Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Perhaps you'd like to take off your shorts."

No? Then apparently you haven't read some of the worst sex writing of 2008.  Check it out here

Personal favorites:

'The blue veins are divine,' he whispered.

"...I mistook it for some sort of monument in the centre of a town. I almost started directing traffic around it." 

"like a cat lapping up a dish of cream so as not to miss a single drop."

The Long Run View

So the whole economy is supposedly collapsing, right?  Is there any reason to suspect that in the end this could be a good thing?  Yes, if the current issues represent a fundamental shift towards a higher rate of savings.

Following the whole sub-prime financial meltdown, banks and financial institutions got scared and stopped lending. The real economy slowed down as firms couldn't get lines of credit to make payroll or loans to open new offices, and you couldn't get cheap credit anymore to buy a new car or house.  This slow-down has spooked everyone (like you) into doing what? Saving more. Now, rather than taking that vacation, people are paying down credit card debt.  Rather than buying a new car, they are putting that money aside in case they lose a job.  So the rate of savings is going up.

In our basic textbook model of long-run growth, there is an optimal level of savings.  That is, there is a savings rate that maximizes the long-run level of consumption (fun stuff like food and Wii's and princess movies).  This savings rate is usually referred to as the "Golden Rule" level of savings (as in, you should save at the optimal rate so that your children will have high consumption).   The Golden Rule savings rate, in the simplest form, says that the savings rate should be equal to the ratio of (Capital Income/GDP). 

In the U.S., the ratio of Capital Income to GDP is historically around 30%.  That is, of all the output we produce, 30% of it is paid out to the owners of the machines, land, and factories that produce the stuff we like to consume.  If you own an S&P index fund, you own capital, and therefore your dividends (for example) are part of this 30%.   The other 70% of GDP, roughly, is paid to labor.  That is, it is paid to you in the form of wages.

So the Golden rule says that the optimal savings rate is about 30%.  What is the effective savings rate in the U.S. over the last 10 years?  Somewhere around 14-17%.  (You've probably heard that the savings rate is negative or less than 5%.  That's the personal savings rate.  What we care about is the overall savings rate, which includes all forms of corporate investment).   So we are well below the Golden Rule savings rate in the U.S..

Now IF the current economic situation means that people have fundamentally altered their savings behavior and the overall savings rate goes up to closer to 30%, then in the long run we will be better off.  How much better?  Well, in a really rough calculation, having the savings rate go from 15 to 30% would generate nearly twice as much consumption in the long-run as we have now.  And that is ignoring any additional growth in productivity between now and then.  Even if the savings rate only goes up to 20%, this represents a gain in long-run consumption of nearly 60%. 

So in the long run, an increase in the savings rate is the right thing to happen.  We'll all enjoy (and our kids and grandkids will really enjoy) higher consumption thanks to us saving more.  Ideally, we would gradually increase the savings rate over time, avoiding the current drop in economic activity.  However, we've all basically decided to jack up our savings all at once, and that puts the brakes on current economic activity. 

But, in the end, IF we sustain this savings rate, we'll all be better off.  It's just a tough period of adjustment to get there.  So ask yourself this:  would you trade two years of low economic growth and high unemployment (around 9%) for a doubling of your consumption over the rest of your life (and more importantly, your kids lives)?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


As a quick aside, here are a few things to chew on regarding the Obama economic team:

1) Larry Summers: New head of the National Economic Council.  Honestly, who cares what position he has. He has emerged as probably the leading advisor to Obama on economic policy.  To illustrate this guys intellectual heft, let me paraphrase the comment made by one of my old graduate school advisors who knows Larry pretty well - "The single best thing I could do to further the study of economics would be to serve as Larry Summers' personal valet, so that Larry could spend more time thinking about economics."

2) Christina Romer: New head of the Council of Economic Advisors. I've met her very briefly, and my only reaction from that instance was that she seems like one of the least egotistical really great economists in the world. That said, she has every reason to be really egotistical.  Her work on monetary policy and history is considered top-flight, and she probably understands the ins and outs of U.S. government fiscal policy over the 20th century better than anyone (but she might be tied with her husband, David Romer). 

