Friday, December 31, 2004

Greetings from Hurricane Evacuation Zone A

Well Gene, ya know it wouldn't be me if I weren't able to pull seemingly useless trivia from my, er, trivia conglomeration gland. There's probably good cause to worry about tsunamis hitting the East and Gulf Coasts of the US. I didn't read the NY Post story but any doom-and-gloomer worth his salt should probably first mention La Palma in the Canary Islands off Africa. Nearby, we have plenty to be worried about too from such fun things as the Montserrat and Kick 'Em Jenny volcanoes and a crisscross of faults under the Caribbean one of which recently gave the residents of the Cayman Islands a jolt that would have sent manly Californians screaming like little girls. Of course, land movement isn't the only cause of large waves. Besides a little hurricane (storm surge is the #1 killer!) here and there, rogue waves much like the one that hit Daytona Beach in the middle of the night back in 1992 frequently topple large ships out at sea. Heck, I don't know why we aren't all dead already.

Of course this should also signal a need to build earthquake resistant buildings everywhere in the US as well. I'm sure you're already aware that in recent history some of the largest earthquakes to hit the US were in Missouri and South Carolina. And let's not forget that the threat of twisters damns us all to becoming Toto-chasing Kansas girls at any moment. Just the other day near my old haunt in Los Angeles, they suffered from of all things: a tornado. Should I even get started on potential blizzards in Miami?

I think it's a bit obvious to almost everyone that I'm being a bit playful here. Yes, there might be good reason to think about a tsunami flooding the East Coast but is it worth the cost? Maybe. For the time being though, between the United States Geological Service and the Emergency Broadcast System which might require some slight tweaking for tsunami danger it seems pretty much covered--at least as much as we can handle. Not to mention that for many areas like New York City, Boston and Miami, complete and timely evacuation is logistically out of the question.

So should government require that all new buildings be tsunami safe bubbles in the unlikely even of catastrophic wave generation? Of course not. At the risk of sounding a bit like a communist hippie: All that these regulations do (outside of the unlikely tsunami event) is make living in prime areas too expensive for most people. How fortunate for the rich that building a simple home on the beachfront in Florida now requires oodles of money. A hundred years ago the poorest of the poor could live on the beach and should a big blow have wiped out their humble shotgun shacks, they simply rebuilt them...something that in the wake of four hurricanes and monster Andrew in 1992 is becoming increasingly hard for even the middle class to do. Not to mention that some of the buildings that have survived were built long before any damned and fancy hurricane construction regulations were in place.

I guess no matter how loopy the seemingly benign and wonderful schemes the government comes up with are, when we get back down to brass tacks, the Market is always the place to get the best information on exactly what to do for disaster prevention. Sure, mistakes are made. They are made often and when government makes them they tend to be worse and harder to fix so it's best to just let people make their little mistakes (sometimes known as spouses) and then repair them the best way they can (sometimes known as divorce.) Ya wouldn't want DC deciding who gets married and makes little blonde babies do you?

By the way, if it's not raining tomorrow I'll probably go boardsurfing. Come down and bring a snorkel!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tsunami Warning

Well, Margaret was spot on -- a few hours after I read her post, I read a columnist in the NY Daily News bemoaning the fact that there was no warning system in place. What people neglect to consider is that there is a cost for every precaution one takes, and that it is trivial, once a disaster has taken place, to judge that it would have been worthwhile to have had a warning system in place for that event, it is quite another matter to wisely allocate scarce resources beforehand.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

"Lawlessness" Pays

Interesting development in the wake of the tsunami. Across the Indian Ocean, Somalia also got whacked by the wave--at least a hundred dead last count. As part of relief efforts Dubya said he'd temporarily suspend their debt. Whaaaat?!?! Last I checked Somalia had no central government except a bunch of guys who have to hang around Kenya because they have no authority within Somalia itself. Interesting. Do you suppose this new government has already promised bankers to leach the Somali people for money to pay back the debt the old government took on? No wonder they can't show their faces in Mogadishu. Obviously the people of Somalia are better off with the numerous clan chiefs and warlords than whatever the bankers want to impose on them through Nairobi. I hope they get their wish and keep their money.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Some Wild Cleaning Is Gonna Happen Today

I heard an announcer on CBS News Radio in New York say that, in the city, "street cleaning rules are suspended tomorrow."

You don't want to be out there when they come around with those big old broom and water trucks and no rules!

Monday, December 27, 2004

Congressmen to install tsunami warning system in Capitol reflecting pool.

The other little point about the Sumatran superquake I'd like to point out is the absurd coverage of the lack of an adequate tsunami warning system in place in the Indian Ocean. We can't spend all our time and money chasing nearly implausible dangers, can we? This is the first ocean wide tsunami in at least 500 years in the Indian Ocean. Is it really so newsworthy and ridiculous that they didn't have a system in place? Guess what? The East Coast of the United States doesn't have one in place either. Why?!?! Because it's probably not worth the expense since Atlantic tsunamis are as rare as Indian Ocean ones. An estimated 95% of these quakeborn waves occur in the Pacific where the system not only is in place but is a necessity. What do you think the chances are that within a year there will be a bill in Congress asking to put one in place on the East Coast? I bet it happens before the next wave hits shore.

Hey, it'll just spur growth in South Asia, right?

Not to take lightly the horror of the Sumatran superquake but this seems like a good time to bring up Bastiat's Broken Window Fallacy. Nobody in their right mind would seriously suggest that the quake and tsunami that killed over 25,000 people would be a boon to the local or world economies. On the contrary, it's obvious we're all worse off for it especially in the directly hit areas. Yet, when four hurricanes beat the swamp out of Florida in August and September of this year, some financial analysts were proclaiming these multiple disasters would spur growth in the Florida economy. To be fair, the disasters weren't as bad and few people lost their lives but that only means that the Florida economy will recover to the point it was at before the disasters much faster. It will eventually get back on track but it will be months or years later than it would have been without the storms and that track will be in a different direction than it would have been. Likewise, a broken window doesn't help a neighborhood, it just sets one household back about the price of a pane of glass and the labor to install it. When money is spent to replace something instead of creating something new, it's as good as if you threw it away in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Season's Greeting from Ali Gene

Yes, me been gone from the blog for a good spell of time now, but for the hollydays me giving all you ladies something to look at, should youse boyfriends be away:

Friday, December 24, 2004

Photos from Sicily


An allee outside the Museo Archaeologico in Syracuse.


A view from the hilltown of San Fratello.


Another view from San Fratello.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Propaganda 101

I'm cleaning out all of my accumulated junk (it's part of my "Honey Do" list from my wife) and I came across a "Global Social Studies" notebook from my high school days. I was quite amused at the "ID" section on the very first page of the notebook. Some excerpts:

Persian Gulf A very unstable area that is associated with many oil-producing countries. Because of their power over the economy, these countries are potentially very dangerous.

Saddam Hussein A very dangerous ruler of Iraq. He could try and take over all of the oil in the Persian Gulf, crippling the economy. He has already invaded and annexed Kuwait.

Helmut Kohl President of W. Germany, fighting to unify Germany.

Manuel Noriega A former leader of Panama who was voted out of office, but used force to retain his position. U.S. forces restored order.

Nelson Mandela A revolutionary in South Africa who was imprisoned for civil disobedience. He was released and toured the world, preaching about freedom for blacks in S.A.


(Oh, by the way, I went to a very reputable private, Catholic high school, and my Soc. Studies teacher was a very liberal guy!)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

(/&&£()(=)!"° Keyboards!

So why does every country have to move the punctuation keys around on me? I just have gotten used to the English layout, and now I find the Italians have yet another way to arrange them. If you see silly punctuation in my posts, youàll know why! Wonàt youé

Sicily

I'm touring Sicily for a week before returning to the States, so my blogging will be limited -- OK, Bob? -- but I'm going to begin blogging my trip.

The most striking thing so far, besides the physical beauty of the island, is how wrong I was in my naive impression of what life here would be like. I had heard of "la problema del sud," referring to the economic disparity between the north of Italy and the south. I had expected to find the island mired in poverty, a sort of time warp where elderly women in black dresses were sweeping the sidewalk in front of their ancient, stone homes, and men in traditional Italian garb sat in trattorias sipping wine and talking with great passion.

Traveling across the north coast of the island, I found the towns to be more modern and less impoverished than I had expected. There were Internet cafes, plenty of cell phones, modern fashions, and an awful lot of Mercedes and BMWs for an "impoverished area." In the small town of Sant'Agata, where we spent three nights, we walked past a building that contained a physical therapist's office, a masseuse, and "Agopuntura tradizionale cinese." (In the same town, we met an Italian woman who had been Michael Jordan's linguistics professor at UNC.)

But it was when we headed south, heading down the east coast for Syracuse, that my preconceptions were totally shattered. We turned south at the bustling city of Messina, at the northeast tip of the island. (I looked on the map for the closely associated town of Loggins, but could not locate it.) We then passed through a massive rush-hour traffic jam in Catania. Drivers would accelerate madly to pass us, in order to sit in line one car ahead of us for five minutes. The point of the passing seemed to be in the passing itself, not in any substantive reduction in travel time. Motor scooters, often bearing two people, shot between lanes of traffic. When the cars were too close to permit that maneuver, the scooters would climb the sidewalk and skirt around several cars instead.

Finally free of the jam, we continued south to Syracuse, passing through countryside much less mountainous than in the north. Coming into the city, we spotted a large shopping mall. I had run down the battery on my digital camera, and we decided to pull in to search for another.

