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  • Archive for April, 2012

    In Favor of Government Regulation

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 30th April 2012 (All posts by )

    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.

    Posted in Big Government, Sports | 21 Comments »

    A Tale of Three Leaders

    Posted by David Foster on 30th April 2012 (All posts by )

    It’s been obvious for some time that Obama simply cannot stand Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s also increasingly obvious that the President feels a real sense of liking for and fellow-spiritedness with Turkish leader Recep Erdogan, who has moved his country away from secular democracy and disturbingly far in the direction of Islamic fundamentalism and hostility to Israel.

    Which says plenty about the kind of leadership we are getting from Obama himself.

    More here.

    Posted in Islam, Israel, Middle East, Obama | 3 Comments »

    Where Sgt. Mom Spent Sunday Afternoon…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 29th April 2012 (All posts by )

    At the world-renown Buda Wiener Dog Races!

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Holidays, North America, Photos | 7 Comments »

    Grace and the Garage

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 29th April 2012 (All posts by )

    [ introducing the world of problem solvers and creatives to the world of theologians and contemplatives and vice versa — and then, Simone Weil — cross-posted from Zenpundit ]


    I believe this is an important post in its own way, though a short one: because it links two areas that I believe are joined at the hip in “reality” but seldom linked together in thinking about either one.

    I mean, creativity, as in the guys working away in the garage on something that when it emerges will be the new Apple, and grace, the mysterious and mercurial manner in which inspiration touches down on us…


    In the first part of this post, then, I would simply like to suggest that those entrepreneurial folk who follow their dreams — typically into garages or caves — and beg borrow and steal from relatives, friends and passing acquaintances the funds they need to continue their pursuit of some goal or grail under the rubric “do what you love and the money will follow” are, in fact, following a variant of a far earlier rubric, “seek ye first the kingdom of God … and all these things shall be added unto you” – and that creative insight or aha! is in fact a stepped down and secular version of what theology has long termed epiphany – the shining through of the eternal into our mortal lives.

    But this will get preachy if I belabor the point: what I am hoping to do is to open the literatures of the world’s contemplative traditions to the interest of “creatives” and the literatures of creativity, problem solving, and autopioesis to the interest of theologians and contemplatives…


    And Simone Weil.

    Simone Weil, a philosopher I very much admire, wrote a book of superb beauty and wisdom titled Gravity and Grace. I must suppose that her title was somewhere in the back room of my mind, working quietly away behind the scenes, when the title for this post popped up.

    Weil is, shall we say, hard liquor for the mind and spirit — highly distilled, potent, to be sipped, no more than two paragraphs or pages at a time…

    A Jew who loved the Mass yet refused baptism, an ally of communists and a resistance fighter against the Nazis, a factory worker, mystic, philosopher. The poster at the top of this post is for a film of her life: I doubt it will be a comfortable film, but the discomfort will likely be of the inspirational kind.

    Posted in Entrepreneurship, Morality and Philosphy | 14 Comments »

    Castillo de San Marcos

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 28th April 2012 (All posts by )

    While organizing my old photos I came across 2007 pictures from a visit to Castillo de San Marcos, a fort in St. Augustine, Florida. The fortress was built by the Spanish as part of the time they occupied Florida.

    The fortress is of the typical “bastion” type. I am not an expert in this era so I relied on wikipedia which had a nice description. Apparently the grades were built so that cannon would be more effective aiming downward as attackers neared the fortress.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History | 16 Comments »

    Stand Off at the Salado

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 28th April 2012 (All posts by )

    Like a great many locations of note to the tumultuous years of the Republic of Texas, the site of the battle of Salado Creek doesn’t look today much like it did in 1842 . . . however, it is not so much changed that it is hard to picture in the minds’ eye what it would have looked like then. The creek is dryer and seasonal, more dependant now upon rainfall than the massive amount of water drawn into the aquifer by the limestone sponge of the Hill Country, to the north. Then – before the aquifer was tapped and drilled and drained in a thousand places – the water came up in spectacular natural fountains in many places below the Balcones Escarpment. The Salado was a substantial landmark in the countryside north of San Antonio, a deep and regular torrent, running between steep banks lined with oak and pecan trees, thickly quilted with deep brush and the banks scored by shallow ravines that ran down to water-level. Otherwise, the countryside around was gently rolling grasslands, dotted with more stands of oak trees. There was a low hill a little east of the creek, with a house built on the heights. Perhaps it might have had a view of San Antonio de Bexar, seven miles away to the south and west.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, History | 1 Comment »

    Looks Interesting

    Posted by David Foster on 28th April 2012 (All posts by )

    Nick Schulz interviews Jim Manzi about Manzi’s forthcoming book Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society. Excerpt from the interview:

    We are all, to some extent, the prisoners of our experience. Like everyone, my experiences have surely created numerous biases to which, by definition, I am blind. But I have drawn some conscious lessons from my various jobs. Mostly, I suppose they relate to humility about how much harder it is to get anything done out there in the world than it seems like it ought to be when you read about it in a book or discuss it in a conference room. 

