Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Parable About Regulation?

Rdan over at Angry Bear posts a great joke that was new to me. It goes as follows:
A man tries on a made-to-order suit and says to the tailor, "I need this sleeve taken in! It's two inches too long!"
The tailor says, "No, just bend your elbow like this. See, it pulls up the sleeve."
The man says, "Well, okay, but now look at the collar! When I bend my elbow, the collar goes halfway up the back of my head."
The tailor says, "So? Raise your head up and back. Perfect."
The man says, "But now the left shoulder is three inches lower than the right one!"
The tailor says, "No problem. Bend at the waist way over to the left and it evens out."
The man leaves the store wearing the suit, his right elbow cooked and sticking out, his head up and back, all the while leaning down to the left. The only way he can walk is with a herky-jerky spastic gait.
Just then two passersby notice him.
Says the first, "Look at that poor crippled guy. My heart goes out to him."
Says the second, "Yeah, but his tailor must be a genius! That suit fits him perfectly!"
It seems to me this is a perfect description of how regulations accrete and what the impact is. I am sure that is not how Rdan sees it, knowing his blog.
It also seems to me I need to find a copy of "Plato and a Platypus walk into a bar".

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Who Are Those Guys?

Victor Davis Hanson provides one perspective. It summarizes nicely everything I find somewhat repellent about the Obama administration. I love one passage:
Asking why would Obama & Co. be so self-destructive to push through an array of proposals that have no more than 45% of the public’s support is like asking whether the English Prof who teaches incomprehensible Foucauldian theory worries whether he has only 2 students, or whether the well-off union boss is all that upset that membership has sunk to 30% of the workforce, or multimillion-dollar-earning Sarah Palin-interviewing Katie Couric is worried about her sinking ratings, or whether the New York Times columnists are upset that their mother paper is broke with subscription and readership down, and laying off thousands of blue-collar employees.
He finishes on what might not seem so, but is a hopeful note:
Everything, as my dear late mother lectured me, happens for a reason, or at least presents a sort of logic—irony, paradox, karma, and nemesis being the best ways of interpreting our unfathomable existences. It took messianic narcissistic Barack Obama to expose the full extent of the mess that a once noble tradition of 19th-century liberalism had devolved into. Only he could have rammed it down the throats of the American people, and when he is done, we will suffer, but also sicken of it for quite a while.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Viral Videos of 2009

h/t Craig Newmark from the same post linked to in my last post.
What an enjoyable way to waste a half-hour!
The skill in the bicycle ad simply astonished me - I guess I do not watch these stunt bicyclists enough. And Edinburgh is lovely.
'Signs' and 'Piano Stairs' I had posted before, and still love them. Nice to know where to look now for links to both in one place.
I often wonder whether it is deliberate that the advertising campaigns in 'Mad Men' are so lame compared to real advertising. Maybe it just the era.

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Top Ten Internet Memes of 2009

Mashable's suggestions can be found here.
Glad to see Susan Boyle and Dave Carroll make the list. A couple did not really seem to me 'Internet' memes in any particular way. But one sure is, and I had never seen it. I love it as it says something tremendously important about things we are deeply wired for, and how great 'Single Ladies' is at firing those neurons.

h/t Newmark's Door

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Take Your Pick

Garry Wise finds an interesting conflict of viewpoints.
Passenger tried to blow up U.S. flight: Officials (Toronto Star)
Passenger Sets Off Firecrackers on Flight to Detroit (New York Times)
It's almost as if these two, early reports on this troubling incident were written by dueling speechwriters from the Bush and Obama administrations.
Seems the Bush speechwriters may have been right from still early reports.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Puritans Step Up - Let's not Mitigate acrylamide!

