Worthwhile Reading

Vitaliy Katsenelson writes worthwhile content for those interested in investing, art, classical music, and philosophical thoughts about life in general.  See his recent post about coveting and envy.

Doggedness, canine and human.

A piece about skateboarding and flying, with thoughts from St-Exupery.

Speaking about flying, TxRed the Cat Rotator writes about some of her aerobatic experiences.

Projecting (simulated) 3D images onto your plate.

Doctors and state borders.

A Moment to Decide

Once to ev’ry man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
‘Twixt that darkness and that light.

– James Russell Lowell

So the first shots in the shooting war have been fired, to the surprise of practically no one who has been following civic matters over the last six months. Admittedly, that the first would be fired in Kenosha, of all places – that’s a bit of a surprise. Although it isn’t at all startling that a Trump supporter would be gunned down on the streets of Portland by an Antifa thug shortly thereafter, to resounding cheers of approval.

Read more

Creating a Mass Audience

Today marks the 99th anniversary of the first radio broadcast heard by a very large number of people:  the Dempsey vs Carpentier boxing match.  (Although a Carpentier was French, he had quite a following in the United States, owing to his distinguished record as a pilot in the First World War.)

Boxing promoter Tex Ricard had the idea that radio broadcasting might be a good way to increase the popularity of prizefighting…there had previously been some broadcasts of fights in local areas with limited audiences, but what was envisaged for this broadcast was a much larger audience over a much wider area.  David Sarnoff of RCA, a strong advocate for the development of a broadcasting industry, was evidently a driving force behind this approach.  A dedicated phone line from ringside to a transmitter in Hoboken was established, and radio amateurs throughout the Middle Atlantic states were encouraged to set up their receivers in bars, auditoriums, etc, for the benefit of those people (most of the population) who did not have their own radio receivers.  The radio audience was estimated at 300,000 people.

The broadcast was not national in scope, owing to the limitations of the AM radio band, but it was a significant milestone in the the delocalization of information.  Very soon, network broadcasting, enabled by long-distance dedicated phone links, would make possible programs with truly national audiences.  The delocalization trend has continued, with television, intercontinental links via satellite and undersea cable, and the Internet, and has been a powerful driver of social, economic, and political changes.


More and Better Disclosures!

It’s now required for publicly-traded companies to publish the ratio between the CEO’s annual compensation and that of the median employee.  That ratio is, for example,  367:1 at Disney (Robert Iger), 124:1 at Deere & Co (Samuel Allen), and 50:1 for Whirlpool (Jeff Fettig). Link

These numbers (which, it should be clarified, include seasonal and part-time employees) have caused much alarm in many quarters, and even referred to as heralding a “crisis of capitalism.”

But why stop at CEOs and other business executives when requiring this kind of analysis?  My idea is that there are many other fields in which high-visibility disclosures could be interestingly required…

In movies, for example, it should be required that the opening credits include the ratio of the pay of each of the top 5 stars to the median pay of the entire crew that worked on the film–including accounting clerks, boom operators, sweepers, and various ‘assistants to’.

In professional sports, team uniforms should display prominently the total value of the player’s current contract.  This feature would greatly add to the pleasure of fans, who could instantly and continuously compare the player’s financial value to his demonstrated, moment-by-moment playing-field value.

At colleges and universities, a sign out front of the president’s mansion should display the ratio of his compensation to that of the median faculty member, which category of course must include the starvation-paid adjunct professors.  (The compensation number for the president should certainly include the imputed value of his university-provided mansion and any other similar benefits, such as cars and drivers.)

For politicians, the disclosure problem is a little more complicated, since in many cases the main financial payoff for these jobs is in the form of “deferred compensation”, i.e., lobbying positions and consulting contracts offered after the term of office ends, in recognition of services rendered while in office.  About all I can think of for the politician class is that, for all public appearances, they must wear jackets, with the names of their top sponsoring/contributing organizations prominently emblazoned, in a manner similar to the way racecar drivers display the names of their sponsors.

There are probably a lot of additional possibilities for disclosure and transparency, which the ChicagoBoyz and Chicago Grrrlz and Readerz can surely suggest.

