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  • Archive for October, 2007

    Vitamins – A Bleg

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 16th October 2007 (All posts by )

    For those who don’t know what a ‘bleg’ is, I will give you a quick definition. It is a verb (to bleg) that means using one’s blog to ask for assistance. Many times it is for money. In my particular case it is for information on vitamins in general, and a multi vitamin in particular. We seem to have a lot of scientists, a few doctors and a lot of all around smart people here, so I say why not use the resource.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Vitamins | 27 Comments »

    The Lost Art of the Turn Signal

    Posted by David Foster on 16th October 2007 (All posts by )

    Over the last several years, I’ve observed a real decrease in the use of turn signals. This is to some extent a geographical phenomenon–some areas are much worse than others–but the general trend seems to be nationwide.

    Indeed, the failure to use turn signals has reached such levels that it has to be significantly impacting the efficiency of traffic flow, as well as safety.

    It’s tempting to put this down to an outbreak of narcissism so extreme that many people act as if they consider themselves to be the only conscious beings in the world. But even if one thought that all the other drivers were merely cleverly-programmed robots, wouldn’t it still be a good idea to let those robots know that you’re going to make a turn? Is there a strong form of solipsism on the loose?

    This may sound like a trivial issue, but I don’t think it is. How can we have a society if we are not–literally–willing to lift a finger for each other?

    Posted in Human Behavior, Society | 18 Comments »

    Repetitive Lawsuit Syndrome

    Posted by Shannon Love on 16th October 2007 (All posts by )

    This article summarizes research pretty much putting the nail in the coffin of the entire idea that long-term computer use leads to Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), a variant of Repetitive Motion Syndrome in which the many-times repeated motions of working with computers lead to crippling pain in the ligament sheath of the wrist.

    Why do we keep falling for these superstitions?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Law, Politics, Science | 3 Comments »

    Iraq – How will we know if we’ve won?

    Posted by Jonathan on 15th October 2007 (All posts by )

    War opponents keep asking this question. One answer is that we will have won when we depose the Islamofascist governments of Syria and Iran, and perhaps some other countries, and Iraq is stable, and we no longer face a threat from Islamic radicalism and terror attacks because the Islamists are crushed and demoralized. But that’s perhaps too expansive and too vague an answer.

    I was watching a TV news discussion on FOX tonight about positive recent developments in Iraq, and I realized that there’s an easy way to determine when we have won. We will know we have won when the leadership of the Democratic Party starts claiming credit for the war.

    Posted in Iraq, Middle East, National Security, Politics, Predictions, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    The CTA

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 15th October 2007 (All posts by )

    A few weeks ago I was riding a bus to work (usually I walk, but sometimes I take the bus if it is right there). The bus had a canned announcement saying that if the CTA didn’t get a funding increase, the CTA was going to discontinue this route.

    There were a large number of routes at risk. Most of the routes that only run during rush hours, like the 125, were “on the block” to be cut.

    As I looked around the full bus, it really hit me what the CTA’s problem is – they can’t figure out if they are trying to make money or if they are trying to provide a public service.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Management, Transportation | 6 Comments »

    CNBC Has Competition

    Posted by Jonathan on 15th October 2007 (All posts by )

    It’s about time. CNBC is maddeningly journalistic rather than business-oriented in its style, and its news coverage and program selections are shot through with leftist, anti-business bias. You would think that a network devoted to markets and business would be run by people who actually know something about markets and business. Instead we get hot babes and snarky voiceover “analysis” from j-school hipsters who have all the elitist and group-thinking instincts of modern professional journalists. What a herd. Every once in a while they stumble onto something good and unique but not PC, like Kudlow or the WSJ editors’ show, but then they try to kill it by changing its scheduling and promoting the conventional-wisdom news show or screaming-asshole trading show of the moment in its place.

    Finally, they are going to have real competition. This will benefit everyone other than CNBC’s owners and staff.

    Posted in Business, Leftism, Media, The Press | 7 Comments »

    Notch Up Another One

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 15th October 2007 (All posts by )

    3 Americans Awarded Nobel in Economics — and one of them is “Roger B. Myerson, a professor at the University of Chicago …”

    This makes, what, about 900 of our guys?

    UPDATE: U of C News Office release here.