Well, the mall was as grand and as modern as anything I've seen in the US. The clothing stores were as fashionable as those I saw in Florence last year. There were no less than four shops selling digital cameras, and in the fourth I found the battery I needed. (Despite the surface similarity to an American mall, there were significant differences: many shoppers were smoking as they strolled the shops, and when I stopped for a cappucino at a stand in the middle of one of the corridors, I saw men ordering shots of liquor from the same vendor, doubtlessly finding that an agreeable way to pass the time as their wives shopped.)


An allee in Syracuse's archaeological park.

There certainly are pockets of poverty here. We've passed through a couple of hill towns where most of the shops were shuttered. The outskirts of Palermo reminded me of poorer sections of Florida. And it is harder here to find people who speak English than in Florence, so I've had to get by on my rudimentary Italian much more frequently. Still, this is nothing like the Sicily of which I had heard rumors.

The landscape in the interior has also been a surprise. The coastal terrain is much as I had expected it to be -- dotted with orange and lemon groves, olive orchards, and studded with tall palms -- albeit more rugged than I had imagined. (I have never been in a place where the moutains rise so quickly from the sea.) But once we began to climb into the mountains, we passed through a number of different vegetative zones. From the greenery of the coast we climbed into fall and, eventually, winter. At perhaps 3000 or 4000 feet, we hiked through an oak forest under a canopy of copper-colored leaves, encountering herds of goats, cow bells (goat bells?) around their necks, clanging through the woods. Higher up, we entered an evergreen zone and were surrounded by tall fir trees. Finally, on the slopes of Mount Aetna, we reached the edge of the tree line. We climbed out of the car and stood amidst snow and vast piles of smoldering lava.

The food here resembles the Italian food of my childhood -- spent in Norwalk, Connecticut -- more closely than the cuisine of Florence. That is hardly surprising, considering that the bulk of the Italian immigrants to the US came from the south. The Sicilian restaurants are also less elegant and less pretentious than those in Florence. Sitting in one the other night, I was idly eating an apple while I watched our waitress walk by. I had to shake myself out of the fancy that I was back in my hometown -- the waitress, the hostess, the blinking Christmas lights, the portrait of Jesus hanging on the wall, and the TV placed near the ceiling, blaring some sports event into the room, all could have been lifted straight out of one of the small Italian restaurants in which I ate while growing up. Only the fact that the sport was soccer, and the people around me were speaking Italian, woke me from my reverie.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Murphy Audio Files

Well, Gene is still AWOL in posting to his own blog, so I guess I can fill the air time by linking to the Ludwig von Mises Institute's gracious hosting of some speeches I've given. One is a talk on the Austrian approach to capital and interest theory...

...whoa, sorry, I fell asleep just typing that out!...and the other is a critique of the invasion of Iraq that I gave at Hillsdale College. So for those of you who have always said, "That Bob has funny quips, but I wonder if he's got a funny voice to match them?", enjoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

...in sickness and in health...

Two things are crazy about this story:

First, the Marine tells them to chop off his finger rather than cut his wedding band, even though (as any pregnant woman can tell you) you can cut a wedding band and put it back together again.

Second, after the doctors chop his finger off to save the ring, they lose his ring. (Or more likely, somebody stole it.)

Adventures in Babysitting

True story: I was sitting up with our three-week old baby, Clark, who wouldn't go to sleep. I decided to be like Mommy and sing a song. Rachael normally sings "Come Away With Me" (Norah Jones), to which I don't know the words. I racked my brain for a few moments, trying to think of a song that I both knew and that was soothing. I finally hit upon it: Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band."

About five seconds into it, Clark had stuffed his fist into his ear. What a precocious infant!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

A Coordination Failure

I was at an academic conference some time ago, sitting with a friend, who commented to me that "I'm tired of hearing Professor X talk on conservatism. Can't they come up with something new?"

A few months ago, about a year after that conference, I happened to sit next to Professor X during a dinner. While we were eating, he remarked to me, "I just recently went to country Y, where they had asked me to present a talk on conservatism. I wish they would ask me to talk on something else, as I'm so tired of talking about conservatism."

What I Saw Inside the UFO





Can you guess what it really is?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I'll Trade Ya

In this article I do my best to explain why it doesn't make us richer to prevent (a) US consumers from buying products as cheaply as possible, (b) US workers from working for the highest possible wages, and/or (c) US firms from producing at the lowest possible cost. Simplistic, I know, but very few people agree with this view so forgive me.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

St. James Park and Buckingham Palace


A flower and shrub border in St. James Park.


The birdman of London.


A view across the water in the park.


Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria Memorial, from the entrance to the park.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Murphy vs. Long

In his unblog, Roderick Long recently made an unpost in which he critiqued my LRC article on miracles and physical law. Because my answers to his challenges are fairly brief, I’ll post them here:

I see three problems with Bob’s solution. First, as Bob acknowledges, it’s much harder to see how the really fancy miracles, like walking on water or ascending into heaven, could be accounted for in purely naturalistic terms – yet Bob is committed to accepting those stories too. (And things really get tricky if we try to handle the Old Testament miracles too, like Eve arising from Adam’s rib or Joshua stopping the sun.)

Now here, I think Long is missing one of my basic points: No matter what happens, it must have been possible, and hence could have been explained “in purely naturalistic terms.” I think what Long really means to say is, that it would be really tricky to explain walking on water etc. using only a very few simple laws of nature. To this objection, all I can say is that God is pretty clever.

Second, since on present scientific understanding the most basic laws of physics are probabilistic, simply setting the laws and initial conditions is insufficient to determine what happens down the line. (Of course Bob thinks that God sustains the whole process rather than merely kicking it off. But since on Bob’s view God sustains it in such a way that it’s just as if he had merely kicked it off, it’s not clear that this will solve the problem.)

The quick answer to this is that I don’t think probability concepts really make sense when we’re talking about one timeline, each moment of which the Creator creates in one fell swoop. God can certainly (and apparently has) cause the material universe to behave as if it’s governed by the rules of quantum mechanics, but ultimately the probabilistic interpretation of QED is just due to the fact that that model gives the best predictions of experimental results. There is even in principle no experiment that could ever prove whether the underlying laws were “really” indeterminate or just appeared that way. Thus I agree with Einstein that God doesn’t play dice.

(And please, believe me that I have read fairly extensively about quantum mechanics. I am familiar with the Copenhagen interpretation etc. I’m not naively suggesting, e.g., that maybe we could go faster than light if we really really tried. But what I am saying is that, ultimately, there’s no way to test a probabilistic rule. Whatever happens, happens. We can say that there is a 1/2 chance that a coin will come up tails, but this is consistent with two million consecutive heads.)

Third, it seems at least awkward that on Bob’s view, the fact that God exists makes no difference to what happens; everything proceeds just as it would have if the atheist were right. Not only does this seem to downgrade God’s status in a way that most theists would find unacceptable, it also makes religious belief much harder to defend, since any evidence one might offer for God’s existence would still exist even if God did not exist.

I think I understand what Long’s point is, but it strikes me as surprisingly silly; he again seems not to really take the time to consider my stance. On my view, God has designed the laws of the material universe such that, e.g., all of the prophesies in the Old Testament concerning the Messiah were fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. This person walked on water, healed the sick, and rose from the dead.

Now Long’s point is that (according to my view) an atheist could explain this all as being no violation of the laws of physics, but no matter WHAT happens, the atheist can say this by definition. And surely the atheist would not concede that all of these things happened, and were just a coincidence; rather he would DENY that Jesus rose from the dead, walked on water, etc.

So the component of my worldview that carries the theological punch is my belief in the “miracles” of the Bible, and in fulfilled prophecies. I don’t see why I should feel awkward about this. If there were no God, then I see no reason that a Jewish carpenter could have done all of the things I believe he did.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Those Dirty Law-non-breakers!

Some English doctor was on the news this morning, complaining that the government has not been helping her enough with her duty to harass smokers. She said that it has been "too lenient" on them.

Smoking is legal in the UK. Was does it mean when someone says the State is being "too lenient" on people who are not breaking the law? I believe she thinks that everything a person does is subject to government meddling, whatever the law happens to be.

My Seminar Missed Me

I have missed my history of science seminar a couple of times this term. On the other hand, a couple of times it has missed me. Today, for the second time, I arrived to find an empty room.

I think my two misses and its two misses cancel each other out, don't you?

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Heard on the News

In an interview with an American officer in Iraq -- I quote from memory, but the one word that really caught my ear I'm sure I recall correctly: "We found a cachet of arms, including chemical weapons, in a house used by the resistance in Fallujah."

It's nice that the resistance is using such distinctive, high quality weapons!

An interview with a "terrorism expert" -- again, from memory: "The likelihood of a nuclear terror attack is more likely than not."

Well, we now know that it is probable that there is some measure of the probability of such an attack. Now, I wish he'd tell us what that probability is.

What Playing Occupier Does to People

Jim Henley details what's happening to US soldiers in Iraq.

What? There's a War?

AP story:

"WASHINGTON - Fueled by fierce fighting in Fallujah and insurgents' counterattacks elsewhere in Iraq (news - web sites), the U.S. military death toll for November is approaching the highest for any month of the war."

There's a war in Iraq? A war? Didn't the US win that war like a year-and-a-half ago? Then how could it still be going on?

Explanations sought.



Saturday, November 27, 2004

Shouting Out Greetings...

to the LSE massive, to the Lew Rockwell massive, to the Connecticut massive, and to the Brooklyn posse.

Hear me now: Dis here is Ali Gene, checking out dis blogging business me hear so much about, at the invitation of me main man, Gene Callahan.

Lemme tell you how I meet Gene. One day, me getting on the tube. Dis man, him have his bag on a seat, but when him see no other seats available, him take it off so I can sit. "Respect," I say to him.

"One love," him say back.

"RCBC," me tink, "dis man talks some Rasta language!" So, I begin to reason wit him a bit. "What book you reading dare?" I ask.

