Monday, May 31, 2010

Human Brain Wiring

The mind isn't wired to make smart decisions about consumer credit.

As someone who just played craps for an excess of 10 hours this weekend, I can attest to the limits of rational thinking amongst human beings. The entire premise of casinos is based on irrationality - if you play long enough - you will lose. It is that simple. Losing is an inevitability over time. Which is why I will only gamble on the cheap.
Welcome to the End

Interns paying to work.

Up is down.
Student Debt

A New York times article on student debt.

They don't mention it, but there is another price to servicing student debt over time - loss of investment opportunity. The girl in this article should be paying $700 per month in student debt. If she were just investing that in a combo of a Roth IRA and some basic blue chip stocks, over time, she'd be doubling and tripling her money. By the time she pays off the $100,000, she's both paid an incredible amount of interest on the debt and lost all the potential gains via investment in stocks or a house. But then again, she wouldn't have read Foucault in a class.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

If You Thought Iraq Was Pointless

I've been trying to ignore this North-South Korea whisperings of war, because jesus, can you think of anything more pointless? Just a totally destructive and pointless re-engagement of hostilities. Yes, fine, I'm talking from an American perspective, but let's be honest -- North Korea is a stalker state and provoking war to get attention. There's no logic here. No strategy. Unless they get flattered properly, in their own deranged mind, they are willing to completely self destruct and try to take their neighbors and fellow Koreans with them. Yes, this is indeed like a psycho-father who decides to commit a murder-suicide of his own family. How can you stop such a person? Especially a person with nukes. You can't.

It sucks. I've been to Seoul and it is one of my favorite cities on the planet. It puts to shame the nightlife in most every American city. No joke. The neon lights make it seem like daytime 24 hours a day. The streets bustle. It is alive 24 hrs a day. People compare it to Manhattan. Manhattan? Forget Manhattan. Manhattan has a Starbucks, McDonalds, and CVS on every corner. Manhattan is a crowded suburb where you can't drive with more expensive restaurants. Seoul teams with smells of street food and noises of batting cages and computer rooms where people play RPG games all night long and drunken Koreans stumbling out of booking bars. And they live with a crazy man next door pointing a gun to their head. Bummer.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Ron Artest signing with the Lakers started off promising. First, he introduced Lamar Odom to a Kardashian sister and they were married in a month. Then he fell down his stairs, suffering a concussion, and refused to discuss the incident. Then he admitted to drinking alcohol at halftime during the early part of his career with the Bulls. But since then...nothing. It's like the beginning of Swordfish - starting off with a good scene or two and then turning into a super lame movie.

The best drama Artest can muster is a tweet-off between his brother and Trevor Ariza?

This is a man who last year during the playoffs spoke candidly about playing in a street ball game where a guy tore off a table leg and used it to stab another player through the chest. I saw the post-game interview live and still to this day feel like I totally imagined it. It was so bizarre. On the one hand, I think it is entirely possible Artest made this story up on the spot. On the other, I don't know what would be more strange if he made the story up or if it actually happened. Shouldn't some bored cop from the same town as Artest make this his cold case? Can he/she check the records and see whether there are any old unsolved murders at a basketball court with a table leg as the murder weapon? Can we get some more details? What is the more likely of these scenarios: the incident happened and Artest was a witness, the incident happened and Artest was the perpetrator, the incident never happened but Artest believes it happened, or the incident never happened and Artest just made it up on National TV because he was trying to make some sort of point. I'd say it's pretty much even odds that any one of those four scenarios are possible.

What happened to the Artest who threatened to slice Kobe's neck? Where is the Artest who goes after unruly fans in the seats? Listening to Artest now is like listening to a vulnerable teddy bear. He is giggly and soft and nervous. What has Phil Jackson done? Slipped sedatives into his meatloaf? Gotten him to meditate twice a day? Whatever it is - it's boring. We need Artest to fly off the handle. That's why he was brought to the Lakers. That, and to guard LeBron in the finals. But since that scenario is no longer happening, we need and deserve some crazy ass Artest shit either in this series or certainly in the finals. Maybe Rondo will get under his skin and he'll try to choke him.
Not Dead Everywhere...

Well, it seems post-modern bullshit is not done everywhere:

A New York City community board has voted for a plan to build a mosque and Islamic cultural centre near Ground Zero. The vote, 29-1 in favor with 10 abstentions, came after hours of contentious public comment from angered conservative activists and families of the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks. And last night a top Manhattan politician backed the plans, saying that while the wishes of 9/11 families must be respected, the board must also try to “balance diversity.”

