Monday, December 15, 2014

DC Celebrity Sighting

Saw Paul Begala in front of the Loews Madison Hotel.

Updating the list.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Celebrity Sighting

Saw Michele Bachmann at Pennsylvania Ave and 15th.

Updating the list.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Quote of the day


The division of labor is the essence of civilization, the underlying source of practically every good thing about the material conditions of the modern world. It is why civilized countries do not have famine any more, why we are surrounded by technological wonders, why things like air travel and mobile phones go from being restricted to millionaires to being ho-hum over a short course of years. Most of the technological ingredients for the Industrial Revolution had been in place not only in Britain but in Spain, France, Italy, etc., for years. But British subjects and American colonists had the opportunity and the inclination to begin a finer and more robust division of labor than did their European counterparts. They were just a little bit more free — and a little bit more determined to be free — and that little bit made an incalculable difference, not only to them, but to the world.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Don't Think That Word Means What You Think It Means


GQ's Douchiest College list.

Harvard at 4?  OK.
Princeton 3?  Gotcha.
Duke number 2?   Fine.
Brown topping the list?  Of course.  (Sorry, JTL)

But University of Colorado cracking the top 10?  Bob Jones?   University of Chicago?  University of Phoenix?!   Each have their issues, but douchy?  FLG doesn't think so.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Politics and the English Language

Peggy Noonan inspired FLG to read "Politics and the English Language" with this passage:
I mentioned last week that the president has taken to filibustering, to long, rambling answers in planned sit-down settings—no questions on the fly walking from here to there, as other presidents have always faced. The press generally allows him to ramble on, rarely fighting back as they did with Nixon. But I have noticed Mr. Obama uses a lot of words as padding. He always has, but now he does it more. There’s a sense of indirection and obfuscation. You can say, “I love you,” or you can say, “You know, feelings will develop, that happens among humans and it’s good it happens, and I have always said, and I said it again just last week, that you are a good friend, I care about you, and it’s fair to say in terms of emotional responses that mine has escalated or increased somewhat, and ‘love’ would not be a wholly inappropriate word to use to describe where I’m coming from.”
When politicians do this they’re trying to mush words up so nothing breaks through. They’re leaving you dazed and trying to make it harder for you to understand what’s truly being said.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Foreign Service Officer Test

FLG just learned that the State Department offers an online practice version of the Foreign Service Officer Test.   Apparently, the Georgetown School of Foreign Service really does prepare its graduates well (at least for the test):


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

FLG Hadn't Seen This

FLG was reading this piece by George Will about Hillary in 2016 when he came across this:

In October, Clinton was campaigning, with characteristic futility, for Martha Coakley, the losing candidate for Massachusetts governor, when she said:
"Don't let anybody tell you that it's corporations and businesses that create jobs."
Watch her on YouTube. When saying this, she glances down, not at a text but at notes, and proceeds with the hesitancy of someone gathering her thoughts. She is not reading a speechwriter's blunder. When she said those 13 words she actually was thinking.


FLG found the clip.  She clearly read the line and then started second guessing it in real-time.   It reinforces FLG's opinion that Hillary will basically say anything to get elected (although he's not sure this statement is particularly helpful), but also smart and resilient enough to carry on.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Robot Sex

What robot sex enthusiasts forget is that there's far more to sex than the mechanical act

Regular readers will remember that he welcomes the development of sex robots, as he thinks it will dramatically reduce sex slavery and other horrible sex-related crimes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Conversation

FLG:  Hey FLG, isn't that David Boies over there in front of the U. S. Court of Federal Claims?

FLG:  Why, yes, FLG, I do believe it is.  You should add him to the celebrity sightings list.

FLG:  Is he widely known enough to be called a celebrity?

FLG:  Have you looked at the list lately?  He is more famous than a lot of other people who made your list?

FLG:  Okay, I'll do it.

FLG:  Can I ask why are you talking to yourself?

FLG:  I was about to ask you the same question.

Could've Been Appeared in a London Paper in the 1770s

FLG read this David Ignatius column and thought to himself, if you change a few names around, this could've appeared in a London paper in the 1770s.   To be clear, FLG is NOT drawing a moral equivalency between ISIS and American Revolutionaries.  Far from it.  But from a military perspective, sentences like this:

When the jihadists stand and fight, as they have done in the northern Syrian town of Kobane, they get pounded. U.S. officials estimate the jihadists have lost 400 fighters in that battle.