Him tell me someting dat sound like "L and M Tree Logic."

"What kind of crap book dat?" I ask him.

"Oh, I'm reading it for my course at LSE."

"Me tink dat big-time college filling your head wit some foolery, man, because trees, dem not have any sort of logic. Dem not tink at all, man. Dem some sort of vegetables."

Me have to chuckle to meself about what me tink of next. "Or like me last woman, Loretta. Except when she doing the jiggy, you could easily mistake her for a vegetable! Sitting, all day long, watching TV on the couch, like a turnip or someting. Me want to smoke some skunk and chill in peace, just level me vibes out, and I gotta to listen to Jerry Springer turned up so loud it like the bass level in me ride. Blouse and skirt!

Den, him and I find out we both have "Gene" in our names, and while him not have "Ali" in his, him does have "Allah." (Check it out, because I didn't see it at first eider -- it flip me right out when him point out to me how it hid in there, probably because dem Catholics and Moslems fighting in Ireland, so his ancestral peoples not want udders to know dey was from the Islam.) In any case, I and I get along so well dat Gene invite me to join dis blog. Respect due.

Well massives, me must go now. Me know all of you, especially you ladies, is gonna miss me, but me soon come back. Until then, increase the peace, and keep it real.

Friday, November 26, 2004

do the Amazon limbo

Moving across the country--as well as being costly--has forced me to acknowledge that hoarding "stuff" is just not going to cut it anymore. My belongings have become a very heavy ball and chain so I've made the once-frightening decision to unload a lot of it because there's no way I'm not moving again and it ain't coming with me. I've started by selling books and CDs off on Amazon.com and will eventually move on to eBay. Amazon despite being a little more expensive than eBay is better for unloading books with one amusing exception. Even if you price your product lower than everybody else, there will be someone who comes along and prices it lower than you, even if it's only by a penny. Fine, I understand that. What has made me cackle is the "battle" I'm having with one "HA Books" company. They priced their copy of a book I have for sale at a penny less than me. When I discovered this, I underpriced them by a dollar because they have a feedback number in the thousands that implies they are trustworthy. They returned the next day and one again underpriced me by a penny. Okay, I understand competition though I have to wonder how a company that sells hundreds of books per month has time to worry about one $5-6 sale. Maybe there is a high comedy quotient at Ha Books? Curious about it, I wondered what would happen if I now raised my price. Sure enough, they did as well--one penny below my new price. I guess this battle of wills will end when a customer finally purchases from one of us. Until then you can keep tabs on our battle at "Amazon".

discharging pedal energies

I lucked out and managed to get a last minute free ticket (thanks Jean!) to the Kraftwerk concert happening a few blocks from my Miami Beach home. Without thinking about it, I rode up on my bicycle which is the fastest way to get around my neighborhood. Only later when the band performed Tour De France (one of two versions)did I realize I had selected the most appropriate mode of transportation to the show. I also felt like a big dork. At a little over two hours the show was fairly entertaining and I would've enjoyed a bit more, actually. My only real complaint was that this was at a theater instead of a big dance hall. Then again from the looks of the stiffs in attendance, it would've been pointless.

Falsification Falsified: The Case of Copernicus

An anonymous commentator, whose intials might be JCL, responded to my criticisms of Popper at some length. I am partially responding with this post, although I am also using it to start work on a paper I have to write on the philosophy of science.

Note, this post will not be completed in one swoop, but will probably take several days to finish. On to the argument:

*************

I wish to suggest that the history of the Copernican Revolution falsifies falsificationism. The basic idea of Popper's doctrine is that no amount of positive evidence can confirm a universal theory, but a single negative piece of evidence refutes it.

The main problem with his theory is that this is not how science works. The first point to address is whether that is a valid criticism of a philosophical theory. It could be said that the actual practice of scientists may be flawed, and it is the role of philosophy to mend the error of their ways. But such a view relies on a misunderstanding of what philosophy can and can't do. As noted by Oakeshott in On Human Conduct, a key error of Plato's was to believe that because the philosopher's "platform of understanding" might be superior to the platform of someone who hasn't ascended fully out of the cave – such as the practical man, the historian, or the natural scientist -- that therefore it was a substitute for them. But the philosopher is no more in a position to inform a scientists of how he really should be working, simply because he has examined the scientist's own postulates, than he is to instruct Michael Jordan on how he really should play basketball because he has conducted a philosophical study of the game. As Franco puts it, “The postulates in which a theorist understands the identities of a conditional platform of understanding are not principles from which correct performances may be deduced. To use theoretical knowledge in this way to direct practical activity is the spurious engagement of the ‘theoretician.’”

The philosopher's true role is to make more clear what the scientist is doing -- as Collingwood put it, he does not seek to rationalize human activities, but to find the rationality that is already in them and clarify its presence.

Furthermore, if a philosopher of science puts forward a theory of how science should proceed that would result, if put into practice, in a cessation of progress in science, that's a good sign there is something wrong with his theory. In fact, we might say it has been falsified.

Now, to examine the case of Copernicus at greater length. The first thing that is important to note here is that Ptolemy’s theory did not suffer from nearly the number of problems as did that of Copernicus as soon as it came out. For example, Copernicus “was puzzled by the variations he had observed in the brightness of the planet Mars. [But] Copernicus’s own system was so far from answering to the phenomena in the case of Mars that Galileo in his main work on this subject praises him for clinging to his new theory though it contradicted observation...” (Butterfield, 1949, p. 23).

Copernicanism also was violated many of the principles of the Aristotelian physics of his time. Copernicus could not explain why objects didn’t fly off the rotating earth, why the earth didn’t spin itself apart, or what kept celestial objects going in there orbits if not the motion transmitted from sphere to sphere in the Ptolemaic/Aristotelian view. As Butterfield writes:

“In fact, you had to throw over the very frameboard of existing science, and it was here that Copernicus clearly failed to provide an alternative. He provided a neater geometry of the heavens, but it was one which made nonsense of the reasons and explanations that had previously been given to account for the movements in the sky” (1949, p. 27).

Exploiting Eugen

Here is yet another article in which I contribute nothing of my own, but merely summarize Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk's critique of a particular theory of interest. Even if you are already a true believer in the Austrian theory of interest, I bet you will learn a few things from reading Bohm's critiques.

Some people feel that I lavish too much attention on dear old Eugen. What can I say? He is my favorite economist. (And in any event, my hero is much cooler than Callahan's hero, that Michael HotShot or whatever his name is.) At least be thankful that I'm posting economics articles again, rather than ones on metaphysics.

Jonah Goldberg Shows Off His Erudition

I hadn't looked in to see updates of how "well" the war in Iraq is going in some time, so I stopped by a site I used to write for, National Review Online. There, I found Jonah Goldberg writing:

"The scientific method, which has been part of our culture for more than a century, systematically roots out flaws and seeks new insights."

Well, yes, four centuries certainly is more than a century! And four centuries is really a rather conservative estimate. One could plausibly argue that science dates to Aristotle, Archimedes, Galen, Ptolemy, and so on -- making the correct figure over two millenia. Of course, that's more than a century as well, isn't it?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Michael Oakeshott: An Introduction

I'm reading an excellent new book by Paul Franco with the above title. Since I am commissioned to review it, and I can't say too much about it here, but I'd like to share a few choice passages:

In describing Oakeshott's philosophical influences, Franco mentions F.H. Bradley. He says that bradley "lived a fairly reclusive life in Oxford, never teaching, but occasionally coming out at night to shoot cats in the college precincts."

Well I suppose everyone needs a hobby!

A bit later, he quotes Richard Rorty:

"Since the anti-empiricism and the anti-foundationalism on which analytic philosophers now pride themselves was taken for granted by nineteenth-century anglophone philosophers such as T.H. Green and Bernard Bosanquet, one might be tempted to say that analytic philosophy was a century-long waste of time."

Ouch!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Another Police Tale

After reading my blog post about the
police looking for the Colindale station, my friend Jasmine El-Mulki sent me the following story, which I share with her permission:

"I was reminded of a phonecall I recieved when I was working for a Swiss insurance company this summer. A policeman from the Federal Traffic Office called me one day, giving me a plate number from Bern, wanting me to check the corresponding car for insurance, a routine request. I couldn't find any customer of my company with that plate number, so I apologised to the officer. He then asked me if it was possible for me to check among all Swiss insurance companies.

"'But don't I need to call the Federal Traffic Office to do that? And isn't that where you are calling from?'

"Yes, he said, he was fairly new on the job and had forgotten that point."

Monday, November 22, 2004

Maybe a hockey game will break out...

A couple of "boxing matches" soured the Pacers/Pistons and Clemson/South Carolina games over the weekend, but think of the possibilities: "brawl at Indy ends race early when various drivers beat the lap leader to death with tire irons", "Kentucky Derby horses gang up on jockey" and "synchronized swimmers at Olympics tweak noses in underwater melee".

The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I recently rented and watched the above-named movie a few days ago. A great film. I once thought very little of Jim Carrey, but I've come to believe he is an excellent actor when a director keeps him under control. (See The Truman Show for another example.)

Susanne Langer was, in my opinion, one of the most under-rated philosophers of the 20th century and probably the greatest philosopher of aesthetics. She held that each major art form had its own, distinct primary effect, although works could also generate secondary effects characteristic of a different form. The primary effect of literature is to create "virtual memory," that of painting to create "virtual space," and that of music to create "virtual time." Movies, she said, create a virtual dream.

If anyone wants to understand what she meant by that, I can't think of a better movie to watch than Eternal Sunshine.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Bad Boy, Eamon!



Never play with Daddy's stash!

