28 February 2009
I'm returning to Moscow tomorrow. The exchange rate in October was 1:25 (Rouble ~= $.04); it is now about 1:36 (~=.028). Lest we feel too smug about having a stable currency, I think the predominant use of the dollar for foreign reserves (which is one of main things propping up the dollar at the moment) is likely to fade over time (i.e., during my lifetime).
25 February 2009
Two fashion notes: Casillas was wearing a keepers jersey with the sleeves cut off, and was that a turtleneck? And who was the Real Madrid player sporting a mustache straight out of the 70's?
By the way, Bobby Jindal, for whom I had high hopes when he was an unknown running for office to replace the previous incompetent Louisiana governor, is proving an embarrassment at every opportunity. Paul Krugman (with whom I frequently disagree) wrote about it here and Phil Plait (who I've only recently started reading) wrote here.
A lot of the books I buy are used (mostly on Amazon but sometimes in the past from eBay). That is legal, but the author receives little benefit (because we don't usually re-sell the book, it reduces the inventory of used books, making it slightly more likely that someone else will buy a book new). That the publisher receives no benefit is not a concern - they produced one physical item and were compensated once for it. They might argue over marketing costs, but let's leave marketing out of it for today.
The author's portion of the price of a new book is surprisingly small. Typical numbers are 15% for hardback books and 7.5% of paperback. Accountants, lawyers, manufacturing, distribution, marketing, agents, managers, lumberjacks, etc. get most of the money. If you buy an undiscounted book at a retail outlet, the retailer's profit margin is probably twice that of the author.
The author's contribution is not the physical item but the reading: the edification or entertainment or provocation or inspiration. Every reading is a new value proposition. This is not a concern for the most successful authors; they are well compensated (arguably overly so, but let's solve all of the other problems in the world before we get around to overpaid writers). For every J. K. Rowling there are tens of thousands of authors whose royalties buy groceries rather than castles.
Christopher Nolan died last week. His books are available from Amazon for approximately the cost of shipping ($4). I am considering buying the book new (about $10 more) so that his estate benefits from my purchase.
A better (but obviously unworkable) solution would allow me to choose to pay the author a couple of bucks directly when I bought a used book. I suspect that, Danielle Steel and John Grisham notwithstanding, more than half of the people made affluent by book publishing are not authors. That's too bad.
24 February 2009
23 February 2009
The ridiculous (and scientifically unsupported) idea that vaccines cause autism received a lot of attention last year, thanks in part to Jenny McCarthy. Since she has used her celebrity as a bully pulpit, I think it fair to question her qualifications. I am no prude, but I doubt that her career as a Playboy model prepared her to lecture on autism. She has had a first-hand experience with an ill child, which puts her in the company of millions (most of whom have not appeared on Larry King). She is free to believe whatever harebrained ideas she wants. But the plural of anecdote is not data.
The clinical evidence is overwhelming. Vaccines do not cause autism. Ignorance is dangerous, especially when it discourages immunization against deadly disease.
This article is long, but if you're on the fence (or if you know someone who is), it should be read in entirety.
While searching for the recent article, I found a web forum called Original Dissent, in which the members express their outrage over this government intervention. I don't want to link to it (and raise their Google rating, however insignificantly) because frankly, their ignorance and vitriol are frightening.
www dot originaldissent dot com/forums/showthread.php?p=51877
22 February 2009
Sadly, Liverpool has shown that they are again only pretenders to the throne. Manchester United will surely win the league, pulling even with Liverpool's record of top flight titles. Their season could unravel quickly without a better performance at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.
Here they are waiting for their weapons to be tested before the bout:
In action. That's Trevor's friend on the right filming the action.
Signing the scoresheet:
20 February 2009
I agree that Lee and Moyes are least likely among those listed. I suspect that the actual candidate list would include more foreign managers. Given the Barry fiasco last summer, Villans will be unhappy with the writer's conclusion (though it's far from resolute). Also, unlike Bruce, O'Neill has achieved a degree of success that seems fairly sustainable; I suspect he'd be reluctant to leave Villa Park (never mind the recent history).
18 February 2009
Here's the NPR story.
Here's an opinionated scientist's take.
Here's my take. Creationism is the kind of backwards thinking that kills what little hope I have for humanity surviving another millennium. Five hundred years ago, people were persecuted because they believed the earth orbited the sun, in violation of a strict reading of the bible. The Taliban burns down schools that teach girls. And the Louisiana legislature thinks that science is the subject that is not skeptical enough of accepting blindly the teachings of others. I am embarrassed to be associated in any way with those imbeciles.
17 February 2009
Alex Rodriguez - What!? A baseball player used steroids?! I am shocked! Oh, and he plays for the Yankees. If baseball weren't already completely irrelevant, I might care.
Adam "Pacman" Jones - I actually feel bad for this guy. He grew up without a father and in poverty. That he has no idea how to behave in a civilized society can't be entirely his fault. He might not play again, and if he doesn't, there's a fair chance that his story will end poorly.
