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July 03, 2015

"Grateful Dead Archivist Details Massive, New 80-Disc Box Set"

Quite cool for serious Dead fans, but at $699 I'm not interested enough. Besides, Spotify has hundreds, probably thousands, of Dead tracks for free.

Also in Dead news: "Songwriters Hall of Fame Honors Hunter and Garcia, Tuneful Wizards of the Grateful Dead". Has some interesting stories on how they worked.

"The floating turd mystery that still haunts NASA"

The headline got me.

"This Week in the Civil War: Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (1824-1863) C.S.A."

Long, but I thought quite interesting

Thomas Jonathan Jackson was known as “Stonewall,” but “the Christian soldier” would have been a more appropriate title. his military experience was in artillery, yet he excelled as a commander of infantry. Soldiers adored him, despite the fact that he was a tight-lipped, stern-disciplined eccentric. Fellow generals were in awe of him because his silence concealed a fiery combativeness smoldering deep inside. Although he was in the field but two years during the Civil War, he more than any other individual became the radiant hope of the Southern cause. more astounding are the number of people – past and present – who assert that had he not died in 1863, his genius would have enabled the Confederate States to achieve their independence. Such was the mystique of Thomas J. Jackson.

July 02, 2015

"The 100 Best Movie Lines of All Time, in One Video"

This is an excellent compilation (6 minutes). Many, many outstanding ones shown. But, as usual, there are at a few significant omissions.

Patton: "Rommel . . . you magnificent bastard, I read your book!"

Stand and Deliver: "If you don't have the ganas, I will give it to you because I'm an expert."

The Right Stuff: "Let's light this candle!"

Gandhi: Tie between "General, how does a child shot with a 303 Lee-Enfield 'apply' for help?" and "Mr. Kinnoch, I beg you to accept that there is no people on Earth who would not prefer their own bad government to the good government of an alien power."

Three Days of the Condor: "How do you know they'll print it?"

An Officer and a Gentleman: "My grandmama wants to fly jets!"

The Verdict: "Who were these men? Who were these men?"

And, of course, from Young Doctors in Love: "Old man, don't you think you've pissed enough?"

Also about movies: "The Ultimate Film and TV Spoiler Guide".

"Top 10 Hardest Triples in Sports"

Number 1 was a bit of a surprise.

"8 Crazy Celebrity Stories That Are Actually True"

Ol' Billy Bob is talented as heck, but he's a little unusual.

Three on surviving unusual threats

At least I hope they're unusual.

"How to land a plane if the pilot has a heart attack".

"10 ways to avoid being eaten by a shark".

"Swedish man shows the right way to escape a bear attack".

July 01, 2015

"Ebb Tide in the Golden Country: All is not as it was for Jews in America"

Awful but true.

Some attribute the hatred to the policies of Israel. (“Bibi is to blame.”) But this confuses cause and effect. Israel is not the source of anti-Semitism, but a result. Before the Holocaust, it was said that the Jews in their statelessness were the cause of wars and disturbance, the burr under the saddle of mankind, the ghost in the machinery of statecraft. After the Holocaust, it’s said that Israel, the Jewish State, is the burr under that saddle. Though the condition has changed—no state v. state—the conclusion remains the same: It’s the Jews. To me, this is the world settling back into the Jew-loving and Jew-hating equilibrium that was unsettled, for a time, by the Shoah. After, all, the dream of the early Zionists was neither to be hated, nor loved—it was to be normal, treated as individuals, like everyone else.

"The Strange World of “Reward Deficiency Syndrome” (Part 1)"

This has got to be a new low in "academic publishing". Indexed, for at least a little while, in PubMed, too.

In summary, this is the most extreme example of academic editorial self-publication I’ve ever seen. JRDS appears to be edited by, published by, and largely written by one man. . . .

How can JRDS ensure a proper peer review of papers when the author is also the editor and the publisher?

