Friday, November 30, 2007

Highway to Hell

No, not the AC/DC song. From an article here, it turns out that portions of the Eisenhower Interstate System are to be the source of our salvation. Four lanes to freedom, apparently. A quote:

A number of Christians have come to believe, because of recent prophecies, dreams, and visions, that I-35 is the highway spoken in Isaiah 35, verse 8: “And a highway will be there, it will be called the way of holiness.”

… [Heartland Ministries’ Hill] believes God has an awesome plan that starts along I-35. “Let’s draw a line in the center of America, set people on fire, get young people saved, get moms and dads saved, get churches on fire, get holy, and watch how it affects the rest of America.”

“What do we expect to see?” [said Cindy Jacob.] “We expect laws to be changed in cities. We expect righteous leaders. We expect a movement, a reformation that will literally sweep the face of the earth.”

First, I'd normally assume that this Rev. Hill doesn't actually want to light people on fire - but given the state of the religious right today, I'm not sure this is a safe assumption. Second, I think they are underselling the proof behind this theory. Don't we all remember how Jesus teaches us that Duluth, Kansas City, Witchita, and Waco will be where we'll all find redemption?

Honestly, does anyone really buy this crap? How much peyote do you have to smoke to get down with this idea?

Investment Advice for the Non-raptured

Since I'm quite sure that most, if not all, of the people I know are unlikely to be Raptured once Jesus returns to Earth, I thought this link might come in handy. It's sound investment advice for those of us who will have to endure the 7 years of tribulation under the reign of the Anti-Christ.

The best tips:
1. Expect a mini-recession resulting from confusion and departure of saints leaving fewer consumers chasing the same amount of goods. Christian nations like the United States will be hardest hit, so consider distributing your portfolio among nations with low percentages of godly people, like China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

Have cash and gold on hand for buying opportunities and let your most sinful friends know you're willing to give cash value for their assets in a pinch.

Armageddon, of course, shapes up to be a boom year for defense contractors, but beware -- this is Satan and Jesus we're talking about and there's a good chance their arms and supplies may come from miracles and other non-standard sources.

Bible Smack-Talk

Just in case you need to deliver a holier-than-thou verbal boooo-yah to somebody, be sure to stop by the "Biblical Curse Generator" here. These are the 3 curses I got randomly:

1. Listen, thou wolf in sheep's clothing, for you will accidentally insult Goliath!
2. Hear this, O ye breaker of the commandments, for you will be mocked by eunuchs!
3. Behold, thou shalt beget difficult teenagers, thou exceedingly foolish virgin!

Of course, this is working on the assumption that the original Biblical characters, despite being Jews living in the eastern Mediterranean and speaking Hebrew, use a form of English that hasn't been spoken since about 1611. But who am I to question the Bible?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

How to Look Good on Christmas and Spend Less

Someone asked here if there was any way to take advantage of people's cognitive biases so that one could seem generous while not actually spending a lot of money. The good news is that the answer is yes you can!.

Here's a very simple example. If you give someone a $50 scarf, this will seem more generous than giving them a $100 coat. Why? Because scarves, in general, are cheap, and therefore a $50 scarf is an extravagant gift. Good coats, on the other hand, are usually much more than $100, so your gift recipient will think of your gift as cheap. So save yourself the $50 and buy the scarf.

The general rule of thumb is this: buy expensive versions of cheap objects, and people will consider the gift very generous. How does this work? Why isn't the gift recipient annoyed that you spent less? The key is that the gift recipient does not understand all of the gift options you compared. When I go shopping, I compare the $50 scarf with the $100 coat and decide what to give to you. I realize that the coat is worth more - it's a bigger sacrifice for me to buy it, and thus on most levels is a more valuable gift. However, you don't know that I considered buying a $100 coat, all you see is the $50 scarf.

Without the ability to see my whole set of gift options, you have to evaluate the gift based solely on its own merits. So you open the box and say, "Hey, look at that, a really nice expensive scarf! Wow, what a great gift," because you just compare this scarf to your idea of scarves in general, and not to the whole class of possible gifts.