Sometimes I wonder.
Canada is investigating whether to approve a cancer-fighting additive's use in junk food, but Health Canada wants consumers to weigh in on the idea first.
The concern surrounds a chemical byproduct called acrylamide that is produced when carbohydrates such as bread or potatoes are cooked at high temperatures.
It has not been established that acrylamide actually harms humans, but let's suppose it does.
That's where the additive comes in. It's an enzyme used in some chemotherapy agents to treat leukemia. Food manufacturers say adding it could bring down levels of acrylamide in heated foods since the enzyme breaks down the acrylamide.
Health Canada's safety assessment of the enzyme, which is called asparaginase, didn't turn up any health or safety concerns.
Now I have reservations about this move, but they are more related to how ignorant we are of the harm of acrylamide and the consequences of eating asparaginase. But let's suppose this move would be entirely benign, in fact beneficial in that it really mitigated the impact of a harmful acrylamide.
Guess what - essentially all the opposition to this plan cited in the article would still be in effect!
It all takes this form:
There are easier ways to deal with acrylamide, said dietitian Jennifer House of Calgary.
"It makes common sense to just stop eating these foods when we know they're not good for us."
The Canadian Cancer Society takes the same position.
Busybody Puritans are ever among us! No don't let people use condoms, as they might think it is OK to have sex! Don't vaccinate girls for HPV, as they might think it's OK to have sex! Don't consider geoengineering approaches to global warming, as then people might continue to live rich full lives!

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A Nice Christmas Story

...from John Hinderaker, over at Power Line. Read it and smile.
And Merry Christmas!

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Stephen Gordon Wants a Pony

... for Christmas, over at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative. I say Amen to his wish!

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Christmas Eve Panda-Blogging



Quantum Christmas

The ever-entertaining xkcd gives us a season's giggle.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ezra on KAIROS

One of the things the Harper government has been doing right is de-funding repellent activist organizations; the latest is the 'Christian' group KAIROS, and its de-funding has provoked howls of outrage from the usual suspects.
Ezra Levant explains why this is a good thing. The key point is at the end:
There's nothing illegal about calling for an economic boycott of the Jews, or the Jewish state. In fact, it's a form of consumer activism and economic freedom, isn't it? As a libertarian -- and a free speechnik -- I'm all in favour of the right to say stupid things, even bigoted things, even anti-Semitic things.
I just don't think that the Canadian government should force taxpayers to prop up that kind of crap.
KAIROS should go raise their own money. It looks like that old socialist, Gerry Caplan, is willing to chip in a few shekels of his own. (Actually, to be accurate, he's asking for other Jews to do so.) To cover the remaining $6,999,999, I'd recommend KAIROS ask their friends at Hamas to put in a good word for them with the Saudis.
UPDATE: (Dec 24) Brian Lilley clarifies somewhat.

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The New US DoT Rules - Three Hours on the Tarmac

The government got all the publicity I suspect it wanted yesterday for this apparent defence of 'passengers' rights'.
Distrusting knee-jerk regulations, I admit I was skeptical, but have not through all the implications, any of them in fact.
Libertarian Jeff Miron has started, and I rather agree with his first stab at it.
Without the rule, some planes that have been sitting for three hours leave soon after the three-hour point, while some sit on the tarmac for an extended, additional period.
The planes in the first category arrive at their destinations even later, becuase it takes time to get passengers off and back on the plance, and because the plane ends up at the back of the line for takeoffs. Worse, some of these flights get cancelled.
So, sometimes the rule benefits passengers, sometimes it makes them worse off.
Does the Department of Transportation have any evidence that the welfare of passengers is higher, on average, under the rule?
No. It has just pandered to customer annoyance and the press coverage of a few extreme incidents. It has responded to what is seen (the long delays that occur without the rule) and ignored what is unseen (the canceled flights and delays that will result from the rule).
I once sat for six hours on the tarmac in Toronto for a flight to Chicago, under a two-hour flight away. I am glad we stayed out there - I got to my ultimate destination late, but likely would have been much later if we had been discharged twice and re-loaded. It helps to come prepared - carry some books or other entertainment.
UPDATE: Written after the above. King Banaian notes that there IS a cost-benefit analysis but is clearly not very impressed by it, and considers some unintended consequences.


100-Mile Diet, but hey not in MY 100 Miles!

