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  • Archive for December, 2007

    Time to go shopping?

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th December 2007 (All posts by )

    Oatmeal sweetened with Gatorade powder.

    Posted in Humor, Photos | 51 Comments »

    Sinn Fein in Madison

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 20th December 2007 (All posts by )

    Click photo for larger.

    I am frequently amazed what bumper stickers folks put on their vehicles. Living in the epicenter of BDS territory, I see a lot of angst. Most of the stickers are snappy sayings like “buck fush” or pleas for peace or diversity. Yesterday I was stunned to see this one. You will have to enlarge the photo to read it.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Europe, Middle East | 9 Comments »


    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 20th December 2007 (All posts by )

    Chase (formerly Bank One, which merged with JP Morgan Chase in 2004) has a large network of branch offices here in Chicago. When I moved into Bucktown about 6 years ago, there were no branches locally; but soon they filled in every corner (it seems) as the neighborhood gentrified. In River North there weren’t a lot of branches because there was limited residential traffic until recently when all of the condominiums were built over the last 5 years or so; now we have branches all over the place.

    In a branch near my condo in River North (which oddly enough has a “fake” 2nd story that you can see as you ride on the Brown line of the “L” overhead) they added a coin counting machine that you see in the picture above. Unlike the coin counting machines in grocery stores, this coin counting machine doesn’t charge 5 to 10 cents for each dollar – you just feed in your coins and collect your cash from the bank teller (presumably in paper dollars, else why else visit?).

    The coin counting machine was great; I lugged over plastic cups full of change and received over $200 in return. While I was waiting for my cash, I started up a conversation with the bank teller, who said that they were going to leave the coin counting machine only for a limited time but it was bringing in tons of foot traffic to the branch so they decided to make them permanent.

    I found this to be interesting; only a few years ago banks were trying to get customers to use their online services instead of going to a retail branch and physically speaking with a teller or representative. This article from 1999 talks about banks that were charging $2 to speak with a bank employee for transactions that could either be done online or by phone.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania | 5 Comments »

    Blog Changes

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th December 2007 (All posts by )

    I removed the Google ads and WordPress search window and substituted Google and Amazon search windows at the top of the blog. The Google ads generated a trickle of revenue but otherwise didn’t do much for the blog. The new Google search window works better for searching the blog than did the one from WordPress, and lets you search the Web too. And we all use Amazon. I hope that these new features improve the blog, and if you use them I will make a few bucks which will help to keep me off the streets.

    Posted in Announcements | 10 Comments »

    More Media Disintermediation?

    Posted by David Foster on 19th December 2007 (All posts by )

    Last month, Marc Andreessen suggested that the Hollywood writers’ strike…and the response of the studios to that strike…will accelerate a structural shift in the industry–specifically, a move toward a Silicon-Valley-like model in which the creators of the product–the talent–have strong ownership interests in the companies. (Link via Newmark’s Door.)

    A couple of days ago, the Los Angeles Times ran this headline:

    Striking writers in talks to launch Web start-ups

    Dozens are turning to venture capitalists, seeking to bypass Hollywood and reach viewers directly online
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Media, Tech | 2 Comments »

    More Zen Meditation

    Posted by John Jay on 19th December 2007 (All posts by )

    Following on the last post, here’s another one from the Zen Master:

    If multiculturalists are correct that that the non-Western cultures are of greater moral stature than the oppressive West, then why did none of the non-Western cultures ever practice multiculturalism ?

    Quite honestly, I don’t care if a culture practices inclusion, as long as it advances science. As it so happens, cultures that do practice inclusion do so because their mindset is eclectic and evolutionary (in terms of ideas), which also happens to be the best societal fit for the scientific mindset, but the multi-cultural part is an unanticipated side effect that ultimately I do not give a rat’s about.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Science, Society | 1 Comment »

    Zen Meditation

    Posted by John Jay on 19th December 2007 (All posts by )

    Zendpundit posed a bunch of provocative questions over on his site, and I thought they might start some lively discussion over here if we took a stab at them. Here’s my favorite, because it touches on a couple of themes we’ve been exploring on this site over the past few weeks:

    If the EU has genuinely changed the twenty century-long warlike character of Europeans to apathetic, bureaucratic, declinists why does the idea of Germany with nuclear weapons still give everyone pause ?