    Posted in Announcements, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance | 24 Comments »


    Posted by Jonathan on 14th October 2007 (All posts by )

    I’ve disabled trackbacks (i.e., notices appearing in our comments sections from sites that link to our posts) because a lot of trackback pings now come from spam blogs and other worthless sites. If you linked to one of our posts and want to let us know about it, please leave a comment containing a link to your post.

    Posted in Announcements | 3 Comments »

    Subsidized Light Rail and Reactionary Politics

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th October 2007 (All posts by )

    Jim Miller has an excellent post on Portland, Oregon’s mass-transit boondoggles, and on the religious zeal and overarching intrusiveness of the Pacific Northwest’s political class in support of wasteful programs that most local citizens don’t want:

    Some may wonder why I call Seattle reactionary. That seems obvious to me, but may not be to others, especially those on the left. On the whole, the political class in Seattle wants the races to be treated differently, is fond of 19th century technology, such as trollies and light rail, and generally wants to manage every detail of a citizen’s life. All of these, especially the last, are very old ideas. In fact, the last idea goes back to ancient Sumeria. I think it is fair to call their support for outmoded ideas, ideas that have not met the test of time, reactionary.

    Worth reading in full.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Environment, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Society, Taxes, Transportation, USA | 18 Comments »

    Hedge Funds and Jim Gaffigan

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 13th October 2007 (All posts by )

    I was watching Jim Gaffigan (the comedian) on Conan O’Brien the other night and he was talking about the “innovation” of the upside-down ketchup bottle. He said that for years we basically were always holding it upside down and then after fifty years someone figured out, hey, let’s just have it come out the bottom in the first place. He said that future generations wouldn’t look on us favorably because it took us so long to grasp something so obvious…

    A pretty funny joke but in fact this is sadly applicable to hedge funds, of all things. Let me explain the connection. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Humor | 9 Comments »

    Aggregations & Talk of Heroes

    Posted by Ginny on 13th October 2007 (All posts by )

    Much talk this morning of some of Chicagoboyz’s favorite old topics.

    1) In WSJ’s contiuing “five best,” Michael Barone has been enlisted to suggest the five best on “The Special Relationship” – the shared American and British tradition.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Anti-Americanism, Blogging, Iraq | 2 Comments »

    Down in the Gutter With $30,600 a Year Plus Benefits

    Posted by Shannon Love on 13th October 2007 (All posts by )

    The recent kerfuffle over the middle-class family of Graeme Frost who can’t “afford” medical insurance got me to thinking: Why do we think it unfair that some people must pay rather a lot for medical insurance?

    Bonnie Frost works for a medical publishing firm; her husband, Halsey, is a woodworker. They are raising their four children on combined income of about $45,000 a year. Neither gets health insurance through work. Having priced private insurance that would cost more than their mortgage – about $1,200 a month – they continue to rely on the government program

    Why do we as society seem to feel that a family who makes $45,000 should not have to accept the loss of lifestyle that paying $14,400 a year for medical insurance would entail?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Leftism, Political Philosophy | 16 Comments »

    Boomers Like It Hot

    Posted by Ginny on 13th October 2007 (All posts by )

    A&L links to Sacha Pfeiffer’s “Some Like It Hot”

    “Whether they’re trekking to the newest Nicaraguan, Tunisian, or Vietnamese restaurant, picking up cooking tips from intrepid TV chefs, or prowling the aisles of international markets, boomers want strong, complex flavors and new preparations to jazz up their daily fare.”

    We boomers keep going – and going – and going.   The Viagra of the culinary orgies has become, apparently, hot sauce and, as our taste buds decay, we buy chili peppers and cayenne garlic hot sauce.

    Tonight we ate at one of the fancier local places and I ordered, baby boomer that I am, a chipotle penne pasta in cream sauce.  It may have looked like comfort food but after the fourth glass of water, I gave up.  Maybe my buds (unlike other parts of me) haven’t deteriorated all that much.  Or maybe I’m just too old to take the heat.

    Posted in Diversions | 4 Comments »

    Al Gore’s Defining Moment

    Posted by Zenpundit on 13th October 2007 (All posts by )

    Generally, I avoid commenting on primarily political stories but this one merits an exception.