Concerning those who support the CEO pay-ratio requirement but would object to these further suggestions…I have to wonder if their primary agenda really concerns ‘inequality’ or is really about something else.

Celestial Navigation

I’m tired of doom and gloom so I thought I would post something a bit different. Sailing !


In 1981, I sailed my 40 foot sailboat to Hawaii in the Transpacific Yacht Race. That year some large yachts had what were called “Sat Nav ” receivers aboard to track a system of satellites that required continuous tracking and took quite a bit of electrical power. It is now called “Transit” or “navSat”

Thousands of warships, freighters and private watercraft used Transit from 1967 until 1991. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union started launching their own satellite navigation system Parus (military) / Tsikada (civilian), that is still in use today besides the next generation GLONASS.[10] Some Soviet warships were equipped with Motorola NavSat receivers.

My small sailboat could not use such a system. It drew about an amp an hour, far too great a drain on my battery. For that reason I used a sextant and sight tables like these, which are published for the latitudes to be sailed.

sight reduction

That volume is published for latitudes 15 degrees to 30 degrees, which are the ones we most sailed. Hawaii is at about 20 degrees north and Los Angeles is 35 degrees north. The sight tables provide a set of observations that can be compared with an annual book called a “Nautical Almanac.” As it happens, the Nautical Almanac for 1981 is used for training and is still in print.

Nautical al

The third component, besides the sextant, of course, is a star finder, like like this one, to aid with navigational stars.

The whole system is called Celestial Navigation.

The first thing one needs is an accurate clock. This is the reason why sailing ships need a chronometer in the 18th century.

Harrison solved the precision problems with his much smaller H4 chronometer design in 1761. H4 looked much like a large five-inch (12 cm) diameter pocket watch. In 1761, Harrison submitted H4 for the £20,000 longitude prize. His design used a fast-beating balance wheel controlled by a temperature-compensated spiral spring. These features remained in use until stable electronic oscillators allowed very accurate portable timepieces to be made at affordable cost. In 1767, the Board of Longitude published a description of his work in The Principles of Mr. Harrison’s time-keeper.

Read more

Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

Peter Thiel is interviewed by Tyler Cowen, in a conversation that ranges from why there is stagnation “in the world of atoms and not of bits” to the dangers of conformity to what he looks for when choosing people to why company names matter.

Evaporative cooling of group beliefs.  Why a group’s beliefs tend to become stronger rather than weaker when strong evidence against those beliefs makes its appearance.

More academic insanity:  the language police at the University of Michigan.

Why Sam Sinai became a computer scientist instead of a doctor

A National Archives official, in an e-mail comment that the people were not supposed to see:   “We live in constant fear of upsetting the White House”

Why a pact with Iran throws Arab liberals under the bus  (“liberals” used here in the archaic and largely obsolete sense of “people who believe in liberty”)

Garry Trudeau  (he wrote a cartoon called Doonesbury–is it really still being published?) gives his thoughts on the Charlie Hebdo murders perpetrated in the name of Islam–by accusing the cartoonists of “hate speech” and denouncing “free speech absolutism.”

The secret Republicans of Silicon Valley

Baseball, the stock market, and the dangers of following the herd

Antoine de St-Exupery’s original watercolors  for The Little Prince

NBA Bulls at Bucks Courtside

Recently Dan and I went to Milwaukee to attend a Milwaukee Bucks game against the Chicago Bulls. I decided to splurge for court side seats (the Jack Nicholson type seats) because watching the game is totally different down there. We were right behind the Bulls bench as you can see (there is coach Thibs). I also love this picture because I just happened to snap it as they had entertainment right behind the coach and you can see the guy overhead who jumped off a trampoline and dunks a basketball. Also note the security guy on the right giving me the stink eye.

