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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Wikipedia

Hey, I didn't know Gene was cool enough to have his own Wikipedia entry! Note that it is only a "stub," slang for an incomplete and totally unsatisfying entry. Any of our friendly readers care to go elaborate on the definition of "Gene Callahan?"

You Say Tomato...

The New Jersey state legislature is apparently debating whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. Now, I suppose it's better the legislators spend their time that way than in passing some intrusive new law, but the question only arises from confusing two quite different classification schemes. It is true that, botanically speaking, the tomato is a fruit. But so are squash, eggplants, peppers, okra, and many other items served as vegetables. On the other hand, "vegetable" has no meaning at all in botany -- the vegetables that aren't fruits are leaves, roots, flowers, or stems. "Vegetable" is a culinary term, and in cooking, tomatoes are a vegetable. It's like arguing over the propriety of a fish store selling clams. Clams are zoologically quite distinct from fish, but that has nothing to do with the fact that they go quite nicely in a fish soup.

Getting To Know You...

This reminds me of those email surveys that I used to get all the time, that ask things like, "What is your full name?" "Who do you like?" and "What is on your mousepad?" They amuse me.

) my uncle once: recorded the music to popular songs so I could do the vocals.
2) never in my life: will I look at a baby in the same way.
3) when I was five: I read my first novel, Anne of Green Gables, which I still love.
4) high school was: not something I could describe in one sentence.
5) i will never forget: Actually, since I had a baby, I can't remember anything.
6) i once met: Denzel Washington. Well, "met" is a strong word. He accidentally walked into me on Rodeo Drive.
7) there’s this girl I know who: is very pretty and loves me very much. Hi Mom!
8) once, at a bar: in New Orleans, I decided that taking shots was the best way to deal with the two drink minimum, since I'm a slow drinker. Bob will have to tell you about that night, since I can't remember much.
9) by noon i’m usually: feeding Clark.
10) last night: I put Clark to bed, and then watched half of The Motorcycle Diaries. It was good, but I got sleepy.
11) if i only had: a part-time nanny! Not until I had Clark did I understand why women who didn't work outside the home hired help.
12) next time I go to church: I'll be working in the nursery.
13) terry schiavo: Rest in Peace.
14) what worries me most: is that despite my best efforts, when Clark is the age I am now, he'll be one of those guys I just hate.
15) when i turn my head left, i see: a square grand piano.
16) when i turn my head right, i see: out the big picture window. The blinds recently broke, and so our house is exposed to the road.
17) you know i’m lying when: I tell nosy old people "thank you" for their childrearing advice.
18) what i miss most about the eighties: is being a kid. It was great when I had never met a person who didn't like me, and when I was good at everything.
19) if I was a character written by shakespeare, i’d be: God, I don't know, and I don't really want to say. It's like telling everyone reading this what I think my personality is really like.
21) a better name for me would be: At this point in my life, I'm pretty firmly attached to Rachael Anne. If we ever have a little girl, her name will be Evelyn. Isn't Evvie the cutest name for a little girl?
22) i have a hard time understanding: why Bob puts shirts on when his back is still wet from his shower.
23) if i ever go back to school i’ll: dance for joy.
24) you know i like you if: I let you touch Clark.
25) if i won an award, the first person i’d thank would be: Bob.
27) take my advice, never: think taking shots to fulfill the two drink minimum while cruising Bourbon Street is a good idea!
28) My ideal breakfast is: An omelet crammed with everything--ham, onion, cheese, bell pepper, mushrooms and topped with salsa, with a really big glass of milk.
29) A song I love, but do not have is: why would I not download a song I love?
30) If you visit my hometown, I suggest: you tell me what it is. I moved too much to have a hometown.
31) Tulips, character flaws, microchips & track stars: Um...I like tulips, no real comment on character flaws, and I never think about microchips or track stars.
32) Why won’t anyone: send me $15,000? I'm not asking for much.
33) If you spend the night at my house, don’t: wake the baby. And you better do it before August, cuz then we're moving to a tiny house on the lake.
34) I’d stop my wedding for: a refund. I still regret having a big wedding.
35) The world could do without: macho men.
36) I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: that's so sick. I guess I'd do it to save Clark or Bob, but who's gonna say, "Lick this cockroach or the baby gets it"?
37) My favorite blonde is: Nicole Kidman (I think she's blond right now).
38) Paper clips are more useful than: cockroaches who want licking.
40) And by the way: Clark ate cereal for the first time today! He was such a little pro. He kept lots in his mouth, and almost finished the whole serving.
41) The last time I was drunk, I: can't even remember. I haven't gotten drunk since before I was pregnant, and Clark is 5.5 months old now...

Dumb Radio Ad

In the car the other day I heard an ad for leasing cars that went something like this:

Suppose you were considering buying a new house that you knew would lose 2/3 of its value in three years. Would you still buy it? Of course not. Yet that's exactly what you do when you buy a new car...

Now this is really dumb. Maybe part of the reason for this is that a new house has a much longer life span than a new car. I think soda companies should have the following ad:

Suppose you were considering buying a new house that you knew would turn sour and make you sick if you used it, within two weeks after buying it. Would you still buy it? Of course not! Yet that's exactly what you do when you buy milk...