Could just as easily have been:
 When the American rebels stand and fight, as they have done in the Battle of Long Island, they get pounded. Crown officials estimate the rebels have lost 3,000 fighters in that battle.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

DAGOR

FLG wants one.   But he'll probably just end up buying a Jeep Wrangler, which he knows from previous ownership, is as good an off-road vehicle as he'll ever need because, well, he doesn't go off-roading all that much and Wranglers can go pretty much anywhere anyway.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ya Don't Say?

FLG watched this video, which reveals the closely held secret that when you deposit money in the bank it isn't placed in some super-secure vault and left there.  No, the bank...wait for it...lends the money out.   At, you'll never believe this, a higher rate of interest than they are paying you on your deposit.  This all leads to some sort of financial voodoo by way of fractional reserve banking and the money multiplier.

Thanks.  FLG had no idea.  Oh, neither did fucking Aristotle back in 300 something BC.

Also, while in theory this is maybe slightly interesting, there's this thing called the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that backstops all this.  So, for retail investors, you know, depositing bank notes as described in the video, this is all more or less irrelevant.

If, however, he wanted to do an educational video on the repurchase agreement or Eurodollar markets and how these both affected and were affected by the financial crisis in 2008, well, that might actually be relevant.

FLG Is Intrigued

Thursday, October 23, 2014

FLG's Prediction

Jeff Bezos will be recognized as one of the most influential business people of all time.  Up in the pantheon with the likes of John Pierpont Morgan, Henry Ford, and Sam Walton.  Steve Jobs will probably end up close behind, but despite what most people currently think, FLG is convinced Bill Gates will be light-years down the list.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Quote of the day II

Peter Weinberg:
Haters insist that Humanities majors graduate with no marketable skills. But what about the ability to bullshit? 

Funny article, but gets at the point FLG has been trying to make for years.   Technical skills are valuable, but soft, people skills are far, far more valuable.  And if you can understand what people want and need, even if they don't fully understand it themselves, and then turn that into a product that engineers can make, well,  the world will beat a path to your door.

Quote of the day

C.S. Perry:
I just need to meet a girl who smells of campfires and whiskey.

Object Sex Inspiring Art

Un "plug anal" géant installé place Vendôme

Video is in English with French subtitles.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Quote of the day

David Brooks:
Politics is slow drilling through hard boards. It is a series of messy compromises. The core functions of government are negative — putting out fires, arresting criminals, settling disputes — and much of what government does is the unromantic work of preventing bad situations from getting worse.

Amen. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

WTF!

FLG minor was watching a cartoon where the characters were making a time capsule.   This reminded FLG that when he was in elementary school it was the 25th anniversary of the school's founding and they had us put together a time capsule to be opened on the 50th anniversary.   After doing a bit of math in his head, FLG realized that would have been 2010.   So...FLG started googling for local news articles.  He found one.

It has been 25 years since teachers and students at Cranbury Elementary School buried a metal time capsule behind the school's main building, in ground now overrun by the root network of a tree that is flush with late spring greenery. [...]
Though they couldn't retrieve the original time capsule because of the position of the tree, parents, teachers, students and administrators last Friday afternoon celebrated the school's 50th Anniversary by burying a second time capsule -- this one made of plastic -- on the Cranbury grounds.

Couldn't retrieve the time capsule?   WTF?!  We worked hard on that thing.  Get a freaking backhoe or something.

Friday, October 3, 2014

FLG Still Thinks It's Time Horizons

David Brooks highlights the problems with pragmatism:

“This pragmatic liberalism,” Mumford writes, “was vastly preoccupied with the machinery of life. It was characteristic of this creed to overemphasize the part played by political and mechanical invention, by abstract thought and practical contrivance. And, accordingly, it minimized the role of instinct, tradition, history; it was unaware of the dark forces of the unconscious; it was suspicious of either the capricious or the incalculable, for the only universe it could rule was a measured one, and the only type of human character it could understand was the utilitarian one."

FLG concurs.  Although, his take goes back to the time horizons thing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

FLG's Stream of Consciousness Brain Dump

FLG has been having some conflicts at work.  He has only had conflicts at work very rarely, so this threw him for a bit of a loop.  It's a fundamental personality difference, but he had trouble explaining to the other party because they couldn't get beyond the minutiae of the proximate issue of conflict.   Straight-up could not understand what FLG was saying.  This led FLG to try and find some sort of framework to analyze and hopefully explain the situation, which in turn led him to the DISC model.

The DISC model is a bit like Myers-Briggs, but less complicated.  There are two axes  -- task-focused versus people-focused and then active versus thoughtful.  In case you are wondering, FLG squarely in the people-focused and active camp.   The person he is having conflict with is task-focused and thoughtful or Type C in the lingo.