Watching the game from that low is a completely different experience. No matter what the score is, the game is interesting. The players move very quickly and it is hard to understand the plays as they develop (unlike when you look from overhead or up in the cheap seats where I would normally reside). While sometimes the fouls seem fake other times they take bona-fide hard fouls; when you are six and a half feet tall and jumping way over the rim and you end up getting thrown down on the court on your back, that’s a long way to fall. The way the players shoot is also very interesting – when they do jump shots they are almost eye level with the rim and as they do layups and dunks in warmups it often seems like they are barely jumping at all.

Half the fans at the game were from Chicago. They ought to fold that franchise in Milwaukee or find something else to bring in fans; the upper deck was mostly empty vs. Chicago and you’d have to think this is one of their bigger draw games of the year. But there is no way that I am smart enough to explain sports economics…

Cross posted at LITGM

The Romans of the NFL — the Kraft/Belichick/Brady New England Patriots

First let me take a moment to put on flame-retardant clothing and don heavy boots. There.

Are you a big fan of the New England Patriots?

My goodness … that was a fearsome blast of flame, heat and bile!

Well, they’re back. For their sixth Super Bowl since 2001. Playing in 9 AFC championships in the last 14 years. Winning their division (the AFC East) 12 times. Their coach is now #4 in games won in NFL history (regular and playoff games combined). The quarterback owns virtually every postseason NFL QB record except a deeply-coveted fourth Super Bowl ring. And together, the coach/QB currently lead the NFL regular season wins list with 160 … next closest are Don Shula and Dan Marino at 116. There’s a lot to like or a lot to hate, depending on where you hail from.

The AFL-NFL merger (“the Super Bowl era”) kicked off in 1970, though the game itself began at the end of the 1966 season (January 1967). Modern unrestricted free agency began in the NFL in 1992. So New England’s success in the last 15 years, during a period of intentional parity between NFL teams, has been exceptional and exceptionally contested. Their victories and losses in the Super Bowl have never been greater, or less, than 4 points.

What can explain it?

General consensus is “Satan” … followed closely in the polls by “cheating at every turn and at every opportunity … plus Satan … plus Satan’s Mom’s dog.” Certainly a full-throated, if not fully-verified, hypothesis.

Nerdier fans insist Bill Belichick is actually a Sith Lord and Tom Brady is his pretty-boy protocol droid being drawn to the Dark Side, while owner Robert Kraft relentlessly undermines the NFL from within. And maybe Satan’s got season tickets at Gillette Stadium, as well. Not very plausible, I think, but the blurring of reality and Star Wars for millions has always led to some unusual claims.

Back in late 2011, a young QB named Tim Tebow had an improbable run of late season victories with the Denver Broncos, which included a miraculous overtime playoff win in Denver on January 08, 2012 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. An American journalist at the time, whose name Google can’t find for me, wrote an article about how Tim Tebow’s stellar performance triggered a crisis of confidence in his journalistic/secular heart. Maybe Tim actually did have divine support.

Secular redemption, of a sort, only arrived when poor Tim met the New England Patriots, in New England, the week after the miracle in Mile High. The Broncos lost 45-10. For the journalist, the Age of Reason had returned. Order, natural order, had been restored. And the Patriots proceeded to yet another Super Bowl as part of the Kraft/Belichick/Brady era (which they lost for a second time to the New York Giants).

Paraphrasing the journalist’s article of the time, “the New England Patriots play football like the Romans fought wars. Methodically. Relentlessly. Mercilessly.” And Tim Tebow’s supernatural charisma never quite recovered, despite a stint several years later, ironically, at a New England Patriots spring training camp.

As someone with a long amateur interest in Roman military matters, it seemed an appropriate time … here on the verge of yet another Patriots Super Bowl run … to cast a wider net … beyond cheating … beyond Sith Lords … even beyond ever-busy Satan. In the deranged period before the Big Game, let’s take said journalist’s premise, kick the tires, and take it for a spin until the wheels of analogy fall off.

