Sunday, March 30, 2014


Playing:  Modern Art

One of the more intellectually stimulating board games.  Good practice for business, I imagine.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Film:  Noah

Not a good film.  When the rocks came to life into Transformer-like creatures about 10 minutes in the film lost me.  The CGI snakes were so unscary, I couldn't help but miss the snake scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I don't know if they used all real snakes or what the hell they did - but those snakes felt real and scary.  These computer images are like watching a video game.  Sure, there are a few good moments, a some good editing as to be expected by Aronofsky, but boy, just not a good movie.  I fell asleep for a little bit.

Being in LA and in the movie-biz, I feel something is we've all forgotten how to make enjoyable, popular films.  I get the pervading sense people making movies from the filmmakers to the executives to everyone in between doesn't much believe in the product anymore.  There's just something off, as if filmmakers are disconnected from the audience -- like we're trying to tell a story to people unlike ourselves.

Restaurant: Night + Market

New one, opened in Silver Lake.  Spicy!  Thai food served by hipsters.  How quaint.  But I'd go back, it was damn good -- and I live right next to Thai town.  No booze served.  Keeps the bill more reasonable, but there's nothing like a nice beer to complement spicy Asian food.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Class Warfare

How frats and colleges exacerbate income inequality.  I don't know about other liberal arts colleges, but at Pomona College, my alma mater, 90% of students lived in dorms for four years and the center of social life on campus was on-campus.  This reduced any significant divide for income-stretched students.  Sure, they probably did not go out to dinner as often, nor partake in the fancier spring break options, but the beating heart of social and campus life was not restricted by having money.
Momentum vs. Buy and Hold

Two investment strategies.  Some validity to both.  Momentum tries to identify which stocks will go up the most.  Buy and hold tries to identify good companies that are underpriced.  I'm a fan of buy and hold.

To be a smart momentum investor, you must sell a stock when it becomes massively over-valued.  For instance, you'd want to sell Netflix or Facebook right now after buying them when they were super low.  But buying stocks this way means you incur transaction fees and must pay taxes on the gains.  Plus, you need to find somewhere else to park the money, thus incurring more transaction fees.

With a buy and hold strategy, you don't need to sell if the prices get too high, but rather be on the lookout for a systemic problem with the company itself.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Anti-Stat Geek

A Grantland article about the limits of statistical analysis in basketball. Rick Carlisle sums it up regarding stat geeks and Monta Ellis:
“Those people that were down on him for whatever reason, the analytics guys or whatever, those guys are idiots.”
Hat tip, Andy.

I was always a fan of Ellis when he played for the Warriors.  He was a dangerous offensive player.  You could see defenders get on their heels when guarding him.  They were afraid.  This skill is a rare skill.  I'm glad to see he is doing well.  And Carlisle is a good coach.

Book:  The Upside of Down by Megan McArdle

Ended up finishing this book and enjoying the 2nd half much more than the first half.  A good, optimistic read.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Getting Suckered

"Graduate schools have essentially found a way to capture more of someone’s future income and future spending than what would probably occur if we had some sort of underwriting standards and loan limits."

Something is wrong when loans cease to be a "bridge" for education costs and become the primary way people are expected to pay for education -- whether it be undergrad or grad school.  Remember: the borrower is slave to the lender.  There are not exceptions.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Smearing Ryan

Why do liberals smear Paul Ryan as a racist?
Wichita State - Kentucky

What a game!  One of the more intense round 32 matches...Kentucky played above themselves -- almost out of their mind -- particularly towards the end.  I still think Wichita State was the better team and wins 7 out of 10 times.  They will be missed.  The tournament becomes less and less interesting.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Food: Al and Bea's

Bean and cheese burrito with red or green sauce.  Delicious. Wish it wasn't all the way in East LA (not Eastside LA, but EAST LA). Would grab it more often.  The bean and cheese burrito is one of the more under-appreciated simple and delicious foods known to man.

I love how we don't count fuel and food prices in inflation, basically because they are too hard to track.  I was at the grocery store the other day and a block of Tillamook cheese was $7.50.  Awful expensive, I thought.

I'm a mixed thinker on food.  On the one hand, I noticed prices are going up recently, on the other, food is so much better today with more options and better quality than even when I was a kid -- so in some sense, we are getting better value.  But that might be unique to LA, whose food scene has become awesome in the past 10 years or so.

But in my hometown up in Norcal, now all the grocery stores are insanely expensive.  Whole Foods is practically low end.  But that goes along with some disturbing trends in the Bay Area with housing/rental prices, etc.
Armond White

Does the guy write film criticism anymore?  I cannot find it using the internet.  If not, the other critics were successful in their ultimate goal: to silence him.