From my perspective, the best thing about both of them is that neither has every betrayed a sense of letting ideology stand in the way of sound economic reasoning.  In other words, they aren't just partisan hacks who have been smoking the supply-side trickle-down ganja so that Dick Cheney will hire them.  These are serious economists *first*, and Democratic partisans *second*.

Stimulus Package

Mark Thoma is a really good economist, and he has done some crunching on the mooted stimulus package. His full post is here, but the upshot is this:

Obama's team has announced a plan to create (replace?) 2.5 million jobs by the end of 2010. At $700 billion in stimulus, this works out to $280,000 per job created.  Seems a little high, doesn't it?  There are several reasons this looks big:
1) The government will actually spend less than $700 billion
2) Obama's team is low-balling the job creation estimate
3) Obama's team thinks that government spending has a small effect on GDP (and hence on employment)

If you take pretty standard macro-economic results seriously, then the $700 billion should generate about 2x$700bn = $1.4 trillion in new GDP.  (We think the multiplier on government spending is about 2. Why is it bigger than one? Because when the govt spends money, that money ends up with companies who use it to pay employees, who use it to buy things like plasma TV's and Cheetos, which then gives money to the workers who make Cheetos, etc. etc.).   So the $1.4 trillion in new GDP is an increase of about 10% over last years total GDP (just under 14 trillion).  Historically, every 2% increase in GDP yields about 1% lower unemployment.  So that means unemployment should go down by 10% x 1/2 = 5%.  A 5% increase in employment would be about 5% x 155million = 7.75 million jobs. 

So this would indicate that the plan would be spending $700 bn / 7.75mil = $90,322 per job.  That's only about a third of the $280,000 per job number you get from the Obama numbers.  So it seems likely that the Obama team is underselling their potential impact.  This is probably smart, because it's a lot worse to fall short of your jobs goal than to come in ahead of it. 

Is $90,322 a lot to pay to generate a job?  Think of it this way, the government is basically going to borrow that money to generate the jobs.  So that $700 bn in extra borrowing gives us each (about 300 million people) $2,333 extra in government debt.  Is *that* a lot for each of us to pay for 7.75 million new jobs?  I don't know. I guess it depends on whether you are unemployed or not.

Family Memo

This is pretty funny stuff.  A sample:

"In the Travel and Entertainment category, you will find that fewer requests to eat in restaurants will be approved, and requests for desserts in restaurants, particularly, will not be approved (unless they are included in the cost of a kid’s meal). In the case of Cabot’s or The Cheesecake Factory, where ice cream or cheesecake, respectively, is kind of the point, sharing is strongly encouraged. An additional benefit of this will be improved health. Netflix has been put on hold for 90 days, and we will reconsider that offering then; unopened red envelopes left on top of the TV indicate a lack of demand at present. Newspaper and magazine subscriptions are subject to elimination as well. Executives, including myself, are being asked to purchase regular coffee in place of more expensive coffee drinks while traveling, and to utilize meals from our on-site food service provider whenever possible."


Whoops. Forgot to put in the link to the blog-personality test site. It is HERE.  Analyze away.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Blog Speaks

So this site will analyze a blog (in about a nano-second) and give you a personality read on the author.  I am apparently a "ISTP" type, described as:

"The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters."

That sound you hear is Kirstin laughing out loud at some of this.  You know me, big into race-car driving, fire-fighting, and independent police work.  I do prefer to think things out for myself, so that's about right.  But dealing with spontaneous challenges?  I'm not sure spontaneous should really ever be used in connection with me or my approach to life. 

The Onion Rocks

Here is an article entitled, "I'm Not One of Those 'Love thy Neighbor' Christians".  Classic and probably disgustingly accurate.

Do you know your Civics?

Not sure? Take this quiz and find out how you do.  For kicks, they gave this quiz to a group of elected Representatives and other government employees.  Average score?  About 40%. 

Now, can you beat my 32 out of 33?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Let them die peacefully

The American auto companies, that is.  It sounds as if the Senate is being remarkably sensible in dealing with this ludicrous attempt to throw good money after bad.