How Popper Went Wrong on Confirmation

Karl Popper is famous for declaring that theories can never be confirmed, only falsified. It seems to me he is wrong about this, and his error turns on viewing falsification and confirmation as all or nothing affairs.

But they are not. As pointed out by Duhem, Quine, Lakatos, Feyerabend, and others, no theory is ever so thoroughly falsified that there is no way to rehabilitate it. The Duhem-Quine thesis notes that, given an experimental result that apparently refutes a theory, one can always change an auxilliary hypothesis instead of the central tenet of the theory, and so rescue the theory. For example, Copernicus did not regard the absence of observed parallax in the stars as refuting his heliocentric theory. Instead, he simply moved the sphere of stars ten times as far away as it was previously thought to be. As my history of science lecturer, John Milton, pointed out, in this respect a Popperian has to regard Ptolemy's model as scientific and Copernicus's as unscientific, since Ptolemy's would be falsified by observered parallax, while, if newer, more accurate instruments still failed to detect parallax, Copernicus could simply place the sphere of the stars even farther away!

And so it is for confirmation. It is true that no theory is ever completely confirmed. But each piece of evidence supporting the theory raises the degree to which it is confirmed. Let's look at a hypothetical example from historiography to see how the Popperian view fails to capture the true state of our knowledge of the world. Imagine that two historians present you with two theories: One of them tells you that Caesar crossed the Rubicon in a deliberate act of defiance of the Roman Senate and constitution. The second says that King Arthur took on a dozen wives in order to cement diplomatic relationships with neighbouring kingdoms.

From a Popperian point of view, we have no cause to consider either theory more or less confirmed than the other. Confirmation is impossible. All we can say is that neither theory has been falsified. But this is clearly absurd: there is abundant, indeed, overwhelming evidence that leads us to believe the first historian's theory, while no one is even sure if King Arthur was a real person. (And, not knowing if he ever existed, we certainly cannot falsify a theory that says he had a dozen wives as of yet.)

One need not be a naïve or even a strict Bayesian to suspect that Bayesians are on the right track in holding that hypotheses are more or less confirmed, and that positive evidence rightly up our degree of belief in them. Scientists may not really formulate numerical estimates of the prior probability of different hypotheses. It is enough, as noted by Paul Horwich, that we can use an idealized model of how they might do so to dispel certain common errors, such as the failure to recognize that different hypotheses are held with different degrees of belief, and that different pieces of evidence do offer varying degrees of confirmation for a theory. Per Horwich, if Bayesianism can help in that process, it simply does not matter if it offers a complete, or even a very realistic, account of how scientists operate. Furthermore, if other models can also help to clear away the fog, there is no reason not to supplement Bayesianism with such models.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Violence Breaks Out in Baghdad

Check out this AP story:

Gee, that's surprising! People seem to object to having their country occupied and piecemeal destroyed by foreign troops.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Let's Move to an Island!

I have given up hope that the US will be reformed through the political process. The deck is stacked against liberty. Only through secession--itself inspired by examples from abroad--will freedom spread in the region currently called the United States of America.

Here is an interesting start on this topic. Yes, right now it's just chit chat, but at some point it will become a reality. If nothing else, once we start colonizing space, there will definitely be libertarian settlements.

But how will these places protect themselves from neighboring governments? Read the book. Oh, you'd rather a nice story? Okay.

Black Writing

In Borders today, I saw a section of books with the heading "Black Writing." And, when I browsed through a few of them, I found that all of the writing in them was, indeed, black.

But, on further inspection, so was all of the writing in the books I examined from other sections. There must have been something particularly black about the writing in that one area, but I can't grasp what it was.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Two Thumps for Bible Thumpers

I managed to offend just about everyone in this article. I got negative mail from both atheists and devout Christians.

Mission Really, Really, Really Accomplished

President George W. Bush announced today that, with the destruction of Fallujah, the "Mercan" mission in Iraq is now "really, really, really accomplished."

"When, on May 1, 2003, I announced "mission accomplished" in reference to our invasion of Iraq, I was speaking truthfully. We had accomplished the mission of getting me a great photo op."

"With the capture of Saddam Hussein in December, 2003, we had really accomplished our mission, meaning, in this case, that I gained a 5% boost in the polls with his capture."

"In June, 2004, when we returned 'sovereignty' to Iraq -- meaning that the new Iraqi government can do whatever it wants that we approve of -- we had really, really accomplished our mission. By saying that, I'm pointing out that my poll numbers went up another 2%."

"With the conquest -- but not the subjugation! -- of Fallujah, we have now really, really, really accomplished our mission. And once we pound the shit out of Masul, I expect that I will be able to announce that we have really, really, really, really accomplished our mission."

"And that's the wonderful thing about our mission in Iraq. It's the mission that keeps on giving, so that we can accomplish it again and again."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Sign of Drugs

I stopped at a pub last night that had two large signs up warning that no drug use would be tolerated on the premises.

I think this is pretty much equivalent to two signs saying, "Looking for drugs? There'll be a lot of them around here."

Trafalgar Square


Admiral Nelson stands atop his pillar in Trafalgar Square.


A fountain in the square catches the morning sunlight.

Cambridge

I took a quick trip up to Cambridge, to visit my friend, Canbridge University economist Paul Lewis, and then attend Tony Lawson's Critical Realist workshop. I arrived in the evening, so Paul gave me a whirlwind tour of the campus and then treated me to a lovely dinner.


The gate to King's College in Cambridge.

The first item on the agenda of the workshop is drinks from 7:30 until 8:00. Just before 8, when the evening's talk is to start, most people fill their wine glass one last time before sitting down. After the lecture, it's... off to the pub! Paul told me that drinking accompanies all activities at Cambridge.

King's College

Some shots of King's College in London, where I'm studying the history of science:



Sunday, November 14, 2004

Picadilly Circus on a Saturday Night

We were passing from the Picadilly Underground Station south toward Leicester Square, down a wide pedestrian thoroughfare. It was packed with people. Suddenly, we heard fireworks going off, in the middle of this throng of pedestrians. People began screaming and sprinting for cover. Several more rounds were launched -- some sort of bottle rockets sending bright arcs just over hundreds of heads.

We picked up our pace, trying to get out of the area. We had to stop at a crosswalk, and as we stood there, from inside the McDonald's across the street, three or four minutes after the first rocket had gone off -- hey, they had to finish their Big Macs! -- about seven or eight cops raced into the street. Well, not so much raced, as kind of strolled, at a very leisurely pace. They seemed to have no interest whatsoever in finding out who was shooting bottle rockets in the crowd. In fact, they came to a stop about fifteen feet from the entrance to McDonald's, and just stood together in a clump.

My friend explained, "Well, no one was attacking them!"

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

What Did I Say Wrong?

I was in a shopping district near my home, where I thought I had seen a shoe store. However, I could not locate, so I stopped someone to ask where it was.

"Excuse me, is there a shoe store nearby?"

He looked at me in a puzzled manner.

"A shoe store," I repeated.

"You want to buy shoes?"

"Yes." What else would I want the shoe store for?

"I think there's one down that way," he said, pointing.

Not wanting to waste time in case he was wrong -- he didn't seem very sure about whether there was or not -- I asked another passerby.

"Is there a shoe store nearby?"

He was taken back. "You want to buy shoes?"

Now, I'm sure there was something wrong with the way I was asking my question -- I just don't know what. "Shoe shop"? "Footwear store"? Advice welcomed.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Every Summer We Could Rent a Cottage in the Isle of Wight...

...if it's not too dear.

Over the weekend, I took a trip to the Isle of Wight, to visit my friend, Paul Birch, and tour the island.


Paul smiles by the seaside.

Now, despite the fact that Paul is my friend, I must warn you, I fear he's a somewhat fishy character -- although he claims to be an astronomer, when I asked him to show me his telescope, it turns out he doesn't have one! I bet he has no astrolabe either.

On the ferry out to the island, the passengers were shown a safety film. As usual, no one paid any attention to it. It occurred to me that such films would draw more attention if they actually showed footage of horrendous accidents, e.g., the ferry sinking, bleeding passengers, people screaming as they sunk into freezing water, and so on. That would get the customers' attention, wouldn't it?

The Isle of Wight itself is not heavily populated, and is full of picturesque rural scenes.


A rural barn on the island.


Another country scene.

It is also geographically quite interesting, as there are a number of quite different strata running through the island. In fact, Alum Bay, where several of them come together, was apparently quite important in forming the thought of the Isle-born English biologist, physicist, geologist, and architect, Robert Hooke.


A view of Alum Bay, showing a few of the different strata visible in the area.


Another shot of the bay, showing "The Needles" just off shore.


Why we see so many colors of rock at Alum Bay.

Civil Liberties Stripped

Beyond the titillating nature of this news story, I draw your attention to the official who claims that 98 percent of the people involved didn't mind. But if you read the article closely, this seems to mean 98 percent of those who volunteered didn't mind!

Friday, November 05, 2004

Causation Treatment

Today, you can go somewhere to receive treatment for alomost any habit you have, e.g., gambling, drinking, drugs, sex, and so on.

Well, the Scottish philosopher David Hume said that the idea we have that certain events "cause" others arises merely from habit. So I'm considering opening a "Causation Rehab Center." Clients will come in and we will ask them things like, "How many times do you posit a cause-and-effect relationship per day?" and "How long have you been using induction?"

Then we will do things like roll one billiard ball toward another, but first crazy glue the stationary one to the table, or fill it with explosives, and so on. We'll get 'em off the stuff soon enough.

My Hatchet Job on Reagan

True story: When I was in high school, my aunt showed me the Statistical Abstract of the U.S. and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I was amazed to see that federal revenues really did go up under Ronald Reagan. But then I started crunching the numbers, and my intellectual honesty forced me to conclude that the '80s were not a true test of supply-side principles. I drew on this experience for this article.