    Or for that matter, who’s up for the Japanese Prime Minister announcing a successful test of a hydrogen bomb ? If you’re not but you are also ok on a nuclear Iran, can you give an intellectually credible explanation as to the difference?

    Here’s my take: what we are looking at in Europe is a metastable state. In physics, that is a state that should have undergone a phase transition, but is being held back by inertia. One small perturbation, and the whole thing goes up, though. It is the packed snow waiting for a footstep to start an avalanche. The roulette ball perched on the wall between two numbers, waiting for a breath of air to push it over. Not a long-term tenable position, energetically.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Europe, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Military Affairs | 7 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 19th December 2007 (All posts by )

    Currently reading Ramachandra Guha, India After Gandhi, which is excellent, and which I highly recommend. I saw a review of it, by A.G. Noorani, which had this to say:

    British rule in India was doomed when the rulers introduced their
    language in India. You cannot talk a people into slavery in the
    English language. “An Englishman is the unfittest person on earth to
    argue another Englishman into slavery,” Burke reminded the House of
    Commons on March 22, 1775. The effect is the same if “the natives” are
    taught English. It brings in its train British history – the Magna
    Carta, the Bill of Rights, Parliament versus the Crown, habeas corpus
    and the rest, as also concepts like the rule of law. Those who framed
    our Constitution were familiar with all this.

    This come through very clearly in Guha’s book. The founders of modern India wanted to do at least two things: (1) Get the British out of their country, and (2) preserve what they had learned from the British, including things the British had denied them, like democratic elections.

    Forward the Indo-Anglosphere!

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, History, India | 3 Comments »

    Email Exchange With My Brother-in-law About Illegal Immigrants

    Posted by Lexington Green on 19th December 2007 (All posts by )

    He is a nice guy, but a Lefty who always thinks the dark night of fascism is about to descend on America.


    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Immigration, Politics, Society, USA | 5 Comments »

    Brutalism & Indestructibility

    Posted by Ginny on 18th December 2007 (All posts by )

    Not unrelated to Shannon’s post: Few corporations would make a church congregation impoverish itself to honor the school of “Brutalism.” Charles Paul Freund at the American Spectator describes the arguments between the Third Church of Christ, Scientist (who can’t afford the upkeep of a remarkably uninviting piece of architecture) and the preservationists.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 2 Comments »

    Corporate “Power”

    Posted by Shannon Love on 18th December 2007 (All posts by )

    In this thread over at Reason’s Hit&Run, commenter Taktix asks:

    Will someone please define exactly what “power” a corporation yields over me (eminent domain abuse doesn’t count, as it is power reserved for the government).
    McDonald’s has never given me a speeding ticket, Coca-cola has never busted me smoking a joint, Microsoft has yet to throw me in jail for buying a Mac.
    What is this corporate power? Advertising? If you’re so fucking dumb that you obey every advertisement you see, then I suppose it’s not difficult to believe that companies hold power over you!

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Libertarianism, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy | 8 Comments »

    Close Enough for PRC Work

    Posted by John Jay on 17th December 2007 (All posts by )

    In my last post on China, Zenpundit mentioned that a lot of Westerners are confused about what China is and what it is not. That first post was an attempt on my part to try to create a predictive mental model for the future of Chinese politics. I did not, however, manage to cover even half of the terms I’m trying to cram into the thing. One glaring omission that Chinese people would pick up on right away is that I postulated a separate Canton in a putative breakup scenario. The truth is that there has been no strong Cantonese separatist movement since before the Republic, and currently that trend shows no sign of reversing itself. On the other hand, Canton has never in its entire history been as rich as it is now, nor contributed as much to the coffers of the North as it does today. So I weaseled out and finished with the thought that I just don’t have enough information to weight the terms in my model. Which is true.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, China, History, Human Behavior | 3 Comments »

    ChicagoBoyz Physical Fitness Series, Continued…

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 14th December 2007 (All posts by )

    Every athlete needs to start their day with a nutritious and delicious breakfast. See the video below for a suggestion.