Friday, April 29, 2005

We Need a Serious Discussion of National Busybody Policy

Mark Kleinman, belly-aching about obesity, writes:
"8. The food industries, and especially the convenience-restaurant and snack-food sectors, relentlessly market bad eating habits to children. It seems unlikely that their mult-billion-dollar efforts have no impact on actual behavior."

And they markket bad habits instead of selling, say, no-sugar-added fruit salad because... They're sadistic corporate bastards, right Mark? Nothing to do with the fact that fat annd sugar are what kids like? And how about this, Mark: It's none of your god-damned business what these companies spend their own money to advertise to people who are free to turn off their TVs?

Dumb IQ Tests

I was reading a math book in a bookstore a few months ago, and it explained that the typical question on a standardized test, whereby you have to say which number comes next in a sequence, is actually illegitimate. The reason is that you can always find more than one formula to generate the next number, where the different formulas give the same initial numbers (matching the ones in the question). For example:

Choose the number that comes next: 2, 4, 6, ___

(a) 8
(b) 10
(c) 14
(d) none of the above


You're thinking the answer is (a), right? And yes, the formula f(n)=2n would certainly match the first three numbers in the question, and would also make 8 the next number.

But the formula f(n)=2n + (n-1)(n-2)(n-3) also works; the right term is zero for the first three iterations, so it gives the same results as the simpler formula, but after that it gives different results. And if you plug n=4 into this formula, the next number in the sequence is 14, so answer (c) is perfectly reasonable. Indeed, (I think) you could come up with a formula for any desired fourth number in the sequence, by appropriately multiplying the right term by some constant.

So not only are the SATs and GREs racist and sexist, they also discriminate against wise aleck math geniuses! (This is not to suggest that blacks and women can't be math geniuses.)

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Those Paranoid Commies

In the March/April 2005 edition of The Hillsdale Conservative (the "official paper of the Hillsdale College Republicans"), Ryan Thompson has an article called, "The Case against Chavez." After listing grievances about Hugo Chavez's inquiries into Russian MiGs and urging of high oil prices, Thompson says:

One of Chavez's best friends, Fidel Castro serves as his inspiration. Since Chavez took power [of Venezuela] in 1999, relations between Cuba and Venezuela have become closer, along with their antagonism towards the United States. Both nations claim that the United States is plotting to overthrow their governments and replace them with ones friendly to America.

Now admittedly, Thompson doesn't explicitly say that this fear is ridiculous, but in context it certainly seems as if their worries are an additional source of instability. It's ironic then that Thompson recommends the following:

As long as Hugo Chavez serves as President of Venezuela and keeps winning fake elections, the security of the Western Hemisphere will be in doubt. The United States should seek ways short of full scale action by our military to remove Chavez, and work to restore democracy to the nation. Funding pro-democracy groups inside of Venezuela and neighboring countries serves as the best route to this end right now, but military action will be necessary if these options fail.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

That Darned Growth!

Economist Roger Koppl sent me the following:

"Today's L.A. Times has a story on inflation, which includes the following gem:

"'Analysts generally agree that the Fed must try to keep inflation from getting out of hand. Created in the early 20th century to regulate the nation's money supply, the Fed combats inflation by keeping the economy from overheating. The theory is that if it grows too quickly, prices begin to skyrocket and inflation ends up pushing down consumers' standards of living.'

"Apparently, excess economic growth is one of leading causes of reduced standards of living."

The Power of the Internet

Three days after posting this gripe about how RCN wouldn't cancel my account via e-mail -- and mailing RCN a link to the post -- they suddenly discovered that they could cancel my account via e-mail, and did so.

STOP HOARDING MONEY

Fools! A new dollar coin featuring US presidents, meant to peacefully coexist with the Sacagawea coin, is about to be approved by the Senate. Considering the astounding failure of the Sacagawea dollar, you may wonder, "Why another one?" Well, Congress is trying to recreate the astounding success of the state quarters, which garnered an estimated $5 billion in profits. My God! Five billion dollars because people like pretty pictures. What a goddamned stupid thing to do, collect brand-new quarters, thus giving the government tons of money AND an excuse to fire up the presses to make more.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Whose Numbers Game Is a Racket?

Monday's NY Times ran a story (pg. A1) on the persistence of illegal numbers games in New York, despite the creation of the state-run lottery in 1980, which was supposed to wipe them out. The article noted that the payoff from the illegal games averages about 600-to-1, while the government version pays 500-to-1. A government gambling official explained that "legal games... face certain competitive disadvantages." He listed that they don't take 25 cent bets, they don't "let people bet on credit," and they report winnings to the tax authorities. The second item is not really true: the state lotto doesn't extend credit, but they certainly don't stop someone from borrowing money to play. In fact, the operators of illegal games who extend credit have a reason to try to ascertain that their customers aren't over-extending themselves, which the government games don't.

In any case, none of these reasons explain the lower payoff in the state version: they are all are circumstances that should make the state payout more, just as, for example, taxable bonds must offer higher yields than equivalent tax-free competitors. The lower payoff arises because the state isn't trying to compete with the illegal games by offering a better deal, but by threatening its competitors with violence.