Note that this probably doesn't work as well with kids, because they have an inexhaustible reference list of gifts to compare too. Their reaction is likely, "Hey, look at that, a really nice expensive pair of Dora underwear! How come I didn't get a pony?" You'll just have to wait til they grow up, and then feel free to screw them every holiday with expensive cheap stuff.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wiggalzzzzzz, Beeaaatch

I'd hate them so much less if this was how the show went:


Here's the list of teams, which will be updated as often as necessary as we include new players.

  1. Dina Lohan's Playgroup: Kirstin
  2. F-ing French: Jenny Eck
  3. CM's: Nicole
  4. The Good, The Bad, and the Fugly: Berna
  5. Fourteen Freaks and A Kid: Heather
  6. Los Chulas y Las Putas: Sarah
  7. Ocean's Fifteen: Sig
  8. The Boob Jobs: Dietz
  9. Papa Razzies: J.D.

US Weekly Pool Begins!

Alright, it's been a few weeks in coming, but the initial week of the US Weekly Pool has begun. Don't worry if you haven't entered yet, you can always join in. Just e-mail me your 15 celebs (per the rules linked to in the left column of the blog). For the initial week, here are the standings:

1. The Boob Jobs (25)
2. The Good, The Bad, and the Fugly (22)
3. F-ing French (19)
4. Dina Lohan's Playgroup (18)
5. Ocean's Fifteen (17)
6. Fourteen Freaks and A Kid (15)
7. Los Chulos yLas Putas (13)
8. CM's (11)

It's early, but it's obvious that my discerning eye for celebrity smut is unsurpassed! Love live the Boob Jobs!

I know what I want for Christmas

Personal exo-skeleton. Check out the video here. Remember the forklift-ish type robot thing in Alien? It's basically like having one of those. Sign me up.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Post Thanksgiving Book Review

I've got a backup of books I wanted to spout about. (Not to mention a 2 foot high stack of books I haven't gotten to read yet. Yikes.) So in no particular order, here goes:

1) The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman. Friedman is a columnist for the New York Times, and one time he got to take this great trip to India, and like, they've got a Pizza Hut there! How cool is that? Doesn't that make you think the world is really flat? Actually, Tom, it makes me more convinced that you're a bumbling idiot. In the immortal words of Bart Simpson, "I didn't think it was physically possible, but this both sucks and blows." Friedman has written a 300 page 6th grade book report on globalization, and he did all of his research by Googling management textbooks. If you spent a hour by yourself coming up with a list of characteristics of globalization you'd get just what Friedman apparently charged the NYT a fortune in expenses for. I'll admit, the first 50 pages were so bad, I stopped reading, so to be fair, I could be missing the "good parts" in the back. If I ever heard about a ship falling off the edge of the ocean, I'll be sure to go back and finish it.

2) The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow. From the juvenile to the adult. Too adult (No, not dirty, you perv. Sophisticated). This has been called, or at least is in the running for, the Great American Novel. And there is obviously a lot about this book that is spectacular. It was one of the first novels to feature an obvious immigrant, in an obviously immigrant neighborhood, as the main character. The beauty of it is that Augie, the immigrant in question, is portrayed so clearly as a definitive American. He is capable, smart, and motivated. His problem is that the endless possibility before him offers no clear path. The book is something like an extended resume of Augie's life. Augie the movie ticket seller, the deliveryman, the book thief, the union organizer, the eagle trainer, the dog groomer, the student, the salesman, etc.. etc.. He is willing to try anything, because he has no idea what he actually wants to do with himself. He could be good at all of these things if he put his mind to it, but nothing "clicks". In the end, he comes to some appreciation of the fact that in neither his work life nor his love life, will an actual switch get thrown in his head that says "HAPPY". This is slightly depressing - because Augie has been operating on the assumption that if he just tried the right thing, with the right job, or the right girl, it would all fall in place. It's not that he can't be happy, but rather that some effort will have to be involved. Being happy for Augie is in large part willing himself to not be bored.

As for the use of language, I can't say anything smart. Bellow writes beautiful language, as opposed to beautiful stories. From what I understand, one of the innovations was his intense usage of the "street language" he grew up listening to in Chicago among the immigrant neighborhoods. It's rough, dirty, and improper. But the sentences run quite long and they ramble about. Personally, I cannot focus enough on the language (the sounds, the cadence) to appreciate it. I'd prefer a clearer story to follow. I'm willing to concede, though, that the book is a major milestone in American literature, if only for the intensely detailed descriptions of what the lower ends of American cities are really like to those trying to claw their way out.