See here for a nice article by Matthew Slaughter, a really good economist from Dartmouth, who points out that bailing out GM and Ford will have (gasp!) long-run ramifications.  Very quickly, if you keep bailing them out (and you'll have to, because that $25 billion is going right down the toilet in the space of a year to 18 months), then you basically are telling Honda and Toyota that they should look elsewhere to build their auto plants that compenstate their employees at about $60 per hour (benefits included).  Because there is no way we want to have more productive plants in the U.S. paying good wages.  That would suck.

Your Christmas Shopping List

Don't miss the hot items selling over at the American Family Association web-site.  As you can imagine from their name, these are regular average people who worry about things like mortgages, kids, schools, and how to get from soccer practice to ballet recitals with time to spare.

Oh wait, that would things real families care about.  The willfully bigoted Jesus cultists over at the AFA are really a raving bunch of lunatics that think gay people actually give a shit about them or their kids. 

To wit: the "They're Coming to Your Town" DVD.  Don't forget to watch the trailer.

If being filled with un-Christian hate is not your thing, why not consider showing the neighborhood that you are a closet KKK member?  Just plug in the handy-dandy light up cross from these guys.

A website for everyone

Don't miss the "Hot Chicks with Douchebags" website.  I'd say something else about it, but it exists as such a Platonic ideal form of a web-site that nothing comes to mind.


I have finally entered the blissful state.  In return for reviewing a book proposal, Oxford University Press has sent me $200 in free books:

The Oxford Companion to Food
What God Hath Wrought (a history of the U.S. btwn 1812-1848)
The Quantum Ten (history of the Solvay conference that hashed out quantum mechanics)
The Writings of Max Weber
The Undercover Economist

I have the best job ever.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bailout the Carmakers?

From here, an interesting calculation.

"Yermack estimates that the aggregate capital investment in GM and Ford since 1980 has led to a net reduction in capital of $465 billion...This is what I find particularly disturbing: with that $465 billion, 'GM and Ford could have closed their own facilities and acquired all of the shares of Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and Volkswagen.' "

Like I said before, how about we just pay off the workers, if we're so concerned with their welfare (and by the way, the wage rate in US automakers is about $70 per hour when benefits are included, compared to $28 for the average American)?   Even better, let's take the proposed $25 billion in bailout money and use it to buy a basket of stocks, which are terribly cheap right now, and offer a much better return over time than decrepit old car-makers that are supporting the lifestyles of a number of under-productive Lions fans.

Seriouly II

More stunning insights from the world of wack-job Christian fundamentalists:

"Since the election I've been asked a number of times to comment on the likelihood that Mr. Obama could be the anti-Christ.   Let me begin by saying that having been elected President he's Mr. Obama now, not just Obama.  As for him being the anti-Christ I've discouraged that thought because I don't believe it's time for the anti-Christ to be revealed yet. But apart from that there's no Biblical reason I can find that would absolutely disqualify him.  And based on the things we know about the anti-Christ there's a fit in several important places.  The anti-Christ will have to burst on the scene quickly and powerfully to accomplish so much in the little time he has, so maybe he'll need a head start.  If that's the case, maybe Mr. Obama is on his way to becoming the anti-Christ. Let's find out.Jack Kelly  

It takes all kinds to make the world go round. But honestly, Jack Kelly is simply a waste of valuable carbon atoms, isn't he?  If we could break him down into constituent molecules, that would be something like 100 pounds of water that could be used to keep some starving African kid alive. How is this not more valuable than this garbage? 


"I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion," - Newt Gingrinch.

Thanks to Newt, I'm finally going to get that GDM (Gay Defense Mechanism) installed at our house.  I want to make sure the Gay Menace doesn't sneak in my hair?

I grew up with Ronald Reagan as the President. I believe in small government, fiscal responsibility, individualism, and the strictest forms of rights to privacy. There is no one, and nothing, left in the Republican party that represents any of these things. There are a group of disreputable, dishonest, bigoted, willfully ignorant, and evil (yes, evil) grumpy old white men (and moose-hunting moronic women that the old white men like to ogle) that now parade around under the Republican Party name.

If you want to "defend marriage" as we know it, great.  You know what cheapens and degrades marriages?  Alcohol. Drugs. Abuse. Adultery. Dis-honoring your vows. Taking your spouse for granted. Treating your spouse like a servant.

