6.30.2010

Nose, Face, Meet Politeness

I generally support good manners. I try to be curteous in most situations (as with everyone, I certainly lapse now and again). Some times, however, that "polite gesture" is just a pain in the rear for everyone else around you.

Mornings lately I've been taking the complex shuttle (ei ride?), and have been fairly aggravated by this one fellow's consistent behavior. Typically a line forms up for entry. He is in line, and stops at the door and offers people to get on before him. His gallantry delays everyone just that little bit, for no discernable reason: DUDE, you are in a line, are you unaware of the function?

As ever, I think the best rule is to try and act to minimize the hassle (technically defined as the product of the time to accomplish the task with the sum of WTFs and "No you first"s [Interesting: hassle has units of time. That seems right, actually.]) for all parties. The result is that when everyone else is clearly operating by the "first come, first served" rule, your adoption of the polite persona imposes a cost on everyone else. Thanks!

6.29.2010

Enjoying Paul Krugman Lately?

He's quite a Debbie Downer, not that I can gainsay him. But he's also been hilarious of late:

On fears of inflation, Krugman introduces invisible bond vigilantes. Indeed: invisible bond vigilantes are invisible.

On freshwater economics, Krugman busts out the epicycles (more on epicycles)

A Reminder

The phrase "I don't understand why they don't just" is very rarely followed by anything insightful. In most cases, the low-hanging fruit has been picked. Not always.

6.28.2010

Coinage

John Maynard Keynes once wrote:
The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is past the ocean is flat again. (emphasis added)

Once, a few years several months ago, I was in some seminar and the Simon-Ehrlich wager came up. This was a bet about scarcity of commodity metals (really as a proxy for general resource scarcity due to greatly expanding population). Ehrlich (who believed the prices would go up) lost, and badly.(Edited for subtraction error)

My reply was, of course, that while the term of the wager specified a 10-year period, time might still tell, and Simon had already "entered the long run."

The economist who was presenting snort-laughed and said something like "you must be an economist".

"Goodness, no," I replied.

This would have been in May of 2009. Google says that would have been the first time for that metaphor to appear on the internet... had I actually blogged it. Oops!

6.26.2010

Crashing Out

USMNT: Glad you advanced, was hoping for more. Once again, you showed incredible heart, and fair craft at times, both of which things I love. Hold your heads up, have fantastic club seasons, and I will absolutely tune in whenever y'all are on.

ESPN/ABC/Other networks: all(Ed: some*) of your sponsors deserve and will get some business from me. Show more soccer; do it year-round (you can, since MLS runs a counter-schedule). You really did pretty good, and I enjoyed your broadcasts. Except those damn vuvuzelas.

MLS: we need a reserve division or league, and more academy signings. Only some of our talent can be developed in other countries!

USSF: more friendlies--do some in the PNW (the setting up of a nice triangle rivalry between Vancouver, Portland, and Seattle MLS franchises is very exciting!)

*some are just a bridge too far, though. I hate that damn Bing commercial. And the Adidas commercials aren't doing Adidas any favors. Just so stupid. Though I was amused briefly by the one where the narrator says "Late to a contest of speed. The irony."

Too Much Time with Toddlers

Last Thursday we had another indoor game. I'm still not ready to play (back spasm is much better but not fully relieved and I'm terrified that my quad will strain again--seriously, why, God?) but I'm the manager and so I go to keep track of substitutions, and coach the players a little bit (almost entirely regarding positioning, since we have NO natural defenders).

One of our players took a big shot and nailed one of the other team's players. Unthinking, I shouted out "Oh! Bonk!"

So embarrassing.

6.22.2010

Seriously, Can I Buy a Break?

Last Wednesday afternoon I tweaked my back again and was terribly uncomfortable (lower back-related-spasm activities). Thought it was going to be all better yesterday, felt pretty good all day. Sitting in my desk I twisted a bit and felt like I'd been hit by lightning, followed by a general re-clenching of the back muscles that'd just been insulted.

So, that was really painful. Bad enough that I begged off work the rest of the afternoon and set an appointment at the doctor's office for this morning.

The usual prodding plus a spinal x-ray later, they sent me off with a scrip for something to release the spasms. I am hoping that will set things right.