3) The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman. No, Nicole Kidman isn't in the book - but she probably is perfect to play the part of Mrs. Coulter in the movie (in theaters Dec. 7th in case you missed the 5000 commercials this weekend). A sci-fantasy kind of trilogy with a heavy, HEAVY religious element. Can't say much about the actual role of religion without giving away much of the fun. However, this is a really worthwhile read. The main characters, Lyra and Will, are two roughly 13 year-olds who, in a common sci-fantasy motif, find out they are Really Important People who can do X, Y, and Z to save the world. The fun of the books is not in the plot, it's clever but not stunning. The fun is in the detail and the novel world that Pullman creates, with the talking bears and the daemons and the multiple worlds and the Dust and all that. It's not quite as engaging as Harry Potter, where you just wanted to go to Hogwarts for a year yourself, but it was a pretty fun ride.

4) On the Wealth of Nations, P.J. O'Rourke. O'Rourke reads Adam Smith so you don't have to. In fact you get two books in one, since he read Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments as well (they are really a matched set). It's a short, fast read, and O'Rourke gets out a lot of the essential points of Smith that get lost when people just say "invisible hand" and laissez-faire. Economic progress consists of three elements: pursuit of self-interest, the division of labor, and free trade. There is a lot more said by Smith, and a little more said by O'Rourke, but these are the things you need. Self-interest doesn't mean greedy bankers screwing over defenseless grannies, either. It simply means that what we do with our money is our own damn business.
Rather than continue on summarizing what is already a summarization of Smith, I'll just highly recommend the book.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Guess Jim Craig Has Broadband Access

I'm not sure what to say about this (aside from the host of dirty jokes that came to mind). I saw this on Andrew Sullivan's blog at the Atlantic. Here are the top ten pages viewed on "Conservapedia", a right wing.....something (dictionary? encyclopedia? echo chamber? brainwashing vehicle?). Anyway, here are Conservapedia's own '10 most popular articles', as listed on their main page:

1. Examples of bias in Wikipedia
2. Theory of evolution
3. Homosexuality
4. George W. Bush
5. Jesus Christ
6. Global warming
7. Barack Obama
8. Bible
9. Atheism
10. Conservative

Even more intriguing are the statistics on the top ten viewed pages in Conservapedia (according to their own stats here):
1. Main page
2. Homosexuality
3. Homosexuality and Hepatitis
4. Homosexuality and promiscuity
5. Homosexuality and parasites
6. Homosexuality and Gonorrhea
7. Homosexuality and domestic violence
8. Gay Bowel Syndrome
9. Homosexuality and Syphillis
10. Homosexuality and mental health

There is something just incredibly Freudian going on here, isn't there? How did the right wing end up so obsessed with gay lifestyle? What happened to Barry Goldwater, small government, and fiscal responsibility?

And honestly, "Gay Bowel Syndrome"? Just in case you don't believe in this medical condition, you can just read - according to Conservapedia - the book "The Marketing of Evil" about how.....forget it. It's another book about how gay people will either kill you or suck your soul forcibly out of your eyeballs.

Don't people have better things to do with their time?

Subprime Mortgages - How Bad?

Here's an interesting link I picked up today:

"The entire market in subprime debt is just 1.4% of the size of global equity markets. Or, to put it another way, a 1.4% downward fluctuation in stocks erases the same amount of value as if all subprime-backed bonds were collectively marked to $0."

Now, if all the subprime bonds were marked to $0, this would cause a lot of disruption, because the people who owned them usually borrowed the money used to purchase them. So who loses the money? Probably a lot of banks who made loans to hedge funds and other banks to buy these subprime mortgages. But regardless of who gets the shaft here, it's only 1.4% of global equity markets.

For comparison, the S&P 500 dropped over 1.75% yesterday, and this did not cause anyone to panic or assume the financial world was coming to an end. The difference is that stocks are probably less leveraged than subprime bonds (that is, people used their own money to buy stocks), so the owners are the same as the losers.