For the record, here is Newt Gingrich's personal history of "defending marriage"
- In 1962, at the age of 19, he married Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher, who was 26 at the time
- Gingrich divorces Battley in 1980
- In 1981, six months after his divorce, Gingrich married Marianne Ginther
- Gingrich divorces Ginther in 2000
- Shortly after, Gingrich marries Callista Bisek, with whom he was having an affair during his marriage to Ginther

It may be worth pointing out to this colossal prick that "traditional religion" has generally forbid divorce, and punished adultery by death.  So how about this.  The day that Newt Gingrich, out of despair over his violations of the sanctity of marriage, commits suicide by hanging himself with barbed wire by the scrotum, I'll consider him a valid spokesman for the values of marriage.

Friday, November 14, 2008

We're all gonna die!

Not really, but it probably seems that way if you read newspapers (not that any still does that, but you get the point).  Bad news about the economy continues to roll in (lower consumer spending, higher unemployment, etc.) and no one is sure when it will end or what to do about it.

First, let's establish an important point. This is *not* going to be the next Great Depression. It might be a recession as bad as the 1980-82 one, which is bad. But take a deep breath and tell yourself that we are not headed into a new Depression. If you remember back a few posts, one of the defining elements of the Depression was DE-flation. We do not have deflation, and this makes all kinds of differences.  In addition, the people in charge (Bernanke) may not understand why this is all happening, or exactly how to get things turned around, but they DO know how to keep us from getting deflation. They have printing presses, and can start shucking out dollars, which will prevent deflation.  So we WON'T end up in another Depression.

Now, we will have a pretty painful recession (or more accurately, are in the midst of a one). At this point, the reasons for why this happened seem to be less important that the policy choices we have to make to get out of this mess. We can worry about blame later.

Paul Krugman made a nice distinction about the current situation.  He said we are not in a Depression (nor will we be), but our policy options look like those in the Depression.  Simply put, here are the government options for what to do:
1) Lower the interest rate
2) Lower taxes
3) Raise government spending
4) Do nothing

Bernanke has already done 1), and the Fed Funds rate is so low now that there is little scope for further cuts to improve the situation. Lower interest rates should make borrowing cheaper, so that people will buy more homes and factories. In other words, it should make purchases today cheaper than purchases tomorrow, so we should buy more today and increase aggregate demand, increasing output and reducing unemployment. BUT, the lower interest rates have not generated this effect (probably because people are so spooked that no one wants to buy much of anything) and further cuts in interest rates are unlikely to work either.

So what about 2)? Lower taxes (e.g. send out stimulus checks to everyone) should push up aggregate demand. If the government sends you $2000, the idea is that you'll spend that on new stuff, and this will increase demand, raising output, and reducing unemployment. However, you might use that $2000 to pay off some existing credit card debt or pay down some other debt. Or you'll just save it in case you do lose your job. This is the big issue with stimulus checks, what percent of them will people actually spend?  If they save all the money, the stimulus is a waste.  Why? Because the government borrowed the money from a bank to send you $2000, and then you basically put that $2000 right back into the bank. There is no difference in the assets of the bank, and you did no additional spending. So if you just save the $2000, no good comes of it.

That leaves us 3), raise government spending. This has the advantage of being, well, spending. The government could do a variety of things, all of which have floated around the news lately.  They could start a national infrastructure program (to replace those bridges like the one in Minneapolis that collapsed), or they could transfer funds to state and local governments to fund their own projects (build a new school, upgrade a sewer, etc..), or they could subsidize "green" energy research by pumping money into research, or they could incent companies to get green by subsidizing the purchase of clean technologies.  Heck, we could just invade Iran. That would incur a lot of government spending.  The point is that the government *spends*.  They buy stuff from companies, who then hire more workers, who get paid, who then spend more money, etc..  But unlike the tax breaks, we are at sure that there is some initial spending.

Of course, the government could do 4), nothing. This seems unlikely to it isn't really worth dwelling on.