It just seems like a totally odd and pointless thing to do.
The Post Modern Dream Is Dead

A good article about it.

The new world order as envisioned by Obama in January 2009 was, I think, supposed to look something like the following: A social-democratic America would come to emulate the successful welfare states in the European Union. These twin Western communitarian powers would together usher in a new world order in which no one nation was to be seen as preeminent. All the old nasty ideas of the 20th century — military alliances, sovereign borders, independent international finance, nuclear arms, religious and cultural chauvinism — would fall by the wayside, as the West was reinvented as part of the solution rather the problem it had been in its days of colonialism, imperialism, and exploitation. A new green transnationalism would assume the place of that bad old order, a transnationalism run by elite, highly educated, and socially conscious technocrats — albeit themselves Western — supported by a progressive press more interested in effecting social change than in merely reporting the tawdry news.

Obama can still push that story, but more and more Americans disagree with his 21st-century vision. Stuck in the past, they instead believe that capitalism, not socialism, brings prosperity; that to reach a green future we need to survive for now in a carbon and nuclear present; that all, not some, laws must be enforced; that our country is different from others and needs to maintain the integrity of its borders; and that there are always going to be a few bad actors abroad who must be deterred rather than appeased.

We will hear all sorts of angry charges as these dreams die, but that will not mean they are not dead — even if we are lucky and they go out with a whimper rather than a bang.

What's that line about a neoconservative being a liberal mugged by reality...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Alvin Gentry

Before he was the coach of the Suns was Alvin Gentry the voice of Mr. Hand on Southpark?

ANN CURRY ADDRESSES WRONG SCHOOL: Maybe her brain stops working after 8 a.m.? When Today show host Ann Curry gave the commencement address at Wheaton College in Massachusetts on Saturday, she accidentally listed alumni from a small evangelical school in Illinois also known as Wheaton. Not that they weren’t impressive—Wes Craven and Billy Graham are alumni of the Illinois school; but the Wheaton she was actually speaking to also had some impressive alums, including Christine Todd Whitman and Catherine Keener. "I am mortified by my mistake, and can only hope the purity of my motive, to find a way to connect with the graduates and to encourage them to a life of service, will allow you to forgive me," Curry said in an open apology letter on Wheaton's website.

These small colleges are confusing when they share the same name as another college - Trinity, St. Johns, etc.
Global Meltdown Lessons

Good article.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Two American hikers detained in Iran got engaged in jail.

I guess there weren't many other options.

Every time I see the Hanes t-shirt advertisement during the NBA playoffs, the one with Jordan on the airplane, his new Hitler-moustache bugs me. Isn't there an unwritten rule about not having a Hitler moustache? Does Jordan think he is so famous that his face exempts him from the no-wearing-Hitler-moustache tact?

Friday, May 21, 2010


In Japan there is a splitter-upper service to get rid of an annoying spouse or ex.

It makes at least as much sense as internet dating.

Our nation is being run by children.

Arizona threatens to cut of electricity they supply to LA in response to LA protesting Arizona's immigration law.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Like the Nazis Fighting the Soviets

Pakistan shuts down Facebook.

I don't know who to root for.
Pareto Optimal, I Think Not

I'm sure there will be a spate of good, new economic thought that comes out of this whole economic crisis, if there hasn't already. I'm sure a lot will focus on this whole idea of rational choice theory and how individuals will not always make the best decisions - even if they have all the information in front of them. Surely other thought will focus on how equal information cannot be said to ever fully exist and therefore will always allow for market inefficiencies. I have a simple example from today at work. (Note - breaking rule - blogging about work)

We send out books. Sometimes galley copies or the books themselves and more often, now, electronic copies. In the case of when we have hardcopy, the Pareto optimal solution is probably to send the hardcopy (unless the recipient has a Kindle), to avoid printing costs. However, as the sender, we have incentive to send the electronic copy because it is easier to draw up and email and attach a document than to prep a package and give to the messenger. So we send electronic copies, even though the Pareto optimal solution is to send the hardcopy. Expand this idea to other things and you can see how we get into messes...
The Way Things Ought to Be vs. The Way Things Are

I started a post the other day about the failure of the center-left rule in America and the UK - basically a reflection on Clinton and Blair's "have our cake and eat it, too" philosophy to governance and how it lay the groundwork for many of our current problems - both internationally and financially. I haven't finished yet, but I can tell you public musing readers are just chomping at the bit waiting for my political ramblings.

It is why I found this story appropriate thematically - Panera opens a store where you pay what you want.