    A good example is that I think that most mainstream economists radically underestimate the importance in any business of what in another context Carl von Clausewitz called “friction.” Headquarters rarely knows what is going on in the field; people in frontline positions have little idea of the big picture, and react to local conditions as best they can; entrepreneurs are mostly making it up as they go, and so on. Economists are of course aware of this issue conceptually, but their attempts to incorporate it into their models of the firm and the economy are inadequate in the extreme. As compared to mainstream economic doctrine, therefore, I believe that uncertainty plays a far bigger role in real world decision-making, that quantitative models of the economy are less useful as guides to action, and that trial-and-error learning as embodied in existing institutions and practices is more important.

    (via Grim’s Hall)

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Political Philosophy | 2 Comments »

    Grasshoppers and Frost

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 26th April 2012 (All posts by )

    On September 22, 1859, Edmund Rees, wife Margaret, and the five Rees children (ages 12-18 months) arrived in Great Salt Lake City, the twelve-year old capital of the nine-year old Utah Territory. Edmund and Margaret were natives of Monmouthshire in the southeastern corner of Wales. While they’d both joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1850s, they didn’t gather to Zion and emigrate to Utah until Edmund developed asthma after years spent cutting coal in the Monmouthshire mines that fueled the early Industrial Revolution.

    The Rees family started their journey with $500, the results of selling their home. $100 got them from Wales to Iowa: they left the old country on April 11, 1859, sailed across the Atlantic on the John Talbot, landed at New Orleans, and sailed up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to Council Bluffs, Iowa by steam boat. Another $100 got them two oxen, a covered wagon, a milk cow, and safely across the Plains to Utah.

    Edmund was unfamiliar with handling livestock: the first time he put the yoke on the oxen, he put it on upside down.

    So Margaret took over.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Immigration | 19 Comments »

    Moonrise over the Guajito

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 26th April 2012 (All posts by )

    (Taken a year and some months ago, when in California – from the east veranda of my parent’s house)

    Posted in Photos | 7 Comments »

    Yom Ha’atzmaut

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 25th April 2012 (All posts by )

    Posted in History, Holidays, Israel, Middle East | 3 Comments »

    Beautiful Photos

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th April 2012 (All posts by )

    Anuchit Sundarakiti Photography

    (via @CarlosAlvarez37 on Twitter)

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    You Look Marvelous!

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th April 2012 (All posts by )

    A Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) on the Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park, Florida (print version). (Jonathan Gewirtz


    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    Bigotry Against Businesspeople

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd April 2012 (All posts by )

    Last week, long-time Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen published an extremely vitriolic column attacking Mitt Romney as “a man of falsehoods.” What I want to focus on in this post, though, is not the positives and negatives of Mr Romney, but rather the concluding paragraph of Cohen’s article:

    He often cites his business background as commending him for the presidency. That’s his forgivable absurdity. Instead, what his career has given him is the businessman’s concept of self — that what he does is not who he is. This is what enables the slumlord to be a charitable man. This is what enables the corporate raider to endow his university. Business is business. It’s what you do. It is not who you are. Lying isn’t a sin. It’s a business plan.

    So, in Cohen’s view, the businessman’s “concept of self” inherently involves a separation of what he does from who he is…a more forthright way he could have put this, I guess, would have been to simply say that all businessmen are weasels. (It’s interesting that Cohen chooses to use the term “businessman” rather than the gender-neutral term “businessperson.” Does he believe that there are no female slumlords? Does he think women inherently lack the analytical skills and competitive spirit required to be a successful corporate raider?) Evidently, Cohen believes that businesspeople are much more prone to unethical behavior (“Lying isn’t a sin. It’s a business plan.”) than are, say, tort lawyers, college professors, civil-service employees, or the executives of “nonprofit” organizations.