These folks are nothing more than schoolyard ninnies.  They should join forces with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  They value consensus and cordiality because it gives them a sense of control.  They silenced the best movie critic in America because he dared question "critical consensus."  These folks behave as if they lived in the USSR.
Modeling Putin

A very good breakdown from Marginal Revolution.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


NASA funded study suggests civilization could be headed toward a collapse.  On the upside, this would make the unemployment rate not such a big deal.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Wise Word on Advice
From the recipient’s perspective there is no question of following the advice anyway. As John Steinbeck pointed out “Nobody wants advice – only corroboration.”
From a FT article. 

As one who has never attracted any type of mentor figures, I find this idea appealing.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Reading:  The Secret Pilgrim by John Le Carre

I'm sensing I'm going to be reading a lot of Le Carre these next couple months.  Not because I think I'll enjoy any of his books more than Spy Who Came In From the Cold or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, but because he's written so much and there's something to be said for someone who just keeps going.

Book:  Upside of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success by Megan McArdle

She's one of my favorite bloggers and I love the premise of the book, but I realized I'm learning very little from reading it.  I'm also disappointed she uses so many examples from the entertainment industry, particularly the bit regarding Titanic and Waterworld.  Guess what?  Waterworld just became profitable recently.  Also guess what?  Everyone already knows most movies are gambles.

Anyhow, I suppose there are downsides to reading a book where you already agree with the premise because...what's the point, really?  If you already agree and already live using the principles she talks about...what do you expect to get from it?  Justification?  I don't have anyone asking me to justify my choices.
Bret Easton Ellis

Listening to his podcast and enjoying it...for the moment.  On the one hand, I'm sympathetic to his laments about the movie biz and his fading-empire theory of the media.  On the other, how sure are we that these grandiose notions of decline, etc, isn't just a reflection of one man's depression?

I'm getting older now and thusly pay attention to older people more than I used to.  And when the "they don't make 'em like they used to" lament comes out -- as it always does in different forms -- I cannot honestly tell whether something has changed or we've both just gotten old.

But maybe there is something good out of it -- I much prefer Elli's podcasts to his books or the movies he's been a part of.

A new YMCA is opening up near my house and the monthly membership is $47 plus a $49 dollar membership fee.  They will have swimming and basketball and classes and all that stuff, which is cool, and probably makes the membership worthwhile IF, and this is a big IF, you use all the facilities.

I called Gold's Gym hollywood and the same deal - around $50 a month.

Now I'm someone whose primary athletic activities are sports -- soccer, basketball, and an occasional jog.  I would like a gym to visit once or twice a week to do a few leg exercises.  I can't see committing $50 a month.  Am I wrong?  Being to frugal?  I dunno.  Gyms have become this thing where they are trying to make themselves all-encomasing and the primary focus of one's exercise routine.  I sort of miss the idea of just a simple weight room where you go to build a little strength.

I can't get into the Malaysian airliner mystery.  I just figure all will eventually be revealed and there's no point in exerting mental energy puzzling over such things.

A Twitter account revealing the dark secrets of New Media.

None of the stuff surprises me at all - particularly the Atlantic becoming a lifestyle/advertising website.  It used to be my favorite publication, now I don't even visit anymore.  They are one step away from being a top 10 list click-through.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Action Cinema

Sounds Like An Onion Article
SAUDI CLERIC ISSUES FATWA AGAINST ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT BUFFETS: A Saudi cleric named Saleh al-Fawzan has issued fatwa against all-you-can-eat buffets in Saudi Arabia. He made the statement on a Saudi Quranic TV station. Fawzan said the value and quantity of the food sold should be pre-determined before hand. “Whoever enters the buffet and eats for 10 or 50 riyals without deciding the quantity they will eat is violating Sharia (Islamic) law,” Fawzan was quoted on al-Atheer channel. The fatwa attempts to add plate piling eateries to the long list of things outlawed by religious edicts. It has been the subject of condemnation and debate on social media channels.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Film:  Triad Election

I think I would have enjoyed this film better in the theater.  Didn't realize it was a sequel until after I finished.  Loved the outro music.
Brave New Stereotypes

On the "Lean In"culture.

As far as I can tell, feminism has become about amassing power and furthering interest rather than any sort of crusade for fairness and justice.

