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Saturday, January 04, 2003

The Dean's Manner of Living

On rainy days alone I dine
Upon a chick and pint of wine,
On rainy days I dine alone,
And pick my chicken to the bone;
But this my servant much enrages,
No scraps remain to save board-wages.
In weather fine I nothing spend,
But often spunge upon a friend;
Yet, where he's not so rich as I,
I pay my club, and so good b'ye.


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But of course we can't invade Iraq, that will distract us from the War on Terror...

From Center for Security Policy:
New Year starts off right with worldwide crackdown on Islamist terrorists
France closed 2002 with the arrests of four suspected terrorists at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.

In the first few days of 2003, Yemen, acting on an FBI tip, apprehended 30 Islamists alleged to have been behind the murders of three American Christian missionaries and the severe wounding of a fourth. Egypt rounded up more than a dozen members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Authorities in the Philippines captured a senior member of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. Indonesian President Megawati devoted her New Year's address pledging to continue rooting out Islamist terrorists - a big statement from the world's most populous Islamic country.
At home, an alleged al Qaeda funder operating out of Chicago wound up in court.

Friday, January 03, 2003

My suggestion for rebuilding the WTC

I was refreshing my spirits by leafing through some books reproducing what was probably the highest artistic achievement of the 20th Century--I'm referring of course, to Little Nemo, by Winsor McCay

Little Nemo downtown

I'm inspired by McCay's staggering genius to make a radically different suggestion for rebuilding any downtown that just happens to have been leveled by terrorists...

When it comes to dense urban business districts, the older areas are in many ways much better than the new ones. We all know that; those are the places where we would rather spend our time. There are big buildings, but big means 15 or 20 floors. And there are many and various buildings on each block, and the street level is stuffed with shops and cafes and banks and galleries and a hundred and one different things, crammed into a hundred-and-one differently shaped spaces.

What we need to get rid of is the UTTERLY DISASTROUS and CRIMINALLY STUPID idea of the skyscraper sitting on an open plaza! What's wrong with it? It destroys the street, that dense messy crazy retail free-for-all that is the essence of urban life. The street is replaced by whole blocks of marble-and-glass coldness, with nary a bar or barbershop or bookshop, or any other funky human touch. And when lunchtime comes, people stream out of their skyscrapers heading for some nearby block (if one remains) where there are things to see and do and eat.

I suggest the whole area be re-built as it might have been done in 1900. But with some modern improvements:
Since a large area is available, enormous underground parking lots and delivery docks will be possible. That will eliminate much of the congestion and lack of parking that afflicts older business districts.

Also, since the buildings would be new (though hopefully having some of the style of a better age), they would have the interior flexibility of modern buildings, where whole interior floors are often reshaped as need arises.

P. Krugman
#70: "An Idle Mind"

Remember the old saw–"an idle mind is the devil's workshop?" While usually reserved for adolescent boys, it seems to explain Paul Krugman’s column Games Nations Play (01/03/03) rather well. Apparently there wasn’t enough bad economic news around to keep his partisan gristmill occupied, so Krugman applied some amateur psychology to North Korea’s Kim Jong Il based on a game theoretic view of credible deterrents. The result can only be described as stupid.

Krugman ends up with little more than a variation on the theme of “blame America first” (or, in this case–blame Bush). Basically, his thesis is that the entire fault lies with President Bush for using inflammatory rhetoric toward North Korea. If you put yourself in Kim’s shoes and assume that he interprets this rhetoric as a prelude to attack, then it’s easy to see he has nothing to gain by NOT arming. Get it?

It shouldn’t take a history buff to see this view of things is absurd, with or without the aid of game theory. North Korea’s drive for nuclear armaments predates the Bush administration by many years. It goes back at least to the early 90s when Kim’s father, Kim Il Sung, was duping Jimmy Carter and the Clinton administration with the famous “Framework Agreement” in 1994. Krugman should be asking what kind of a game was that? Instead he only acknowledges North Korea broke the “spirit” of the 1994 agreement by enriching uranium. The SPIRIT? This was a covert activity in clear violation. Hello!

We suspect the Bush administration is basing its Korean strategy on the obvious fact that there are several countries in the region with more at stake and with more incentives to keep the peninsula nuclear free than we. It only makes sense, initially at least, to work through them. We wouldn’t want to be unilateral, now would we?

Of course, there is another scenario to which the game theory of deterrents might apply with some interesting results. Krugman might want to give it some thought. We pull all our troops out of the DMZ and give the green light to South Korea and Japan go nuclear. Then, with China, Russia and North Korea, that would make five nuclear armed countries all within a few hundred miles of each other.

Analyze that!

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. You can find Paul Krugman's writings, including the latest columns, here]

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

I think I've got a handle on this ...