If subprime mortgages are going to ruin financial markets, then this would have to be because the losers are the lenders, and this might mean they stop lending to everyone else, and this brings investment to a stop. But you'd only stop lending to everyone else if they were bad credit risks, and corporate profits are still quite high and there are still plenty of prime mortgagee's out there (remember, this is all a problem with subprime lending, or lending to people with lousy credit in the first place).

Recession? Maybe. Titanic financial collapse? No.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Go Blue

Yeah, I know we couldn't even top 100 yards of offense against Ohio State, our coach is "retiring", and earlier this year we were on the wrong end of the worst upset in college football history.

But there is more to life than beating Ohio State (although beating them would make life better). Last weekend UM hockey took two from Lake Superior State to go 8-0 in conference and 11-1 overall. #2 in the national polls so far. Freshman are all over our top scoring list, 6 of the top 10. The future is bright.

And let's not forget that Ohio State graduates had to spend 4-8 years living in Columbus. Punishment enough.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Honest Dating

Finally a woman who just tells it like it is:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fantastically Poor Reporting

This article reviews the results of a recent study linking materialism and self-esteem. It's terrible. Not the study, but the reporting about it. I'm guessing that this kind of poor reporting will occur all over the place as the study gets some traction in the media.

The first problem:
"Researchers have found that low self-esteem and materialism are not just a correlation, but also a causal relationship where low self esteem increases materialism, and materialism can also create low self-esteem."

This fundamentally fails to appreciate the definitions of correlation and causality (not to mention proper usage of those words). If self-esteem and materialism are significantly related to each other (say in a regression), then we can conclude they are correlated. Without proper identification, though, we can say nothing about which direction the causality runs. That is, we cannot be sure if self-esteem causes materialism or vice versa. An unidentified correlation presumes that causality runs both ways. They do not "find" that causation runs both ways, until we have identification we have to assume that it does.

The second problem:
"The paradox that findings such as these bring up, is that consumerism is good for the economy but bad for the individual. In the short run, it’s good for the economy when young people believe they need to buy an entirely new wardrobe every year, for example. But the hidden cost is much higher than the dollar amount. There are costs in happiness when people believe that their value is extrinsic. There are also environmental costs associated with widespread materialism."

This is just dumb. If you want to make statements regarding the economy, you should know something about how it works. And you should know something about how people work. "Consumerism is good for the economy" is an ignorant statement. A brief increase in consumer spending may boost GDP for a short period before prices rise. However, increasing consumer spending means that less money is saved, and this means that growth is lower in the long run due to less investment. If materialism raises consumption permanently, we'll have lower long run income per capita. "But the hidden cost is much higher than the dollar amount". The dollar amount of what? The dollar amount of increased spending? I thought this was a good thing, not a cost. What the author means is that there are hidden costs that offset his (false) benefits of higher consumer spending.

And what are these hidden costs? The loss of happiness from extrinsic self-esteem is one. I don't mean to be cynical, but the whole point of materialism is to boost my self-esteem extrinsically when my intrinsic self-esteem is low. So it doesn't necessarily mean that I'm less happy. From the outside, perhaps I think this not a good trade-off, but the conclusion does not follow automatically.

The second hidden cost is the ephemeral "environmental costs". This would only be true if the goods preferred by materialistic people were relatively "dirty" compared to the goods purchased by less materialistic people. As less materialistic people, by definition, spend less, they should be saving more. This higher savings would be loaned out so that others could buy investment goods (houses and factories). I'm not convinced that Gap jeans are necessarily worse for the environment than another McMansion going up. At a minimum, one would have to support this statement with some kind of evidence.

All in all, a stunningly bad piece of reporting. Cheers.

US Weekly Update

For those of you interested in the US Weekly pool, I'm going to start the actual competition the weekend of Thanksgiving (that is, with the edition that we get at home that Friday). So if you want in at the start, make sure to e-mail me your 15 celebrities. The official rules can be found on a link at the left side of the page. (Don't worry, you can always enter later as well.)