Michael Phelps - He must have been relieved to hear that
Definition lifted from Urban Dictionary:
1. One whose stupidity and/or ineptitude exceeds the descriptive potential of both the terms ass and clown in isolation, and in so doing demands to be referred to as the conjugate of the two.
Jerramy Stevens - Excrement.
11 February 2009
We went to Bacchanalia for dinner to celebrate. I had mentioned that this was our anniversary while making the reservations . They supplemented the dessert course with this. It's a crappy cell phone picture, but it's actually a gorgeous little cake.
10 February 2009
On the one hand, I understand the impulse. Tickets are expensive and players are paid handsomely. If you are disgusted, stop following them. There's a strange self-loathing implicit in booing your own team.
Speaking of boos...
I read that the fans at Stamford Bridge booed the team after the goalless draw with Hull. I liked Scolari; now the rumor is that Grant might be back. Or maybe Zola. Or... well, it's Chelsea. There's no telling. If you discount the penalty kicks from last year's Champion's League final, the last three Chelsea managers have been sacked after draws.
08 February 2009
Rafa must win title or go
Posted by Dom Raynor
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has been told he needs to win the Premier League title to save his job by club co-owner George Gillett, according to the Sunday Express.
On a rare visit to Merseyside Gillett let it be known that he blamed Rafa's rant against Sir Alex Ferguson for Liverpool's slump in form and has demanded that the Spaniard rectify the situation.
Gillett, who refuses to bow to Benitez’s demands for complete control over transfer policy before agreeing to a new four-year contract, also believes that the Liverpool boss likes to be constantly linked with other big jobs.
(Hat tip: ESPN)
07 February 2009
As I was reading, I tripped over a particular sentence: "Serif, the most learned person she had ever met, was also the only person who never let her feel the least bit stupid." What struck me about this sentence is how unlikely it is that every other person poor Lola had ever met had let her feel the least bit stupid. Every single one. It is certainly a nit. This is once sentence out of thousands. I doubt I would improve any other sentence, but this one should have been worded differently. The book seems well researched and is well written (the author has won a Pulitzer for another book). You could leave out "was also the only person who", and the meaning is there. And maybe she really had been made to feel stupid by everyone around her. Serif is certainly one of many brave heroes in the book, but that "only" bothers me.
I wrote many papers in college thanks to an enlightened curriculum imposed upon me by the university. And I have written a couple of articles for a technical magazine. Writing Libatio has sharpened my awareness of the craft of writing, and I doubt I would have noticed the awkward wording otherwise. It is much easier, of course, to spot that sort of thing in someone else's work. I have every confidence that my own writing is riddled with crimes against the craft.
This brief entry has taken twenty minutes (so far). I really can't imagine writing a book. Even a badly written book is a considerable accomplishment. Life is too short to drink bad beer. Or bad wine. Or to read bad books. Erp, or bad blogs.
UPDATE: Apparently, writing titles is hard, too. Or hard for me. It should have been "Writing Well is Hard". Unless you take Mr. Capote's side.
A strange turn of play led to the next goal. Deep in the Portsmouth half center back Skrtel pressed striker Crouch into a backpass that James had no choice but to handle with Kuyt bearing down on him. Aurelio hit a rocket just inside the near post on the set piece. A 1-1 draw then seemed likely until Hreidarsson's header beat Reina (who should have done better) on a free kick. With five minutes left, Portsmouth held a 2-1 lead, but Liverpool was not quite done. Torres threatened on the right, and Kuyt hammered the loose ball through a tight angle and past James. In added time, Torres headed the winner home.
As I've mentioned before, English football commentary is usually superior to that of American football. However, the announcers were determined to question Benitez's decisions, regardless of circumstances. First, they wondered whether Benitez was showing disrespect by fielding a "second team". But Torres was completely spent on Wednesday night, and resting him seemed likely. Gerrard is injured. Other than David Ngog, the rest of the players on the pitch have featured regularly this season.
The announcers were bemused by the formation. The 4-2-3-1 formation Liverpool has used for the past year relies on Torres as the lone striker and Gerrard as the attacking central midfielder. Without those two on the pitch, a different formation was likely. Benitez went to an unusual formation, with three center backs, two wing backs, two holding midfielders, and three players forward. With Aurelio Lopez taking the role of a central midfielder, it meant Liverpool fielded six defenders. But with three center backs, the wing backs were free to feature more in attacks, and Liverpool looked more dangerous today than they had against Everton.
When Liverpool went down a goal, one announcer found it bizarre that Benitez didn't immediately bring Torres onto the pitch, but the truth was that even without El Nino, Liverpool were getting chances and plenty of possession; there was no need to panic. Eventually, Kuyt, Alonso, and Torres were brought on for Ngog, Dossena, and Babel.
