Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How Good Of a Sports Year Is It in Boston?

Check out five of the last eight Sports Illustrated covers:

For those of you keeping score at home, that's two full Papelbons and one-cover-plus-two-sub-heading Bradys, two Red Sox sub-headings, with a Randy Moss and a Three Headed Green Monster for good measure.

Craig's List

I don't know if the author of this Craig's List ad intended her posting to come out as verse, but it did.
One of those machines that
will make a grilled cheese
or other sandwich.
It works however somehow 1 leg
is missing.
I have not used this in years
but did plug it in to make sure
it worked.
If your creative I am sure you
can come up with an idea for a leg.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I discovered recently that I was misquoted in an article in the UR Campus Times. Gripping reading, though.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How To Talk About Wine Pretentiously

I drew stares in the 'office' today chortling at this Joel Achenbach gem. Will make you have second thoughts about becoming a home vintner.

An excerpt:
Valle Puttooti White Zinfandel This is to fine wine as Dan Brown is to Shakespeare. Ideal for the damaged palate. Serious oenophiles will want to let this breathe in the glass for at least an hour, then pitch it into the flowerpot when no one is looking.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I love Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) new approach to fighting earmark allocations, outlined in this Robert Novak column.

The Deathtrap of a Scientific Meritocracy

Today, Drudge highlights the comments of a Nobel Prize-winning geneticist, Dr. James Watson, who said:
[I am] "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says not really".
This comment is clearly politically incorrect and probably scientifically incorrect. As Joseph Conrad points out in Heart of Darkness, the difference between European and African civilization is a matter of years, perhaps centuries - but not of evolutionary time.

But it remains highly probable (for reasons related to the Law of Large Numbers) that at least one scientific study, correctly executed, will show that one race is genetically superior to another on a dimension such as intelligence. We already know that races differ in physical dimensions, such as height and hairiness. What effectively prevents the scientific community from finding genetic differences in intelligence, criminality, alcohol-proneness, etc., is that it really, really doesn't want to.

Something must give. Either we engage in science dishonestly, construing results to fit our prejudices (however noble), or we submit our values to scientific evaluation. This Morton's fork could literally lead to the dismantling of one or another of the pillars of our Enlightenment civilization.

However, it need not. By subjecting our values to a standard higher than scientific objectivity, we can maintain civilization as we know it.

Only recently have standards higher than science been eroded in human civilization. To a great extent we still practice them: we protect the sick and disabled rather than abandoning them; we do not discriminate (openly) between the children of smart people and the children of dumb people; we do not practice euthanasia. Any of these could be discarded in the name of science: spending valuable resources giving a classical education to children regardless of their genetic potential is a huge waste, statistically, to offer one example.

Why do we - and why should we continue to - protect and honor all of humanity? Because some values are informed by a conscience greater than science.

We as a civilization need not agree the source or content of all these values, provided we agree they exist and come to some compromise on a subset of them. When we are secure in our underlying conscience, we can look research in the eyes - even if it tells us something very unpleasant.

Suppose, counterfactually, that Dr. Watson (insert, "elementary, my dear" joke here) is correct. We can openly discuss and acknowledge the findings. Then, after testing and re-testing the hypothesis many times, we may be forced to alter our social policies in order to attain the goals dictated by our conscience. But we need never alter our conscientious values: that people are responsible for their own self-government, that they are equal in dignity and rights, and that their thoughts should be free and freely expressed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Free-for-All 2008

Since this experiment has been running for over two years and has attracted new readers, let me recapitulate the science behind the idea.

Principally, my goal in doing this is to create raw data on an important aspect of the American democracy. This election offers a very unique opportunity: with no sitting president or vice president, none of the candidates has a prohibitively large news-making advantage.

The secondary goal is to investigate whether news coverage influences the result of the primary elections. The rankings have no pretense of offering a prediction of the result. However, regression analysis after the results of the first primaries might show that news coverage yielded greater results - controlling for the state's political makeup, early poll averages, and advertising dollars spent. If I can successfully separate the effect of news coverage (which is usually favorable) from the many other factors that drive primary popularity, I will have a valid contribution to our understanding of presidential campaigns.

This month, both campaigns have begun to heat up after a quiet summer. On the Democratic side, Hillary's numbers have climbed toward the crucial 50% mark, while Obama has slid away. Barring a major comeback, she has her nomination locked up.

The Republican race remains far more interesting. The most influential spot might be SNL's Fred Thompson, which has contributed to Thompson's underwhelming entry. Meanwhile, Giuliani and Romney have been exchanging salvos and McCain has the look of a man desperately trying to start a lawnmower.