Compare the Patriots and the Roman war machine using the following criteria:

  • Governance
  • Education and Literacy
  • Situational Awareness
  • Organizational Focus
  • Accountability
  • Mercy
  • Battlefield Focus
  • Persistence
  • Likeability

Read more

“Saddles, Somme and snow: a tale of the toughest cycle race ever”

From an interesting article about the 1919 Tour of the Battlefields bicycle race:

Tormented by hunger and cold, they pedalled on. Either side of the muddy roads the detritus of war was everywhere – twisted tree stumps, fields long since obliterated by shelling, concrete bunkers, mine and shell craters, wrecked gun carriages, clothing, bones. All around, belts of wire, trenches and duckboards zig-zagged in all directions, and hastily-erected crosses littered the landscape. And still the sleet and rain fell. And still the wind blew, unchecked by trees or hedgerows.
At 11.10 in the evening, 18 hours and 28 minutes after he set off from Brussels, Charles Deruyter crossed the finish line in Amiens. The man who finished in fifth place arrived at 8.00 the next morning, having spent an uncomfortable night sheltering in a trench somewhere on the Somme battlefield. The last-placed finisher took 36 hours to complete the 323km stage.

The article dryly notes that the race was run just one more time after 1919, and then only as a one-day event, since “the logistical problems of putting on a multi-stage race in a part of Europe that had almost no infrastructure were far greater than anyone had expected.”

Worth a read.

(Via sportsman extraordinaire Dan from Madison.)

Baseball’s Chance to Come Back from the Dead

Baseball is dying. Usually I include a photo of a game with a post on baseball but I haven’t been to a single game yet in 2014, and the season if more than a quarter done. It is poor form to extrapolate from your own experience across the entire population but for the topic of baseball, I think it is appropriate.

The buzz on baseball here in Chicago is zero. Absolutely zero. I don’t hear people talking about baseball, or even mentioning baseball.

There are some semi-unique circumstances in Illinois tied to the fact that the Blackhawks are still in the playoffs and there is a lot of excitement about the Bears. On the other hand, NBA basketball suffered with the loss of Derrick Rose (again) and college football here is nothing compared to what you’d see in SEC country (Division Zero as Dan and I refer to it).

Not only are the games for Chicago mostly terrible (the White Sox are more competitive than expected, and the Cubs’ fate is worse than expected, but neither are close to being contenders), the games usually seem to be very long and on late at night. When I check my mobile in the morning I can see the updates that I get every 3 innings and at the conclusion of the game and they often end after midnight, especially if the games are on the West Coast. There seems to be a lot of bad, slow moving, cold and night baseball being served. As a fan, that’s an awful concoction.

Some good news for Chicago fans is that Mark Buehrle, a great former pitcher for the White Sox, is now tearing it up for the first place Toronto Blue Jays. He is 8-1 with a great ERA. He had a rough couple years with the disaster down in Miami but Toronto is doing well and so is he. I hope that he makes it to the Hall of Fame in the end, even if it isn’t with the White Sox.

Read more

Descent of the Chioula, and GoPro

Last year on my annual pilgrimage to cycling valhalla in the Pyrenees I took my GoPro camera for the first time. Below is my descent of the Col du Chioula, headed back toward Ax les Thermes (best viewed in HD).

This was probably my best descent of last year, the road surface and weather being just right. Everything fell into place. For those wondering, my top speed on this descent was 48.2 mph.

I took an insane amount of footage with my GoPro last year, and I am glad I did. But the problem is that when you bring back these hours and hours of video, there is nowhere for you to go with it. Options are buying an external hard drive and storing them there, or uploading them to one of many websites that do this sort of thing. I am about two thirds of the way done uploading my videos to YouTube, and it takes absolutely forever. A 15 minute video takes several hours to upload. I usually start one video a night and begin the uploading process before I go to bed.

Cross posted at LITGM.

The Olympics Are In Bed With the Devil

A recent documentary on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia is titled “Putin’s Games” and is summarized here. The movie has not been released yet but I intend to see it as soon as it becomes available. According to the web, the movie discusses the 1) bribes that Russia paid to win the games 2) the vast corruption occurring during construction 3) other ill effects of citing siting the games in a sub-tropical climate.

The documentary interviews a billionaire Russian who fled to the UK after refusing to pay immense bribes during construction:

“We received explicit threats: ‘You’ll be soaked with blood; drowned in blood,'” he said. “It was very straightforward. We know the history. Russia generally does not care much for human life.”