The point is that only increased government spending is likely to be effective. So IF we should increase government spending, we should at least do it smartly.  That is, let's get something worthwhile out of it.  We could build a 12 lane highway between Missoula, Montana and Witchita, Kansas.  That would be increased spending, and would help.  But long run, it's just a waste of resources.  You'd like to government to spend on things that have the potential to a) increase current economic activity and b) have a long-run benefit.  Things like infrastructure replacement (e.g. replacing useful roads that are in disrepair) or increasing education or something that has benefits. We'll all disagree on which projects qualify, but we should at least agree on the principle.

Does the proposed auto bailout qualify? It would increase current economic activity.  Actually, it would technically stop current economic activity from getting lower, but that is effectively the same thing.  So the question is whether bailing out GM and Ford has any long run benefits.  I can see several.  Like, um, you know, people like cars?  And, er, they're both really cool?

My point is that there seems to be little long-run benefit to an auto bailout.  These companies are reaping what they and their unions sowed over the last 50 years.  They are inefficient, bloated, and incapable of keeping up with their competitors. They should go into bankruptcy and try to sort out their problems. 

If you wanted to spend government money on bailouts for their employees, then I'd be more amenable to the plan. Still a rip-off, since most of their employees are members of the UAW, and have allowed their union to put them in this situation, but whatever.  GM has 300,000 employees.  Offer each of them $100,000 - that's a total of $30 billion.  Do the same for Ford and Chrysler and you probably have to spend $60 billion, far less than the $250 billion thrown around to keep inefficient companies afloat.

Just saying.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's all rock and roll to me

Unfortunately, that Rolling Stone list is the kind of thing you can't get out of your head. So while laying awake last night, several more things came up:

Egregious omissions from the list:
- Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes (you know, Kurt Russell's step-daughter's ex-husband, that guy). If Mick Jagger had never been extruded from the alien birthing tank that produced his self-replicating immortal being, then Chris Robinson would have been the next best thing. He's skinny, he's white, and he can absolutely belt out the blues. His voice is pure rock-n-roll, and he (and the Crowes in general) are underrated.  By the way, "Hard to Handle" was originally an Otis Redding song, and Chris Robinson may actually have made a better version.  But that's a whole different topic.
- Bob Seger.  He's one of these guys that you totally forget about, but you know the words to almost all his songs. "Old-time Rock and Roll" is still getting it done, and he's got that "I was up until 3am drinking bourbon and smoking Marlboro's (the reds, not that pansy-ass filtered crap)" rasp to his voice that screams rock and roll.

Broader comparisons (the list was only rock and roll, but to put all these people in perspective let's review the following)
- Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughn are all up here (imagine my hand up about my forehead), and all the rest of y-all (yes, you Van Morrison and you Sam Cooke, and especially you John Lennon) are down here (now imagine my hand down around my knees). They didn't sing rock and roll, but at some point it doesn't matter. You name one person on the planet who can do what they could do.
- Nat King Cole. Imagine Bille Holliday, now deepen her voice a little. The only man who could sing like those three. I only wish he had been born a few years later so that he could have put together a Motown kind of catalog, rather than being "stuck" with his standards. (As an aside, let us not confuse Nat King Cole with his low-rent, money-grubbing, no-talent daughter Natalie Cole. There is a special place in hell reserved for her gold-digging thievery of her father's work and the warbling screech that she insisted on poisoning it with. Don't worry, the members of Radiohead can crawl up one another's ass to make room for her.)

I'd say that's it, but we all know this is going to bug me for the next few days, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Greatest Rock Singers of All Time

This list cannot go unchallenged. Rolling Stone ranked the best rock and roll singers in history. My guess is that the list is so retarded so as to generate comments (like this one).  So I'll take the bait and run down the top part of the list.