    Of course, there is a long tradition of aristocrats looking down their long noses at those who are “in trade.” (Although I expect that average aristocrat’s view of a newspaper columnist wouldn’t be much more positive than his view of a storeowner or a factory manager.)

    Cohen is far from being on the leftmost pole of the Washington journalistic establishment, and that fact that he feels able to make such pejorative drive-by assertions about the nature of businesspeople, without the need to build a case for their validity, speaks volumes about the current climate of opinion among those who today identify themselves as liberals and “progressives”–ie, the controlling elements of the Democratic Party.

    A corporate executive who despised salespeople or manufacturing people would be unlikely to be able to run the sales function or the manufacturing function of his company effectively. There is no chance that politicians from a party dominated by people like Cohen–and much worse–will be able to supervise a free-market economy in a way leading to sustainable economic recovery and growth.

    Posted in Business, Media, Politics, USA | 37 Comments »

    Estate Sale

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 23rd April 2012 (All posts by )

    A few blocks up the road from where I live there was an estate sale last weekend.

    The deal with these for those who don’t know, is that you hire a company to advertise and create interest in the sale, come into a house, tag everything up with prices and try to liquidate the stuff. In exchange, the company gets a cut, of course. This particular estate sale was very well attended.

    The road that I live on had cars parked all along it for the majority of the time that the sale was open. I think that more people have taken up this type of thing as a hobby. I can certainly see the appeal of getting something for cheap and re-selling it on Ebay or Craigslist or wherever. And most (all?) of these transactions, I would assume, go under the radar of the tax man.

    This particular house was of some interest to me since it was the Frau Becker’s house. I had a passing acquaintance with Frau Becker – she always had a little dog of some sort and she walked it in the neighborhood. When I was outside doing yard work or whatever, we always had a little light conversation. A nice lady. I asked my wife about the sale and assumed she had moved away. My wife told me that Frau Becker died a few years ago from ovarian cancer. Sad news, that. I suppose the husband finally died too, and that was the reason for the sale.

    While I wasn’t close to Frau Becker, I knew her. So yesterday when I sauntered down to the sale to see what was left, it was sort of like seeing part of her that I didn’t know about.

    So many chemicals and lubricants. There was a nice, barely used lathe in the basement that they were selling “dutch auction” style.

    Lots of airline glassware. The Frau flew first class back and forth from the homeland, it appears. And kept the glassware. Or do you get that for free up in the front of the plane?

    She kept sewing kits from all over the place. You know, the little free ones that you get in hotels? I imagine the Frau came from a depression time where you kept pretty much everything you could.


    Maps from every country of Europe.

    A mass of costume jewelry here, a pile of magazines there. I imagine the good jewelry was sold elsewhere by the family.

    Lots of old books – in German. Those don’t do me any good.

    Unwritten post cards.

    An old HP laptop battery.

    The dresser where Frau Becker used to keep her clothes. The dressers were quite nice but I didn’t dare bring home a piece of furniture without the express written consent of my secretary of interior decorating (i.e. the wife).

    It was an interesting half hour that I spent in Frau Becker’s home. I had never attended a sale like this and it was a neat feeling to be able (yea, encouraged) to rifle through someone’s personal effects. Since I knew the Frau, I was a bit creeped out, but not too much.

    I may attend a sale like this in the future. I wonder if I will think about the deceased the next time. I am sure I will – that is the historian in me.

    I was reminded of a great lesson. In the end, it is all crap that you can’t take with you. It was good for me to get that reminder.

    Cross Posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Personal Narrative | 24 Comments »

    Kids and careers.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 23rd April 2012 (All posts by )

    I thought that, since I described my daughter as beautiful, I should provide some evidence.

    Here she is with her mother.

    That’s Arizona behind them.

    Lest I slight my other daughter, here is Claire with the Rosetta stone a few years ago.

    I have one more but no recent photo. She’s the FBI agent and doesn’t like photos. She has been trying to recruit Claire, who speaks Arabic, for years.

    Posted in Law Enforcement, Personal Narrative | 9 Comments »

    The Value of College

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 22nd April 2012 (All posts by )

    Yahoo! had a recent article titled “1 in 2 New Graduates are Jobless or Underemployed“. From the article:

    While there’s strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder

    The article discusses the “plight” of an individual with a college degree who is working as a barista at Starbucks because he cannot find employment in his chosen field (note – is “barista” a masculine or feminine term, or neutral?)

    And what was this individuals’ major? CREATIVE WRITING.