TV: True Detective Finale

Probably my least favorite episode. I liked the final line, but almost everything up to that point was disappointing.  Again, it goes back to the mystery -- I can't help but feel "that's it?" This is a problem with mystery as a genre.  The premise of a mystery is that your questions will be answered and the audience will be rewarded by paying attention.  The bigger the mystery, the more intriguing questions asked, the increased expectations for delivering on the answers.  JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof are the masters of posing huge, intriguing questions, and then giving you, small disappointing, nonsensical answers.  Prometheus, Super 8, you see this storytelling device enough...I don't need to watch 100s of hours of Lost to know it'll make me feel stupid and make no sense at the end.  True Detective commits a much lesser, but similar offense.  It promises a big dark monster with "broader ideas at work," but ultimately settles on just a big weirdo in the woods.  I can't quite understand how the cops didn't find this guy earlier, frankly.  Still, the show was enjoyable.  A nice hold-me-over until Game of Thrones.

Film: Chungking Express

I stopped watching because I fell asleep.  I had no idea whether I was halfway through or five minutes from the end.  Still, there are some great parts.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Are We All Stasi Now?

Sound familiar?  The Stasis basically collected Facebook data to monitor people.  Now, we all volunteer this information to one another.  The whole thing is totally insane.  1 billion people are wrong.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Martini Experiments

What I've learned thus far:

Ketel One or Belvedere are perfectly good vodkas.  Either works great.

Martini Brand Vermouth works well and is reasonably priced.

The olives, thus far, have proven the biggest distinguishing factor.

#1 best olive: Castelvetrano Green Olive.  The only problem is the pit.  But the olive and brine is amazing.

#2 olive: the very serviceable Manzanilla Star Spanish Olive.  I like the size and taste of these olives -- they are small - and tasty.  I can eat 4 with a single martini.

#3 olive: the classic Pimento Martini Olive made by Santa Barbara Olive Co.  These work fine, but are my least favorite.  The size is right, but the flavor, only average.

Way to make it:

The ratio I'm currently working with: 6 parts vodka, 1 part vermouth, 1 part olive brine.  It works.  I often eyeball and probably use a lesser ratio at times - up to 8 parts vodka. I will continue to fiddle with ratios, maybe not adding olive brine occasionally.

Pour into a martini shaker with lots of ice.  Stir or shake - A LOT - the more the merrier.

Now here is the key -- let the martini sit in the shaker for a bit -- get it super, ice cold.  Cool the glasses, if convenient.

When you can't resist anymore, pour the martini.  I love it super cold and even if a little bit of the ice has melted -- adds to the smoothness -- maybe getting a little chard of ice in there, even better.

For such a simple drink, there are so many variations I want to further try --

The foremost experiment to dabble with gin - either Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray. Maybe others.

The secondary experiment is to try different Vermouth's. Dolin Vermouth is number 1 on my list to try.

I'd also like to experiment with a "filthy" martini using caper brine rather than olive brine.


Restaurant:  Midtown Bar & Kitchen

Decent new spot next to Osteria Mama on Melrose.  Small portions were a bit annoying -- enough with the tapas already.  It really just amounts to a gyp.  But quiet and easy to get a seat on a Friday night.

Book:  The Art of Intelligence by Henry Crumpton

An interesting memoir by the CIA officer who lead the Afghanistan invasion post-9/11.  A good read for those interested in such things.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A Mistake?

A lot of pundits say Vlad Putin made a huge mistake by sending troops to Ukraine.  They say it was a blunder and a demonstration of weakness.  The same pundits were saying the same thing about Assad mass-killing his own people in Syria.  But here's the thing: these pundits are explaining the situation as if Vlad Putin or Bashar Assad spend their Sunday's brunching and reading the New York Times worrying about what their upper middle class peer group thinks of them.  On the contrary, these guys are playing a different game and the stakes for them are life and death.  Did you see what happened to Gaddafi when he lost the war?  He was dragged through the streets like an animal, anally penetrated by a knife, murdered along with his son and 60-100 of his loyal bodyguards.  Don't think Assad didn't see the video and think to himself: that's not happening to me.  And wouldn't you be willing to use chemical weapons to avoid the same fate?