Ontario's Greenbelt is losing animal farmers.
Ontario's Greenbelt is the largest protected area of its kind in the world. But animal agriculture is disappearing from the area so rapidly that it is having a negative impact on the local food system, according to University of Guelph researchers who are charting the exodus of livestock farmers from the area.
The culprits, researchers say, are a tag-team duo: encroaching urbanites repulsed by the less romantic aspects of animal farming and environmentalists who are winning a policy battle over whether to “pickle-jar” protected land or farm it.
Typical of course of both Canadian urbanites (still largely touchy-feely green) and the greenies.

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More Ugliness - Another CRU Misbehavior

I would certainly have been totally outraged had any of my academic papers been treated this way under peer review.
We will let the reader judge whether this team effort, revealed in dozens of e-mails and taking nearly a year, involves inappropriate behavior, including (a) unusual cooperation between authors and editor, (b) misstatement of known facts, (c) character assassination, (d) avoidance of traditional scientific give-and-take, (e) using confidential information, (f) misrepresentation (or misunderstanding) of the scientific question posed by DCPS, (g) withholding data, and more.
Most of these categories had been exposed in other posts I have read on the CRU e-mails, but category d) was new to me and truly appalled me - the connivance of a journal editor to hold up publication of one paper in order to give time to selected CRU scientists to write a separate paper arguing against that paper, and in the process denying them the fairly standard right to respond to criticism of a given paper.
Read the whole thing; it is not a pretty picture. The CRU scientists seem so invested in the IPCC processs (which is explicitly political, and only slightly scientific) that they seems to have lost a grip on what makes science useful. It does make me wonder what role their work will appear to have had scientifically in twenty or thirty years. We are well aware of what role it has had politically,

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Ugly Process and an Ugly Bill

Maybe the Krugman's are right and whatever ludicrous Obamacare bill finally gets passed will be refined and "improved" in the future. However, these short observations from EconomistMom go a long way for me to exposing what an ugly piece of work the Senate bill is, and how unlikely it is that it could ever be improved in the future except by more unworthy and sickening opt-outs to various lobbyists. Others of course may think otherwise, but they are not working very hard at convincing me. It is hard for me to see this bill as anything than another Demoncrat sell-out to large corporate interests (in this case the insurance industry, the medical establishment, the drug industry, and a variety of unions and assorted interest groups).
This Dow-Jones story by Martin Vaughan offers an “interesting” (ok, silly and ridiculous) justification for removing the cosmetic surgery tax and describes the “interesting” (ok, silly and ridiculous) new debate it’s spawned between the plastic surgery lobby and the indoor tanning lobby (emphasis added)
Go read the silliness on her post.
She cites a WSJ editorial as well on the subject of what wonders Harry Reid hath wrought.
Start with the special tax carve-outs included in the "manager's amendment" that Harry Reid dropped Saturday morning. White House budget director Peter Orszag has claimed that the bill's 40% excise tax on high-cost insurance plans is key to reducing health costs. Yet the Senate Majority Leader's new version specifically exempts "individuals whose primary work is longshore work." That would be the longshoremen's union, which has negotiated very costly insurance benefits. The well-connected dock workers join other union interests such as miners, electrical linemen, EMTs, construction workers, some farmers, fishermen, foresters, early retirees and others who are absolved from this tax.
In other words, controlling insurance costs is enormously important, unless your very costly insurance is provided by an important Democratic constituency.
All this is on top of much else, including the apparent pay-offs to Landrieu, Nelson, and apparently Dodd.
There's a lot more in both posts, but be careful if you have eaten recently.
On the likelihood of anything but growing expenses:

and in enriching the Al Gores of the world.
UPDATE: Megan McArdle does not love the process or the bill either.