Panera, if you are a long time reader, was a place I used to celebrate in my old posts when there was one near my old office location. Half of my office was hooked on the bfast sandwiches. They were a great deal - $4 and perfect sized for bfast. I'll still go to a Panera if I'm around one at bfast time and not looking to spend too much.

Much as I like Panera, and much as I like the idea that you only pay what you want, who are we kidding here? Has this idea EVER worked? Even at my old Panera, there were lots of homeless folks as customers - because it was one of the cheaper places to eat down in Santa Monica near the Promenade and there was lots of space to hang out and act all homeless in peace. I supposed Panera gave them some free food as well - or at least discounted.

This idea is stupid. It rewards cheapskates and punishes the generous. Even if it worked, you couldn't expand the idea very far because it wouldn't work broadly, only off the charity of a select few. It reminds me of the political philosophy of the center-left from 1991-2001 - the mistaken premise that we can have it all - guns and butter and ultimately everyone will be our friend and just as importantly, like and be nice to one another if everyone could just...get along. For lack of a better term. Things aren't the way they ought to be - they are the way they are - and we shouldn't forget it.
Draw Mohammed Day

Sounds exactly like something I would have done in school.

Or now.
Nice Essay on Small Town America

From VDH

Tough, they of course were, and without the technological advantages of our own age, much less the social services safety nets. My father told me his grandfather was directed by the local doc to drink a turpentine concoction to expel a large tape worm of several feet from his gut; he himself at 12 fell on a hay-rake, was impaled, and had half his liver removed (but remember the myth of Prometheus). Another uncle pushed the bellows of a stuck hand-sulfurer and burned out his eye. These were common rural experiences; and I have to assume that our modern ailments like allergies (I saw an ad yesterday for a medicine to address sweaty palms) were not quite considered ailments by the old breed. My point is not to suggest that they were Titans and we mere mortals, but simply to suggest the streets, buildings, and culture we enjoy were all inherited from those who created them at a physical cost we often are clueless about.
Creative Paradoxes

Good list.

* Have knowledge but forget the knowledge;
* See unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder;
* Work hard but spend time doing nothing;
* Create many ideas yet most of them are useless;
* Look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different;
* Desire success but learn how to fail;
* Be persistent but not stubborn; and,
* Listen to experts but know how to disregard them.
I'm Still A Laker Hater, But

I must admit they are playing pretty damn well in these playoffs. They don't annoy me like they used to. Then again, I could probably score 20 points if they stuck me in against Phoenix's defense.

By the way, if Boston and LA make the finals and it is good series, will the NBA reevaluate the regular season? These are two teams who mailed it in on a lot of nights, disgusting their fans routinely, and then decide to turn it on during the playoffs and guess what - it works! Cleveland plays hard all during the regular season, giving their fans reason to love them, and then collapse in the playoffs. What gives? What is the point of the regular season?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Basketball IQ

Give some credit to Orlando for showing heart in the game by coming back in the 4th quarter and not giving up, despite the Celtics playing a pretty damn good game. But the end of the game came down to simple basketball IQ and experience. Paul Pierce draws an iffy foul by getting Nelsen and Redick up in the air when he shoots and then nails those two clutch free throws. Then, on the next play, he fouls Vince Carter despite it being his 6th - another smart play. On the flip side, you have Nelsen shooting a contested three early in the shot clock, you have Vince making a nice drive and almost converting a tough lay up for a 3 point play opportunity, but instead misses the two big free throws, and then you have Redick wasting time bringing the ball up the court, waiting to call timeout too long and then the Magic don't even get a good look for a last second three pointer.

It is this precise contrast that made the difference in tonight's game - Celtics played strong, but the Magic played with a lot of heart and desperation - then at the end - couldn't smarten up.

I can't see the Celtics losing this series. Maybe not even a game.
Why Do We Have Policies?

Back in the early days of America, policies were favorable to say, individual farmers not so much because of the economic impact of having lots of the small farms, but rather, because it was thought that a nation of small farmers made good citizens.

And they were right. Somehow, woven into the fabric of American society there is still the idea of the self-reliant individual, the entrepreneurial spirit, the do-it-yourself ethic. Sometimes it is misused and foolhardy and obviously not everyone practices it. But our stories of loved ones and people we admire tend to display this spirit and live by it still. And it is the reason for our prosperity - our real prosperity.

Do politicians consider these things anymore? Does anyone?