What Should Have Happened in the US Election



The above is the work of Roderick Long. Visit his excellent blog to see his original post.

Apartheid... and Iraq

I watched a very moving film last night called Amandla: A Struggle in Four-Part Harmony. It was about the role music played in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. (And the music was great as well.)

During the course of the movie I reflected on the parallels between what I was watching and the US invasion of Iraq. One dissident mentioned that the South African prison wardens would strip political prisoners naked to humiliate them. Sound familiar?

The filmaker interviewed former members of the "riot police," one of whom said that they "had" to use heavy weapons during protests, or some of the police might have been hurt. Just like how the US and Britain have "had" to employ aerial bombing and heavy artillery in populated areas, to minimize their own casualties. Because of such tactics, Iraqi civilian deaths are running about 100 to 1 ahead of US military deaths. The soldiers all volunteered for a job that they knew entailed the possibility of going to war. The civilians dying had no such option. But simply because Bush knows Americans will be far more upset by one American soldier dying than 100 Iraqis, the military is using an approach that they know will kill many, many innocent bystanders.

The soldiers who fired on peaceful protesters were just doing their "duty" for their "country." They probably saw themselves as good, South African patriots.

That doesn't excuse their actions, nor does the same excuse wash for anyone participating in the immoral fiasco now occurring in Iraq.

Hayek Society

I, Jan Lester, and Pete Boettke listen to Larissa Price discussing property rights at a meeting of the LSE Hayek Society:



(Photo courtesy of Peter Jaworski.)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Democracy

My friend Jim Henley cites the perfect quote to sum up the US election results: "Democracy is the theory that the people know what they want and deserve to get it - good and hard." -- H.L. Mencken

Settled In

Well, I'm finally looking the right way when crossing the street.

That means that I probably will be hit by a car within a day or two of arriving back in the States.

Oriental City

My soul captured by a wild spirit of adventure, I walked several blocks further down the main road through my town (Colindale) then I have during the first month I've been here. There I found... Oriental City!



Oriental City is a giant mall devoted to things from eastern Asia. There is a store with a huge supply of Chinese ceramics, several shops selling Oriental bric-a-brac, a Japanese beauty parlor, and a Sega center that is a confusing jumble of lights from giant game screens and the sounds of cars, shots, kicks, and dying.

A little farther in I found an Asian supermarket as large as a Walmart in the US. I wandered the aisles for a few minutes, surveying the unfamiliar items. Some of the prices were astronomical: whelks were selling for 65 pounds a kilo, while "surf clams" went for 68. I saw little fruits from Thailand called "rambutan" that looked like they were covered with tentacles. My favorite item was "dried salted witch." So that's what they do with them these days!



Next I went to the food court. It contains about a dozen Asian restaurants -- Malyasian, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese. One shop sold sixty different, non-alcoholic drinks, including lychee in syrup, iced horlick, Lo Hon Guo Longan tea, ice sago in coconut milk, and jelly grass in syrup. Another place displayed whole ducks, including the heads, roasted and skewered, as well as whole, bright-red cuttlefish. In one of the Chinese stalls I could have ordered preserved vegetables with pig intestine. I wound up getting a wonderful Vietnamese beef-noodle soup, flavored with fresh basil and cilantro, scallions, freshly squeezed lime juice, and plenty of bright red chillies.

Yum, yum.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Oxford

I took a trip to Oxford yesterday. It was the first tourist activity I've done since I arrived in England. Except, of course, for the tourist activity I like the most: finding out what it's like to live in some place, especially what the people who live there are like. At the standard tourist spots, that is not what happens: they are filled with other tourists, not the residents. That bothered me when I stayed in old Quebec City: the entire old city area is a giant tourist attraction. After a few days, I realized I wasn't in a real city at all, but in something equivalent to Colonial Williamsburg on a larger scale.

The countryside the London-Oxford train passes through, once one gets perhaps 25 minutes out of London, is lovely. Autumn is fully setting in here, and the trees lining the green fields are muted tones of green and gold and brown, much quieter than a New England fall, but with their own charm. The English rivers are enchanting, full and slow and lazy, their banks studded with trees and shrubs.

Oxford itself is also very nice, filled with majestic old buildings. I walked down New Road, whose name probably means it was built only about five or six centuries ago -- New College was built in 1379. Crossing Hythe Street Bridge, I saw a sign that read, "Hump -- 75 Yards." I went there and waited for a while, but nothing happened.

I visited the Ashmolean, a wonderful museum. In the Ancient Egypt exhibit I pondered the explosion in human technical ability that started around 10,000 years ago. Egypt had been occupied by humans for roughly 1,000,000 years, over the first 990,000 of which the exhibit showed small changes in stone tool technology. Then, suddenly, there is pottery, farming, copper needles and fishhooks, and so on.

The night before my trip, I had wound up sleeping on a friend's couch, from where I went straight to Oxford. I hadn't planned to do so, and, therefore, I hadn't brought a change of clothes. By late afternoon my feet were feeling, shall we say, "not so fresh." I wanted to rinse them off, so I walked along a canal. A life preserver bobbed in the water, caught up in some branches. Someone throw it a human!

There I saw canal boats for the first time -- long, thin, low affairs, most of them emitting streams of smoke that smelled like a peat fire, but apparently were the result of burning some material that comes in plastic bags, which the boat owners stacked by the dozen across their roofs.

I finally found a place where I could reach the water with my feet, and rinsed them off. I walked barefoot back along the path. Two small, black birds -- ducks? -- with white heads fought the current to stare at me, perhaps hoping for food. As I took out my notebook to jot down their appearance, a couple strolled toward me up the walk. They gave me a very wide berth. Well, I suppose, standing on the asphalt path in dress slacks and a buttondown shirt, but barefeet, in 50 degree weather, my shoes, socks, and a notepad in one hand, while I scribbled on the pad with a pen held in the other, that I might have looked a wee bit odd.

I did not see Morse or Lewis during my stay.

Caution!

Passing through Paddington Station, I saw a sign reading: "Caution: Cycle Thieves About."

I guess it's like rotating your tires -- you don't want the thieves getting all worn out on one side or anything.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Urban Walking

New York and London are quite similar as far as how people behave walking around the sidewalks, and both quite different to where I grew up. (Over here, we say "different to.") The high density of people on the sidewalks seems to lead to most pedestrians dehumanizing everyone but the people they are walking with. Whereas in the small city I lived in as a yoot, someone approaching you would meet your eyes, say "excuse me," or perhaps gesture to avoid a collision, in New York and London people are far more likely to stare at your feet and try to outguess you.

This morning I was stunned by how far people can take that attitude. A woman was walking down a passage in the underground about twenty feet ahead of me. She must have decided she was going the wrong way, because she suddenly reversed directions, so that she was walking straight back at me. Now, the passageway was quite wide, and there was plenty of room for her to go around me.

Of course, I could have moved aside also, but my thinking was that, if I was walking down an exit passage in the wrong direction (which she now was), and if I had suddenly changed course, I would try to be accomodating toward the other pedestrians who were going the right way and who were not pirouetting about. Out of curiosity, I stood still, waiting to see what she would do. She was still fifteen feet away, so she had plenty of time to notice someone, not moving, lying ahead of her on the course she had set. But she simply kept walking until she was about three feet away from my chest, stopped, and glared at me. She was apparently prepared to do so for as long as I stood there. Damn it all, she was walking straight back to the platform, come what may. Since I was meeting someone, I stepped aside after a few seconds.

A Buzz in My Shorts

Drying one's clothes outside brings surprises. Two days ago, I put on a shirt and found that a bird had used it for target practice. This morning, as I pulled up my boxers, I felt a small lump on the waistband. I pulled it off, and then looked to see what it was.

I found that I was holding a decent-sized, live wasp in my fingers. Yikes! I have no idea why I wasn't stung, unless I luckily had employed just the grip Steve Irwin uses to hold a wasp and not be stung by it.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Be All That You Can Be!

In my local (that means a bar) the other night, I was in the loo (that means the bathroom) when I heard some fellow drunkenly ranting about "frogs" and "genocide." Did he want to wipe out the French? No, because then I heard "amphibians." I left the toilet and went to wash my hands, where I found the ranter, wearing an Irish football jersey, addressing his victim -- I mean, audience. He leaned closer and told the fellow, "You know, in this life you can be anything you want to be, if you put your mind to it."

Even a raving, batty drunk!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Be Sute to Vote!

If you're sick of having an elitist, Ivy League alumnus, multi-millionaire, Skull-and-Bones member, warmonger as president, then be thankful you live in a country where you have the opportunity to replace him with a man who is an elitist, Ivy League alumnus, multi-millionaire, Skull-and-Bones member, and warmonger.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Odor of a Discount

I passed a Woolworth's in North London the other day, then turned because I realized I was curious: Would a Woolworth's here smell the same as one in the states?

Yep, it sure did. Just what is that smell? Caldor and Bradley's always had pretty much the same odor as well.

Famous Thinkers Gather at LSE

From left to right, me, Lionel Robbins, and Pete Boettke:



Monday, October 25, 2004

treppenwitz

I'm in Los Angeles so naturally the discourse at parties eventually runs towards how Dubya is the new Hitler. However, the other evening when somebody made the comment, "I think the election is going to be a disaster", I was thinking how amusing it would be to respond, "oh, you think Kerry has a chance?" but I kept my mouth shut because I wasn't really in the mood to antagonize people. (I hadn't drank anywhere nearly enough and was looking for a ride home.) Later, I realized that I should've responded with something closer to my own sentiment, "so you think somebody is actually going to win the election?"