"The C DISC Styles are accurate, precise, detail-oriented, and conscientious."  Also,  "The C may need to focus more on people in order to build strong relationships, as they may have a tendency to focus on tasks more than people and to want to work alone. At times, the C will need to push themselves to be decisive and take risks, even if all the research isn't there to support it."

Since FLG is so action and people-focused, analysis paralysis as well as seeing people pretty much solely as means and not ends, drives him fucking batshit.  As he tried to explain any of this, it was like trying to explain a desert to a polar bear.  There was just no frame of reference to even build upon.   People are important to get tasks done, so clearly they care about people.  All very weird for FLG.

Anyway, as FLG was pondering this further, he began to think of the Type C's he has encountered before and it occurred to him that they are all hostages to their insecurities.    Now, we all have insecurities.  Even action-oriented, people-focused FLG has insecurities, but he thinks the most insecure people are Type C's.

And then he began to think of the careers that appeal to Type C's -- technology, bureaucracy, and academia.  Anybody who has been around college professors can tell you that accurate, precise, detail-oriented people who try to "right" and "accurate" and worry about credentials.  Bureaucracy has plenty of risk-averse, overanalyzers, who are sticklers for rules, order, and hierarchy.   Technology, particularly programmers, same deal.  It's more or less why FLG left engineering school.

But then FLG went back to the model and the three types break up along these key lines:

Dominance
Perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as unfavorable.
Inducement
Perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as favorable.
Submission
Perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as favorable.
Compliance
Perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as unfavorable.

Therefore, the Type C's think of themselves as less powerful and the environment is unfavorable.   This, oddly, came back to FLG as he was watching Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  He realized that the absurdity of everything was trying to imply that deeper meaning was non-existent.  Or to state the opposite, the present and objective reality is the most real.  So, then the question is whether Type C's believe that.  And if we assume that they are focused on objective fact and afraid to take risks because of potential future adverse consequences, then that may very well be true.

FLG started thinking about this and realized that his time horizons theory would predict, through his corollary about empirical fact, that Type C's, if they are focused on empirical fact, have to be focused on short time horizons, then this means that Type C's would most often be liberal in their orientation.  And this holds for academics and bureaucrats, although probably for a lot of self-interested reasons in addition to the short time horizons.  Technology folks are probably a little different.

But then he went back to the model again.  It makes sense that somebody who perceives their environment as unfavorable and they lack the power to change would be political liberal, right?

See, but then FLG remembered Jacob T Levy's talk about taking politics less seriously in which he uses Augustine (and by extension FLG's homeboy Plato) to call for acceptance of the political environment and order, even if it is unfavorable.  FLG was confused.  But then he said, Ah!   That's Submission -- less powerful than environment, but environment is favorable.   What's interesting about Augustine in that argument is how he frames the environment.  It's not that Hippo was less powerful than the Vandals, for example,  and that environment is unfavorable.  No, no, no.  It is that we are less powerful than God and since we exist in his love the environment is favorable.

So then FLG started asking himself, if he is conservative and Type I and the argument about Submission is really a conservative argument, then does perceiving the environment as favorable make you a conservative?  On the face, it would seem yes.  If one likes the existing order and presumably one wants to conserve it.

Here's the thing though.   The Type I and Type S have people and relationship orientation in common.  That's where FLG started thinking some more.   He always asks the following question to try to downplay the importance of objective fact -- In what way would my life be negatively impacted if I believed the Sun revolves around the Earth?   Liberals have the most trouble with that question.  They know there's no negative impact, but they reject the falsehood purely for non-consequential reasons.  So, are people who are focused on objective fact, entirely separate from a facts meaning, more liberal?   FLG would argue yes from the individuals he knows personally and his time horizons theory, but that's just a collection of anecdotes and his crazy theory.   But let's say it's true.

If that is true and relationship-oriented people are conservative and task-oriented people are liberal, then conservatives would fall into Type I and Type S and liberals into Type D and Type C.  FLG no no way thinks that's 100% the case, but he's going to keep an eye out while trying to keep himself from confirmation biasing the whole damn experiment.

Just so you know, FLG feels like he just walked around in a mental circle.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Objective Journalism

As regular readers will remember, FLG is deeply skeptical of the idea of objective journalism.  Nobody is objective and trying to create the illusion of it is, at least in FLG's opinion, more insidious than being upfront about the point of view.   This story about a real estate developer who wants to buy a bankrupt Atlantic City casino and turn it into a university for "white" geniuses provides an example.