Email Forwards

It seems to me that if the source of any piece of information is a cute email that has been forwarded to you and twenty of the sender's closest friends, then you can immediately regard this information as false. The more affirmations that "This really works!" the more likely it is not work. Case in point: Today my husband forwarded this email (that had been forwarded to him) to me.
If you lock your keys in the car and the spare keys are at home, call someone on your cell phone.

Hold your cell phone about a foot from your car door and have the other person at your home press the unlock button of your key fob (clicker), holding it near the phone on their end. Your car doors will unlock. Saves someone from having to drive your keys to you.

Could this really be true? If so, its great to know
Distance is no object. You could be hundreds of miles away, and if you can reach someone who has the other "remote" for your car, you can unlock the doors (or the trunk!).

Editor's Note * It works fine! We tried it out, and it unlocked our car over a cell phone!)

Mike's Note *

I locked the car had my youngest daughter call me while I was far away from the car. I clicked open into the phone and I could hear the car doors unlock through her cell phone.. My daughter confirmed that sure enough the doors opened.


So, I suggested to Bob that when he left work, he should call me on his cell, and I would aim my key fob into the microphone. It didn't work. Good thing he had his keys in his hand.

Monday, April 25, 2005

"Why is the Drug Market so Violent?"

Even if this stuff is old hat to you, my article might point out a few things you hadn't considered before. (Incidentally, I think Strike-the-Root has solid fundamentals, as far as websites go. It may be quite popular in a few years' time.)

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Brooklyn: B61

Down on the Brooklyn wanterfront is my favorite bar in New York or London, B61.

Chris Coburn photographs me photographing him. Aren't we artistic?

Jamie Mandell works the bar.

The lower Manhattan skyline from in front of B61.

Sam, Anthony, Jamie Vipond, and Ron.

Julian Velard and Jamie Vipond at the bar.

Sign Up with Erols.com!

Warning: This is a gripe post.

I have had an e-mail account with Erol's since perhaps 1997 or so. Erol's was subsequently purchased by RCN.

Eventually, too many spammers had a hold of that address, so I decided to drop it. I established a new address with Yahoo, and told my contacts to e-mail me there. Once that account was receiving most of the e-mail I actually wanted to get, I tried to cancel my Erol's account.

Not so fast! I e-mailed RCN, from my Erol's account, but they told me that, for security purposes, I could only cancel via an 800 number they sent along. Now, that seems very odd -- to send mail from the Erol's account, I obviously had to have access to it, meaning I knew the password. I was already in control of the account. If I weren't the real Gene Callahan, it would hardly be in my interest to cancel an account I had stolen!

Well, so be it. I called the 800 number. I was left on hold for 15 minutes. I called again. Another 15 minute wait. I e-mailed RCN again, telling them that the number they sent me was too busy, and that I wanted to cancel via e-mail. They were sorry but they couldn't do it. I then placed three of four more calls to the 800 number, never succeeding in reaching a human.

So my account is still open, and I occasionally miss important e-mails because they are sent to it. But I think RCN has an interesting scam going -- only let people drop services via an 800 number, and then just don't answer that number!

Burt Rutan, Cooler Than Burt Reynolds

LRC linked to this great article about Burt Rutan's speech at a Reason event. Not only is Rutan a maverick aircraft (and now spacecraft) designer, but he's also got a great grasp of Hayekian economics:

The other thing is that [Rutan's] upfront about is that the early flights will be mainly for fun. "Quite frankly, we don't know what space flight is for," he told the Reason audience. "We'll find out when thousands of people have done it and I have dozens of competitors."

I should mention that after my laudatory LRC and Mises.org articles on SpaceShipOne, some purists emailed me and said that Rutan has done things that aren't so wonderful from a free market point-of-view. (I don't remember exactly what; I think seeking patent protection and something else.) Oh well, no one's perfect. The guy is still cool.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Unusually Aggressive Behavior

I'm not sure if I should be alarmed, but my wife just had the following conversation with a telemarketer from one of our credit card companies (naturally I can only report what I heard my wife saying):

"Hello? ... May I ask who's calling? ... Oh, we hate you guys right now! You just jacked up our APR to 29.94 percent!! ... What, so you can ass-rape us? No I don't think he's interested." Click.

Zero Out Instapundit!

Matthew Bargainer links to this page of Instapundit results. What I dig about it is the way the text "Click an option above to increase/decrease Instapundit's font size" keeps appearing. I wonder if I could decrease Instapundit's font size to zero, for all visitors? That would be worth doing.

(Oh, and Matthew, I was down with that Thucydides quote a while back.)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Gravity

Gene wrote:
"Is she trying to say that it doesn't? I mean, geez, the thing can defy gravity! I'm confused."

"The thing" can defy gravity at the mere thought of a woman! Unless of course you're one of those, er, other types.

