November 29, 2007
Without damaging the computer
After reading this post, I downloaded PixelWhimsy so that Miriam could give it a try. I wasn't very impressed, but she seemed to like it, so maybe we'll play with it some more. I didn't check to see whether it disables the power button, which seems to be her biggest lure.
Regarding this business about real gadgets marketed to young children, High/Scope, one of the more serious high quality preschool curricula out there, has as one of its parameters that clothes and cookware and other classroom toyes be the real thing -- so, the children are supposed to dress up in adult clothes rather than kiddie versions of adult clothes, or cook with real pots and pans. I can't tell you what the theoretical reasoning is for this (assuming there is any).
November 28, 2007
Apparently some papers from the Nixon administration have been released, and they shed some new light on our relationship with Israel during that time. It reminds me of this fascinating piece on US posture toward Israel at the time of the Yom Kippur War (a few years after the memo described in the Times article).
November 27, 2007
Voracious readers who take long trips
The same friends who were buzzing about that surfer's theory of everything last night were also very enthusiastic about Amazon's new Kindle. I don't have much to say about it myself except that 1) I think electronic paper is cool and 2) I love Jason Kottke's friend's characterization of it as the "Pontiac Aztec of e-readers." But Tyler Cowen has an interesting take, and offers links to a couple of reviews to boot.
November 26, 2007
Three generations of fermions related by triality
A couple friends were over this evening, and they were buzzing about the self-described surfer dude who has advanced a new theory of everything. It's hard to sort out how serious his theory is, but I found it fascinating to read about (you might as well have a look at the paper itself; it's short enough). Anyway I can't believe I hadn't heard about this story until tonight. Too bad the Large Hadron Collider won't be complete for several months.
The struggle between virtue and tyranny
On Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia:
"He's a pathological liar with serious psychological problems. We don't have any economic development, because he spends his whole time organising chess tournaments."
He's also calling for compulsory chess lessons for every child over six.
November 25, 2007
In the face of a raucous horde
My friend Jasmine Davila has a cute piece recommending hostess gifts in Time Out Chicago this week.
After Barrett's post last week about cranberry pancakes, we decided to make some of our own. Barrett was right -- they're absolutely delicious, and a nice change of pace from the blueberry variety (which I nevertheless adore) that we have all the time. I made these with my usual buttermilk batter rather than the one Barrett posted, but otherwise I followed his instructions. I did find that the pans had to be wiped between batches because the berries left some residue when they burst -- although I may have left them a little wetter than I should have.
I had intended to serve these with leftover cranberry sauce, but then when it was time to eat them we went with maple syrup instead. They were wonderful.
Next to some boiled potatoes in Pittsburgh
This juxtaposition (the poem, too) is hilarious -- except why was I disappointed when I realized that the recipes are by Billy Collins too?
November 21, 2007
Well it seems like we've been in the kitchen all day cooking for tomorrow. We're doing a smallish Thanksgiving this year at our house, and I promised myself I'd take some pictures (I usually forget, with all the rushing around). We made a spinach mushroom quiche, as we do every year, and also some cranberry sauce with orange and lemon zest.
I saved some cranberries for pancakes on Friday, but we'll see if anybody feels like eating (or cooking).
November 20, 2007
Another straw in the wind
1. Joseph Stiglitz on repairing the economic damage done by Bush.
2. Tyler Cowen on the cost of the war in Iraq.
3. Stuart Rothenberg on the botched reporting of the Obama surge in Iowa.
4. And here's a mouth watering survey of the vegetarian restaurant scene in San Francisco. More blogging about food to come...
November 18, 2007
Edwards and Social Security
John Edwards was on multiple talk shows this morning, and I can't remember which show had him talking about Social Security, but he staked out a space between Clinton and Obama on increasing the limit on taxable FICA wages. I believe Obama wanted to raise the limit, so that a worker would keep paying taxes beyond the current $97K limit, and Clinton didn't want the increase. Edwards's compromise was completely nonsensical: people earning between $97K and $200K (per worker, not per family) are middle class, so he doesn't want to raise the limit and increase their taxes. Instead, he wants the FICA taxes to start back up again at $200K.
This could have some weird implications: does it mean, for example, that people's benefits would continue to go up after $97K even when they haven't paid any further taxes? Will your benefits continue to go up after you've earned more than $200K?
Also, it's actually not all that common for people to earn more than $200K in wages; for the most part, people in this income bracket are getting other kinds of compensation that aren't subject to FICA anyway -- and of course Edwards's setup would encourage even more alternative compensation schemes. So while there may be a political message in taxing people who earn this much, it's probably not going to raise that much money.
Finally, there's the fact that Edwards's scheme is still regressive, because it taxes the low wage worker at a higher percentage of her income than the $150K "middle class" worker has to pay. If the idea is to designate an income range where workers don't have to pay, why not put it at the bottom?
November 16, 2007
The exclusivity of Journal content
This article presents the skepticism about Rupert Murdoch's plans to make the WSJ a website free rather than a subscriber service. Obviously I don't know the numbers, but if it's true that 80% of the visitors to that site leave without subscribing, it seems like there's every opportunity to increase the readership 130%. Moreover, you have to assume that the WSJ's readers are a very well delineated demographic who should be more valuable than readers at other news sites.
I'll be perfectly happy if they can make the advertising model work, since AFAIK the Journal is the last serious newspaper clinging to that subscription model. At the same time though, they are the only newspaper I can think of that can really make the claim that a subscription model makes sense for them, so I've never held it against them the way I did with the Times.