1. Aretha Franklin (my rank: top 10, not #1) - this is a safe, defensible pick. But it's like betting on the Yankees in the 30's: you'll win, but where is the drama?
2. Ray Charles (my rank: #3 or 4) - I love me some Ray Charles. The hard part here is trying to imagine what it was like to listen to Ray Charles when he was the first one to sing like he did.  Game-changing, and you don't get Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, or most of Motown without him showing that soul sells.
3. Elvis Presley (my rank: 5-10) - I'm not a big Elvis guy, but he does have that ''uh-huh" thing down pat.  You can make a good argument that every straight rock-n-roll singer is simply a knock-off of Elvis.
4. Sam Cooke (my rank: #3) - If you have never heard Sam Cooke sing, then I order you over to iTunes right now. Download anything. Download him singing the alphabet while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich underwater.  Then listen to one of the most amazing sounds you will ever hear in your life.
5. John Lennon (does not make my top 20) - ask yourself this: if Lennon wasn't shot in 1980, would we think so much of him today? No. His voice is distinctive, not great. He's a really wonderful artist, but to even to even suggest that he is close to Sam Cooke or Ray Charles or Elvis is honestly just more of the Beatle-mania hagiography that is getting very old.
6. Marvin Gaye (my rank: 5-10) - kind of the second coming of the Sam Cooke/Otis Redding soulman, but as a knock-off, he needs to be a little lower than this.
7. Bob Dylan (honestly, this is just stupid, he cannot make this list) - Let's get something straight. Bob Dylan is a brilliant lyricist, an accomplished composer, and a truly miserable singer. Because what he sang was so intriguing, you can forgive him. But please.
8. Otis Redding (my rank: #2) - #8? A travesty. A sham. An mockery.  A trav-a-sham-ockery. In a parallel universe where John Lennon is not dead, John Lennon is still trying, fruitlessly, to sound like Otis Redding. There is a reason that all the British groups of the 60's tried to copy American soul music of the 60's. They ALL wanted to sound like Otis. Lennon, McCartney, Jagger, Plant. All of them.
9. Stevie Wonder (my rank #4-#6) - Not sappy Ebony and Ivory Stevie. Groovy, inspired, belt-it-out Stevie from the 60's and 70's. We do not discuss Stevie Wonder after 1980 - the real Stevie was abducted by aliens and replaced with Mel Torme with a tan.
10. James Brown (uh, top 20?)  - This is tough. He's innovative, he's cool, he's in the hot tub. But if you had to take along one singer with you to a deserted island, is it him? Is he even in the discussion? I say no.
11. Paul McCartney (not in the top 20) - see John Lennon. Except for the dead part. And McCartney will always be penalized for inflicting Wings on us.
12. Little Richard (not in the top 20) - a human Muppet. Ahead of his time, yes. But did everyone start singing like Little Richard? No. They all started singing like Ray Charles.
13. Roy Orbison (not in the top 20) - apparently there is a "dead" bonus of about 15 spots on this list.
14. Al Green (between 10-20) - this is always tough, because you can't help but compare Marvin Gaye and Al Green. And I think Marvin takes the cake in that contest. But just to be clear, Al could outsing Lennon, McCartney, Orbison, and Little Richard if you shoved Dylan down his throat.
15. Robert Plant (somewhere in the 20's) - Plant gets dinged for being indistinguishable from one song to the next. Also, Plant is the one that every hair band from the 80's styled themselves after, so he gets a demerit.
16. Mick Jagger (5-10) - Underrated. Who knew a skinny British kid could bring the blues? Pleased to meet you, Mr. Jagger. And yes, I know your name.
17. Tina Turner (between 10-20) - see the Al Green comments, and substitute Aretha for Marvin Gaye.
18. Freddie Mercury (maybe 20-25) - about right, if slightly higher than he should be.  Again, probably benefitted from the apparent "dead" bias in Rolling Stone (remember, most of the people who work there are now close to dead themselves and want to think we'll remember them. Sorry Jan Wenner, everyone still thinks you're a wanker after 'Almost Famous').
19. Bob Marley (30's) - Rolling Stone staffer: "Hey, shouldn't we put in a reggae guy somewhere?".  Editor: "Uh, I guess so. Is there a dead one?"  Staffer: "Yeah, I think Marley is dead." Editor: "Excellent, put him down at 19."
20. Smokey Robinson (10-20) - probably got this one right. He's smooth, he's unique. He's too squeaky to really qualify as a rock-and-roll singer, but whatever.

