.

15 August 2009

Liverpool 2009/2010

As a lifelong supporter of the New Orleans Saints, my capacity for hope (at the beginning of the season) is matched with about thirty seasons of disappointment. So while I am hopeful for Liverpool's chances this season, I also try and be realistic. Generally great seasons are often followed by regressions to the mean (especially at the individual level; e.g., Ronaldo and Torres from 07/08 and 08/09).

That doesn't mean that Liverpool will finish in the middle of the table. But it does mean that fewer goals and more losses are not unlikely.

13 August 2009

Birth Nonsense

OK, anybody who has (or even claims to have) any doubts about the legitimacy of Obama's presidency is a fucking blooming idiot (or a disingenuous asshole jerk). I'm afraid there is no third option. If that's you, well, I'm sorry to be the one to break it to you, but there it is.

12 August 2009

The Time For Optimisim

Just a few more days before the English Premier League opens. Burnley can still hope that they'll manage to stay up. Manchester City can still hope that they can buy a trophy or two. And I can hope that Torres and Gerrard stay healthy, that Glen Johnson is worth half what was paid for him, that Aquilani can stay off the trainer's table.

I am of two minds.

One agrees with the annoying Scot up the M62 that Liverpool will be hard pressed to repeat last year. If Ancelotti has righted the ship, if Michael Owen can fill the boots of the preening one, if a zillion pounds worth of players make a team, Liverpool might well be fighting just for the last Champions League spot.

The other is thinks that Johnson and Aquilani are more threatening than Arebeloa and Alonso, on a team that was already good enough to lead the league in scoring, even with their striker out for a third of the matches.

I think that if Liverpool can survive the first couple of months of the season (half of the starters have injury concerns), this could finally be the year. Lucas has looked very good in the last couple of games; with the new Italian weeks from fitness, he will need to be.

I hope that this will be the year that I finally make it to Anfield. And that we finally knock United off their fucking perch. Hope springs eternal.

11 August 2009

Two Different Movies

Last week we watched our current Netflix selection, Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. It was made by Joss Whedon and meant to be watched over the web (which you can do here). It's a little hard to explain, and if you don't already know about it or who Joss Whedon is, it's not unlikely that you'll think it's stupid. It is a musical, by the way. We thought it was a lot of fun.

Saturday we went to see Julie and Julia (currently 76% at Rotten Tomatoes). Meryl Streep was awesome (at this point, that should go without saying). I thought the NYT review was a little harsh on Amy Adams. The script has some problems and I found the conclusion unsatisfying, but I'd still recommend it. The movie was based on a book that Raegan had read, here's the NYT review of that.

08 August 2009

Last Night's Wine Tasting

This is Trevor's (not ours, a different one) last weekend at Bin 75. We wished him well the way we pretty much do everything, by drinking wine. We tasted a sick number of wines (I think it was 16, but I'd have to get up and walk all the way to the den to get my notes).

We brought two wines, both of which were well received. Wine of the night was a tie between two wines (neither of ours), but neither were they near the bottom of anyone's list. The first wine we tasted was the '00 Dauzac.

We also brought the '03 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon. Our group tends to prefer old world style wines, so for a Napa Cab to hold up, it has to have been well made.

My pick for wine of the night was an '01 Langoa Barton, which was everything I love about Bordeaux wines.

Very good (and tied with the Barton for wine of the night) was this '97 Poggio Alle Mura. I should buy more Brunellos (though we need to work down our ridiculous inventory).

People very rarely bring white wines to these tastings, but someone brought a Grüner Veltliner. I correctly guessed that it was Austrian (only because I was being contrary, Alcase and Germany having already been taken), though I thought it was a Riesling. Keith picked it for wine of the night (switching from our Duckhorn).


I've had the Guado Al Tasso before, this '99 was disappointing.


Speaking of disappointing, we all expected a lot more from this '98 Latour.

06 August 2009

Stimulus: working? (part 2)

The stimulus exists in at least two contexts: economic and political. In the political context, it is difficult to find any facts at all amongst the withering barrage of partisanship; I'll leave that to others. In the economic context, the stimulus is (as I mentioned last month) just getting started and unlikely to solve everything in any case.

The Economist is a great journal: believers in markets, but not blind to other arguments, relentlessly thoughtful and pragmatic. This brief analysis of a speech by Christina Romer suggests that there is some evidence that the stimulus package is having some (ahem, positive) impact.