I feel like our description of these behaviors as "foolish" is itself a reflection of foolishness.  We are saying "gosh, if I were Putin, I wouldn't do this."  But that's the whole frigging point.  History is full of "foolishness."  The entire Confederacy was a foolish mistake.  Hitler was foolish.  For many, the American Revolution was a foolish gambit.  I guess my point is that these guys are playing a game of survival and so long as they are surviving, they are winning.  They aren't looking to be Gorbachev's -- heroes in the West -- but no where else.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


Film:  Non-Stop

My expectations were high given the good reviews, good box office, and the fact that Liam Neeson bats pretty well in action thrillers.  I was disappointed.  A few good bits, but overall a pretty forgettable genre exercise.  To my mind Taken and The Grey share spots 1A and 1B in the Neeson action ouvre.  Apparently Non-Stop and Unknown were the same filmmaker.  I didn't see Unknown because it looked really dumb.  All said, Non-Stop probably worth the $1.30 redbox and the $6.50 matinee price at the Vista.  I was surprised how many people saw a Wed afternoon showing.
How To Play This

Fighting Putin with platitudes and small sticks.

TV: True Detective Ep. 7

Really enjoyed the scenes between Marty and Rust getting back together.  Seeing Marty become a good detective (clearly influenced by Rust) and Rust acting kind - great stuff.  It reminded me of something I read in a Larry McMurtry book - I'm guessing Streets of Laredo - about Call coming to miss his enemies over time.  I always found that idea poignant.

If there is a flaw with the show at this point, I'd have to point to the mystery itself.  The internet seems to be exploding with crazy theories which all sound completely ridiculous.  I guess one of the drawbacks I'm feeling is that I don't feel a strong emotional need to stop the killer(s).  Nor do I expect there to be a holy-fucking-shit "she's my mother, she's my sister" moment.  The show is a little light on the thriller aspect of the mystery.  The whodunnit is intellectual at this point and a part of my mind is skeptical of the idea of this satanic cult kidnapping young children and performing child sacrifice.  For a show that is mostly grounded with some trippy elements, the whole rich-guys-doing-crazy-as-shit is a bit unsatisfying.  But who knows, maybe they've got something up their sleeve.

Monday, March 03, 2014

A Thought on Hipsters

I suppose there is some societal benefit to a few adults remaining youthful or even child-like.  These adults are often good at acting or coaching sports teams or teaching kindergarten or making music.  Society benefits from a few of these kind of people.  I am reminded of this when actors give their Oscar speeches - like Jared Leto's incompressible nonsense and the 12 Years A Slave girl talking about following dreams and all that.  But society also needs adults.  And I imagine we need a lot more adults than overgrown children.  We need people to cure disease, do taxes, make laws, build bridges, fight wars, and things like that.  But of course, we don't have Oscars for that.  No one gets an award for paying rent.  No one gets an award for taking care of a sick relative.  No one gets an award for adequately saving for retirement.

So, I think when people have issues with hipsters, this is the crux of it.  I think adults who work sub-optimal jobs (in terms of their personal enjoyment) in order to make sure they can pay for college for their kids or shelter for their parents who can no longer work, don't have a ton of patience for a culture that looks down on their squareness.  Cause ultimately, isn't that really what hipsterism amounts to?  Looking down on mainstream culture and replacing it with records and other retro items?

Now that I've written this post, I'm not sure it makes any sense.  I'm still posting it because maybe I'll come back to the idea someday.
Not Good

Obamacare cuts home health care for millions of seniors.

Yikes.  I would file this under "liberal grievances with Obamacare."  Speaking from some experience with family medical problems: home healthcare for bad off patients is a lot better (and more efficient) than hospital care.  Hospital care is terrible.  Hospitals are incredibly conservative and overly administer drugs, fluids, IVs, etc.  They are blunt instruments designed to save lives and not do anything drastically wrong.  As a result, they are inefficient, soul-crushing, and way too cautious.  They often make patients worse in order to ensure  the worst-case scenario does not happen.  And if you happen to be in the "worst-case scenario," you will be thankful for such care.  But 90% of the time, I'm guessing, the worst-case scenario isn't happening and the hospital does too much.

Which brings us to Obamacare cutting home health care for Medicare folks.  Sounds incredibly stupid to me.  But Obamacare is a blunt, dumb instrument, as are all things operated by the Federal Government.

I know it is terribly uncool, but I must admit to chuckling quite a few times at Ellen's jokes.  I think she did a good job.  It wasn't dark.  It wasn't moody.  It wasn't subversive.  But should the Oscars be any of those things?

How much does it matter in foreign affairs?

I'd say credibility means quite a lot when you're dealing with rational actors.  When you're dealing with pieces of shit, it matters less.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

What Art Is Not

This is good.
Good or Bad?

After watching the Oscars, I just feel like reading.
Haters Gonna Hate

Grantland's Oscar hating shootaround.  Fun idea.
Barnwell, My Least Favorite Sports Writer

"Bridging the analytics gap."