Two for background on Greece's fiscal problem

John Tamny, "What Greece's Alleged 'Collapse' Is, and Is Not". With this key part:

As is always the case, market fears are a creation of government error, not worries about a very minor economic entity.

To see why, it needs to first be remembered that a Greek default would be nothing new. As Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff noted in their much talked about 2009 book This Time Is Different, Greece has been in default mode roughly half of its modern existence. That its creditors might suffer a "haircut" on what is owed them is far from novel.

Anil Kashyap, "A Primer on the Greek Crisis: the things you need to know from the start until now". (Link via Greg Mankiw.)

"Here’s What’s Different About Windows 10 for Windows 7 Users"

Very little to induce me to upgrade, but your mileage may vary.

June 30, 2015

"Memo To Presidential Campaigns -- Federal Regulation Matters More Than Spending"

Clyde Wayne Crews, Jr. makes an important point. I hope the Republican nominee reads this and campaigns vigorously on it.

(I wouldn't make a case for any particular amount. But the point is qualitatively correct.)

Related: an academic paper by John W. Dawson and John J. Seater, "Federal Regulation and Aggregate Economic Growth".

We introduce a new time series measure of the extent of federal regulation in the U.S. and use it to investigate the relationship between federal regulation and macroeconomic performance. We find that regulation has statistically and economically significant effects on aggregate output and the factors that produce it – total factor productivity (TFP), physical capital, and labor. Regulation has caused substantial reductions in the growth rates of both output and TFP and has had effects on the trends in capital and labor that vary over time in both sign and magnitude. Regulation also affects deviations about the trends in output and its factors of production, and the effects differ across dependent variables. Regulation changes the way output is produced by changing the mix of inputs. Changes in regulation offer a straightforward explanation for the productivity slowdown of the 1970s. Qualitatively and quantitatively, our results agree with those obtained from cross-section and panel measures of regulation using cross-country data.

(Note that this could help explain our weak recovery, 2009-present.)

Two more news tidbits from Baghdad by the Bay

"Warning: San Francisco smells like a toilet".

"San Francisco is in a housing crisis, but we have no idea where to go from here".

"A Periodic Diet that Mimics Fasting Promotes MultiSystem Regeneration, Enhanced Cognitive Performance, and Healthspan"

Scientific paper in Cell Metabolism. More evidence in favor of beneficial effects from intermittent fasting.

Link via Instapundit.

"Four [Budget] Gimmicks to Watch Out For"

From the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Alas, to paraphrase Jimmy Durante, they've got a million of 'em!

"Homo economicus or homo paleas?"

John Cochrane's very skeptical review of "behavioral economics".

UPDATE: Link fixed now. (Thanks Gorgasal and Michael.)

June 29, 2015

"The Climate Wars’ Damage to Science"

I hope Matt Ridley's life insurance is paid up because this piece will probably make some of the always-right-thinking, consensus-enshrining people very angry.

(But, if he's lucky, maybe they'll completely ignore it, as they sometimes do with careful, modest, well-reasoned arguments against their position.)

I'd agree with the commenter who wrote, "Matt, this must be the best summation of the sceptical position that I have ever read. Well done."

Link via Instapundit.

"Improving Higher Education Through Professor Specialization"

Troy Camplin makes an excellent point:

Every economist will tell you about the benefits from specialization. We have known about that since Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations. But for some reason, this knowledge is thrown out when it comes to specialization in academia. 

I am talking about the requirement for tenure-track professors to engage in research. 

The comments are highly entertaining. Some folks seem to think this is crazy, but it's clearly not.

My take is that good teaching and research are clearly complementary for some faculty, but are just as clearly not for others. It would be difficult to even estimate the proportions. 

But there's a very important fact Camplin doesn't discuss: good research is reasonably cheap to quantify: publications--even quality-adjusted--and citations can be counted. But good teaching is much more costly to assess and quantify. (Student evaluations, alas, are only a tiny bit better than nothing.)