    Former Vice-President Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, in conjunction with UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Regardless of what one thinks about Mr. Gore as a politician or of his heavily propagandistic but Oscar award winning film, the Nobel Prize represents the capstone of one of the most remarkable political comebacks in American politics since Richard Nixon.

    It is true that Al Gore did not self-destruct after his razor-thin defeat in 2000 (yes, give it up, he lost) quite the way Nixon did when he lost the California Governorship in 1962 back to back with the presidency in 1960 but neither did “the New Nixon” of 1968 reach such illustrious heights. Americans with Nobels are rare; Americans with Peace Prizes are the most exclusive circle of all. Many conservatives are quite upset at this development and are venting, some of their complaints have my sympathy but their sense of timing does not. They are spitting into the wind right now and to the extent that anyone outside the movement conservative choir is paying any attention, bitter anti-Gore jeremiads only serve to alienate moderates.

    For once, I can say the Bush administration struck the right political note with a simple gesture of congratulation to a former adversary enjoying a moment in the sun, without getting too excited about it. If anything, given recent decisions by the Nobel Committee to honor Communist frauds and terrorist kleptocrats, we should be relieved that the Peace Prize this year went to Al Gore and not, say, Kim Jong Il or Robert Mugabe. I’m the first not to confuse Mr. Gore with Andrei Sakharov or Aung San Suu Kyi but even I must concede he is a qualitative moral improvement over Yasser Arafat by many orders of magnitude.

    Much speculation (i.e. wishful thinking) exists as to whether Gore will now jump into the race for the Democratic nomination for president. That would be fun to watch but I doubt that will happen as it would require that Gore extricate himself from around $100 million dollars of VC enterprises that he is deeply involved in, so as to compete at a complete organizational and financial disadvantage with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Why accept those headaches and fritter away his newfound political capital when as the Democratic Party’s star elder statesman and counterweight to the Clintons, Gore is a ” must-have” insider for a new Democratic administration? That’s a lot of clout to throw away on a last-minute vanity campaign.

    Mr. Gore is enjoying his moment but in all probability, this episode represents his peak.

    Cross-posted at Zenpundit

    Posted in Miscellaneous, Politics, United Nations | 13 Comments »


    Posted by Jonathan on 12th October 2007 (All posts by )

    (Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.)

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    “Simple” Old Technology

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th October 2007 (All posts by )

    It only looks simple in hindsight, when compared to modern technology. But at one time “simple” technology was state-of-the-art, the most sophisticated equipment available. And however simple it seems to us now, it was generally more complex to operate than the machines we use to do the same jobs. The parallel trends throughout recent human history have been of machinery becoming simultaneously simpler to use and more complex in design.

    Here’s an account by a railroad enthusiast of the many tasks he must perform to get an antique steam locomotive up and running. I’m sure professional crews did it faster, back in the day, but the point is that a lot of work has to be done — and done in precisely the correct way and in the correct sequence — before the locomotive will move. How long does it take to start a Boeing 757? A few minutes? And compare the modern Boeing, which can be flown by two people, to large piston airliners of sixty years ago, whose power, fuel, electronic and navigational systems were so complex to operate as to require an additional one or two dedicated crew members. The same trend is evident in automobiles, which are easier than ever to drive, and extremely reliable by historical standards, while being tremendously complex under the hood (and in the computer).

    To paraphrase Saint-Exupery, the steam train was once as radical as space ships are now; one day our modern Boeing will be as much an antique as that old locomotive seems to us. Life in the old days was not simpler. People had fewer options than they do now, and task-for-task many of the things they did required more work, often much more work, for the same results.

    Related: More “Simple” Old Technology

    Posted in Aviation, History, Tech, Transportation | 9 Comments »

    Weekend Plans

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th October 2007 (All posts by )

    I’ll be hanging around the house, doing some cleaning and practicing my hip hop tunes…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Humor, Music, Video | Comments Off on Weekend Plans

    Photography, Meaning and Historiography

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th October 2007 (All posts by )

    The Valley of the Shadow of Death by Roger Fenton (1855)

    This is fascinating on several levels. First, there is a lot of discussion about the circumstances of the Sebastopol siege. Second, the photos themselves are impressive: those spent cannon balls littering the ground like rocks create, at least for me, a sense of tremendous danger. Finally, the guy who wrote this piece is a pretty good empirical historian and raises interesting questions about the circumstances of the photos and about historiography generally. Also, Susan Sontag comes out of it looking like a dope.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, History, Philosophy, Photos | 10 Comments »

    Kennewick Man Update

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th October 2007 (All posts by )

    Moira Breen reports.