In my bumper sticker count system, Kerry wins slightly over Bush in the Los Angeles area. There are a lot of anti-Bush stickers but that doesn't necessarily mean those votes are going to Kerry. They might. They might not. Nobody anywhere seems really excited about their candidates. If nobody shows up for the election...

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Inconsistency in American Christians

I've been to several "right-wing" Protestant churches, and what's odd is that they generally hold the following two beliefs:

(A) America is going to h*ll in a handbasket. Our culture is absolutely disgusting, and if we don't shape up God is going to take us out to the toolshed.

(B) America is the most wonderful country that has ever existed. Foreign people would gladly welcome our bombers and take the chance of being blown to smithereens, if only to be more like us.

Again, I am not trying to make fun of American Christians; I'm one of them. I'm just making this observation...

Shatner on SpaceShipOne

William Shatner has offered to pay $210,000 to ride into space. (Doesn't he know how much he could've saved by booking his flight though priceline.com??)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Excuse Me, Officer, But How Do I...

I was walking down the main road near my house the other night when a police van, containing two cops, came to a halt by the curb.

My mind flashed back to a night in sleepy Redding, CT, when I was walking home from my local around midnight and had a cop pull up alongside me. His window came down.

"Excuse me, sir, are you just out for a walk?"

"Actually," I responded, "I was down at the Georgetown Saloon, and I'm walking home."

"Oh, you live near here?"

"Yes, Highland Avenue."

"How long have you lived there?"

"Four years."

"And what's your name?"

"Gene Callahan."

"And your birthdate?"

Well, I had tried to be patient, but that was about it. Instead of thanking me for not drinking and driving, this nitwit was going to grill me because not many people in Redding walk at night.

"Are you going to send me a birthday card?" I asked.

Chagrined, he answered, "Something like that."

"Officer, I haven't broken any laws. I'm heading home." I turned and walked away from him.

Was this to be a repeat scenario, here in London? Once again, the window came down. I waited for the question.

The cop nearest to me leaned to the window and said, "Excuse me, sir, can you tell us how to get to the Colindale Police Station?"

I swear, I'm not making that up.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Sine of the Times

Here's a new angle on this situation: On the tube yesterday, I saw a sign showing an abandoned piece of luggage on a seat and reading: "Don't touch, check with other passengers, inform station staff or call 999."

In other words, if you just ignore the bomb, maybe it will go away. For the want of a semi-colon, the train was lost.

Of course, the US is as full of badly worded signs as is England. At my old office, there was a sign on a door reading, "This door must be kept closed at all times." Wouldn't a wall have been a better choice than a door, in that case?

A Worthwhile Storm

The other day, a headline The Times read, "Hurricane Ivan Leaves Behind Wreckage Worth Billions of Pounds."

Perhaps Ivan can drop by my place and leave some of that wreckage there. I'd even be satisfied with wreckage worth a million pounds.

Escape ---- Leviathan

The other night someone said to Jan Lester, "Jan, how is Escape to Leviathan selling?"

The actual title of Jan's book is Escape from Leviathan, so the new title changed the thrust of the work a bit. However, it did suggest a series of titles Jan might produce: Escape for Leviathan, in which Jan escapes from a prison to rescue the State, Escape Through Leviathan, where Jan uses the labryinth bureaucracy of the State to elude his ferocious and vicious pursuers, and my favorite, Escape with Leviathan, in which Jan and the State run off to a deserted tropical isle together, leaving the bewildered populace longing for both authority and critical rationalism.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

All Available Doors

* I was on the tube a couple of days ago, when a voice came over the PA and said, "This train is quite crowded. When exiting, please use all available doors."

I know how to use one door or another to get off the train, but I froze in puzzlement as to how I could use "all available doors" to get off. It was six stops past mine before I just punted and used the one nearest to me.

* And I was looking forward to having tons of yummy English muffins when I got over here, but I haven't seen one! Have the English sold all of theirs to the states?

No Interference, Part II

Following up on Bob's post below, I got a good laugh when I heard Donald Rumsfeld warning other countries (he meant Iran and Syria) "not to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs."

You see, buddy, if there's any interferin' to be done, we Americans gonna be the ones doin' it.

US to Britain: Don't Meddle With Elections!

Apparently the UK paper The Guardian was trying to promote a Kerry win. Outraged Americans correctly pointed out that Britain has no business interfering with the elections of another country... I mean, with the elections of the United States.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

SpaceShipWon

For those of you who haven't heard, SpaceShipOne recently won the $10 million X-Prize. (Commentary here: http://www.lewrockwell.com/murphy/murphy87.html) If and when I get a few hundred million bucks, I'm definitely going to set up prizes like this. That's really one of the main benefits of being rich, I think. You get to decide the arbitrary hoops that everyone else jumps through while they're "paying their dues."

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Bend It Like Callahan

* I'm beginning to get the notion that there's some fellow named "Beckham" who is something of a celebrity here. It's mostly the fact that his name has been in the front page headline of some tabloid every single day since I've arrived that has suggested that to me.

* In America, fast food service jobs are held mostly by Hispanics, in order to prevent the customers from wasting the staff members' time by talking to them. England doesn't have much of a Hispanic population, but fast food places here have gotten around that difficulty by employing Eastern Europeans who can't understand the customers instead. Last night, I stopped at a sandwich shop. "Cheddar Cheese Sandwich" was listed on the menu. But how was it prepared? A typical cheese sandwich here might include pickles and mango chutney -- not bad, actually.

So, I asked the chap behind the counter, "What's in the cheddar cheese sandwich?"

"Cheese."

Well, I had suspected as much, since cheese is constitutive of a cheese sandwich. (See, I'm already learning to talk like a fancy pants philosopher!) I was fairly certain there would be bread involved as well. But my curiosity was still not satisfied.

"What else is in it, besides cheese?"

He looked at me quizically. "Ham? Tuna salad?"

Did he mean that the cheddar cheese sandwich always includes ham and tuna salad? Was he saying he could put those in if I wanted him to? Was he suggesting other sandwiches I might prefer, since I seemed so suspicious of the cheese?

Who knows... I just said "Thanks anyway" and walked out.

* I'm finally getting settled in here. Last night, for the very first time, I remembered the name of the road I live on, Buck Lane, when I wasn't on the road! The fact that my house is prominently named "Buck Cottage" has been a big help in my learning the road name in as short a time as two weeks.

I'm getting accustomed to the English driving on the left. When I first arrived, I could think, "I'd look left here in the States, so I'd better look right." But I've been here long enough that now I can't remember which way I'd look in America, so I'm actually much worse at crossing streets than I was two weeks ago.

* My friend Jan Lester has been trying to tell me that the name of the subway here is pronounced 'tyube,' not 'toob.' But he also tried to tell me that the rail stations have been 'moving,' so obviously he's just winding up the Yank.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Alarmed

* Many of the doors around LSE bear a sign saying "Door Alarmed." Well, I'm starting to become alarmed that all these inanimate objects are so worried.

* I'm writing this in the LSE library, where it's about 10 degrees colder than it is outside -- and it's not warm outside.

* And the library has a sign saying, "When in the library, your cell phone must be strictly switched to silent mode." Now, I know how to switch my cell phone to silent mode, but how do I do so "strictly"? Ought I to warn it, in harsh terms, of the punishment I will deliver should it ring?

Two-Nil

* Wednesday night, Ireland beat the Faroe Islands two-nil in World Cup qualifying play. In the States, of course, we'd say "two-nothing." But no one ever seems to say "two-zero." Why is that?

* And I'm surprised that there are enough young, athletic males in the Faroe Islands to form a football (that means soccer) team.

* My clothes are again "drying" on the line. I hope to be able to bring them inside by Sunday. I'm thinking of skipping the washing machine altogether and putting my laundry straight outside, since it gets both washed and dried there.

* I asked directions to a restaurant from a news agent. He told me it was right across the street from "steer box." Now, I wasn't sure what a "steer box" is, so I asked him where that was. He pointed it out to me. Starbucks.

* While on the topic, it's interesting to note the different effects produced by American and English rain. In the US, mushrooms pop up after a shower, while here each rainfall sprouts at least one new Starbucks.

* You can now play the lottery on your cell phone here. It makes me glad to be alive in the 21st century!

John Gray, Quiz Show Master

I was flipping through the channels on TV here in England, and happened on a quiz show. One contestant was an accountant. The profession of the other wasn't mentioned, but he was named
"John Gray." I thought, "That's a funny coincidence, but of course it's a common name." Then, at the end of the program, the host mentioned that a famous poet would be on next week. Hmm, could it be?

A few days later, I was talking with Jan Lester, Pete Boettke, and David McDonagh, and Gray's name came up. I asked if he appeared on quiz shows, and David said, "Yes, regularly."

So, while his political thought may have gone downhill, I can report he's very good at making words from scrambled letters.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A Banner Day

I was able to bring my wash inside!

We line "dry" our clothes where I'm living. The trick is to get them out and back in during one of the 12-hour windows without rain. Well, Sunday I mis-timed things, and today was the first time I was able to bring them inside.

It's not that they were actually dry, or anything like that. It was just the first time they weren't dripping wet. Now they are in my bedroom, really drying.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Taps

The UK sinks are puzzling. There are always two separate faucets, so that you can choose to scald your hands or freeze them when washing up. And some of the sinks have a nifty "instant-shut-off" feature, where the faucet only runs as long as you are pressing down the tap with one hand, making it impossible to rub your hands together under running water.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Busking

Someone was busking (that means playing music or singing for change) in the tube (that means subway) line tonight. The song she was performing was "Walk on by." That seems to me to be the most unfortunate choice for a busking song I've ever come across.

Spotted Dick...