This is simply a gem

Kevin D. Williamson still, yet again:

You have to credit the Left: Its strategy is deft. If you can make enough noise that sounds approximately like a moral crisis, then you can in effect create a moral crisis. Never mind that the underlying argument — “Something bad has happened to somebody else, and so you must give us something we want!” — is entirely specious; it is effective. In the wake of the financial crisis, we got all manner of “reform,” from student-lending practices to the mandates of Elizabeth Warren’s new pet bureaucracy, involving things that had nothing at all to do with the financial crisis. Democrats argued that decency compelled us to pass a tax increase in the wake of the crisis, though tax rates had nothing to do with it. A crisis is a crisis is a crisis, and if a meteor hits Ypsilanti tomorrow you can be sure that Debbie Stabenow will be calling for a $15 national minimum wage because of the plight of meteor victims.

Related: "Massacres and Magical Thinking".

"What are some examples of public policy and laws that produced totally unexpected results?"

I imagine this Quora discussion will get very, very long.

"Univ. of WI Releases List of Microaggressions; Saying 'Everyone can Succeed' Now Racist"

Not a joke, (Follow the link in the piece.)

I recommend enjoying skeptical commentary--while you still can:

James Lileks:

For example: the only reason Apple pulled the Civil War apps from the store was fear of the internet - specifically, fear of the worst part of the internet, where lack of reason is balanced by an excess of enthusiasm. No rational person would complain that there were Civil War sims. No sensible person would believe that society would be improved by demanding their removal. No emotionally stable person could think that they were safer now because someone, somewhere, would not get updates to a game they purchased that allowed them to fight as the Union Army but contained the sight of the Confederate flag. Anyone who would believe these things is tethered to reality by a frayed strand of dental floss, and while they may live in a comfy bubble where everyone believes the same things and has at least two friends who are doing very important work in the field of instructional graffiti, most people are stable enough to resist the siren call of the Stars and Bars, even in the form of a picture on a phone.

Ed Driscoll: "The phrase 'trigger warning' is now a trigger." (Also no joke.)

Jonah Goldberg:

Taken seriously, this new standard of anti-divisiveness would require cramming so many things down the memory hole it would be the functional equivalent of shoving a whole Thanksgiving turkey, uncooked, into the garbage disposal. Everywhere one looks, there are divisive things. The gay pride rainbow flag? Shvvvuuumph! Down the memory hole! Nazi memorabilia (still widely available at Amazon and Ebay)? Thwwwwwwwwwooosshh! Down the memory hole! Communist flags? Muslim Crescents? Christian Crucifixes? Stars of David (never mind Israeli flags)? Get ready for a long, grinding, thwarararammmmmfitang as the disciples of blackwhite thinking — and those who fear them — squeeze the polarizing bric-a-brac into the wheezing pneumatic tubery.

"U.S. Can't Import the Scandinavian Model"

Megan McArdle discusses a paper by Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson, and Thierry Verdier.

I'd just add that at least up until recently we were also essentially paying for the defense of those happy, happy Scandanavians.

June 28, 2015

"The Seychelles – Gangsta’s Paradise"

Amazing. Or maybe not.

"Millionaires Who Are Frugal When They Don’t Have to Be"

Interesting. Especially this bit:

One of the big choices was what they spent money on. A common thread was frugality about cars. Not only did they buy modestly priced vehicles, they kept them for a long time.

June 27, 2015

"Alternate Ledes For This Story About Jessica Springsteen, Showjumper"

Ha ha.

"The 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century"

The Stratolaunch is . . . something.

Related: "Here's the most expensive weapons system ever and all of its ammunition in one photo".

June 26, 2015

"No other pop song has so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercial laws and artistic conventions of its time, for all time."

Last week was the 50th anniversary of the recording of "Like a Rolling Stone".

(And to think it ranks only second in number of times, of his songs, played by Dylan. Guess what's first.)

"Broadway Casts Stage Airport Sing-off"

People with delayed departures from LaGuardia get an unexpected performance.

Link courtesy of Michael Greenspan.

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