    UPDATE: In the comments, DanTdaxp flags two posts (here and here) on this topic from Catholicgauze.

    Posted in Americas, Announcements, History, North America, USA | 2 Comments »

    Scientists You Should Know: Gerhard Ertl

    Posted by John Jay on 11th October 2007 (All posts by )

    Congratulations to Professor Ertl on his Nobel Prize.

    Ertl’s work is important because chemical reactions play by different rules when one or more of the molecules is tied to a surface and can’t flop around in solution. All kinds of everyday processes occur only at surfaces – the rusting of iron or the adhering of paint to a wall. it’s really difficult to took at a process that occurs on a layer of matter that is only a few atoms wide. Ertl is a master of adapting whatever techniques get him the answer he needs, and that has made him an analytical jack-of-all trades. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Science | 3 Comments »


    Posted by Ginny on 11th October 2007 (All posts by )

    A&L links to a Bartle Bull’s Mission Accomplished in Prospect; the essay, one not surprising in its conclusions given much that we read by those on the ground and those just-returned, demonstrates in the comments how the war continues to be played out and will be interpreted by many. It doesn’t say much about the level of such arguments but is also unsurprising that the first response is that the writer must be well-paid by the right. That this is an immediate response on the day when an editorial about the role of the AEI appears in the Wall Street Journal, forthrightly stating the positions of that particular think tank, and that Google withdraws any anti-Move-on ads from its site (Instapundit link) helps us understand who believes in transparency and who doesn’t. That such a comment is not an unusual form of argument is reinforced by another commentator who feels he must know whether Bull is pro or anti-Bush before he can appropriately judge. That these modes of thinking prevail among certain groups indicates the values of the Enlightenment have not sunk very far into the thinking of modern readers.

    Below are a couple of paragraphs from the Bull’s Prospect article.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Iraq | 3 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th October 2007 (All posts by )

    Asian-American women have a life expectancy of almost 87 years; African-American men, 69 years. We have these facts on the authority of Eight Americas, a 2006 study by number crunchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health. Women in Stearns County, Minnesota, live about 22 years longer than men in southwest South Dakota, and 33 years longer than Native American men in six of that state’s counties. The gap between the highest and lowest life expectancies for U.S. race-county combinations is over 35 years. Some race-sex-county groups typically die in their nineties, others in their fifties. Some are healthier than the norm in Iceland, Europe, and Japan, others sicker than Nicaragua and Uzbekistan.

    Peter Huber

    Posted in Society, USA | 3 Comments »

    A Story Still Playing Out

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 10th October 2007 (All posts by )

    A few weeks ago Carl wrote a post recommending the writings of Michael Lewis. I snooped around the web and found this wonderful essay by Lewis about a subject I am deeply interested in, the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and the human reactions to it. After reading that essay I was impressed not only by the content, but by the writing style.

    I am usually loathe to purchase more books, since I already have a pretty damned big stack that I haven’t read yet, just sitting in my basement waiting for me to dive in. But this time I decided to make an exception. Carl mentioned three books that Lewis wrote, one was about football, one about baseball, and the last about financial markets. Football interests me the most out of those three subjects, so I ordered The Blind Side in paperback.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Sports | 4 Comments »

    Cook County – An Amazing Quote

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 9th October 2007 (All posts by )

    A couple of years ago I thought I had heard the most ridiculous quotation when Putin said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

    While activities in Cook County, Illinois, have little historical importance compared to the end of the USSR that quote was what leaped to mind when recently, the County Board President Todd Stroger was discussing the county’s huge deficit of $307 million and said:

    “Do I think that there could be fat somewhere… there could be up to a million dollars worth of fat, maybe.”

    Only the Putin quote rivaled Mr. Stroger’s quote for sheer banality.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Management | 3 Comments »

    “Scientific Cascades” and Other Decision Traps*

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th October 2007 (All posts by )

    Rand Simberg discusses an NYT column by John Tierney that deals with common biases in group decisionmaking.

    Tierney writes:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Human Behavior, Society | 11 Comments »