It strikes me that our policies today serve interests - against other interests. They serve to make someone more prosperous, usually at the expense of someone else. They seek market advantage or redistribution or to buy "stability." But rarely, it seems, do we ask whether our policies ennoble our citizenry, whether our policies even consider making people BETTER and not just "better off."

Why would such an idea be a bad thing? What have policies seeking to make us "better off" actually achieved? They've leveraged us to the hilt and made us all debtors. It's embarrassing. One the one hand we call ourselves the richest country in the world and on the other hand, we can't even pay off our credit card bill. What gives? That's not rich, as I understand rich. It's not even being poor - which just means not be able to afford things. Being in debt isn't not owning things - it is being owned. It is indentured servitude.

Does yesterday's news of moving Iranian civil nuclear capacity to Turkey, change this calculation?

When the day comes that Tehran can announce its nuclear capability, every shred of international law will have been discarded. The mullahs have publicly sworn—to the United Nations and the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency—that they are not cheating. As they unmask their batteries, they will be jeering at the very idea of an "international community." How strange it is that those who usually fetishize the United Nations and its inspectors do not feel this shame more keenly. In the meantime, the very force in Iran that holds the keys to the secret nuclear sites is also the force that rapes its prisoners, humiliates its womenfolk, represses its "voters," empties its universities, and murders its national minorities. The urgent task of statecraft is to evolve a policy that can synchronize the disarmament demand with the idea that all Iranians, Kurdish and Azeri as well as Persian and Armenian and Jewish, can have a say in their own "internal affairs." No sign of any such statecraft exists. Welcome, then, to a world in which we will have to be fawningly polite to men like Ayatollah Kharrazi.

I think Iran will get the bomb. I hope I am wrong and fear I am right.
A Nice Quote

“if you’re not writing dangerously, you’re not writing close enough to the edge, close enough to the bone.”

Monday, May 17, 2010

I'd Play This Game

Red Dead Redeption looks pretty damn good. Sometimes I wish I was a nerd and had all the video game stuff, but alas, I cannot be what I am not.

IRAN TO SEND NUKE MATERIAL TO TURKEY: Iran will send its nuclear material to Turkey, marking a major diplomatic breakthrough in the standoff with Tehran over its nuclear program. The country says it is for peaceful uses, but many nations worry it is intended to build a nuclear weapon. Brazilian and Turkish officials brokered the deal during a marathon 18-hour session in Tehran Sunday.

I suppose that is good news...
Henry to America

The once great Henry will play for New York next season. Cool.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ugly Game 1

Yikes. That was an ugly game 1 from Orlando and Boston. Orlando couldn't hit a shot. All I can say is that Boston winning makes it more likely to be an interesting series.
The Wonders of Pancetta

What is halfway between bacon and prosciutto? Pancetta. I remember the first time I was officially introduced to pancetta. I was in San Francisco at an Italian Deli early one morning and asked a fobby Italian dude what did he recommend for a breakfast sandwich. "Pancetta!" He exclaimed without a moments hesitation. Really? I thought to myself. It seemed like eating a raw bacon sandwich, so I decided against it at the time. Since then, I've obviously had it in pasta dishes at restaurants, but never bought it myself. Between bacon, salami, and prosciutto...there isn't much room for Pancetta. But the other day I was at Whole Foods looking to purchase prosciutto to put on top of a homemade pizza. It was an utter rip off. Prosciutto is expensive normally, but incredibly expensive at Whole Foods (and oddly, did not look particularly awesome, like say, the good stuff from Bay Cities). Right next to it was Pancetta, a much more affordable meat. This seemed like a good opportunity to try it.

A couple things about Pancetta - it can be eaten raw or cooked. It can be eaten like a lunch meat, although I doubt many (outside fobby Italians) would indulge in a Pancetta sandwich. The meat is cured, but for a much shorter time that salami or prosciutto. In some ways, it is almost like eating a super fatty salami. In other ways, it's like eating raw bacon. I tried it raw, didn't eat too much, and felt fine. Mostly I use it as a nice addition to pizza, pasta, or omelettes - cooked. And it lasts. It says good for weeks in the fridge, unlike most lunch meats which go bad after a couple of days.

It is a less fatty than bacon and more than prosciutto or salami. It is a nice little change of pace. I recommend.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


FEMALE CEOS OUT-EARN MEN: According to a report from Bloomberg News, in 2009 female CEOs earned 40 percent more than men. The average annual salary for female head honchos over the last few years topped $14 billion. Yahoo's CEO Carol Bartz earns $47.2 million a year. And while in 2009 men were taking pay cuts, women execs were making bank, pulling in raises averaging almost 30 percent. Despite these stats, the business word is largely still a boys' club: Of companies listed by the S&P 500, only 16 of them are run by women. Marie Wilson of The White House Project, a women's advocacy group said, "I'm concerned about the vast majority of women who are now the majority of the workforce it's kind of like the 16 super-corporate women are doing well. And that's a good sign—but it's not good enough."