I switch back to a Hillary victory in the (totally unscientific) monthly prediction. Why, when Giuliani is clearly the more centrist of the two? Because Ron Paul raised $5.2 million in the third quarter and has a growing cadre of supporters. He'd be able to run the best Third Party campaign in years against the two New York hawks, and is a credible libertarian with a respectable record in Congress. Nothing would scuttle a Giuliani run faster than a Third Party bid by a serious (and well-funded) conservative.

Rank Candidate ChatterRank Change
R.1 Rudy Giuliani 5,414+2
R.2 Gov. Mitt Romney 3,6290
R.3 Sen. John McCain 3,577-2
R.4 Fred Thompson 3,1220
R.5 Rep. Ron Paul 1,469+1
R.6 Gov. Mike Huckabee 582+1
R.7 Sen. Chuck Hagel 476-2
R.8 Newt Gingrich 293+1
R.9 Sen. Sam Brownback 285+1
R.10 Secy. Condoleezza Rice 272-2
R.11 Rep. Duncan Hunter 2160
R.12 Rep. Tom Tancredo 1820
D.1 Sen. Hillary Clinton 7,9310
D.2 Sen. Barack Obama 4,9070
D.3 Sen. John Edwards 4,3960
D.4 Al Gore 3,054+4
D.5 Sen. John Kerry 1,386+1
D.6 Gov. Bill Richardson 1,263+1
D.7 Sen. Joseph Biden 1,018-3
D.8 Howard Dean 574+2
D.9 Sen. Christopher Dodd 560-4
D.10 Rep. Dennis Kucinich 325+1
D.11 Mike Gravel 151+1

Notes: The Chatter Rankings are created by searching each candidate's name plus "2008" in the Google News database. Purged this month is withdrawee Russ Feingold (86). Tested but not qualifying is Alan Keyes (67). Non-contenders are kept on the rolls as Vice-Presidential possibilities (e.g. Rice) and benchmarks (e.g. Dean).

See recent graphs of the Chatter Rankings plus Chatter Rankings from September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January, December 2006, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, December 2005, August, July, June, and May.

The monthly prediction...

Oct '07: Clinton & Richardson over Giuliani & Thompson
Sep '07: Giuliani & Thompson over Clinton & Richardson
Aug '07: Giuliani & Thompson over Clinton & Warner
Jul '07: Giuliani & Thompson over Clinton & Warner
Jun '07: Clinton & Warner over McCain & Romney
May '07: Clinton & Warner over McCain & Romney
Apr '07: Clinton & Warner over McCain & Giuliani
Mar '07: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Feb '07: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Jan '07: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Dec '06: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Nov '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Oct '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Sep '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Aug '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Jul '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
Jun '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
May '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
Apr '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
Mar '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Rice
Feb '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Rice

Monday, October 15, 2007

This Is Why I Love My Job

After 11 hours (mostly) in front of my computer working (mostly... sort of... sometimes), I finally figured out what was wrong with my MATLAB code. And restored it to how it was two weeks ago before I started working on it. Then I promptly re-diagnosed the first problem that I had originally diagnosed two weeks ago. And I started to "fix" it. The same way as before.

Do Not Eat

If you are having a reasonably good day, do not read this, from the Supersized Meals blog ("Foodstuffs of Epic Proportions"). If, however, your day is already pretty much shot, go ahead. Read it; how much worse can your day really get? And maybe this guy's misery will make you feel a little better.

On a related note, if you ever get the urge to eat Fat-Free Pringles, don't.

Indirect hat tip to Pau.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stupid Chileans

My classmate from Chile was reading over my shoulder, so I went to Google and typed in
stupid chileans
Google responded:
Did you mean: stupid chinese
Friggin' prejudiced search engine.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Free Thinker

John Yoo for OpinionJournal offers a broad defense of Justice Clarence Thomas. He reaffirms the view of court-watching lawyers that Thomas is an independent thinker and one of the sharpest and most internally consistent minds on the bench.

The vitriolic criticism of Thomas is based in ideological difference, and often expressed through the nasty cultural frame of the "uppity black". With the publication of his memoir, an outpouring of ad hominem grime has been meted out in the press, perhaps best exemplified by Maureen Dowd's NYTimes column. She (like others) argues that someone who has used the ladder of Affirmative Action has no right to deny it to others. This line of reasoning is invidious. The implication is that he - as a successful black American - is beholden to the liberal establishment, and has no right to his own opinions.