6.18.2010

Google Auto Suggest

When typing in "Looks like he" I get auto suggestions that say:
  • looks like herpes but is not
  • looks like helen hunt
  • looks like herpes but isn't
  • looks like he hit the tree jim
  • looks like herpes but not
  • looks like helvetica
  • looks like henbit
  • looks like heat rash
  • looks like herpes but it's not
  • looks like heaven
Googlers: be safe, please.

Something I Do Not Like

I'm not a big fan of the use of "How's it going?" or "How are you doing?" as a generic greeting. These are both questions, and demand something other than "hi," or worse, "How are you?" I know it is more difficult, but either ask/answer the question, or stop doing that!

6.14.2010

Albion's Seed: A Capsule Review

David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed:Four British Folkways in America is quite the tome. In it, Fischer uses historiographic techniques to (ultimately) reflect on the question: What are the determinants of a free society? Clocking in at 972 pages, it can take a while even for the dedicated reader. For the distracted reader, it takes on almost epic dimensions. I found that the best strategy for me (the distracted reader) was to treat the main sections as separate books.

In turn, Fischer considers four great migrations from Britain to the US: the Puritan migration from the East of England to New England (mainly 1630-1640), the migration of fancypants from the South of England to Virginia (~1640-1670), the Quakers coming from the North Midlands of England to the Deleware River Valley (~1680-1730), and the migration of the riff-raff to the Appalachian back country (~1720-1780). He examines a variety of aspects of life, including religion, magic, work, age, architecture, sport, conceptions of liberty, marriage and sex, language and literacy, and child rearing (among a few others). Each of the great migrations is examined at length, so as you read each section, you get quite a portrait of the people and times.

In the concluding materials of the book, Fischer synthesizes the whole into a view that is fairly commonplace (though I don't know how much it was so during the peak of his work and work-life): regionalism in the United States is extremely alive and well, and has been with the exception of very brief interludes in our history. Still, it was absolutely worth reading, if only for the diary excerpts and the interesting discussion of characteristic architecture of the migrants in their new homelands (turns out it was a lot like the architecture of wherever they came from). I'll recreate from memory one example of the great diary excerpts...

A certain Southern Gentleman and his wife had an extremely contentious marriage. They fought all the time, didn't seem to like each other very much at all. One day, some hours after a loud spat, the Colonel asked his wife along for a carriage ride. They went, and after some time, he turned off the road and drove straight into the Chesapeake. Asked by the wife where he was headed, he replied "to Hell, Madam." The horses began to swim, and she said "Carry on. Anyplace is better than Arlington."

Now, this is funny but sad, of course. They really didn't make each other happy--when he died, he had left direction that his unhappiness in marriage was to be commemorated on his grave-marker. This was to read something like "Colonel John Custis, died at 71 years, but alive only 7, when he kept a bachelor's apartment". Talk about acrimony!

Also amusing was the discussion of place names in Appalachia. I won't reproduce it, but they were... earthy.

6.10.2010

Awesome

Just caught an episode of Magnum PI while packing up before I check out tomorrow. It was a crossover ep. With Murder She Wrote. Thoroughly outstanding.

6.01.2010

Another Week Another Injury?

No, no. I'm just not done whining about my last one. I can still feel a little tenderness to the touch, but none from scuffing my feet (seriously that was an uncomfortable and weird symptom), and just a hint while walking quickly.

In order to not slob out with my period of injury I decided to try to swim. Ordinarily you might think, "Gee, Tom, people kick when they swim and kicking is what got you into this mess in the first place!" However, it turns out that my legs are pretty much just fleshly drogues when it comes to swimming. I don't know why this is, but I discovered it some while back when I was swimming for exercise--there's no difference in my speed between when I kick and when I don't (at least in the crawl). That shouldn't be, since the kick is supposed to stabilize you and result in a higher position in the water (both helpful, speedier, things). One time, back in school, one of the swim coaches gave me a pointer as I clung to the wall gasping after a set. I tried it and immediately went much faster. But it disappeared from my body's memory like a dream that also disappeared from my mind's memory... The upshot is that swimming kicks my butt, and I don't kick much at all when I swim, so Robert's my relation.

In additional swimming-related news, I found that when I breathe once every fifth arm recovery I go significantly faster, at the expense of only being able to go about 100 yds before I need to do some catch-up breathing. Weird. Or not. I really don't know. Also, doing laps in a 25' long pool sucks, because I really want to push off the wall all fast, since that feels cool, but it isn't as good at exercising you, so I have to be extra vigilant about lackadaisically turning in a lame fashion.