Kids Say the Darndest Things

I was walking to school the other day and came across some colored chalk drawings on the sidewalk, obviously the work of a bunch of little kids whom I've seen playing in that area many times before. I was shocked to see that one of them had written, "I HATE MY LIFE." It depressed me that instead of pretending to drive a car or go to work, this young kid pretends (I hope) that she is as suicidally depressed as the older kids she worships.

Here's another heartwarming tale: I was pushing my son in the stroller to go buy a bottle of liquor. (Hey, we don't give him any.) I walked over a bridge by a little stream, where some kids were fishing. A chunky (but I wouldn't say fat) kid was ahead of me on his bike, just pulling up to the other kids.

The oldest of the kids started accusing him of "liking" some other boy (not present). The chunky kid puzzled for a moment, then smiled as he said, "No no, he was hittin' on me." (He thought that was a great comeback.)

The older kid said, "Shut up, no he wasn't. You're a fag, and you're fat. Get out of here!"

The chunky kid said no, he didn't have to leave.

"Yes you do! You don't have a fishing pole, fatty."

(At this point one of the other kids said softly, "I don't have a fishing pole..." This guy might be a future LRC writer!)

The thing that really bothered me about this episode was not that there exist jerks like that older kid; and anyway, for all I know his dad is a drunk who whips him three times a week with his belt. But what really bothered me was that the "fat" kid really had no choice but to endure the abuse, because all of the other kids thought the jerk was cool. If only a decent number of kids would refuse to hang out with someone who was undeniably as ass to unpopular kids, then society would be far different. Of course, that's like saying democracy would work so long as people didn't reelect someone who lied them into war. (Yep, that's right, I had to make it political.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Puzzled in NY

Rachael Anne wrote:
"...but as an American female, I've dealt with plenty of rude pricks in my life who were confident that possession of a penis made them superior."

Is she trying to say that it doesn't? I mean, geez, the thing can defy gravity! I'm confused.

Mass Extinction

China's Jehol Forest is completely gone, and all of the species that lived in it have become extinct. This is a true tragedy.

It happened about 130 million years ago, but I just found out about it today, so for me it's like a fresh, raw wound.

Old Photos

For a blast from the past, check out the dated pics the Mises Institute is using to promote the books of Gene and Bob. Also note how much cuter Rothbard is in his floppy bow tie and how much more regal Mises looks. I am concerned about the future faces of the Austrian school.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Your Sex and Your Salary

Today on LRC, Hans Sennholz has an article titled "Women, Work, and Wages." It has all the usual stuff about how it's not discrimination that is responsible for the fact that women earn less than men. No, no, it's the result of sensible economic decisions by employers that account for the fact that women may get married and/or pregnant and quit working, or their husbands may make more and then they'll quit. As an anarcho-capitalist, of course I agree with Sennholz that the gov't should keep its nasty nose out of this issue, and I find the last paragraph of the article very sensible: "Society cannot rest for long on a judge’s order and the power of the police to enforce it. It must build on the solid foundation of freedom and morality, which are the principal elements of social peace and the guarantors of its prosperity." It's the rest of the article that ticked me off.

Yeah, sure, maybe there are reasons why a female employee won't wind up dedicating as many hours of her life to a career than a male employee. And that most likely accounts for part of the wage difference. But this doesn't explain why in other areas women get the short end of the stick as well. I'm not saying that women are consistently treated as second-class citizens in America, but as an American female, I've dealt with plenty of rude pricks in my life who were confident that possession of a penis made them superior. One of the standout experiences was when I was trying to rent an apartment in Tallahassee. In the spring, I arranged to rent an apartment starting in August, paid the deposit, and signed the lease. The apartment complex sent me a letter telling me what my address would be, and giving me the numbers of the local utility companies so that I could set those up before I moved in. So, I made all of those arrangements. I was in Auburn (working for the Mises Institute) over the summer, and at the very end of the summer, after the last day of Mises U, I came back to my apartment at the end of the day, and checked the messages on my phone. The apartment complex had called, saying they wanted to give my apartment to someone else right then, and could I please call them by the end of the day if I objected. Well, this was Friday evening, and the office wouldn't be open again till Monday morning, and I was moving to Tallahassee on Tuesday! I called first thing on Monday, and spoke with the owner of the apartment complex, who was beyond rude. He yelled at me, called me a liar, and hung up on me. I called back, and he just let the phone ring and ring. Scared I wouldn't have an apartment for the fall semester, I called my parents for advice. My dad, incensed, called the apartment complex and called me back within 15 minutes. After talking to my dad, the guy totally changed his tune, apologized to him, claiming a "misunderstanding," offered to let me stay in the model until the utilities could be turned on in my new apartment, and offered to have his maintenance men unload all my stuff and help me move in. (Notice my then-boyfriend Bob Murphy has no hand in this story.)

The story doesn't quite end there. I had changed the address on my amazon.com wishlist to the address the apartment complex had sent me, and Bob had ordered a gift for me through it, so it was sent to the wrong address. I told the tenant of the apartment I was originally assigned I was expecting a package from amazon, and gave him my apartment number, and he said he'd keep an eye out for it. Months go by. The guy stops answering his door when I knock. One day I catch him outside, and he ducks in his apartment, and returns with an open box. He had opened a box addressed to me, removed the gift wrapping from two cd's with notes to me on them, and opened the cd's. And this is the best part--one of the cd cases was empty! I caught him outside once again, headed out of the parking lot in his truck, and my cd was in his truck's cd player.