If the education provided by Affirmative Action led a poor, black Georgian with a sharp mind to come to his own conclusions about the world, isn't that his right? Doesn't that mean Affirmative Action was successful? If, as liberals claim, one's views are largely formed by one's environment, then Thomas' views should be revered: after all, he's lived on both extremes.

Nor is he, as Dowd strongly implies, a favored household slave of the Bush family. Aside from the utter inappropriateness of the language Dowd uses, Thomas' Supreme Court position is guaranteed for life by the same Constitution he rigidly upholds. Had there been a quid-pro-quo for the Court's decision in Bush v. Gore (as Dowd also claims), wouldn't Thomas (or Scalia) have been elevated to Chief Justice?

Dowd believes that any black American should be allowed to participate actively in all areas of American politics - but only if their views agree.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Yogi All Over Again?

"You can't say that. You can say what you didn't say because if you say what you didn't say, then y'all print what is said. That's how you got me on the Bird stuff. Whenever you say something, it just twists it."

--New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas, quoted by the Associated Press, Oct. 6

Via James Taranto's BOTWT.

Not Enough, But Something

In the glacial evolution of negotiating positions between Israel and Palestine, this news (thanks to Drudge) qualifies as a seismic shift.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Manny Being the Man

The Soxaholix discuss the LAAAAA Angels decision to walk David Ortiz ahead of Manny Ramirez in the 9th on Friday:
- Walk Papi to get to Manny 9th inning of a tie game. Brilliant!
- I've never understood that when opposing managers do it. It's like saying, you know, I've got a bad feeling about this Titanic, think I'll try the Hindenburg instead. Gotta be safer.
Next up: Schilling, Weaver, Clemens, and Westbrook each pitch today to determine playoff outcomes or delay them. Go Sox!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Stupid is...

Two emails today deserve to be blogged.

From Stas, check out photographs of rural Russia.

From Sniper, check out this Craig's List exchange in the New York City personal ads:
What am I doing wrong?

Okay, I'm tired of beating around the bush. I'm a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I'm articulate and classy. I'm not from New York. I'm looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don't think I'm overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board? Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200 - 250. But that's where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won't get me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she's not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level?

Here are my questions specifically:
- Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me specifics- bars, restaurants, gyms
- What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won't hurt my feelings
- Is there an age range I should be targeting (I'm 25)?
- Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the upper east side so plain? I've seen really 'plain jane' boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I've seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the east village. What's the story there?
- Jobs I should look out for? Everyone knows - lawyer, investment banker, doctor. How much do those guys really make? And where do they hang out? Where do the hedge fund guys hang out?
- How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY.

Please hold your insults - I'm putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I'm being up front about it. I wouldn't be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn't able to match them - in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.
There are a number of responses that come to mind. Here's one that someone dared post:
Dear Pers-431649184:

I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament.

Firstly [sic], I'm not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here's how I see it.

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a crappy business deal. Here's why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here's the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won't be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold...hence the rub...marriage. It doesn't make good business sense to "buy you" (which is what you're asking) so I'd rather lease. In case you think I'm being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It's as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as "articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful" as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn't found you, if not only for a tryout.

By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn't need to have this difficult conversation.

With all that said, I must say you're going about it the right way. Classic "pump and dump."

I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.
I live on the lower West Side... of Rochester. Does that count for anything?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

C'est Plus Cher Pour Les Americains

Checkez-vous out this NYTimes article before you buy your next airfare to - and especially within - Europe.

Shocking! Multilateral Diplomacy Works

Despite North Korea's demands to negotiate bilaterally with the U.S., the Bush administration stuck to its guns (figurative in this case) and remained committed to negotiations that include China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan. Those talks paid off today in a oil-for-disarmament deal to be consummated by year's end.

Of course, enforcement remains a problem, as it was with the failed Clinton-era deal, but unlike that agreement, this one involves all of North Korea's neighbors. By token of their inclusion they are more likely to help the U.S. and UN monitor disarmament than otherwise.

Monday, October 1, 2007

OUTRAGE! Massacres In Burma

The world is outraged. Maybe Americans don't know what Myanmar is, but people everywhere must be sickened by the news coming from Southeast Asia (via Drudge:
Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma's ruling junta has revealed...

The 42-year-old chief of military intelligence in Rangoon's northern region, added: "I decided to desert when I was ordered to raid two monasteries and force several hundred monks onto trucks. "They were to be killed and their bodies dumped deep inside the jungle. I refused to participate in this."
This is a test of the mandate of the United Nations. If there were ever a crisis that the UN was built to deal with, this is it. Get to it!