    I often contemplate what someone with that major thinks their job opportunities really are out there in the world. Let’s see…

    – You could use your skills to write something, like this blog, for instance (and cash in all the nickels you will receive, maybe)

    – You could go to Hollywood and try to write for a show or screenplay (good luck – the competition is ferocious)

    – You could try to write that serious book that is in your head (uh… and there is a 1 in a billion chance that it will sell enough copies, should it be published, to feed you for even one month)

    I’m not saying that creative writing isn’t interesting, fun, or could lead to pay that could sustain your life. I just don’t think that you need a DEGREE to do this, and if you are “banking” on this out of the gate, then you are in for some very likely serious hard knocks in the cash flow area.

    Also, it isn’t clear to me that “creative writing” as a degree is necessary to be a “creative writer”. I would be interested to hear of a single popular author or even widely read blogger or screenwriter that has a degree called “creative writing”. Since I must admit that I am not sure even what “creative writing” is I looked it up at trusty old wikipedia and here is their definition:

    Creative writing is considered to be any writing, fiction, poetry, or non-fiction, that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, and technical forms of literature. Works which fall into this category include novels, epics, short stories, and poems. Writing for the screen and stage, screenwriting and playwriting respectively, typically have their own programs of study, but fit under the creative writing category as well.

    Who would you even send a resume to for “creative writing”? If this definition was true, you aren’t sending it to any newspapers or technical writing firms (there are a lot of computer specifications being written) or even ad agencies; I don’t think that most screenwriters hire underlings and certainly the big film studios don’t hire you out of college and train you.

    The article goes on to explain what is likely obvious to most readers:

    College graduates who majored in zoology, anthropology, philosophy, art history and humanities were among the least likely to find jobs appropriate to their education level; those with nursing, teaching, accounting or computer science degrees were among the most likely.

    I can’t imagine that these findings are a surprise to anyone. If you don’t have connections, you are better off getting a practical science-based or business-based degree (you can put computer science in whatever bucket you want) to get your foot in the door in business or in government. It IS true that many, many people started out with liberal arts degrees and rose to the top (often becoming lawyers) – but many of those that DID rise (in recent years) already had massive connections and were able to get in to elite graduate schools or careers like investment banking where only the most elite can apply. When you eliminate the liberal arts programs from elite Ivy-league or private universities from the mix (like Northwestern), getting a liberal arts degree from a non-elite school is going to leave you marooned in your job hunt. Probably 90%+ of liberal arts degree holders that are graduating now come from these non-elite schools (just a guess), so those are the ones likely “underemployed” or working as a barista somewhere.

    What is surprising to me is that this is a surprise to anyone, at all.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Business | 18 Comments »

    A Sign of the Times

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd April 2012 (All posts by )

    I reviewed your site and it seems we could complement your current content. XXXXX XXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXX has a team of house writers that can provide you with unique custom written content covering the following topics: applying for food stamps, who qualifies for food stamps, Medicaid, and more. I’m certain we could provide some valuable unique articles that would engage your users and expand your site. This is provided completely and entirely free of charge to our partners.
    We also have some small food assistance program finder widgets that publishers are running. This widget allows users to search for government assistance for free. For placing these we would be able compensate you for placing the widgets on your site.

    Posted in Diversions | 2 Comments »

    18 Minutes On a Day in April

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st April 2012 (All posts by )

    Eighteen minutes, by the clock – in that furious eighteen minutes, a strategic battle was won. Eventually it would prove that more than just an errant and rebellious state had been lost to a central governing authority – and worse yet, lost under the personal supervision of a charismatic and able leader. In an open meadow with a slight rise across the middle of it, fringed with tall trees, bounded on two sides by a river and a third by a swampy lake (or a lakey swamp – descriptions are elastic) the dreams of one nation-state died and another was born.

    The dreams of one of those nation-states died along with a fair number of its soldiers; ironically, the long-term political career of the man who had led them there was not one of them. He was the prototypical general on a white horse, following a willow-the-wisp of his enemy. He would not die in the swamp around Peggy’s Lake, or in the waters where Vince’s Bridge had been cut down. He would – like his adversary – die of old age, in bed of more or less natural causes, after a lifetime of scheming, treachery and showmanship. This probably came as a great surprise to everyone who had taken part on either side of the 1835-36 Texas War of Independence; that General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna would live a long and erratically prosperous life –and his cause of death did not involve a hangman’s rope, a firing squad or an outraged husband. Which, given his career of double-cross, astounding brutality and corruption, should give confidence and inspiration to prospective caudillos everywhere. That is the end of the story, however – the beginning was in Texas, in the mid 1830s.
    Which beginning is more tangled than anyone could imagine, from just knowing of it through the medium of pop-culture. For most people, Americans and foreigners alike, that is pretty well limited to movies about the Alamo, and the Disney version of Davy Crockett. Act One – American settlers take over Texas; Act Two – many of them hole up in the Alamo; Act Three – a lot of swarthy and nattily-dressed Mexican soldiers kill them all; Act Four – somehow, the Americans win Texas after all, and in spite of that. Garnish with any number of fashionable intellectual flourishes, conceits and concepts and salt to taste.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Haidt, Caring and Politics