Anyway, the last thing I want to say about women and money has to do with some experimental results from game theory. Familiar with the ultimatum game?
A Proposer offers a division of a sum (usually $10 in experiments) to a Responder, who decides whether to accept the offer or reject it. If the Responder accepts the offer, the money is divided in the way the Proposer suggested, and if the Responder rejects the offer, both players get nothing. Orthodox game theory assumes that players are only interested in getting the most money possible, so it predicts that the Proposer will offer the smallest amount possible and the Responder will accept it. In experiments this isn't what happens. Most Proposers offer about half, and it's generally accepted, and offers below 20% are generally rejected. Anyway, many experiments involving the ultimatum game have been run, and of course sex differences have been looked at. The only consistent result found regarding sex differences is that men are offered significantly more. I highly doubt this is because female Responders kept running off and getting pregant in the middle of the game. I do think that whatever the reason for this is, it's related to why women are paid less in the workforce.

From the Mouth of Babes

My eight-year-old son said to me, "You know, Dad, your reputation pursues you."

The Myth of Tiananmen Square?!

Jude Wanniski was totally on the ball on the WMD issue. Even before the US invaded, Wanniski was confidently saying no WMD would turn up, and he point-by-point refuted the bogus intelligence reports to the contrary.

Now Wanniski says that the Tiananmen Square "massacre" never happened. I still had lingering doubts after his article, but then when I read this one (that he linked to) I was convinced.

Now if journalists can learn this stuff and publicize it, surely the whizzes at the CIA know about it too. Sorta makes you wonder...If you had to pick the most bellicose nation in today's world, the one nation most likely to start unnecessary wars, I'm not so sure it would be those evil Chi-Coms or dogmatic Ay-rabs.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Ready, Set, Dodgeball!

Many people have been emailing me and saying, "Bob, I heard you and some other profs participated in the first annual Dodgeball Tournament at your college. What happened?!?!" Well, I'll tell you:

The first match pitted us (four guys from the Econ and Business Administration sector, plus two math profs) against a group of punk students. The crowd was amused at (some of) our beer guts and white socks pulled up. The first game started, with a few people getting knocked out on either side. Then, the next thing I know, a ball comes whizzing at me and I can't get out of the way. It slams me right in the crotch and sort of hovers. (The balls--the dodgeballs, of course--were foam with a rubber coating. No pain.) So I automatically grabbed the ball with both arms, thereby eliminating the punk student who threw it.

At this heroic feat, the crowd went, "Ohhhhh!" Then with the same ball, I released an uncatchable volley at the most unathletic looking person on their team I could see. After hitting him in the knee, the crowd was really into it, and the student doing the color commentary (he had a microphone hooked up to the sports complex's speakers) actually said, "Dr. Murphy is taking over!!" (Naturally this was my favorite part of the evening.)

From that point on it was downhill. We won that game, but then lost all the rest. On the bright side, the team that knocked us out went on to win the whole thing. (They were a combo of football, basketball, and baseball players.) Also, they were a big bunch of cheaters. (Seriously, they cheated. But they would've beaten us anyway.)

In sum, I think we did pretty well for a bunch of old-timers. According to my wife, some of the female students in the crowd were particularly taken with one of the math guys on our team. (I assume they found me to be a heart throb as well, and didn't mention it out of respect for my wife.)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

If It Wasn't for the State...

Jim Henley writes:
"Rainbough Phillips has a good essay about the decidedly non-utopian nature of libertarianism as a political philosophy. Ironically, many criticisms of libertarianism presume that utopia is its test, that if a libertarian system doesn’t produce perfect justice and harmony (as defined by the critic) then libertarianism is a failure. Can you guarantee that X won’t happen in a libertarian society? Not really. Won’t this bad thing happen sometimes? I suppose. Then libertarianism is no good!"

I wrote similarly about this phenomenon a few months back. And it further strengthens my conviction that it is high time for Jim to abandon the dark side and come into the light.

What Our "Conservative" News Outlets Are "Thinking"

In more from the NY Post, yesterday's op-ed page featured an editorial calling for all sorts of New York officials -- Mike Bloomberg, Eliot Spitzer, the City Council -- to "muscle" Cablevision "to get the Mets back on cable TV." (Cablevision wants Time Warner to pay more for the license to broadcast Mets games.) Now, this is the supposedly "right wing" paper in the Big Apple, and... well, what can one say about its proposal except that it's revolting to anyone who values economic freedom? And what in the world does the Post think is so important about watching the Mets, anyway? What if these people read a book or played with their kids in lieu of downing a six while watching Pedro Martinez? Oooh, what hardship! Better call in the State's "muscle"!

Our Competent Masters, Redux

Yesterday's NY Post relates the tale of three cops trying to gun down an escaped guard dog in Washington Heights. All were (purportedly) aiming at the canine, but John Greeley, the supervisor of the other two, wound up shooting one of his subordinates in the calf and the other in the foot.