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What I Like so much about Scientists

Is that the science is never settled.
Cosmic rays and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), both already implicated in depleting the Earth's ozone layer, are also responsible for changes in the global climate, a University of Waterloo scientist reports in a new peer-reviewed paper.
In his paper, Qing-Bin Lu, a professor of physics and astronomy, shows how CFCs - compounds once widely used as refrigerants - and cosmic rays - energy particles originating in outer space - are mostly to blame for climate change, rather than carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. His paper, derived from observations of satellite, ground-based and balloon measurements as well as an innovative use of an established mechanism, was published online in the prestigious journal Physics Reports.
"My findings do not agree with the climate models that conventionally thought that greenhouse gases, mainly CO2, are the major culprits for the global warming seen in the late 20th century," Lu said. "Instead, the observed data show that CFCs conspiring with cosmic rays most likely caused both the Antarctic ozone hole and global warming. These findings are totally unexpected and striking, as I was focused on studying the mechanism for the formation of the ozone hole, rather than global warming."
I don't know who's right. But I am glad the scientists don;t just stop exploring once Al Gore tells them a problem is solved.
This is going to be interesting to sort out, as he is not a climatologist, and the climatologists are not physicists! Time for some more collaboration! Which is always good.
h/t Anthony Watts

IPCC Science on Himalyan Glaciers

And science is meant in the sarcastic sense it deserves in the above context.
To quote the IPCC:
Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other
part of the world (see Table 10.9) and, if the present rate
continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035
and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at
the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present
500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005)." (IPCC AR4 WG2 Ch10, p. 493)
I have since heard this reported in the press, accompanied by a concern about the Ganges drying up. I began to feel really sorry for the Indians, as I pictured the trickling Ganges.
As it turns out essentially NOTHING about this is supported by an facts.
It appears in fact that instead:
  • The rate of retreat of one Himalayan glacier was enhanced by calculating it by dividing the total retreat over 121 years by the number 21 to get an annual rate.
  • The year 2035 is a mis-transcription of 2350.
  • The numbers 500,000 and 100,000 refer to the extent of all extrapolar glaciers
  • The Ganges depends marginally on glacial runoff and is fed almost totally by monsoon rain (this part is not directly IPCC-related).
John Nielsen-Gammon and Barry Lefer detail this farce in this article, and do something the IPCC never seems to have bothered to do - look closely at primary sources. This observation from their article gives a clear indication how committed the IPCC executive are to the truth, and how willing they are to defend it with ad hominem attacks and arrant nonsense.
The Indian environment ministry released a report in November by Vijay Kumar Raina that concluded that Himalayan glaciers on the whole were retreating, but not at an alarming rate or any faster than glaciers on the rest of the globe. According to The Guardian, countryman Rajenda Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, was furious.
Pachauri dismissed the report saying it was not "peer reviewed" and had few "scientific citations".
With the greatest of respect this guy retired years ago and I find it totally baffling that he comes out and throws out everything that has been established years ago.
Given the nature of the peer review and scientific citations in the IPCC report, we have here a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
This would be funny if it were funny.

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The Wisdom of Sigourney Weaver

And there appears to be quite a bit (h/t the real Craig Newmark).She appears to be as quirky and bright as she always seemed to be as an actress. A couple of examples.
I go on these panels and hear people crying because the public can watch movies on an iPod. Hey, who's to say that taking your iPod into the forest and watching a little bit of Lawrence of Arabia is not a fabulous experience?
And this one, which is a lovely story about thee deep symbiosis of humans and those domesticated wolves:
I volunteered to serve food to the workers at Ground Zero after 9/11. There were dogs trained to find living people. The people who worked with the dogs became worried because the day after day of not finding anyone was beginning to depress the animals. So the people took turns hiding in the rubble so that every now and then a dog could find one of them to be able to carry on.

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A Use for a Roomba

If I had a cat and a dog.

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An Offer I Couldn't Refuse

David Archer taped his "Global Warming" lectures from a fall course in the subject at the University of Chicago, and has offered them for viewing on-line - you can find them here. The first five or six provide some lovely simple models that give one a feel for what the more complex analyses will have to look like.
I've been watching them and they certainly are helping deepen my understanding of the climatological issues, a deepening I really need as I continue to try to follow arguments at the many climate science blogs now available.
I recommend them highly and thank David enormously!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Mark Steyn Christmas Show