...heading down the escalator at the tube, but I didn't catch him.

* In both the US and the UK, waiters in Indian restaurants typically wipe your plate just before they place it in front of you. Is this supposed to inspire confidence? It always makes me worry that the wait staff fears the dish staff is not really doing their job.

* The new Scottish Parliament building was just opened... 3 years late and 10 times over budget. Who but the government could wind up 1000% over budget on a building? At least here they have the honesty to call state projects "schemes."

* The book store on the LSE campus is selling Waterstone's Giude to Literarute for Dlysexic Chilrden.

* The cigarette packs here have labels with big letters saying "Smoking Kills." Well, at least one government scheme has succeeded, since the labels have reduced the number of smokers per capita in Britain to only like 10 times the number in the US.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

UK, but IM

A block from LSE I found Drury Lane. I've been searching up and down it for the muffin man -- no sign of him yet, but I'll report back later.

Also near LSE is a building declaring itself, in very large letters, to contain "The Government of Gibraltar." What is it doing way up here? Oughtn't it to be down in Gibraltar?

The first few days here, I would look outside in the morning to see if it was going to rain. I've learned to stop doing that: It is going to rain.

Sanctions Weren't Working

I saw Tony Blair on TV today saying that the invasion of Iraq was necessary because "sanctions weren't working."

I agree. Saddam had only been reduced to having zero weapons of mass destruction. Clearly, the only sign of the sanctions working would have been if he had had a large negative number of WMDs.

LA Doll

So I'm back in Los Angeles after a really difficult three years in Miami. I had no idea I'd be gone so long and I'm really only here to gather my abandoned belongings and go back to Miami, reluctantly. Sigh. The task is overwhelming as it is but for various reasons it's become even more daunting. The first thing that happened is my hostess locked us out of her place for several hours. Then other problems magically appeared. I'd just about had it when my ex mentions the New York Dolls are playing. I wasn't sure about it but at that point I was so frazzled that getting anything accomplished was out of the question and I do love the Dolls. I went to the show straight from working on my vehicle so I was covered in oil and gas too. Within three or four songs the curative properties of the Church of Rock N Roll were working their magic and all my troubles just slid off my back...or maybe it was the motor oil.

Gabba Gabba TSA

My first jet trip since 9-6-01 and I'm sitting in the airport at Miami. The last time was actually eventful. I was "selected" to have my checked luggage x-rayed and the Black fellow sitting behind me had a copy of the Koran. Things I probably would've forgotten about now except for the obvious reason. At the time I had no idea of the personal disasters lurking in my near future. Family illness after illness kept me from traveling far so flying home to Los Angeles was out of the question until now. Once again I was selected for the super duper inspection only now it involves having to take your shoes off (damn you shoe bomber), having some stranger rifle your panties in the carry-on bag and a groping that makes you feel like you are entering prison--a naughty prison. I was thinking the entire time, "even if a terrorist gets on board, I'll rip him to shreds with my bare hands so there's no point to this nonsense." I told this to my pal Ivan a few days back. If somebody tries to fling another obstacle in my way, I'll just shoot knives out of my eyeballs--like in the old comics--and destroy them. I'll be so furious that I'll just spout gibberish laced with obscenities. Ivan replied that I should try to yell the standard Ramones chant "Gabba Gabba Hey" instead because it'll probably be enough to stop any anti-American activities. I will certainly have try it next time I have to deal with the TSA panty police at the airport. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

When in England

If you want to emphasize something, turn it into a question. For example, LSE hasn't issued me a student ID yet. I was about to try to make copies at the student copy center, and I imagined answering, in response to a request for my ID: "They haven't issued me one yet, have they?"

I went down to Picadilly Circus. Not only did I not see Marcus, I couldn't find the circus at all -- no tents, no clowns, no elephants! My advice is, "Don't bother."

In the suburb to which I just moved, there is a eatery called -- I'm not making this up -- "New Jersey Chicken." All right, what the heck is "New Jersey chicken"? I grew up 100 miles from NJ, and I've never heard of such a dish or style. Do you get a little map of the turnpike carved into your roaster?

And the breakfast place nearby offers "Bubble and Squeak" on its menu. I have to order that one day.

The sidewalks in London seem to be made of some specially polished stone -- but that's OK, because it's not like it rains here often or anything.

The headline in today's Daily Mirror promised a profile of "Britain's Worst Pedophile." Maybe tomorrow they will follow up with one of "Britain's Best Pedophile."

Sunday, October 03, 2004

More from London

One great aspect of being at LSE: I'm writing this sitting in the Lionel Robbins library; my department is housed in the Imre Lakatos building and was founded by Karl Popper; one of the staff is holding the Lachmann Chair; soon I'll be seeing Pete Boettke deliver the Hayek Memorial Lecture; and the second holder of the chair in politics was Michael Oakeshott.



Friday, October 01, 2004

London Calling

OK, I've settled in a bit here in the UK, so I'm sending off my first dispatch:

1) British pubs are notably different than US bars in terms of how devoted the patrons are to conversation. At 5PM in a London pub, the volume of noise produced by the multitude of conversations occurring is startling to anyone accustomed to US bars.

2) Marlboro Lights here have brown filters: What's up with that?

3) The way I cope with crossing British roads -- where they drive on the wrong side -- is by frantically swinging my head back and forth in both directions.

More to come.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

bumper sticker update

I mentioned in an earlier post about gauging voter interest through political bumper stickers. Well, since Labor Day, Kerry has taken a slight edge over Dubya in the South Beach vinyl wars. Today, I observed a man in a tank top walking around with a circular Kerry sticker stuck to his bicep. I'm not sure what that portends.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Economist Says, Have More Sex!

Here is a very interesting chapter from an upcoming book by Steve Landsburg, in which he argues that sexual conservatives will actually reduce the spread of AIDS by having more one-night stands:

http://www.landsburg.com/moresex.htm

I don't think this blog is the ideal place to debate the matter, but my own feeling is that Landsburg is basically wrong. At least two major problems:

(1) He assumes that everyone is purely selfish, e.g. Landsburg's model (it seems to me) would not include the possibility of someone discovering he is HIV+ and then refraining from future sex because he doesn't want to hurt other people. Once we realize that there are such people, then I don't see why Landsburg denies (at the end of his chapter) that his analysis might encourage more promiscuity. ("I'll be doing the world a favor by going out tonight! A Ph.D. at the U of R even says so!")

(2) He assumes that the degree of promiscuity is a purely individual decision, rather than one formed by culture. To take his "monogamous wives" story, once the women all take on an additional partner, then (I claim) the next generation of people will take this behavior as standard, and then future Landsburg's will argue for even more promiscuity still.

I realize I sound like a stodgy Puritan who rejects economic analysis, but I really do think the analysis is dead wrong in this case.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

How Should I Respond?

I'm about to head off to the London School of Economics to do a master's degree in their philosophy department. I just logged into my LSE e-mail account for the first time, and discovered I had one message, from LSE, saying, "This message was automatically generated, and you should ignore it."

Now, if someone said, "Gene ignored the sign at the beach that forbid swimming," that would mean that I did go swimming. By analogy, in order to ignore a message that says it should be ignored, it seems I should not ignore it. But, if I do that, then I am ignoring it.

You see my dilemma. I suspect this is some sort of test from the philosophy department to see if I am really up to the mark, and I'm very anxious about how to respond (or not).

Friday, September 17, 2004

A true punk, that's all.

Johnny Ramone--the man credited with revitalizing Rock by adding Punk to it--is no more after a long battle with cancer. It wasn't just that unique but much copied staccato guitar sound that Johnny introduced to the world but an attitude that encouraged people who might not have realized that despite having no training their creations and ideas were just as valid as the next person's, maybe even better. Spending his creative and business life doing things his own way made for lots of enemies. Even among self-described Ramones fans, there are people who opted to note his passing on Wednesday by complaining that they couldn't like Johnny because he was a right winger or astute businessman or some other nonsense reason that had nothing to do with the music. Nice to know that people who should be thanking the Ramones and specifically Johnny for cracking open an increasingly insulated industry are themselves guilty of pushing out the iconoclasts who taught them everyone is valuable--but isn't that what always happens to revolutionaries?

Several years ago I was able to interview him. It was a great pleasure and honor. Thanks for everything Johnny and Godspeed.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

It's All Good

In the most recent issue of Reason Magazine that I received, I found an ad for American Spirit cigarettes. At the top of the ad was the text "November 2" -- election day -- followed by a listing of a number of political parties: Green, Republican, Constitution, Democratic, American, Socialist, and so on. Finally were the words, "It's all good."

What typical nonsense. If voting Socialist is good, then voting for the Constitution Party is clearly bad. If voting Republican is good, then voting Green isn't. Even the people who promote this idea will reveal that they don't really believe it if they are asked to include the Nazi Party in such a list.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Fowl Play

Near my apartment there is a live poultry vendor. A price board on the wall outside its door lists prices for chickens, roosters, rabbits, ducks, guinea hens, and "fowl." I've always been puzzled by what you get when you buy fowl. I mean, I thought chickens, roosters, ducks, and guinea hens were fowl. Are they offering some other sort of bird that they can't identify beyond the fact it seems to fall under that general category? Does anyone know what this means?

9/11

The Arts and Entertainment cable channel today was showing videos taken in lower Manhattan on the day of the attack on the World Trade Center. (I'm not sure how the program fell under either "art" or "entertainment.") It was really stunning to see how much damage those terrorists did. Their action was revolting brutal, violent beyond belief, and about as evil a deed as a handful of humans have ever pulled off.