    Posted in Humor | 4 Comments »

    Reply to David Foster

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

    After hijacking Shannon’s thread, thought I’d answer Foster in a separate post:

    “Discontent foreran the Two Mutinies, and more or less it lurkingly survived them. Hence it was not unreasonable to apprehend some return of trouble, sporadic or general.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 5 Comments »

    Our Earl Problem

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

    Some years back while visiting a relative in a rural area and I saw two Sheriffs cars go by with their lights on. I commented on the rare sight and my relative said, “Yea, they’ve been out a lot recently. A drunk driver wrecked his car and knocked down a hundred yards of fence. We’ve had an outbuilding set on fire by an arsonist, some stolen equipment and a wife beating.”

    “Holy cow!” I replied, knowing just how sedate the country usually is, “sounds like you’ve developed a little crime problem out here.”

    My relative looked askance at me and said, “We don’t have a crime problem, we have a Earl problem.”

    Turned out that one guy committed all the destructive acts. When the Sheriff finally got enough evidence to haul him off, the little crime wave disappeared.

    I thought about this little episode while reading Carl From Chicago’s post on the drug war.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Crime and Punishment | 15 Comments »

    Note: Robert Kaplan

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

    Update: Veryretired notes today’s “Reflections on Blowback” by Lee Harris (at TCS Daily). Harris’s argument is clear and, characteristically, based on human nature.

    A&L links to an essay by Robert Kaplan, in The American Interest, which discusses the role of faith and patriotism in defining why and how a nation fights; here, he uses the wise “congruent reality” of Conrad to demonstrate his points. He also describes what he sees as a widening gulf between those who fight and those at home, distinctions often rooted in the geographic and familial. But, then, he reminds us that was also true of the armed forces in 1939. He concludes with his conversation with a combat pilot, Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iraq, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    His Hair Really Was a Mess

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 12th December 2007 (All posts by )

    A long time ago I purchased a small book about the theory of relativity.  I ran across this book the other day while doing a cleansing of my bookshelves.  I put it in the “keep” pile.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in RKBA | 2 Comments »

    The War on Drugs… From a Different Angle

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 11th December 2007 (All posts by )

    Recently Rolling Stone magazine had an article titled “War On Drugs” or “How America Lost the War on Drugs”. The article went through the usual statistics showing how our tactics aren’t working and that we have “lost” this war. As proof, they cite that the number of Americans behind bars on drug charges has increased from 41,000 in 1980 to 493,800 in 2003 (and presumably more in 2007).

    The point of this post isn’t whether or not you are “for” or “against” the war on drugs – that is done to death at a million other places. The purpose is to look at the situation from an entirely different angle…

    Out of these 493,800 offenders behind bars, how many were “casual users” caught in a net of enforcement (run a red light, get stopped for having drug paraphernalia, go to jail) and how many were gang members selling or transporting drugs for resale? Um… while Rolling Stone is definitely catering to the casual user and happily points out those (relatively) few individuals caught in the dragnet I would estimate that the vast, vast majority of these almost 500,000 in jail are actually gang members trafficking or selling drugs.

    To Rolling Stone magazine, these offenders are “lost souls” who took some sort of wrong turn and are just languishing in prison due to our society’s rigid and unrealistic moralistic stance. But for our “drug wars”, these would be fine, upstanding individuals presumably designing rockets somewhere and volunteering in schools.