Okay, here are the people who were NOT listed in the top 20 of the list that should have been, with my suggested rankings:
1. Van Morrison. - this is a colossal underrating that should not stand. If we do not shut down Gitmo soon, then whoever put Van the Man at 24 should be sent down to be water-boarded for a few hours. You give this guy a phone book, a bottle of scotch, and a microphone, and I'll listen to him yodel it.  Raspy, soulful, raw but in control. This guy takes dumps that can sing better than Lennon.
12-15. Bruce Springsteen - they put him too low at 36. If you want to just rock and roll, then who else do you want but the Boss? And seriously, can anyone else have pulled off, "you ain't a beauty, but hey you're all right" and made it sound good?
12-20. Gladys Knight - RS has her at 54. 54? They should be forced to listen to "Heard it Through the Grapevine" (the original) over and over until they wise up. Also does a damn fine gospel version of the "ABC"s on one of our Sesame Street discs.  (Don't snicker. If you're gonna knock the Muppets you can just log off right now, wait 20 minutes, and then open your door so I can punch you in the face.)
15-20. Annie Lennox. - Absurd that she is at 94. Here are several people she is listed below: Willie Nelson, Don Henley, Merle Haggard, and Steve Perry (yes, the guy from Journey).  You could make a good argument that Annie Lennox is in Billie Holiday territory when it comes to vocal purity. Merle Hagged, my ass.
10-30. Brian Wilson - big range, but I'm not sure exactly where to stick him. But it's higher than 52.

Okay, now here are several people on the list that should be taken out and shot through the vocal chords so that they shall not inflict their warbling upon us any longer.
45. Kurt Cobain - perhaps it won't be necessary to shoot him. But anyway, any yokel can scream into a microphone.
60. Bjork - really. Really.
66. Thom Yorke - I think my views on Radiohead are established. To even type his name in the same list as Otis Redding is an affront to the Gods of Music, and Rolling Stone will be made to suffer.
76. Steve Perry - look, his voice is probably alright, but you have to have some integrity to be on this list, don't you?
87. Don Henley - see Thom Yorke, but change Radiohead to the Eagles.
98. Stevie Nicks - look, if you get "Stand Back" stuck in your head, you will nearly stick a screwdriver in your eye socket to get it to stop. That should disqualify you from any list of "good singers".

I will now resume pretending to work.

More smarty farty stuff to blow your mind

The number of excruciatingly smart people in this country is amazing.  This profiles a finding by some biologists on how cells actually regulate their own evolution.  Basically, cells can turn themselves "off" if they have a non-useful mutation by altering their own energy usage. They use a mechanism not unlike a thermostat. They monitor their situation (e.g. temperature) and turn on or off their mitochondria (e.g. the furnace) by altering how fast ATP can move through the mitochondrial walls.

In case I'm not getting across the potential "wow" factor here, let me try again.  Organisms have control over their own evolution.  If you have a random mutation that does not improve your adaptive fitness (i.e. your ability to eat and breed) your cells may actually turn off those cells.  It offers an explanation of how we can get such complex organisms (i.e. humans, otters, Donald Trump's hair) without any guiding direction to the random mutations.

By the way, this updates the scoreboard to:
Charles Darwin - 4,576,890
Intelligent Design - zero

Classic Letterman

Back in the day (especially for those of us without cable thanks to living in the middle of Siberia central Wisconsin), David Letterman was the funniest guy on TV.  The video here is recent, but is a classic Letterman bit.  Let me preface it by saying two things:  Jamba Juice.  Spider-man. 

Malcolm Gladwell is a cooler nerd than you

The guy who wrote Blink and the Tipping Point gets profiled here.  I especially enjoy the fact that he does most of his research in the library, reading actual books.  It always strikes me as odd that I am the only faculty member in the Econ department here that actually goes to the library on a regular basis. 

I mean, is there anything better than really old book smell?  No, no there is not.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

Since it is Veterans Day (and points to you for knowing that this is the day - 11/11 - that the Versailles peace treaty was signed - at 11:11am - that ended World War I), here are some interesting facts about the Purple Heart.  The PH is awarded to servicemen and servicewomen who have been wounded while performing their duties.

The PH was actually dreamt up by George Washington, who decided to give out little fabric hearts to three soldiers during the Revolutionary War.  It lapsed until after World War I, when people (including George MacArthur) revived the medal, designing the version you see today.