As far as bribing Olympic officials to beat Austria in order to get the games originally…

The money thrown around by the Kremlin to ensure that Russia was awarded the games is also revealed in the film. Karl Schranz, a former Austrian Olympic skiing champion and personal adviser to Mr Putin on bringing the Olympics to Sochi, talks about the big-money lobbying that went into the games – cash that Leonid Tyagetschev, the former head of Russia’s Olympic Committee, said was “practically unlimited.” The money was used to lobby for Sochi and against Salzburg, which was also in the running before, in 2007, the International Olympic Committee to give the games to Russia.

The Olympic Committees are against the release of this documentary and per the article:

Such was the displeasure of the International Olympic Committee when it heard of it that it refused to allow the use of the word “Olympic” in the title, or the use of any archived Olympic footage. They also wrote accusing the producers of making a “politically motivated” hatchet-job.

After rewarding the games to serial human rights violators in China and Russia, how can the Olympics even pretend to have a shred of credibility? It is astounding that they would call a documentary filmmaker who explains how Putin’s Russia is a hotbed of corruption a “hatchet-job”. What did they think would happen when you chose Russia for the winter Olympics? They need to read the biography of Putin by Judah, since this fiasco was all preordained.

Cross posted at LITGM

Book Review – The Secret Race – Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France by Tyler Hamilton

The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France


I first heard of this book when I was in France last summer. Of course everybody already knew that pretty much the whole peloton was on drugs, but Hamilton’s book presents a lot of the hows and whys.

When I got back from France I bought the book and finally had a chance to read it and wow – the things these guys do to themselves are absolutely crazy. At least to us mortals.

Hamilton tells the story of how difficult it is to be at the top levels of pro cycling, and just exactly what it took to get there, and stay there.

Of the most interest to me was how they knew how to beat most of the doping tests, and always stayed one step ahead of the testers.

Hamilton is brutal on himself as well, which is refreshing. He fully admits he cheated and while pointing the finger at other riders, is always sure to point the finger at himself first and hardest.

This book was written before Lance came out and finally admitted to doping, and there is an afterword in the current edition that speaks to this part of the saga.

I still feel that these guys are all doping in one way or another – I just don’t see how they can do what they do without it. In fact, I would just assume that at this point all major college and pro athletes are getting “help” in one fashion or another.

This book is very easy to read and explains some pretty interesting things about how the different drugs do what they do, and how they do it. It also explains how blood transfusions help the riders out, and how the doctors were pretty sophisticated for the most part in spreading out the drug doses and transfusions to beat the testers.

There is also a lot of cloak and dagger stuff in the book, describing how they were able to acquire the drugs and blood, how they stored them, transported them, and how the drugs and blood bags were administered.

I am sure that almost all of the riders from this part of cycling history will have major adverse health issues later in life – and some are already dead or are having major problems. One cancer doctor that I rode with in France said that it was his opinion that Lance highly increased his chances of getting testicular cancer from the drugs he took, and that after beating cancer and taking more drugs that Lance’s chances of getting that disease again are very high.

All for fame and money. Sigh.

If you are interested in cycling and/or want an easy to understand read about how the drug culture in that sport worked I highly recommend this book. The only question it left me with was that I now wonder what these guys are on now.

Cross posted at LITGM.

Chicagoboyz Cycling Series: Critical Mass, Part 2

Did this again last night.

Critical Mass

Another big crowd. This time we started near the front, which made the whole experience better as most of the crashes and sudden stops happened behind us. Also it’s summer, so much of the ride took place when it was light enough to see the sights, including the more attractive female participants…

Read more

Chicagoboyz Cycling Series: The Critical Mass Ride

critical massholes

These guys always seemed to be a bunch of juvenile, self-righteous assholes who enjoy the fruits of a modern transportation system while pretending to be above it all with their bicycles and simpleminded cultural leftism. The core of the Critical Mass experience are the massive traffic-fouling group bike rides on urban streets. By now CM is mainstream and tolerated by the powers that be with, I assume, the understanding that any daring transgressions will be restricted to off-peak hours. So it becomes just another annoying street event like the parades and art fairs and filming the hot TV show that are given dispensation to block traffic and inconvenience drivers. Of course I would never participate in such a thing. However, it turns out that some of my friends do these rides, and they asked if I wanted to join them. So I said, sure, sounds like fun.