Affirmative action for men!

The real issue isn't the gender gap, it's the gap between high earners and low earners and how extreme it's become.
Beyond Harvard and Yale

Who knew the Supreme Court was packed from cronies from these two schools?

Nominations like Kagan's are the result of a network of graduates who work consciously or unconsciously to see that their own are nominated. Notably, after Kagan's nomination, powerful figures from her Harvard years came forward to vouch for her abilities. Their message was the same: Despite her lack of a record, she is known in our circle as a real winner. She is, in a phrase, one of us. Indeed, reporters breathlessly reported how Kagan and Scalia are good friends and how she knows many of the main players from Harvard, as if it is the judicial equivalent to having graduated from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The favoritism shown Harvard and Yale should be viewed not just as incestuous but as scandalous. It undermines educational institutions across the country by maintaining a clearly arbitrary and capricious basis for selection. It also runs against the grain of a nation based on meritocracy and opportunity.

So now do we need affirmative action for the Supreme Court? Maybe they'd rule it illegal.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Seventies

While cooped up at home recovering from ACL surgery, I watched USED CARS, one of Robert Zemeckis' first movies. It was awesome. It made me want to live in the seventies America - a more freewheeling, spirited, less serious time.

When I got the bill for the ACL surgery (this is with insurance) it also made me want to live in the seventies when medical insurance was more affordable.

But then I bumped into a work neighbor. He asked "what happened?" I said "ACL surgery." "When did you have it?" "Last thursday." "Man, I had a friend in the 70s have that surgery after a surfing accident. He was laid up in the hospital for 7 days."

7 days! In the hospital. I can't imagine the recovery time.

I'm paying the couple grand without complaint. And I'm no longer wishing I lived in the 70s - especially because my imagination of the time is based not on reality, but only the films of the period and films depicting the period.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Late Career Players

Although Kobe is playing well in this series, I do think age and wear and tear are affecting his game. I'm not sure the same can be said of two other older players - Steve Nash and Ray Allen. I've always liked Nash and his unique set of skills on the basketball court seem undiminished - perhaps even improved - with age: incredible vision, smart aggressive risk taking on offense, great outside and inside shooting, superior leadership, and generally improving the offense of all the players around him by setting them up for good shots. His weaknesses have always been speed for his position, size, and defense. You definitely lose speed with age, but Nash does not seem diminished as a player due to losing a step or two.

Admittedly, I've only watched Ray Allen play a little this season, but his strength - the most beautiful jump shot I've ever seen, doesn't seem affected by age. His quickness - never his greatest strength - does not seem different to me. He is a smart, savvy player who plays surprisingly tough defense and does not seem worse for wear. I think the gracefulness of his game makes it less difficult on his body than say, Kobe. Kobe is hard on his body. He is strong and fast. He takes tough shots and plays lots of hard minutes and gets messy and dirty both on defense and offense. It takes a toll. Ray Allen doesn't play like that. His game is graceful and smooth. How many times has he been injured in his career?

A side bar - if the fate of the human race depended on one open transition three pointer, you'd have to take Ray Allen, wouldn't you?

Reports that the big stock market plunge earlier this week was partially due to hyper-fast computerized trading.

We're turning the stock exchanges into slot machines. Great work, America. In the prescient words of David Simon in the Wire season 2:

"In America, we used to make things. Now, everyone just has their hands in the next guy's pocket."

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


I don't go dancing very often because a) it is stupid and b) I am old. But this past weekend, since it was a college reunion and we were generally letting loose, I found myself out on the dance floor again. Partially because I'm not a hugely enthusiastic dancer and partially because of my torn ACL, I was more than happy to keep it mellow and not create too much of a dancing ruckus.

I was out of place. I don't know what happened over the past 10 years, but the dancing has gotten CRAZY. The level of grinding has risen three notches. Back in the day, a little freaking and close, sexy dancing was normal and suggested perhaps the possibility of something else. Today, college girls just grind their asses straight into random dudes and just go around rubbing up against one dude after another. I swear, these kids were basically dry humping on the dance floor. I did a little research and made some inquiries and it turns out this is the new norm. I can't tell whether I wish I was 21 again or am glad I don't have an STD.