Perhaps he had overheard them doing their "Greeley impressions" around the water cooler.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Our Animal Friends (2)

Speaking of interesting animal adaptations, consider the "cuteness" adaptation. It seems to me that one significant evolutionary advantage is big eyes, small nose, and floppy ears.

Does anyone really care to save the Striped-back snail? Or any other sort of snail? But threaten to kill a bunny and you get all sorts of attention (and contributions. Scroll down to see just how much this threat has netted this guy thus far). Or club a few baby seals and get the wrath of the rest of the world unleashed on your country (and from some hair care product site?).

Survival of the cutest.

(As for foxes, Gene, have a look at the picture I took of the fox that trotted in to the courtyard at my apartment. Yes, I would post this photo directly if I knew how.)

Our Animal Friends

Recently, while driving along a New York State parkway at night, I passed a group of perhaps a dozen deer grazing the grassy verge, all of them 15 feet or less from the rightmost lane. I was struck by how unperturbed they were about the large beasts with brightly glowing eyes speeding by at 60 miles per hour. While obviously not every deer copes successfully with life near automobiles, most of them do -- otherwise, we would never encounter such a large herd that must routinely feed so close to a busy road.

In my former neighborhood in London, I regularly saw foxes. While I lived towards the outskirts of the city, I have a friend who lives near Tower Bridge -- fairly central -- who told me that he would see foxes there as well. A few years ago, I read in one of the New York papers about a coyote found dead alongside a highway in the Bronx. The ability of the critters who share our world to adapt themselves to the novel environments we create is pretty impressive.

But that reminds me of what seems to be a maladaptation. Anyone who has lived in a wooded area has probably come home on a summer night to find a host of insects -- moths typically being the most numerous of the bunch -- hanging around his porch light. I've occasionally asked myself, "What the heck are they up to?" I mean, before there were electric lights, didn't all of these bugs have something important they were supposed to be doing, like eating or mating? On my porch, they always appeared to be so mesmerized by the glowing orb near them that they were rendered incapable of anything more than staring at it with slack jaws. Are they "bug junkies," slowly wasting away while getting their nightly fix of artificial illumination?

I once posed this puzzle to my father. He said, "I don't know why they do that, but I do know that Alexander Graham Bell was very disappointed."

That threw me a bit, so I asked, "Why's that?"

"Well," he replied, "Bell was hoping that insects would congregate around the telephone."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Problem Solving Flow Sheet

I can't explain why, but even after 3 times this thing still cracks me up. Be sure to actually follow the logic, don't just glance at it...

Good Burger, But...

I had two of my kids at a restaurant for lunch today, and I ordered the special "Oxen of the Sun Burger." It was delicious, but it did start mooing on the plate. Later, on the way home, our car was buffeted by odd winds and nearly struck by lightening several times.

War is Peace, or something like that


Samir Mizban, AP

Monday, April 11, 2005

School Snitches

A school in Georgia is setting up a system to pay students who rat out other students for theft, drug possession, and felonies. A quote from the insightful Jaime Parris, a senior at the high school in question sums it up: "But if it's not going to hurt other people, I don't think many people are going to tell on their friends."

A Tip of the Hat

Tyler Cowen puzzles over tipping, noting, "1. Two studies show little relationship between quality of waiter service and size of tip."

However, what the studies show is that the service rendered (very roughly measured) does not seem to affect the size of tip left. Perhpas not, but the size of the tip you leave definitely affects your service when you return to the same establishment. Try going into a NYC bar three or four nights in a row without tipping for your drinks and see what kind of service you get by the end of the period.

Some of My Friends...

will get a lot out of the tactics outlined here.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Meanwhile, back on the farm...

Having dug myself out of tons of chicken shit, literally, (don't even mention to me the rabbit poop problem), and dug something called a French bio-dynamic garden, I have returned, though not as a prodigal.

Here are the latest additions:
First, my little baby sugar glider. One day, he just appeared. There were two, and then there were three, just like that. Who knew? You put two sugar gliders together in a bag, and presto chango, they turn into three sugar gliders!


Isn't he cute?? We haven't named him yet. Any suggestions?

For those of you who don't know, a sugar glider is a nocturnal marsupial from Australia. I don't recommend owning them if you aren't prepared to turn your house into a toilet. (At least, that's how my husband puts it.)

I don't mind the shit. They are too much fun! It's like having a zoo in your house.


And then, there are the chicks. I have so many eggs, I feel like I am laying them myself.


I haven't mentioned the kids, the hamsters, the rabbits (except for their unmentionable poop), etc. etc. All of this is just a way of explaining that I am on the farm, and don't EVER romanticize farming. It's a bitch! (But I wouldn't have it any other way!)

Hey Gene, want a job as a farmhand???

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Oh Boy

My friend Jim Henley interviews Jon Henke, the founder of "neolibertarianism." Jim is perhaps too much of a gentleman to say it, but the interview makes it quite apparent that "neolibertarian" is an alternative locution for "chowderhead."