A fully fit Torres is one of the most dangerous players in the league, and Kuyt showed some real quality in his appearance as a substitute. When Gerrard returns I'm sure the 4-2-3-1 will be back with him. In the meantime, the 5-2-3 (or 3-2-2-3 if you prefer) seemed reasonably effective, though a rested Riera, Torres, and Kuyt will be preferred to Babel, Ngog, and Benayoun.
Top of the table, at least until the Mancs play their games in hand.
05 February 2009
Smoking pot is illegal, mostly because of the puritan impulse to outlaw things that somebody else might enjoy. In terms of damage to society, it's pretty far down the list. Way below domestic violence (when was the last time a celebrity arrested for domestic violence lost a sponsorship or a movie deal or a lucrative playing contract?).
And far below DUI (for which Phelps was arrested in 2004). Annual deaths attributed to DUI: around 15,000. Deaths attributed to smoking pot: zero. Tylenol kills more people than pot (to be fair, that's not an apples to oranges comparison).
So to be clear: DUI, kills thousands but OK for sponsorships. Firing up a bong, kills no one but offends prudish sensibilities, not OK.
I loathe hypocrisy.
04 February 2009
Lucas earned the first booking on a trivial challenge, it was the accumulation of fouls (and his repeated falls to the ground calling for Everton bookings) rather than the specific offense that prompted Wiley to go to his pocket. Once booked, he should have known better than to try the challenge that had him sent off. With Alonso and Mascherano available, Benitez should leave the Brazilian on the bench.
Hopefully, Gerrard's injury is minor or Liverpool's title chances are done for.
Chill a cocktail glass by filling it with crushed ice and water. Authentic recipes call for an old fashioned glass (a Sazerac is, in the end, an improved Old Fashioned), but I prefer the elegance of the stem.
Drain ice water and rinse with Absinthe. It is pricey and there are substitutes like Herbsaint, but I like the real thing (legal again in the US since 2007). A bottle will last a lifetime. Well maybe not, but you'll go through more than a case of Rye before you're done with one bottle. I use my thumb as a stopper on the bottle and squirt a little less than a teaspoon in. Swirl the glass to coat the sides. Most recipes call for you to dump the excess Absinthe, but I never do (it's good stuff, don't waste it).
In a mixing glass combine 1/4 oz simple syrup (one and a half teaspoons), 4 dashes Peychaud's and 1 dash Angostura, 2 oz Rye whiskey.
[Rye notes: I've used most of the commonly available brands and all are fine; there's no reason to spend much more than $20 on some snooty brand. I favor Wild Turkey; its higher proof is closer to how Rye was made when the drink started. The original drink was made with Cognac, but the Phylloxera Plague triggered a shift to Rye]
Add ice and stir well (shaking is more fun, but the finished drink looks better if you don't).
Strain into the prepared glass. Twist a lemon peel over the drink (I usually just drop the twist in when I'm done, but purists don't).
This is the recipe I started with: Sazerac.
Worse, when this guy published the findings, they offered to bribe him to take the article down.
A couple of points:
- These were not, as he claimed, no-strings-attached gifts to banks.
- The banks were bailed out because our economy can't work without functioning banks. If the banks fail, well, that would be a lot worse than what we've seen so far. The point wasn't to reward banks. It was trying to keep the economy from collapse. Which hasn't happened. Yet.
03 February 2009
I will sleep well tonight knowing Barney Fife is on the job.
Personal trivia: Most of the movie takes place in New York City, but Vale teaches at Connecticut College in New London. About 20 years ago, I worked at an office a mile from the campus.
As one with some degree of expertise in a reasonably challenging field, I find offensive the idea that this ass clown is taken seriously by anyone.
When an ideology convinces you otherwise, you should wonder whether that is its only fatuous belief.
02 February 2009
Benitez either appeared either to not know or to not care to find how to employ him effectively (some have suggested that Rafa was petulant over the club signing Keane after finding Villa's asking price for Barry too dear). I was indifferent to Keane before he came to Liverpool, but now I hold him in high regard. Benitez treated him shamefully but Keane remained professional.
Among Liverpool fans, I am not alone.
I would not be surprised should the league finish with the top six unchanged from today (Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea, Villa, Arsenal, Everton).
01 February 2009
For most of the match, Gerrard was everywhere, though he earned a booking for falling, ahem, rather easily near the edge of the box. For Chelsea, Alex was superb covering a shaky Cech. Finally, in the 89th minute, the goal finally came, Torres heading Aurelio's cross.
How Boswinga wasn't sent off for kicking is beyond me. Shocking.
In stoppage time with Chelsea desperately pushing forward, Kuyt and Benayoun built up the play for Torres to deliver the coup de grace
Keane in the stands was a bizarre decision. I feel awful for Keane. He has not played well for most of hist time in a red shirt but it is incomprehensible that David Ngog is preferred against Chelsea. We will learn in the next 24 hours whether he has played his last match for Liverpool.
Liverpool has stayed alive in the title race, but Manchester United is two points ahead with a game in hand.