Barnwell goes on the "managers/coaches are stupid for ignoring analytics warpath."  He takes the perspective of an idiotic teenage programmer who thinks playing Madden football gives him coaching experience.  It strikes me the analytics people, rather than assuming managers and coaches are idiots, might better prove their points by demonstrating how their principles would work better in practice.  Now, I'm not saying it is reasonable for Barnwell to become an NFL football coach.  But perhaps he might try managing a Little League baseball team or a coaching a high school football team and use his analytical genius to win.  If analytics were to provide the "answers" so to speak, it would seem rather simple to dominate against all these heathens using traditional coaching methods.

The analytics people think the coaches ought to see the game from their distanced, mathematical perspective, but the analytics people don't seem willing to get into the trenches and see the game from the sideline.  Or try to put their ideas into real-time practice.

Let me talk about one broad example of analytical failure -- in the past two seasons, Barnwell picked 1 team to "regress" from the previous year in the NFL.  This is actually a REALLY easy prediction to make.  Think about if you were to pick how 1 state would vote in the next presidential election.  It would be pretty easy to say California will vote Democrat.  See, you don't even need to make a hard prediction, which would be:  Do you think the Raiders will improve or decline?  Something specific is hard, but when you get to make a broad pick, you get to take the low hanging fruit.  So what does Barnwell's analytical genius come up with?

In 2012, the 2011 13-3 Niners, NFC Championship game losers will regress.  What happened?  The Niners were 12-4-1 and went to the Super Bowl.  Even Barnwell admits he was wrong, but cites the Kaepernick factor as unpredictable.  Unpredictable?  Guess what, dude?  You are making a FUCKING PREDICTION.  Everything is goddamn unpredictable.  It was unpredictable that Russia was going to invade the Ukraine.  It was unpredictable the Colts would come back from 28 points down to beat the Chiefs in the playoffs.  How can one make a prediction and when the prediction turns out wrong, cite an unpredictable factor.  Pure foolishness.

Next year Barnwell picks the 2013 Colts to regress from 11-5 and losing in the Wild Card round.  What happens?  The Colts go 11-5 and lose in the Divisional Round.

Now, I'm no genius, and didn't have the advantage of all these advanced stats, but it strikes me that both these predictions were completely and utter foolish because Barnwell didn't understand why the 2012 Colts went 11-5 or why the 2011 Niners went 13-3.  He looked at history when teams had rapid swings in W-L from the prior year and argued they regressed back to the mean the following year.  The factors he decided to ignore were Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck.  The Niners went 13-3 because Harbaugh turned the team around.  That didn't change the following year.  The Colts were good because they got an excellent young quarterback.  That didn't change either.  That's why neither team regressed.

Here was a much easier prediction and one I would have made:  the Super Bowl winning Ravens would regress.  First of all, it would be incredibly hard to repeat and you just set yourself up for success by making such an easy prediction.  But further, they overpaid Joe Flacco, lost Anquan Boldin and Ray Lewis.  Simple.  But you can know this simply by watching the games.  No need for advanced stats.

Russian invades Ukraine.  Do the Ukrainians regret giving up their nukes now?  What does this spell for US security guarantees?  How do we convince Japan, Israel, and Taiwan to stay non-nuclear?

Is this what Obama meant by smart diplomacy?  And a global "re-set?"  Is this legally different from Iraq invading Kuwait?

And what are Girls-watching, yoga-doing, beard-growing, partially-employed Americans willing to do about this?  The answer is obvious and Putin knows it: nothing.  And the Chinese are watching.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Why Can't Something Just Be Good?

There's something about our times...everything is so hyperbolic.  Exaggerated.  I feel like no reads history.  Emily Nussbaum calls True Detective macho bullshit and she worries she's a scold.  Here's the thing: I know what she's reacting to.  She's reacting to this notion that the show is "so deep" and "so awesome" and the "best thing ever."  The show is good.  I enjoy watching it.  I'm glad it's 8 episodes and we're going to get an end to the mystery.  Top of the Lake is a good comparison.  I wouldn't put one over the other if we were ranking them.  But why is it so important to rank them?  True Detective is fun to watch in the context of other procedurals:  Zodiac, Memories of Murder, Top of the Lake, Broadchurch, Hannibal, The Onion Field, Peeping Tom, even.  All of these films/shows have something to say for themselves.  But TD is getting the nerd-obsessive folks that usually reserve their love for either comic book bullshit, PTA films, or JJ Abrams stuff (different nerds/obsessives for each, but they all share the same enthusiasm.)