For example, Henke says, "The question — unanswered by many libertarians — is just how specific (and nearby) those threats must be. If a gunman fires in the mall, must he point the gun *at* you before you take action against him? If you see a robbery being committed across the street, may you initiate force against the robber to stop it? After all, he’s not attacked you. If you may, just how far away must an attack occur before it’s no longer permissable for a libertarian to intervene?"

Well, Jon, this question is "unanswered by many libertarians" because it is a stupid question. Libertarian justice has nothing to do with distance! No libertarian objected to invading Iraq because Saddam Hussein was too far away. The chief objection was that an invasion would kill innocent people. But perhaps Henke thinks libertarianism doesn't care about that if the people are over, say, 5000 miles away.

Henke goes on to declare: "When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the wall, he didn’t criticize every variant on religion. He was mainly concerned with Catholocism, because that’s where he’d come from, and their flaws were in his immediate sights. Similarly, we’re trying to rescue the political relevance of libertarianism from what we perceive (and history has shown to be) the near-suicidal Idealists in the movement, who seem far more interested in excluding the insufficiently pure, than in making marginal progress.

"Since we come from that place, we’ll deal with the Paleos a great deal. I happen to think the Neoconservatives, evangelical conservatives and moderates get a worse rap than they deserve, but that’s the nature of hysterical politics."

In other words, these are a group of "libertarians" whose main focus will be on attacking libertarians and cosying up to non-libertarians.

Good to have you on our side, folks!

The coming Ice Age

I was recently viewing a television program on the History Channel regarding the Bible's prophesies of Armageddon and how it could play out in the future. I will not dwell on the History Channel presenting a program about the future. Of the assorted concepts of doom included a coming ice age that would freeze fannies on a cataclysmic scale. I found this comforting as I enjoy cold weather sports such as skiing and ice skating. But the future ice age I was promised in the 1970's that would be caused by human activity never came. Sadly it was replaced by the future of global warming, also caused by humans, that would eventuate in a bad way. So one of the postulators on the television said, with a straight face mind you, that the coming ice age will be caused by global warming. It reminded me of another postulator that explained the planet could be as warm as it was 500 years ago within this century if human activity is not changed. 500 years ago? I'm not sold on either theory, but if I can vote, I'll back the ice age.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Ray

Last night, I sort of saw the movie Ray, which is based on the life of Ray Charles. I was also doing some things on the computer while the movie was on, so it didn't have my full attention, and therefore I won't comment on its artistic merits here, except to say that it appeared to be well done.

However, the film did prompt me to meditate on drug use and artists. (Ray Charles apparently had a serious heroin habit, which was a major element in the plot.) For one thing, the movie did not present the role of heroin in Charles's life in purely black-and-white terms. That is vital for any depiction of drug usage that seeks to be anything other than drug war propoganda. Regarding drug taking as an entirely negative activity makes it a mystery as to why anyone would use drugs. The ignored and obvious solution to the mystery is that certain aspects of taking drugs are quite enjoyable, and for many people the pleasure gained seems to be worth the (also obvious) costs involved. The film acknowledges that Charles did most of his best work during the time he was a steady heroin user, and that he was able to achieve tremendous business success and reliably meet his professional obligations while using. (His love life was somewhat of a mess, but heroin use does not seem to have any inherent connection to extra-marital affairs -- a regular user could also be a faithful partner in a romantic relationship, and many people who do not use drugs have affairs.)

The film also led me to consider the relationship of drug use and the pursuit of art. I believe that many people working in creative fields run into difficulties with drugs because they grow attached to the aesthetic space they enter when under the influence. Mundane concerns fade away, and they are captured by a vision of pure artistic form. If a creator attracts a significant audience that is also captivated by his vision, his situation becomes doubly difficult. Even if he may be willing to give up his ready access to that aesthetic realm as the cost of his continuing drug use rises, he can feel obligated to keep going because of the expectations of his fans. As a case in point, I suspect that Jerry Garcia eventually succumbed due to just such an attachment. As "Captain Trips" and the de facto leader of the Grateful Dead, there was enormous pressure on him to keep exploring "deep space" with his music. He might have preferred to relax and play more of the folk and bluegrass material he performed with David Grisman, but not only did he have the huge population of "Dead Heads" expecting otherwise, he also felt responsible for supporting the quite large "family" of people who depended on the Dead for their livelihood -- office workers, roadies, sound men, marketers, and so forth.

I regard the trap he failed to avoid as a serious problem for any person who has gained renown for her creative output, not just for one who happens to take drugs. A public intellectual readily can become locked into continually recycling an idea (or a cluster of ideas) for which she became famous, because that is what her book-buying public and those who fund her work expect from her. If that happens, her thought ceases to develop, and the excitement she once felt for her vocation dies, replaced by the uninspired re-hashing of the ideas that attract steady pay.

My conclusion? To maintain their integrity and their passion, creative people must be willing to lose their audience and face financial uncertainty, in order to follow their muse along whatever path she leads them.

Does Europe Hate Us?

The Discovery Channel was recently advertising that it would be examining the question in this post's title in some program. For what it's worth, my experiences in Europe overwhelmingly have been that Europeans hate George Bush and his administration, not "us."