I have now broadened my knowledge of Mark Steyn, by listening to his Christmas podcast. I was aware of his musical interests, but not really conscious of how deep his knowledge is, and how entertaining it can be. The podcast features many surprises, but I found the section with Elisabeth von Trapp very moving. Also, you discover Steyn can sing; and he can! The show features a pretty motley collection of contributors, including Martha Stewart! There is also great Canadian content (all Quebecois, but including a discussion of the interesting history that produces so many Quebecers with Irish surnames).
If, like me, you have time on your hands, this is a fine way to spend it!
UPDATE: You have to hang on, but the discussion with a co-author of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is also simply delightful.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Hope They Planned for Younger Viewers

So I read this article, and I do not doubt anything he says about Lady Gaga and product placement and more power to Stefani Germanotta!
But as I watch 'Bad Romance' all the product placement goes by too fast for my old eyes!
Do you see it?
In ways, I think the journalist has a small point, but it it pretty small.
And there is a confession of helplessness:
What's so subversive about "Bad Romance" -- and perhaps this is a reflection of the compromised times we live in -- is that the art doesn't seem at all diminished by the business agenda. It's beautiful, it's dance-able, and it's exquisite advertising. I just wish my Alexander McQueen pumps fit better. The last stone of any church-state, art-commerce, virgin-whore wall has been toppled and -- my God! -- we don't miss the wall.
The art is not diminished by connection to business in my view. It IS diminished by its derivative nature. Stefani Germanotta is clearly capable of so much more as an artist. Sadly, she will make so much money doing what she is doing that we will never really see how great she is. So it goes.

Here It Goes Again - Feline Version

One of these cats has figured it out rather better than the other and knows how to make it mostly an arm workout.

Monday, December 14, 2009

More on DaDa

Flyscreen nail decorations. Yup.
Wacko hair styles. Yup.
Weird flashing lights. Yup.
Climbing out of a pod. Yup.
Stupid lines like "I want your ugly, I want your disease."
Idiotic vowel repetitions, avoiding only 'Caca'. Yup.
Dimwitted Michael Jackson ensemble dancing. Yup.
Pointlessly weird costumes, perhaps well-suited to the Winter Olympics. Yup.
Posturing as the outsider ("'cause you're a criminal"): Yup
Making us think Sean Bean is in the video. Yup.
Weird little animal snarling: Yup.
Horris Micchael Jacksonitis a la Thriller - we needed this only once and many years ago. Yup (groan)
Burnt-out people. Yup (not what you might think).
In the midst off all that above, there are such great lyrics, and such a pretty face that gets to show through. I hope to live to see Stefani Germanotta in 20 years, but will say this one is a delight.

Canadian in the US Media

I rejected the title "Canadian, Eh?" as it works on an ignorant stereotype. "Eh?" is a perfectly good interjection in many parts of the world - I lived in England for a year and heard it all the time from natives. I can hardly recall hearing it from Canadians except in comedy sketches except sarcastically (see below).
But we have got attention in some recent US TV shows, both of which I enjoy.
"30 Rock" have now added a Canadian character, the new actor on the TGS show. In the first episode he struggles with not saying "aboot", and I did understand that, as someone regularly exposed in such a way in my many years of living in the US. And I cannot hear the difference. But I do if I hear a Canadian Maritimer so I am sure it is real.
But in the following episode the meme is a little different. The Canadian guy suggests he is deaf to sarcasm, and he has epiphanies later in teh episode as he realizes he is 'doing' sarcasm. Now this is just dumb. The US commediat is dominated by Canadians, and, bloody hell, Lorne Michaels produces '30 Rock'. He KNOWS better! He certainly knows about SCTV, where the humour took many forms, but it was all Canadian, and sarcasm dripped through it.
Has '30 Rock' become this sloppy'? In any case none of these jokes could be very funny either to a Canadian or someone who knew much about Canada. Michaels?
At the same time my internal literary critic was really impressed in a recent episode of 'House'. In this one, House found himself confronted with a patient who simply would not complain about his neglect by the doctors and nurses in the hospital - he just stood by his hospital bed, smiling and seemingly hoping someone would care for him. He seemed unconcerned about how long he would have to wait for treatment.
And House, looking at this, calls out something like 'Is he Canadian?'
What a wonderfully double-sided sword!
One side suggests, of course, that this is a symptom of our excessive niceness and politeness ('peace, order,and good government').
But there is another message here - and my guess it is not intended in the midst of US Health Care discussions. A Canadian would, of course simply assume that he has a LONG and ARBITRARY waiting list before he gets serious attention in a medical system, and there is ZERO point complaining. Or are the writers of 'House' that smart? My guess is no. Obamacare - let it prevail!