    Posted by Ginny on 21st April 2012 (All posts by )

    Jonathan Haidt’s talk examines the political divide and ways to heal it from The Righteous Mind. His discussion of the problems free riders pose is often discussed here in terms of vaccinations. Haidt discusses group adaptations posited by Darwin and central to Edward O. Wilson’s 2012 The Social Conquest of Earth. Chicagoboyz might also find interesting his TED presentation “Religion, Evolution, and the Ecstasy of Self-Transcendence.” He concludes with Donne, a man of deep passions both religious and secular, whose meditation “No man is an island” was a favorite of my father, repeated often as I grew up, integral to our fly-over village. But, of course, it is always and everywhere, our experience.

    Another TED discussion summarizes the Liberal/Conservative split section of the longer (and aimed at a different audience) talk. (Haidt knows his pedagogy – interesting, visual, reinforcing.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Politics, Religion, Video | 1 Comment »

    The Abstract Concept of “Work”

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 21st April 2012 (All posts by )

    Once I was having a conversation with a friend after a few drinks and he said

    What would the business world be like if it really was the way it appeared on soap operas?

    On soap operas business is a clandestine, cloak and dagger operation.  You are forever opening drawers for obscure documents while the other guy isn’t there, thinking about conspiracies, and flirting / sleeping with one another.  People have large offices, secretaries, and complex relationships with everyone they encounter.

    And very little actual work seems to get done.

    When I was growing up everyone I knew had a job of some sort.  You started out mowing lawns and shoveling snow, and girls babysat.  Some people in rural areas (we weren’t near fields) de-tasseled corn, which could be a brutal job out in the hot sun.  When you were 16 you graduated into a new type of job, a more formal job with an actual boss on a payroll and with a paycheck, in retail or at a fast food restaurant or something like that.  You worked during the school year, and then you worked a lot during the summer, and you worked during spring break (if you could).  When you were back from college in the summer you worked too, or stayed on campus and found some sort of job there, instead.

    Now kids don’t get jobs at nearly the same rate for a variety of reasons – they have a lot more homework than we did, and parents want them to focus on school as the highest priority.  Plus the minimum wage is higher now, and the retail and fast food jobs are often going to full-grown adults that need the work in this economy.  For whatever reason, I see a lot less kids (16-20) that seem to be potential full-time college student candidates doing actual work when I am out shopping or elsewhere in the type of jobs I used to work.

    But instead there are many more TV programs that appear to show work.  The most prominent is “The Office”, which actually has many more truthful elements of actual work than the traditional soap operas.  The divide between management and staff is more obvious, and the staffers reflect their stereotypical personas (the semi-autistic or boring accountant, the pretty secretary, the beaten-down HR worker, the semi-optimistic sales staff, and those hangers on that have somehow survived rounds of layoffs but you can’t quite figure out what they do), while the actual workers are in the basement, moving paper with a forklift and having a culture of their own.

    The general spirit of the office is the absolute minimum level of competence and business skills to keep the organization afloat, with a chimerical camaraderie of forced meetings and boring encounters.  There is a continuous focus on the head office and corporate, which is certainly realistic, since change do derive from the top often with little knowledge of what is happening “on the ground”.

    Since many kids don’t have jobs or actual contact with formal managers, shows like “The Office” do in fact color their view of the traditional workplace.  While many kids can understand what is obviously real and what is obviously fake, the “accoutrements” of power (secretary, an enclosed office, a conference call relationship with corporate) seem relevant.  Certainly living in the “cube farm” is not a good fate, sitting at a communal table or small beige cube adjacent to obnoxious, dopey or deranged co-workers is to be escaped at all costs.

    An abstract concept of “work” and “management” unhinged from “actual work” or “actual management” appears to be at its highest in the (wealthy) Arab world.  This excellent article in Bloomberg describes the job situation for young adults in Saudi Arabia.