On History

Roderick Long expands upon my recent Mises.org article on the philosophy of history.

Meditation Reduces Crime

My uncle-in-law alerted me to this odd thingie (it's not really a movie), entitled What the Bleep Do We Know? It offers a very provocative (though at times cheesy) interpretation of quantum physics--basically that observers create their own reality, in every sense of the word.

Anyway, the most amazing fact that one of the people mentioned is that in 1993, several thousand people went to Washington to try to reduce violent crime over 20% by meditating. And guess what? It apparently worked.

Hocus pocus? I don't think so. When I lived in Brooklyn and took the bus to the subway station, there was this one bus driver who was an absolute delight. He would just crack jokes the whole way to the station, and by the end of the ride the whole bus was in a great mood. I bet it was infectious, where some people then did something on the subway that brightened others' mornings, etc.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

We'll Do the Ambushing Around Here!

Commenting on the State of Connecticut's case against a rental car company that was charging customers for going over 79 miles per hour with their cars, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who would throw his own mother in front of a speeding truck if she was standing between him and a TV camera, said:

"You cannot secretly track drivers' speeds and gouge them under the guise of safety or vehicle expense. No logic or law warrants a private company ambushing consumers with a $150 fee for exceeding a random speed limit."

That's right, Dick, only the government is entitled to ambush consumers for violating its random speed limits. (See my earlier comments on this case.)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

RSS Feed for Crash Landing!!

Crash Landing now has an RSS feed! Here ya go:

http://gene-callahan.org/blog/atom.xml

Add us to your favorite blog reader. Personally, I use bloglines. It's great--you go one place to see if the news sites and blogs you read have been updated. I can even see if my Netflix movies have shipped.

Catch-22 at the Gym

The gym is a great place to go if you're teeny tiny and have cute workout clothes (or if you're a guy, if you have huge muscles, a tank top, and those weird gloves). One of the best reasons to go to the gym is to improve the way you look, but if you don't LIKE the way you look, then it's the biggest obstacle to going to the gym.

I mention this because I've been going to the gym 4-5 times a week, but instead of being teeny tiny and having cute workout clothes, I'm postpartum and pushing a stroller. Boy do I look like a misfit at the Hillsdale College's gym!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A Career in Writing

I've often noticed that most succcessful writers (i.e., those who make enough money writing that I become jealous) live in more than one place. On their book jackets, I see things like "Philip Snodgrass lives in the Pacific Northwest and Hong Kong," "Matilda Northrop-Wilkins splits her time between her ranch in Montana and a chateau in Los Angeles," or "When Hayakowolski is not busy advising the President from his Georgetown salon, he grows artichokes in Santa Cruz."

Finally, I realized that these writers are successful because they live in several places. So, from now on, my bio will read:

Gene Callahan lives in a neighborhood full of Irish ruffians in London, England, at least now and then. And sometimes he stays at his in-laws in Rockland County, or on Sandy's couch in Brooklyn. And Big Adam recently told him he could sleep on his couch, as well, especially if Gene was buying him scotches at B61 earlier in the evening. Oh, and just the other night he crashed at Mike's up in Ridgefield, Connecticut, where he got to sleep in this nifty little bunk bed Mike's kids use when they come over. Occasionally, he even looks at real estate ads from places as far away as Pennsylvania.

Steriods

I'm really pleased Congress is having all these hearings on steroids in Major League Baseball, because I'm pretty sure that, when they were designing the Constitution, the founders wanted the legislative branch to address things like whether or not a bunch of guys playing a summer game had artificial muscles or not, and to leave matters like declaring war entirely to the president.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

My New Venture

I haven't been blogging as much lately because I'm opening a new store featuring home furnishings and R&B -- I'm calling it "Bed, Bath, and Beyonce."

33 Challenges to Murphy's Chaos Theory

I gave a prospective student--who is a very serious young man and an Objectivist--a copy of my pamphlet, and this is what happened...

Friday, April 01, 2005

More on Scientific "Facts"

To follow up on Gene's recent post...When I was in college some guy was arguing that Hume's critique of induction was stupid. He (in a manner similar to Gene's emailer) kept picking up a pen and dropping it onto his desk, saying, "We're absolutely sure that when I let go of this pen, it's going to hit the desk. I can do that as many times as we want, and it's always going to happen." And to really prove his point, he repeated his experiment a few times.

Now I didn't have the courage to actually do this--I am much bolder on the Internet than in person--but it occurred to me that it would be hilarious if I had suddenly reached out my hand and caught his pen after one of his drops. Then, of course, it wouldn't have hit the desk, even though we all "knew" it had to with perfect certainty.

More generally, there could have been a large electromagnet that someone turned on, or a strong wind, etc. etc. to falsify his prediction. Of course, this wouldn't have fazed the budding philosopher (yes, he was a philosophy major); what he meant was, the pen will hit the desk, unless something prevents it from doing so.

Well, yeah, I don't think Hume would've argued with that. He also would've endorsed the following proposition: Nature always obeys the true laws of physics.

The problem is, though, that the true laws of physics might not be the laws in our textbooks. And even if they were, we could never know this for sure.