    Not so. The key elements are KNOWLEDGE and INTENT. Everyone of these individuals in jail, whether they thought they’d be convicted or not, knew that selling drugs was against the law. Even on the talk shows no one ever says “but I didn’t know it was against the law…”. The second element is intent – they consciously went down the criminal path to make money, choosing this route instead of some legitimate path (i.e. getting a job).
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Miscellaneous | 28 Comments »

    KHANNNNN! (another member of a continuing series)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 11th December 2007 (All posts by )

    The ice storm that clipped both KC and Chicago today, coming as it does after several days of nasty weather, has a lot of us holed up inside and thinking wintry thoughts. We might wonder how the natives of one of the climatically harshest places on Earth deal with it. Or, perhaps, deel with it. So, after considering for a moment whether any other blog can provide puns in Mongolian, graze (Midwesterners [and Mongolians] don’t surf) on over to for all your clothing and shelter needs for when you “steppe out.” For those Chicagoan, er, Siberian winters, there’s the cotton quilted deel for a mere C-note-and-a-half, and don’t forget to pick up a pair of (somewhat more steeply priced) boots. Shelter? Get yer yurt right here. You’ll fit right in when our horde (another Mongolian-derived word) of genetically-engineered Temujin-class warriors conquers the world.

    Or just pick up a few books. Whatever.

    Previous members of series:

    Posted in Chicagoania, Entrepreneurship, History, Humor, Style | 10 Comments »


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

    Chicagoboyz are trendy.

    Posted in Humor, Photos | 10 Comments »

    Petaflop – Oskee Wow Wow!

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 7th December 2007 (All posts by )

    An awful lot of bragging goes on in these parts about the U of Chicago and the accomplishments of that legendary university, and rightly so.

    I am a distinguished alumni of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and I would like to do a little bragging myself about something I know absolutely nothing about.  Well, one thing I know a lot about and one I don’t.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Sports | 3 Comments »

    Metaphors, Interfaces, and Thought Processes

    Posted by David Foster on 7th December 2007 (All posts by )

    My post today is inspired by In the Beginning was the Command Line, by Neal Stephenson, a strange little book that will probably be found in the “computers” section of your local bookstore. While the book does deal with human interfaces to computer systems, its deeper subject is the impact of media and metaphors on thought processes and on work.

    Stephenson contrasts the explicit word-based interface with the graphical or sensorial interface. The first (which I’ll call the textual interface) can be found in a basic UNIX system or in an old-style PC DOS system or timesharing terminal. The second (the sensorial interface) can be found in Windows and Mac systems and in their respective application programs.

    As a very different example of a sensorial interface, Stephenson uses something he saw at Disney World–a hypothetical stone-by-stone reconstruction of a ruin in the jungles of India. It is supposed to have been built by a local rajah in the sixteenth century, but since fallen into disrepair.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Media, Tech | 10 Comments »

    The Evolution of Money Part I: The Past

    Posted by Shannon Love on 7th December 2007 (All posts by )

    The Chinese say that fish are not aware of water. We talk about and use money so often that we seldom think to stop and ask: What is money? Why do we need it? What function does it serve?

    I think money is a type of information technology that calculates, stores and transmits information about the quantity of one good one must exchange for a certain quantity of another good.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Tech | 10 Comments »

    Pearl Harbor – 66

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th December 2007 (All posts by )

    (Click here to see a larger version of this photo in a new window.)
    From the Naval Historical Center:

    The 7 December 1941 Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor was one of the great defining moments in history. A single carefully-planned and well-executed stroke removed the United States Navy’s battleship force as a possible threat to the Japanese Empire’s southward expansion. America, unprepared and now considerably weakened, was abruptly brought into the Second World War as a full combatant. [Read the rest…]

    Posted in History, USA, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Problems With Self-Selected Survey Data

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th December 2007 (All posts by )

    Jim Miller, discussing customer-satisfaction surveys, highlights a common error of inference:

    Consumer Reports does not seem to understand that all its surveys, not just those on cars, have a systematic problem; the respondents are self selected, which often biases the results, as any good survey researcher can tell you.

    So (following Jim’s example) if the Consumer Reports survey shows the Camry as more reliable than the Corvette, is this because the Camry is really more reliable or is it because people who buy Corvettes tend to drive them hard? The reliability data provided by Consumer Reports do not provide enough information to answer this question.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Management, Science, Society, Statistics | 10 Comments »