Skills beyond the battlefield
This piece about Gneeral Petraeus's role in selecting the next batch of brigadier generals was interesting partly because of Petraeus, but also because of the insight it gives into the promotion process. I do wonder why there isn't more mention of the administration's role in bringing Petraeus back; surely there was one, since all generals have to be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and it's hard to imagine what the political downside could be to putting this out there. Maybe it's about the relationship between the White House and the Pentagon?
November 15, 2007
Sorry that blogging has dropped off so precipitously in the last week or so. I've enjoyed the past couple months of blogging, but I've also had some difficulty getting comfortable with the lack of any coherent theme around here. I guess that's a tough one for a lot of people.
Ironically it also turns out that this month is National Blog Posting Month (at the same time, strangely enough, as National Novel Witing Month -- maybe you're not supposed to do both at the same time), which my sister has been observing over at her blog. She's put up some beautiful photographs, among other things, which are worth checking out.
November 13, 2007
The equilibrium looks like assassination
Tyler Cowen on his childhood:
When I was a little kid I saw TV coverage of the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I recall wondering why every famous politician, or at least every reachable famous politician, isn't assassinated. Or why isn't the equilibrium quantity of product sabotage -- accompanied by options trading of course -- very high? The sabotage doesn't have to hurt people to lower share prices.
I sure hope Kasparov doesn't get assassinated.
November 10, 2007
Many years of overvaluation
Here's an article on why a weak dollar might not be such a bad thing. But what political operator is going to be for a weak dollar?
These are just about my favorite sandwiches (although these are right up there):
Toasted crusty bread, mayonnaise, sprouts, sauteed mushrooms, and swiss cheese. This one was made with pre-sliced Kraft "aged swiss," but I like it best with Jarlsberg.
November 8, 2007
Offenders who are eligible
I was reading about John Paul Stevens's role the death of Admiral Yamamoto earlier on Wikipedia, and it reminded me of this bit from a New York Times piece on Stevens I linked to a while ago:
Stevens told me he was troubled by the fact that Yamamoto, a highly intelligent officer who had lived in the United States and become friends with American officers, was shot down with so little apparent deliberation or humanitarian consideration. The experience, he said, raised questions in his mind about the fairness of the death penalty. "I was on the desk, on watch, when I got word that they had shot down Yamamoto in the Solomon Islands, and I remember thinking: This is a particular individual they went out to intercept," he said. "There is a very different notion when you're thinking about killing an individual, as opposed to killing a soldier in the line of fire." Stevens said that, partly as a result of his World War II experience, he has tried on the court to narrow the category of offenders who are eligible for the death penalty and to ensure that it is imposed fairly and accurately. He has been the most outspoken critic of the death penalty on the current court.
November 7, 2007
Man of the people
I love this post from Alex Tabarrok, with the photo of George Bush heeding Tyler Cowen's advice on how to keep meetings short.
If you visit the original story, you will learn that those standing in the photo are actually journalists and not White House staffers. The photo was taken by a White House photographer named Joyce Boghosian, and since she didn't bother to clean up the EXIF data (newspapers rountinely do this, but apparently the White House press office doesn't run quite as tight a ship) you can see the exact time the picture was taken, what kind of camera equipment and editing software the White House uses, etc. Here's more on EXIF metadata from Ryan Brenizer, including how terrorists apparently use it to encode instructions via the internet. Tricky, tricky!
November 6, 2007
A seat at the table
This is interesting:
A member of the executive council of South Carolina's Democratic party told CNN that he felt pressure to oppose comedian Stephen Colbert's bid to join the Democratic primary in his home state by prominent supporters of Barack Obama's campaign. It has been acknowledged by at least two prominent supporters of the Senator's bid that they made calls to the State Party pleading with them to exclude Colbert's name from the ballot.
The post goes on to suggest that Obama might have had the most to lose from a Colbert appearance on the ballot because they share support from similar demographic groups. I wonder: doesn't that also mean Obama would have the most to lose from manhandling him? Humorless Democrats haven't fared too well in the last two elections.
November 5, 2007
That large a money clip
While we're on the topic of hip hop stars (if you even consider Sean Combs to be such), Jay-Z is apparently throwing around stacks of euros instead of dollars. I doubt this has anything to do with a recession (isn't a weak dollar a good thing?), but it's no small blow to the dollar's prestige. When is the Treasury going to take my advice and print that $500 bill again?
The applicability of the fair-use defense
Here's some background and speculation about why Sean Combs failed to invoke fair use as a defense in a recent sampling case. Apparently Combs is no Cory Doctorow.
November 2, 2007
Take out the trash day
Some links I've had sitting around for a while waiting to be posted (heavy on presidential politics, sorry):
1. An old piece on how the now defunct Colbert campaign might have functioned, what it might have accomplished, and how it might have affected the election.
2. Some interesting analysis of a couple of the presidential candidates' speech patterns by Mark Liberman.
3. Tyler Cowen on the next Harry Potter phenomenon.
4. A style guide for citing blogs, from the National Library of Medicine.
5. An article on the New Hampshire primary and the crisis it's facing. (AFAIK this has not yet been resolved, and it's already November!)
6. Some advice for those who are trying to do too much with their kids.
7. And I wanted to mention, before we get too far along into the month, that it's National Novel Writing Month again. If you have that great idea, you should get started now...
November 1, 2007
A story told in cloakrooms...
It's great to see someone writing about how powerful Nancy Pelosi is, even if Novak is painting that power as sinister (but then what woman's isn't?). Before the elections last year, there was so much skepticism out there about her ability to lead effectively in the House -- although to be fair, some of that skepticism probably resulted from the smear ads running in contested districts all over the country linking local candidates to Pelosi's supposed extreme liberalism. As it turns out, she hasn't been nearly as divisive as advertised, and yet her political organization and legislative control inspires fear. Cool.