After various mental exertions, I feel pretty comfortable with the odd results of the brain teaser I posted on Sunday. But I was groping for a good way to explain why it worked. Anthony Parisi posted an excellent explanation, and I hereby modify it to produce My Explanation:
Suppose you pick Door A. You have a 1/3 chance of picking the prize. Doors B and C together equal a 2/3 chance--So, if you could pick both B and C you would have 2/3 chance of winning.

Similarly, if you could pick only one of those two doors, but someone tipped you off that door C has no prize, that would be effectively the same as being able to pick both doors!

That's exactly what's happening in the puzzle. It's only confusing because the tip-off is given before the chance to change doors.

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

New Year's Resolutions

I was just indulging myself reading one of Calvin's lunatic rants. What a wizard Bill Waterson is!

Calvin and Hobbes
Hobbes: Are your parents going out for New Year's Eve?

Calvin: Are you kidding? My parents' idea of a wild night is to mix a scoop of real coffee with the decaf.

Hobbes: Are you making any resolutions for the new year?

Calvin: Resolutions? Me?? Just what are you implying?That I need to change?? Well buddy, as far as I'm concerned, I'm perfect the way I am.

For your information I'm staying like this, and everyone else can just get used to it! If people don't like me the way I am, well, tough beans! It's a free country! I don't need anyone's permission to be the way I want! This is how ! am-- Take it or leave it!

By golly, life's too short to waste time trying to please every meddlesome moron who's got an idea how I ought to be! I don't need advice! Everyone can just stay out of my face!

I ...




He should resolve to be more attentive when someone is speaking.
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P. Krugman
#69: YOU LOSE!

Want to see an economist wave the white flag and declare victory at the same time? Read Crisis in Prices (12/31/02 by Paul Krugman. It is a virtuoso performance. First he devotes the 90% of the column to a rehash of deflation theory and the debilitating specter of Japan happening here. Then, in the last few sentences, he takes it all back and concedes Fed policy either has or can carry the day.

We noted in the last Squad report that America's leading "deflationist", Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley, threw in the towel on deflation in mid-December. Now, with a two-week lag, Krugman does likewise.

The optimists are on a roll!

Of course, Krugman being Krugman, his "concession speech" is graceless, classless and bitter. Here is is guy who actually WANTED rain on the parade and is now booing the sunshine. In the style of New York sportscaster Warner Wolf, our comment to Pessimistic Paul is this:

"If you predicted deflation would strike in the U.S. and produce a Japanese economic clone––YOU LOST!"

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. You can find Paul Krugman's writings, including the latest columns, here]

Sunday, December 29, 2002

wurst of all

I googled that old metaphor: There are two things you don’t want to see being made—sausage and legislation. It's attributed to Otto von Bismark.

The first thing I found was this article, wherein a political scientist visits a real sausage factory! The sausage factory comes out way ahead of the State legislature...
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I'm flummoxed. So's Charlene ...

I recommend reading Dean Esmay's post The Brainteaser That Changed My World. It's very thought-provoking...In fact, worse than thought-provoking, more like brain-bruising or ego-pummeling...
...I also had several experiences where I related the puzzle to friends and co-workers, and they refused to believe you should [answer removed--try it yourself] . At several points, I tried placing wagers on it--challenging people to put money on the line usually made them wake up and try it empirically before risking their cash. But even then, I found that some people--smart people, quite often--stubbornly refused to take the bet. They merely insisted they "knew" they were right, and that was that...
I've certainly know people like that. Question is, am I ever like that? Hard to know. But I've long been interested in the ways that we carefully come up with wrong answers and then cling to them. There are some good ones in the book How Real is Real, by Paul Watzlawick (out-of-print, unfortunately).

I've noticed that people cling to falsehoods that have some satisfying 'scientific' or 'logical' basis. People who are interested in cooking cling to the idea that lettuce should be torn, not cut. They have a bit of 'science' in mind--the cells will be cut open if you cut the lettuce with a knife, juices will leak out and the lettuce will wilt. If you think a bit about the size of cells, you will see that this is malarky, but I've had people refuse to listen....
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If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem

I enjoyed this essay by playright David Mamet:
I am reading in Jerusalem. I read, in Azure, a scholarly Israeli publication, an article by historian Michael Oren that Israeli opinion is split on Orde Wingate. Wingate was a Brit philosemite (the exception that, et cetera), creator of the doctrine of desert guerrilla warfare and godfather of the Israeli military. I read that the jury was still out on him, as he ate raw onions, strained his tea through his socks and greeted guests in the nude. Now, as to particulars one and three, I have been guilty myself (though never in conjunction). As to particular two, I must ask, did he, in the absence of a strainer, improvise brilliantly with a pair of clean socks, or, did he (disons le mot) utilize the very socks in which he trod that desert land he was to aid in Making Free? But, perhaps, there are some doors History was never meant to open...
(via Andrea)