Friday, December 11, 2009

GaGa and DaDa

I remain utterly surprised at how much I enjoy Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance". (Damn you Greg Mankiw.)
As I watch it, though, I think it seems very traditional in a funny way. Is this not Dada brought to our time? Thankfully without slicing open the eyes of a sheep. But she seems to me to embody what was attractive about that goofy movement.
And it makes me wonder who the next Stefani Germanotta will be!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

They Dreamed a Dream

What a brilliant idea for a holiday card, from venture capital firm First Round Capital. It is too easy to forget there are people behind all that money.

First Round Capital 2009 Holiday Card from First Round Capital on Vimeo.

h/t Paul Kedrosky

Monday, December 07, 2009

Stefani Germanotta

She was a pretty good performer, of a form of music I normally do not much care for:

The songs are actually quite lovely and she performs them delightfully.
Her life history is not so far off Taylor Swift's. Wikipedia tells both stories so well - very talented young girls.
I doubt I would have paid to see her perform.
Of course neither would I pay to see Lady Gaga perform - but I know which one of them will get more YouTube visits from me. She is however as Lady Gaga suffering from a bad case of Michael Jacksonitis - I suspect as she grows up she can get over it.
Go for it Stefani! I bet you will find further interesting incarnations before you are through! I do enjoy both the ones you have tried so far.

Sign Me Up - the 10,000 Mile Diet.

Actually, I think I'd feel more comfortable with 12,500 miles! But it is at least refreshing to know there actually are academics who make good sense. (I KNOW there are.)
As an academic, I understood productivity differentials between locations more than most local-food activists. It seems to me that [they] simply don't understand that some places are just better than others at growing certain types of food, and that it makes more sense to trade these types of things because transportation is only a tiny fraction of the total energy requirements of various food items.
... You end up destroying more jobs by buying uncompetitive local food than the number of jobs you create in the process.
I think the best way to promote development in less advanced economies is to buy from them.
I tend to believe that prices do tell you something not only about the cost of an item, but its input footprint: energy, fertilizers, everything.
This geographer sounds almost like an economist! What great sense.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Amazing Race - Season Finale 2009 - Live-Blog

Who am I cheering for? Not for the brothers! For all her caviling at Brian, I quite like Ericka (he cavils, too). And for all their apparent emptiness, Meghan and Cheyne have impressed me at times, especially Meghan, who has faced tasks she wanted to give up on, and then found a way to prevail. So let it all begin! As it will shortly.
Here we go!
I am thinking I miss Gary and Matt. Oh well.
Everyone heads to Las Vegas! I assume the apparently disparate parting times all mean the same flight, as usual. We shall see. Too bad they are leaving Austria.
Is it sunny at any time of year in Austria at 3 am?
Graceland Wedding Chapel? Can there be a task there with an Elvis? Useless stop - everyone is there at the same time, of course.
Oh oh rappelling down the hotel face - face first? Ericka is great - she takes it. Brian cannot even watch; it is pretty cute. I am pleased to see Sam and Dan not able to keep up.
Ericka is terrific! What an awful task and how well she takes it on! Meanwhile I think Cheyne should have given this job to the always more capable Meghan.
I do not quite understand this Cirque du Soleil task but it looks as if it may equalize teams fast, or just produce random results. That is NOT good at this point.
Well actually bouncing up to get the flowers seems pretty fair. This is now fun to watch. And as ever, Meghan, initially utterly frustrated, figures it out. Much as one might want to mock her, she is VERY consistently resourceful, and she has brains that combine with physical skills.
Sam and Dan continue their policy of not thinking for themselves, but simply sucking off others.
Rats! The next task seems like one of those that, depending on how the show sets it up, could be stupidly arbitrary, and reward neither intelligence nor diligence. Of course, we do not get to know. But counting out exact change surely depends on the distribution of key coinages.
It IS An amusing point that finding the right place to go was tricky.
Watching it for a few minutes, I have decided this is not ludicrously wrong in its effects. It is an entertaining and roughly fair challenge.
Sam and Dan made it clear they deserved NOTHING when they did not know Wayne Newton's name. Sick.
And justice was served! Meghan and Cheyne were clearly the just winners of this season! Meghan was REALLY capable in the face of a variety of challenges.
I do not take too many reality shows seriously, but this one asks people to extend themselves, and in pairs.
And they largely do.
Congratulations Meghan and Cheyne, and also Sam and Dan, and Brian and Ericka! Thanks for letting me intrude into your lives for the last few months.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Greg Mankiw Amazes Me - Lady Gaga Version