Read more


Nothing says the 4th of July more than a great game of baseball. From the White Sox blowout victory over the Texas Rangers last night.

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

One of my daughters is almost 12 now. She is active in gymnastics and has been on and off for many years.

When she was much smaller, I would say five or six years ago, she was in a gymnastics “show”. It was basically a prelude to real competitions, where the children do simple techniques in front of an audience – moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas.

At the end of that show every child was allowed to step atop the podium and receive a first place medal. This could be a Madison thing to make kids feel good (we are just a bit liberal here from what I have heard) but I have no idea if they do this elsewhere.

I told my wife at that time the following:

“This sets up unrealistic expectations for the future. Most of those kids sucked and they still got a first place photo and medal, and have a great feeling. The kids that worked harder were screwed.”

Fast forward to today. My daughter made nationals for gymnastics, fortunately hosted here in Madison. She only had to beat one other kid to qualify to the national meet. She has been getting absolutely dusted this week in every event by kids from all around the nation. Of course we are dealing with a very browbeaten kid.

I told her that I didn’t feel sorry for her. I said that she clearly needs to work harder and doesn’t deserve to be the champion if she doesn’t have the skills. I also told her that it was great that she was able to qualify for nationals and have the privilege to compete – many kids didn’t stick with it.

I think that this will be good for her in the future.

It is my personal opinion that children are far too coddled. Maybe I am an asshole of a father. I don’t think I am.

In Favor of Government Regulation

In general, I am not in favor of government regulation of pretty much anything, since most of the time the rules don’t make sense or favor certain parties, and/or are written by people that don’t know what they are talking about. But I think what I saw Saturday night was an exception that I am willing to make. What you see below is our fight team head coach taping the hands of one of our fighters. As an aside, we had three fighters in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competition Saturday night and went 3-0, with two knockouts and one submission.

I have been backstage many times with the fighters, but there was never anyone watching or looking around. The woman dressed in the black is a state of Wisconsin inspector. She was making sure that the taping of the hands was legal.

There are rules now on how you can tape hands – the most important being that you can tape between the knuckles, but not over them. This disallows the “casting” of your hand, which effectively turns it into a club. The regulation tape is only 1″ wide.

After the hands were taped, the inspector signed the tape. Then the glove goes on over the taping, and that is taped as well – and the inspector watched me doing this and signed off on that too. After you are taped and signed, no fighter was allowed to leave the locker room area without having an inspector escort (typically to the restroom, or to the cage to inspect for footing and the flex of the fence).

In the old days, none of this happened. We just taped the hands, one of the guys running the fights would glance at it, and that was that. There were no locker room regulations, or anyone from any authority back there. The inspectors also checked everyone’s shorts and one guy had to cut some laces off that weren’t able to be tucked away.

The pre-fight meeting was better too. The referee clearly explained all the rules (there are many more than you think) to the fighters and the coaches and corners. The promoter of the fights also said that no taunting of the opponent would be tolerated, and that if you did taunt, you would never appear on the card again. And that went for coaches and seconds as well. Celebration, OK – but taunting, no way.

Security was also tighter. I had to show my “seconds” license from the State of Wisconsin to receive my passes to enter the locker room and to be cageside. By the way there is no test to be a second. Just fill out a form and send in $40.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, I typically disdain the government getting into stuff like this, but every single person there from the State knew exactly what they were talking about, knew the rules, and were extremely professional and helpful. There were a lot of questions since this was the first time a lot of us had seen a state presence such as this and all were dealt with fairly.

The fighters have to go through a much more rigorous testing to get their license; blood work, doctors inspections and more.

MMA is huge and getting bigger every day. I think that a set, established, group of rules is a good thing for the sport, and will help keep idiots out of the ring and out of the way.