For transparency, I thought I'd list my own roster publicly, so no one can accuse me of pulling a switcheroo. So, ladies and gentlemen, I present "The Boob Jobs"

1. Nicole Ritchie (duh, she' skanky AND she's got one in the oven)
2. Christina Aguilera (lower skank factor, always a risk for fashion police spread, but is going to pop one out soon)
3. Lauren Conrad (someone needs to tell me who she is and what she does, but every week she's in the magazine)
4. Katie Holmes (you should always have at least one cyborg on your roster)
5. Kate Hudson (I predict that she will drive the other Wilson brother to suicide as well)
6. Brad Pitt (oh God, he's so dreamy, and he - like - cares, you know? About all that Africa stuff and everything)
7. Jennifer Lopez (again, can't lose with B-list celebrities about to give birth - she'll sell her baby pictures in a heartbeat to get some press coverage)
8. Lindsay Lohan (getting trounced badly in her one on one battle with Britney to go off the deep end)
9. Reese Witherspoon (oh God, she's do dreamy, and she - like, cares, you know? About her kids and she seems all normal and stuff)
10. Carrie Underwood ("Must remain perky. Must remain perky. Must remain perky.")
11. Jessica Alba (dude, you could totally see her underwear in Fantastic Four - thank God for TiVo)
12. Tom Cruise (see #4)
13. Justin Timberlake (perhaps the one person in the world I'd like to punch in the mouth more than anyone other than Dick Cheney)
14. Pam Anderson (Large boobs? Check. IQ of a tree squirrel? Check. Unnatural lack of dignity? Check.)
15. Spencer Pratt (With that name, isn't impossible for him to NOT be an asshole?)

Your Money

This website is fantastically cool. It allows you to track the amount of money (either in grants or in contracts) that go to any specific congressional district, state, or company. It's fun to just look over the top 100 lists.

Top 5 contract recipients:
1. Boeing: 12.01 billion dollars
2. Northrup Grumman: 8.34 billion
3. Lockheed Martin: 7.99 billion
4. Raytheon: 4.82 billion
5. General Dynamics: 3.26 billion

The number 26 company on the list is FedEx, earning 773 million dollars for shipping things and people around for the government. The biggest spender on FedEx? The Air Force. Don't they have their own planes?

Of the 2.2 trillion dollars awarded in contracts between 2000 and 2007, 68% were spent by the Defense Department.

Compared to the 2.2 trillion in contracts (which presumably are used to buy "stuff" that the federal government can use), there was 13.8 trillion awarded in grants (which covers everything from funding school lunches to buying hazmat suits for police departments). The top agencies awarding grants were:
1. Health and Human Services: 3.70 trillion
2. Homeland Security: 3.62 trillion
3. Social Security: 3.49 trillion
4. Housing and Urban Development: 0.83 trillion
5. Department of Agriculture: 0.82 trillion

By far the biggest recipients of grant money were Florida and California, to the tune of 1.5 and 1.2 trillion, respectively between 2000-2007. This seems to mainly be for flood, hurricane, and earthquake insurance. So roughly 20% of all federal grant money was spent on making sure that people who live on a) one of the most unstable fault lines in all the world, or b) the equivalent of an interstate highway for hurricanes, will be compensated when - lo and behold! - a catastrophe strikes. That means as much is spent on catastrophe insurance as on all of Social Security. We could make Social Security AND Medicare solvent by ending the subsidization of living in places that God is intentionally trying to destroy on a regular basis. Just a thought.

Christmas Lists

The picture on top is an example of what Abby and Madeline will NOT be getting for Christmas. The picture on the bottom shows, yes, plush huggable versions of everyone's favorite pair of bodily excrements. Those rascally scamps, I just want to give them a big squeeze!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rich, Woody, and Full of Crap

For those of y'all who are wine peoples. I knew you were faking it the whole time. ("I won't drink any f*#$-ing merlot!"). Original post here, and some selected quotes:

In the first test, Brochet invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food coloring. But that didn't stop the experts from describing the "red" wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert praised its "jamminess," while another enjoyed its "crushed red fruit." Not a single one noticed it was actually a white wine.
More proof that it's all just a front -
The second test Brochet conducted was even more damning. He took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle was a fancy grand-cru. The other bottle was an ordinary vin du table. Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the differently labeled bottles nearly opposite ratings. The grand cru was "agreeable, woody, complex, balanced and rounded," while the vin du table was "weak, short, light, flat and faulty". Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only 12 said the cheap wine was.
From these two simple tests, I can only conclude that the experts are attempting to create a cognitive scheme around which they can place specific........................mmmmmmm, beer.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Rip Away 1000

The future is so bright, I gotta wear shades.