Just because Greg said he liked it, I tried it out. I must say I love it. I am somewhat surprised, but always pleased to find something else I really enjoy.

"You amd me could write a bad romance...caught in a bad romance."

Toronto City Council is a Joke - Economics Exercise

The latest brilliant policy is likely to have some unintended consequences, if any consequences.
Developers building condos on Toronto transit lines will now have to buy every unit a TTC metropass for a year in order to obtain condominium approval from the city, a policy critics say comes at a high cost and without proof people will use it.
Now the policy seems to me a bit silly, maybe harmful, but what makes this a joke is the commentary from councillors, exhibiting a rather dimwitted view of the universe.
Councillor Howard Moscoe, however, believes it “will cause people on transit lines to abandon their cars.”
Almost surely not - see below.
The policy states the cost of the metropasses cannot be passed on to the condo buyer.
I especially love that - how can anyone tell?
More from our genius Moscoe:
“Besides, it doesn’t cost the builder of the condo anything up front. He can buy the transit pass in bulk from the TTC at a 12% discount, and get a 16% writeoff on his income tax from the federal government for transit passes. So it’s a win win for everybody,” he said.
No comment. This beggars belief.
Mr. Moscoe said the idea is not really to generate revenue, since presumably some people in the building would have bought passes on their own, but to get people thinking about public transit.
My jaw is now on the floor. "since ... SOME"?
“I think we’re going to get awards for this all over North America,” he said.
I suspect Moscoe is right here and it is symptomatic of what is wrong with this city; instead of controlling budgets and providing services effectively, Miller and crew have whored themselves out left and right for awards using largely symbolic gestures.
Now of course this whole thing is a symbolic gesture, as the passes are transferable.
“This is found money for the TTC,” he said of the plan. Or a treat for a condo dweller who can simply resell the pass.
So it is probably not even found money for the TTC - we just need someone to set up a decent secondary market (an excellent web application) in Metropasses.
What strikes me is that one approach to forcing people onto transit is not giving them parking spaces. But as it turns out:
Mr. Dupuis noted zoning bylaws stipulate 1.2 spaces per unit, which creates extraordinary expense for some of the larger buildings that have to dig several floors underground.
Oh well, nevermind.
I do note that all the dumb quotations above issue from one person, so why is the whole council a joke?
He pushed the initiative forward, which passed council without debate.

The Polytechnic Murders - A Welcome Change of Focus

I am so accustomed to hearing the Polytechnic murders tied to arguments for gun control, when they are a classic example against gun control, that it was astonishing to find Helene Guergis' column this morning in the National Post, with the focus where it belongs, on extreme misogyny, and cultural practices that encourage it.
While Canada thankfully has not experienced an incident of the type and magnitude of the Montreal Massacre since 1989, we are becoming more aware of a variety of forms of violence against women that are less public but similarly horrifying.
These forms of violence against women include cultural practices, such as so-called honour killings, genital mutilation and forced marriage. Another danger to women is human trafficking — literally, modern-day slavery.
Canada’s aboriginal women in particular are vulnerable to abuse and are three times more likely than other women to experience violence, and five times more likely to die as a result.
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We can start referring to “forced marriages” as kidnap and rape, and by refusing to use the term “honour killings” as though it actually has something to do with honour, rather than being the most heinous form of dishonourable murder. In order to end violence against women, we need to face it, and to name it for what it is.