To be honest, I remain encouraged by the current administration. Faced with an immediate economic crisis created entirely before they arrived, they have done about as much as was politically viable. The most pressing mid-term financial problem of our nation appears to be health care, and that's getting attention. Finally, there is the deficit. While I fervently hope that the recovery within Obama's first term will be sufficient to talk about addressing the deficit, I am dubious.

It is well documented that I supported Obama before the election, so perhaps that's just confirmation bias. If it is at all possible to be objective, it is quite difficult.

03 August 2009

How to avoid ever getting hired

Our litigious society.

Liberty Matters

Here's a really good article from Forbes making a compelling case that the Gates arrest was unconstitutional. Lately, we seem to be in a hurry to piss away the liberties that our forebears worked so hard to earn. The first amendment applies even when you're being rude to a police officer.

Bruce Schneier writes on security, and points out in this article that not only is government surveillance bad in the libertarian sense, it is a real security exposure.

02 August 2009

Too Much Time on Their Hands

There are some amusing reviews at Amazon for this unlikely product.

29 July 2009

New iPhone

I know I haven't been posting lately; I'm an indolent bastard.

This Onion article hit pretty close to home. I have certainly drunk the Kool-Aid.

28 July 2009

New Home Sales

There has been some breathless reporting that the sales of new homes shows that the economy is improving. You may want to hold off ordering the champagne.

The Big Picture recently ran this quote:
“National New Home Sales, on a monthly basis, don’t even add up to half of the total foreclosure activity in California alone in a single month.”-Mark M Hanson
I have no idea who Mark M. Hanson is. Jake at EconomPic offers a clarification.

The Boston Globe runs a photojournalism blog also named The Big Picture. I like both.

19 July 2009

Health Care Debate

This Op-Ed article at the New York Times, while obviously biased, raises important issues that need to be addressed, even if you don't agree with the author's conclusions. It's not a simple question, and you should be deeply suspicious of anyone who offers a simple answer.

Many Americans have a foolish conviction that everything about America is superior to anywhere else. Our health care system is superior to Nigeria's, but I'm not certain we should be so smug about its superiority to Canada.

18 July 2009

Manhattan

We finally found a bottle of Punt e Mes. That and the home-made brandied cherries make for a fantastic cocktail.

14 July 2009

She speaks again

This post was prompted by this quote from the Economist:
We are ripe for economic growth and energy independence if we responsibly tap the resources that God created right underfoot on American soil.
Here is the full article at the Washington Post.

Ahem. Much of the economic growth of the past decade was a mirage, funded by mortgage equity withdrawals that were based on unrealistic property valuations. There is no evident pent-up demand that would fuel a rapid recovery.

The current recession was not brought on by expensive energy. Rising prices last year didn't help, but the problem was much, much deeper. This is not an ordinary recession. It is a correction, and I think it's going to take years, like ten, before we get back to, say, 2007 levels.

The Republicans are playing to a populist theme: carbon emission reductions will cost you more money. Well, duh! The point is that carbon emissions are a negative externality. Unsurprisingly, the Republicans are pandering by offering a free lunch (of which there is no such thing). Cap-and-Trade is a market mechanism to counter the negative externality, but any solution to reducing carbon emissions will certainly have a higher short-term cost.

Oh, and if we opened all known American reserves (including ANWR and the Florida coast), we'd still be importing most of the oil we use today.

The US produces about 5 million barrels a day, and imports about 9.5 million. ANWR is estimated by the Department of Energy to be able to eventually produce 0.9 million barrels per day (and wouldn't reach that for 15 years). A 10% reduction in imports would have a negligible affect on oil prices. And by the time 2015 rolls around, it could well be closer to 5%.

The US economy has long been addicted to cheap energy, and worse, considers it an entitlement. There are some bitter pills coming that we will have to swallow.

Another One

Must be mating season. I noticed this one on the side of the building
when I parked my car this morning.

13 July 2009

Hitch Hiker

On the way to Boy Scouts, Trevor noticed we had company. I had never seen a praying mantis live before. It held on for the whole trip. Shy little critter, about an inch and a half long.

Be there or be cubic?

We went back to Rojo Taqueria for dinner Friday and spotted this sign. I suppose I should at least credit them for trying to be clever.

09 July 2009

Stimulus: working?

We haven't spent most of the money, so the argument might be "let's see the impact when we spend what we've already allocated before allocating any more". But anybody who says the stimulus has proven ineffective is either telling a lie or not paying attention. It might prove ineffective (or it might prove to be not nearly enough), but even the projections of the proponents didn't show any stimulus-prompted improvement until the third quarter (which started all of nine days ago)

The chart is from the Washington Post, found via this post at The Big Picture.