Our last two Netflix movies were The Hours and Hero. Let me lay out a quick review of both for you:

The Hours is basically like watching an extended episode of Sex and the City. Except that instead of well-dressed socialites, you have frumpily dressed women in various stages of mental decay. Although both the Hours and Sex and the City have shown women kissing women, I have a feeling that I'm understating the importance of these kisses in the Hours. If you asked your film studies major friend (you know, he works at Arby's), he'd tell you that the kisses represent the yearning for a deeper meaning in the confined world that a women is forced to operate in by the patriarchal system of domination. The movie involves the ways in which a novel by Virginia Woolf steers and frames the lives of two other women, but let's not forget that Woolf was a certifiable nut case. Maybe one could turn to some other sources of inspiration.

Hero is in that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon genre of Chinese action films and involves lots (LOTS) of wire-fighting martial arts scenes. There is nothing terribly stunning about the fights relative to CTHD (or the Matrix, for that matter). The story could have been intriguing, but it is told in such a way as to rob it of all the suspense. All that being said, this is probably the coolest looking movie I've ever seen. The movie tells the same story several times over, from different points of view, and each point of view is represented by a different primary color being used for the costumes and major props. And the colors themselves are brilliant - bright blue, stop sign red, pure white. The settings are fantastic Chinese landscapes. Rent this, put the mute on, and just watch.


This is frightening. Honestly frightening that people such as this live among us. This comes from Deroy Murdock:

While the White House must beware not to inform our enemies what to expect if captured, today’s clueless anti-waterboarding rhetoric merits this tactic’s vigorous defense. Waterboarding is something of which every American should be proud.

By all, any, and every definition of torture, we are torturing people. (People, mind you, who have been named "enemy combatants" by our government, and so therefore are not eligible for a public hearing on the charges against them. So yes, your government could pick YOU up off the street, declare you an "enemy" and imprison and torture you without recourse.) Now one can argue that torture of one is justified in the defense of the many, but should we suggest at any point that this is something to show pride in?

"Hey Bob, nice job electrocuting that rag-head's testicles. High five!"
"Thanks Mike, but it wasn't nearly as cool as that time you cut that camel-jockey's fingers off one by one with a bolt-cutters. That rocked, man."
"Sweet. Let's get some brews. "

Pride? That's what I should feel? I feel sick to my stomach if I actually bother to think about what we do out of fear. Even if it's justified, I feel sick. We've been put in a position where torturing suspects (not convicts, suspects) is our optimal policy, and I'm supposed to be proud? I'd be proud if we'd been able to bring all the 9/11 masterminds (Osama et al) to justice without firing a shot. THAT would have been something to be proud of. By the logic of Deroy Murdock, I should be proud that the cops in Houston beat up some drug dealer. I should be proud when some kid with an attitude problem gets expelled from school.

Maybe it's time to start looking for positions at universities in Canada.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Way Cool

A graphical dictionary. It's just fascinating to watch it kind of give birth to new words when you click on a word. Try "smart", "humor", "history", or "fight" - lots of bubbles (you'll see).

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Enola Gay

You may have noticed that yesterday (Nov. 1st), Paul W. Tibbets died. Tibbets was the captain of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that left Tinian island in the Pacific on August 6th, 1945 and delivered the 'Little Boy' atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. Tibbets stated in 1975, "I sleep clearly every night," and maintained that if given the same assignment, he'd do it over again without question.

While Tibbets organized, planned, and flew the mission, there were 11 other men on board the Enola Gay that day. In particular, Thomas Ferebee was the bombadier - when all is said and done, this guy was the one who actually pulled the trigger on the first atomic bomb. Think about being asked to do that.

Robert A. Lewis was the plane's regular commander, and served as the co-pilot on the Hiroshima mission. Theodore Van Kirk was the navigator, William Parsons was the weaponeer (bomb mechanic), Jacob Beeser worked the radio countermeasures (and fulfilled the same role during the Nagasaki mission, the only man to fly both). Morris Jeppson was the assistant weaponeer, George Caron was the tail gunner, Wyatt Duzenberry was the flight engineer, Joe Stiborik was the radar operator, Robert Shumard was the assistant flight engineer, and Richard Nelson was the radio operator.