UPDATE: Whatever my implications above, I would have to agree that the gun control laws of 1989 that made it easy for Lepine to get his gun were too lax. I thank today's Sunday Edition for this note.

The Chinese Rebuke

Others have said this, but should we not be proud that our Prime Minister is rebuked by the Chinese government, and their crony press?
I found myself particularly shocked by Ignatieff's suggestion that Harper should feel bad about loss of face; watching Harper, I almost think he felt proud and he was right to toss the accusation back at the accusing thugs. Ignatieff managed to avoid mentioning human rights; does he really think he can count on that Harvard job when he fizzles out here?
He probably can; they likely mean something else by the phrase.

Mike Hulme on Climategate

This column describes beautifully why so much of what I read and hear about climate change seems so empty and unhelpful. Read it all. The finish:
The central battlegrounds on which we need to fight out the policy implications of climate change concern matters of risk management, of valuation, and political ideology. We must move the locus of public argumentation here not because the science has somehow been "done" or "is settled"; science will never be either of these things, although it can offer powerful forms of knowledge not available in other ways. It is a false hope to expect science to dispel the fog of uncertainty so that it finally becomes clear exactly what the future holds and what role humans have in causing it. This is one reason why British columnist George Monbiot wrote about climategate, "I have seldom felt so alone." By staking his position on "the science," he feels alone and betrayed when some aspect of the science is undermined.
If climategate leads to greater openness and transparency in climate science, and makes it less partisan, it will have done a good thing. It will enable science to function in the effective way it must do in public policy deliberations: Not as the place where we import all of our legitimate disagreements, but one powerful way of offering insight about how the world works and the potential consequences of different policy choices. The important arguments about political beliefs and ethical values can then take place in open and free democracies, in those public spaces we have created for political argumentation.
A very key phrase here is:
not because the science has somehow been "done" or "is settled"; science will never be either of these things
This is language that has always offended me, as it runs counter to what science should mean.
h/t Roger Pielke Jr.

R.I.P. Liam Clancy

And thanks for all the joy you contributed to my life.
I've posted this before, but really like it, not just for the song, but for his characterization of it in his patter:

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Finally, the Science! (Steve Goodman version)

I have been awaiting this analysis a long time.
The odds a Top 100 country song will refer to alcohol are 1 in 5. The odds one of these songs will contain a reference to “mama” are 1 in 7.14. The odds one will contain a reference to the word “train” are 1 in 11.11 and the odds one will contain a reference to the word “prison” are 1 in 33.33. Least surprising, the odds one of the songs will contain a reference to tears or crying are 1 in 3.23.
It's a guess of mine, but I suspect that the tears that are the most frequent feature of the top 100 country songs are those of men (despite what official feminists have spouted from the inception of the 'movement').
In honr of the final appearance of this vital stufy I offer you its apotheosis.

h/t Newmark's Door

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

What if you Gave a Study, and Could not Find a Control Group

It could happen to you.
Researchers were conducting a study comparing the views of men in their 20s who had never been exposed to pornography with regular users.
But their project stumbled at the first hurdle when they failed to find a single man who had not been seen it.

Drunk-Blogging the Great Windbag's Afghanistan Speech

I'm outsourcing the task to Stephen Green, and I think this is how I will participate in all future such speeches, as I can barely watch the guy. A couple of great excerpts:
Bad writing. Lame delivery. Tepid response — from cadets ORDERED to be nice.
And a strategic vision equal parts High School Essay Content and low-rent public relations.
I hope you had as much to drink as I did.
5:14PM “I’ve seen first hand the terrible wages of war.” It was at a late night photo op here in the US, where nine of ten military families said “no thanks” to the photo op. But still… Bambi is young. And being President is HARD.

An Asian View of Tiger Woods' Accident

The Florida Highway Patrol have issued charges perhaps not entirely consistent with this view, but the animation is a gas.

Recall that Tiger is primarily Asian ethnically , so one can see a reason for the fascination.

UPDATE: It now appears this animation is likely pretty much spot on.