    Today, all three still live at home, get pocket money from their parents and are jobless in Riyadh, capital of the world’s largest crude oil exporter.  When the three Saudi men met each other in school 11 years ago, they dreamed that by the time they had reached their mid-20s, each would have a well-paid job, a house, a new car and maybe a wife

    Most of the work in Saudi Arabia is actually done by guest workers or expatriates.  The “dirty” work of construction, domestics, etc… is done by fellow Arabs from countries that aren’t sparsely populated and endowed with natural resources, and the “thinking” work of managing and running businesses is done by expatriates from around the world.

    The article goes on to explain how young adult Saudis don’t want to work in supermarkets, construction, or as cashiers.  They want the jobs that they see on TV – the managerial jobs, sitting behind a desk, in a climate controlled and first class office building.

    “In my previous job, I used to sit at a desk in my own office,” he says. “I want the same standard of work.”  Abdullah, who has a high school diploma, says he has been offered “bad” jobs: as a waiter, security guard and cashier.

    The interesting part of this is that the Saudis want those jobs without any sort of skills that would make them relevant in the wider, competitive world.  They have a concept of what “work” means and this abstract concept is completely unhinged from any sort of skill building or “work your way up from the bottom” mentality that could support it on a larger scale.

    This is the ultimate abstraction of work; routine, office tasks with demanded accoutrements that have no bearing on the underlying economy or added value of goods or services.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Business | 11 Comments »

    All Things Doggish

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th April 2012 (All posts by )

    It has happened to us again; we came home from morning walkies on Thursday with an extra dog, to the bafflement and apparent disgust of the Lesser Weevil and Connor … who seem to be getting over it, even as I write. The current canine find is small, attractive, and relatively well-behaved and seems to be agreeable to cats. Which a dog in our house had damn-well better be … the cats outnumber the dogs, and are Superior Beings – at least, as the cats see it, and woe betide the canine which doesn’t acknowledge this superiority immediately.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions | 10 Comments »


    Posted by Jonathan on 20th April 2012 (All posts by )

    A law firm is advertising on CNBC, trying to gin up plaintiffs for lawsuits against siren manufacturers. The pitch is: “Have you lost hearing after working around loud sirens?”

    There must be people who have lost hearing from sirens. However, sirens are supposed to be loud. No one could reasonably expect otherwise. Nor is it the responsibility of siren makers to protect people from sirens. Individuals, and perhaps their employers, should do that.

    Probably what the lawyers intend to do is find a large group of people who have imperfect hearing and used to drive ambulances or work in factories, assert that their hearing problems result from on-the-job exposure to sirens, and extract a settlement from siren manufacturers who want to avoid expensive litigation and the financial Sword of Damocles of a possible adverse jury verdict (jurisdiction to be selected for maximum plaintiff-friendliness).

    Who will bear the costs of these cases (unless they are thrown out as they should be)? The siren manufacturers will go out of business, pay out a lot of money and/or move overseas. Sirens will cost more. The private firms and governments that use sirens will pass along the higher costs in the form of higher prices for their products, higher taxes and fewer jobs. Perhaps they will use fewer sirens in the future, which might lead to more accidents and related costs. Employers will tell workers to wear ear plugs, but many workers will not do so. Some of the plaintiffs, whose hearing loss may or may not have been caused by sirens, will receive windfalls. The lawyers will make a lot of money and look for other industries to plunder. Maybe they will sue rock bands or the Army next.

    Posted in Just Unbelievable, Law | 14 Comments »


    Posted by Dan from Madison on 20th April 2012 (All posts by )

    …is happy that the grass is up.

    Posted in Photos | 7 Comments »

    The Devil’s Arithmetic

    Posted by David Foster on 19th April 2012 (All posts by )

    Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. Screenwriter Robert Avrech has posted the first part of his Emmy-award-winning film The Devil’s Arithmetic, which is based on Jane Yolen’s book of the same name, for on-line viewing.

    The DVD is available from the usual sources, including Amazon and Netflix. Highly recommended.

    Posted in Film, History, Israel, Judaism | 1 Comment »

    Raiders Reunion

    Posted by David Foster on 18th April 2012 (All posts by )

    The 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Toyko raid is being marked at the National Museum of the USAF near Dayton, OH. Four of the original raiders will be present.

    Video here.

    Posted in Aviation, History, USA, War and Peace | 12 Comments »