Fun story

This is from Megan McArdle:

At a conference last year, I saw an incredibly compelling presentation from the guy who does usability for Treo. He talked about design philosophy, and showed slides of a project he does where he goes into various institutions, divides people into groups, gives them spaghetti and some tape, and asks them to build the tallest self-supporting structure they can. The worst-performing group, you'll be unsurprised to hear, was MBA students; they spend all their time arguing about who will be boss. Engineers do okay. But the best performing group? Kindergarten students.

The students don't plan anything. They just try stuff, and if it doesn't work, they try something else. The presenter's argument was that if you want to do something quickly, and well, you need to have a lot of failure. Failure is the quickest way to learn.

Basically a nice quick argument for messy capitalism over planned economies (or planned anything).

White Trash Cute

I love my kid.

Halloween Cute (and more)

This is probably the last year we'll get off this easy on Halloween. They wiggled into their princess gowns last week for a big mom's group Halloween party - but apparently spent the whole time attached to Kirstin's leg (until of course the food showed up, see the picture). Wednesday night they got hitched up again in their princess gear and headed out onto the block.
(For all my friends north of the Mason-Dixon line, it was about 75 outside when we went trick or treating. Hope you were able to get the snowsuit on underneath your kids costumes.)

The best part about two tiny little princesses is that everyone is actually happy to see them because they are so non-threatening. We actually had some neighbors request that we ring their doorbell because they wanted to have the little princesses stop by. Of course, dressing like a princess does not mean one acts like a princess. Twice Maddie was unimpressed with people's charity and just made a stab for their bowl, ripping out a handful of goods and stuffing them in her bucket. I did get her to yell 'thank you' at them from the sidewalk as she hustled to the next house.

Kirstin completely suckered the two of them in with her "Great Pumpkin" tradition (i.e. bulls***). If you leave your candy bucket by the fireplace, the Great Pumpkin will come during the night, take your candy, and leave you a toy. Abby was skeptical, and I have to admit I admired her a little for seeing through this blatant attempt to subvert a national holiday. But she went for it and even ran downstairs Nov 1st to find that the GP had brought her - a book. Honestly, we duped our kid into giving up a bucket of candy for a book. I'm not sure whether to be thankful she is developing a love of reading, or to shake my head at the fact I'm raising a sucker. Maddie got a book too, but this is less disconcerting - she's got the attention span of a rock.

Next year, I predict Abby calls Kirstin out for the B.S. and takes steps to secure her candy in a safety deposit box.

Best. Ad. Ever.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Optimal Taxes

I know, it's the worst title for a post ever. Bear with me. Let's say we have 8 people who earn 10,000 a year, and 2 people who earn 100,000 a year. Now which tax system would you prefer?

1. Those earning under $20,000 a year gets an earned income tax credit (essentially, a refund) equal to 90% of their income. Those earning over $20,000 pays 36% of their income in taxes.
2. Everyone pays 50% tax on all their income, but then everyone receives a $14,000 grant.

The first scheme appeals to progressive instincts. Those who can pay more should pay more. It transfers money from the rich to the poor. But it isn't necessarily fair because why should we punish one group just for being rich? The second scheme seems fair - it treats everyone identically. But why should people who are already rich receive this block grant? They don't need it, do they?

Here's the kicker. Each tax scheme results in an identical distribution of post-tax income. In either case, each of the poor people ends up with $19,000, and each rich person ends up with $64,000. In the U.S., we operate more like scheme 1), but it doesn't necessarily lead to any greater redistribution than a flat tax and grant scheme.

I'm not sure exactly what my whole point is on this, but I thought it was an interesting thought experiment.

Like Watching a Zamboni....

Interesting links to space out to:
1. Go here to watch in (close to) real time the updates made to Wikipedia and where they come from around the world.
2. Go here to watch Cheddarvision. Shockingly, this is not from Wisconsin.

South Park Fun

Sig comes through again. She pointed me towards this site, at which you can create your own South Park character. I did the whole family.