Of course, none of that justifies pulverizing a bunch of Iraqis who had no connection to 9/11. But, since some hawks equate all objections to the invasion of Iraq with support for terrorists, I thought the above might be worth saying.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

My New Plagiarism Survey

I just received an e-mail with a "Plagiarism Survey for Economists" attached. I sent this note in reply:

*****
Dear X,

I haven't had time to fill in the survey, but I did make a copy of it, which, after a few cosmetic changes, I hope to be able to pass off as my own, original work. Thanks for sending it along.

Regards,
Gene Callahan
*****


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

More Frances Follies

The other day when Jeb Bush mentioned that anti-trust laws prevented gas companies from working together to form a gasoline distribution plan in the wake of Hurricane Frances and the state would have to do it instead, I knew it could only mean trouble. Sure enough, pre-storm shortages worsened and today there were reports of five mile long gas lines in some areas. People even drove to the Florida Turnpike rest areas just to fill up there.
Now if price gouging weren't illegal the few stations that have gasoline could charge accordingly high prices. People would only purchase the smallest amount they actually need and there'd be more gas to go around--but the state doesn't like that idea either. It'd be nice if those people in line realized how much the government contributed to their woes but will they be in line long enough?

The fruits of Gene

Gene Callahan's recent articles on voting have inspired me. I may also try to emulate his approach to facial hair.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/murphy/murphy84.html

Monday, September 06, 2004

The ancient cycle begins anew

Hurri-up-and-wait-cane Frances marched up the Bahamas and promptly camped out in a hole near Moore's Island. Then she drifted ever so slowly towards Florida. With no real features in the atmosphere to drive Frances and the failed Hurricane Charley forecast fresh in their minds, officials decided (correctly) to put up hurricane warnings for most of the east coast of Florida. Of course, any time you tell millions of people to evacuate and then nothing happens in their area, you're going to hear the classic refrain of first time hurricane survivors: "I'm never evacuating again."

This is especially true in Miami where the mandatory evacuation begin at 4pm on Thursday and included tourists in hotels that line the Gold Coast. Thursday and Friday in Miami were quite sunny and conditions only started to really deteriorate Saturday afternoon. Tourists unable to find hotels on the mainland (which quickly filled up) had to spend three days trapped at a public school before being released by overanxious officials. However, by Saturday morning it was clear Miami had been spared a hit and cabbies waited outside shelters for people who just couldn't take it anymore. Officials begged evacuees to not "abandon" shelters for the dangerous storm that was heading to a landfall far up the coast.

Hurricane Ivan is on its way. I wonder if less people will move inland for that event.

Friday, September 03, 2004

The Voter's Trap

In response to my most recent article on not voting at LewRockwell.com, reader Jack Dennon sent me the following interesting comment:

"The ruling establishment has the American people in a trap. Bush has commiitted war crimes. Kerry has announced: if elected he will do the same. No matter which one is elected, the election itself will express the American people's willingness to share complicity in the crime and become therefore fair game for retaliation."

Carding 40-Year-Olds

In New York City, as in most of the US, I suppose, it is illegal to sell cigarettes to anyone under 18. But the law here contains a provision, displayed on a sign at licensed tobacco vendors, that requires merchants to check IDs for any customers who are 27 or younger. What strikes me as bizzare about this is, how is a cashier supposed to know the customer is under 28 before determining whether or not to ask for an ID? A store could legally sell cigarettes to someone who is 26, but still be in hot water for failing to check his ID.

The result is that shops have to ask for an ID from pretty much anyone under 40 or so. My wife, who is 36, has been carded. Now, she looks younger than she is, and someone might suspect she is 26, but there is no way she could be mistaken for a 17-year-old.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Zell Miller

I just saw Chris Matthew's interview with Senator Zell Miller. I guess it's fitting: the stupidest president we've ever had getting the stupidest man in the senate to cross parties to endorse him.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

hurricane watch or how I love to watch hurricanes

I cannot express how happy it makes me to see all the channels in Miami broadcasting hurricane news instead of the Republican convention. Having several Weather Channel variety stations is heaven for a girl like me. My only complaint is that as the storms--and this is all storms--approach, the media show less and less satellite videotapes and more lame graphics. When I can see the satellite feed and water vapor and radar, I have a much better sense of what the storm is up to. The media people have the bad tendency of creating graphics that show the hurricane right on top of the station instead of where it's likely going to go. As they are discussing the scary graphic, they enjoy saying say things like "I don't want to scare you" and "this is just one possibility". Ugh. Just show me the satellite feed please. Why is that so difficult? That's what I want. Really.
From the bits I've seen on TV today, Frances is a really difficult storm to predict. A couple days ago it seemed like a straight shot to Savannah but now I'm not so sure. There aren't any features that will definitely steer the storm one way or the other so it really is up in the air.

bumper sticker war update

It's not really a bumper sticker but while cycling around my neighborhood today I noticed that somebody had replaced one of the free newsweeklies' box with the Lyndon Larouche booklet "A Real Democratic Platform for November 2004". They smelled faintly of unsmoked cigarettes. I haven't figured out what this means within my little system but I don't think it signals that Larouche has got the Miami Beach vote. (It's fun thinking about it though.) I'm really curious about the cigarette smell. Is that a subliminal message to smokers?

Monday, August 30, 2004

'Neocon' Does Not Equal 'Jew'!

A good comment by Juan Cole on this topic:

Note that over 80% of American Jews vote Democrat, that the majority of American Jews opposed the Iraq war (more were against it than in the general population), and that American Jews have been enormously important in securing civil liberties for all Americans. Moreover, Israel has been a faithful ally of the US and deserves our support in ensuring its security. The Likudniks like to pretend that they represent American Jewry, but they do not. And they like to suggest that objecting to their policies is tantamount to anti-Semitism, which is sort of like suggesting that if you don't like Chile's former dictator Pinochet, you are bigotted against Latinos.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Potheads against the war

While the looney-left (and various other groups) gather to protest the Shrub in New York City, my 19 year old daughter sits on her sofa in Manhattan with friends, smoking pot (which is probably cheaper than cigarettes in NYC), and eating potato chips (in the case, no one really CAN eat just one). She opines that if everyone would just get stoned, the world would be a better place. Might I add, a lot fatter, too?

History does repeat itself, doesn't it? There was a song once, wasn't there?

All together now...."Everybody must get stoned!"

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Lotto Day

Jeez, the last time you want to arrive at a New York deli, in a hurry, to try to grab a pack of smokes is the day when the lotto drawings are to be held. Standing in line yesterday, I recalled people I have worked with buying $500,000 worth of stock in less time than customers in front of me took to place their picks. It's as though they believed that which particular numbers they picked made some difference in their odds of winning... Oh, wait, that is what they believe, isn't it?

Neocon Is a Code Word for...

those darned Japanese-Americans.

Francis Fukuyama explained his recent criticism of neocon Charles Krauthammer as stemming from his desire to maintain the credibility of neoconservatives, of which he still considers himself one. Now, a number of commentators have attempted to write off critics of the neoconservative world view as simple anti-semites, contending that "neoconservative" is merely a code word for "Jewish conservative." Well, perhaps I'm guilty of stereotyping here, but I'm pretty sure that Fukuyama is not Jewish.

Nor are Rich Lowry, Ramesh Ponnuru, or Michael Novak. So look, all you people who attempt this ploy, cut the crap, OK? It's the policies that are being criticized, not the ethnicity of the people forwarding them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Dumb Jock?

"Marginal Revolution" Blogger James Surowiecki is quite amused that Former Nebraska star running back Lawrence Phillips recently pawned one of his Big Eight championship rings for $20. (Phillips reportedly told shop owner Steve Gibson that he was “stuck in Las Vegas” and “needed to get out of town.” Gibson went on to sell the ring on ebay for $1700.) Surowiecki commented:

Perhaps that's the definition of desperate: accepting a price that represents a 99% discount to market value. The inevitable next question is: Has Phillips learned from experience and put his other rings up for auction? (As of now, no.)

As one who always defends victims of elitist criticism, let me question Surowiecki’s analysis. Exactly what was Phillips supposed to have learned? That you should always hawk your Big Eight rings on ebay? Presumably, Phillips needed to get out of town quickly. That’s the reason people go to pawn shops, after all: they give you money fast.

And, now that he’s safely removed from the pickle into which he got himself in Vegas, why in the world would Phillips sell his other rings? Phillips found himself to be very illiquid, not broke.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

give me your mired, your bored, your unstickered masses

Depending on your social milieu, it may seem like there's a lot of interest in the November election but forwarded emails and drunken rants at BBQs aren't a good measure of general interest: I usually rely on yard signs and bumper stickers to gauge public opinion. The technique isn't very "scientific" but it gives me a window on the desires of people I normally don't interact with. It also takes more effort to get a bumper sticker, clean the bumper, remove the backing and apply the sticker than to forward a half read email so I know they mean it.
With that said I now have to wonder if anybody at all is interested in the November elections. I've seen a total of four Kerry and two Bush stickers in my Miami Beach neighborhood and two of Kerry's might've been the same car. I've also only seen one Kerry placard (none for Bush) hidden away--perhaps presciently--in someone's window. Maybe all the gays and liberals have been replaced by nonvoting immigrants or maybe nobody gives a damn anymore (which might explain Bush's relative nonchalance in the matter) or maybe everyone including my neighbors and the president expect Bush to win anyway. Interestingly enough, the Venezuelan recall election has generated LESS commentary than the original petition did a few months ago. With growing suspicion that the new electronic machines were easily tampered with it might just be that nobody believes their votes count anymore and aren't making the emotional investment in the election either. I expect less people at the polls this time around but I'm hoping the post-election analyses and complaints will be more entertaining.

Distraction Deterrents in Small Contexts

"distracted from distraction by distraction" - T.S. Eliot I've been reading a little on how Facebook and other social netwo...