In World War II, 964,409 Purple Hearts were awarded.  In Korea: 136,936.  In Vietnam: 200,676.  In the Persian Gulf: 590.  In Afghanistan: 2,743 (as of August of this year).  In Iraq: 33,923 (as of August as well).

Interestingly, the Purple Hearts that are handed out to soldiers today are from the stock of Purple Hearts that the Pentagon still has on hand from the end of World War II.  Anticipating massive casualties from invading Japan, the Pentagon ordered 500,000 medals.  If you add up all the casualties since WWII, you'll see that this does not add up to 500,000.  So all the Purple Hearts awarded to soldiers today were cast in 1944-45.  There are enough PH's in stock that units in Iraq actually carry them around to award them on the field of battle.

By the way, it is a federal offense to sell your Purple Heart, as it is a federal offense to fake one.

Cool election maps

This site, from a Wolverine no less, has some great cartograms of the electoral map.  The interesting ones are the map with state sizes weighted by population (so you don't get that odd feeling that the red-blue divide is pretty even because McCain won more square miles than Obama did).  That and the county results are fascinating.  The country is basically little pockets of blue cities surrounded by big swathes of red small towns and rural areas. (You know, the "real America" part of America, as opposed to all of you urban communists and your lattes).

Do the Wolverines now know foreign policy?

So our boys in maize and blue went to Alaska for the weekend (and presumably were able to see Putin at the game, along with Sarah Palin, Sig Hansen from 'Deadliest Catch', Ted Stevens and his federal escort, a polar bear, two huskies, and sixteen oil-slicked sea lions).

How do you drop a game to Alaska?  These are the games where you have to run up your record, so I'm disappointed.  Losing 4-1 on Friday before the 3-2 win on Saturday. Not a terribly impressive weekend.  You'll notice, if you look at the box scores, that we lost Friday with no help from the soph's.  On Saturday they had a combined 5 points.  If these guys play (and our boy Louie did score on Saturday), then this team will keep winning.

Again, Sauer only started one of the games, and Hogan the other. Can you guess who played in which game?

I'm really fascinated to see how this shakes out by the spring. When is the last time Red had a goalie rotation? 1991? I seem to remember that Shields didn't play every game his freshman year.  But since then, he's always had one guy. Stay tuned.

Then again, at the rate things are going, it is all a moot point.  Boston University cannot lose.  Not only can they not lose, they are scoring in huge bunches. Scary stuff from Jack Parker.

Halloween Cute

The princesses are ready for a Halloween party:

Bicycle cute

Seriously, can you beat this?

Dumb Cats

Just because its fun. The best part is later on when he gets stuck in the carton.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

As usual, the Onion is on top of the news

Saw this link today...

The Onion Calls It
An instant classic:
Carrying a majority of the popular vote, Obama did especially well among
women and young voters, who polls showed were particularly sensitive to
the current climate of everything being fucked. Another factor
contributing to Obama's victory, political experts said, may have been
the growing number of Americans who, faced with the complete collapse of
their country, were at last able to abandon their preconceptions and cast
their vote for a progressive African-American.
Citizens with eyes, ears, and the ability to wake up and realize what
truly matters in the end are also believed to have played a crucial role
in Tuesday's election.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Okay God, I get the picture

Apparently the great robot overload of the sky-people has decided that I
should not play soccer. I know this because yesterday while playing I had
some guy fall on top of me and bruise/crack one of my ribs (my left side,
just under where my heart would be). It knocked the wind out of me when it
happened, and then when I could breathe again, it hurt. Bad. It has to be
one of the most annoying injuries you can get, because *everything*
requires your torso to move.

On the bright side, I haven't spit up any blood or blown up like a
balloon, so it looks like I didn't puncture anything.

So let's review my last three soccer seasons
2006-2007: Hyperextend my knee, watch it blow up like a grapefruit, start
wearing old man bionic knee brace
2007-2008: Get hit akwardly, break ankle
2008-2009: Get fell on akwardly, bruise/crack rib

I give up. I'm afraid to go back and play at this point. I'm pretty sure
the next time I touch the field I'll actually lose one of my arms.