Here's the gist:
A Florida developer interested in remaking the shuttered Revel Casino Hotel told Reuters his vision for the empty Atlantic City property includes a university that would ideally be attended by students who are "white and over 21."
Next sentence:
Glenn Straub made the incendiary remark, which was his way of describing someone with no financial obligations, during a larger interview about his ambitious plan for the vacant property, Reuters reported.

FLG is okay there.  Incendiary, while getting closer to subjective thoughts by the reporter about the statements, can factually describe that some people are upset, not necessarily the reporter.

Ah, but then we get to the last sentence:
Despite his unsavory comment, his $90 million bid remains on the table.
Now, it is unambiguously clear where the reporter stands.  FLG is fine with that, but the language at the beginning is trying to keep it objective, only at the end does the reporters personal feelings get outed.

FLG would be more comfortable if the reporter had just started the story off with : Racist asshole wants to buy casino.   Regardless of where FLG or anybody stands, best to know where the reporter stands so you can take that into consideration. 

BTW, this is completely separate from the questionable choice to write a story solely using information from another news story, but that's neither here nor there in this case.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Quote of the day

Anthony Bourdain:

There’s a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed and smoke weed all day and watch cartoons and old movies. I could easily do that. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid and outwit that guy.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

MBA, Innovation, & Selection Bias

Nathan Furr makes the case over at Slate that many notable innovators have qualms about hiring MBAs because, he thinks, the MBA curriculum teaches skills used in large, industrial corporations where there is more certainty, at least in comparison to innovative, start-up-ish companies.

FLG, who has an MBA, largely agrees, but thinks Furr misses something more fundamental -- selection bias.  People who chose to get MBAs, particularly name brand MBAs, are those who, pretty much by definition, are choosing the safe, well-worn path.  The stereotypical Harvard and Stanford MBA is somebody who did an Ivy League undergrad, then worked for McKinsey or Goldman for a couple of years, before heading to Palo Alto or Boston to punch their ticket one more time.   Basically, somebody who is extremely good at working within the established system, not the against the grain type that is needed to innovate.   The content of the coursework only further intensifies this, but the root is there at the selection bias.

Also, FLG realizes this reality flies in the face of the elite B-School marketing that emphasizes the social anthropology grad who did a tour in the peace corps and then successfully launches a company that produces cheap, solar powered toilets that produce potable water for the developing world, but that is just too bad. 

BookBook

This is fantastic:

Quick Round-Up

As The Ancient hinted in the comments, September 19th was International Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day.   FLG knew, but didn't get around to posting.  He thinks this might be the second year in a row, which is makes FLG sad.

On an completely unrelated note, apparently, the gray matter volume of a region in the right posterior parietal cortex is positively correlated with risk seeking.  FLG was then curious whether males this varies by sex, as this could explain why women are more risk averse than men.  Upon googling sex variations in the right posterior parietal cortex, he found this article, which reads like a bunch of gobbledygook and FLG isn't even sure he understands because he lacks sufficient knowledge of brain biology and isn't interested enough to learn it, but the last paragraph says:
in an MRI study of cortical volumes Kennedy et al. found normal sex differences in the parietal lobe, but although left and right hemispheric measurements were obtained, the authors did not specifically examine sex-by-hemisphere interactions (Kennedy et al., 1998). As sex-based asymmetries in the IPL have not previously been examined, we thus made the following hypotheses: (i) males have greater total IPL volumes compared to women, (ii) males have larger left versus right IPL volumes and (iii) males have larger left IPL volumes compared to women.

This is contrary to what FLG would have assumed.  If more gray matter in the right posterior parietal cortex is correlated with risk seeking, then presumably smaller volumes would be associated with risk aversion.  Yet, males, who are more risk seeking, have larger left relatively to right hemispheres.   Then again, the other article was just comparing gray matter volume of a particular region in the right posterior parietal cortex with the volumes across subjects in some absolute sense, not relative to the right.  So, the risk seeking behavior could be explained by the greater total volumes men have compared to women.   OR these studies could be talking about completely different parts of the brain entirely.  FLG, quite frankly, isn't very clear.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Quote of the day

Matt Levine:
If you can find the people who generate alpha, and convince them to give you some of it, then that's great. If not, probably stick to indexing.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

FLG is currently listening to

Quote of the Day

WonkBlog:
it appears that technical abilities are highly valued among recent graduates, which explains why a student who graduates from an engineering program at California Institute of Technology will likely be better compensated, at least up front, than a Harvard graduate with an English degree. It also seems that those specialized skills offer a comparative salary edge for only a handful of years before that advantage begins to dissipate--and the salary benefits of a holistic, liberal arts education begin to catch up.

Ties in well with what FLG has been writing about STEM education for years.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Is That Really Your Job Title?

FLG noticed that somebody had their job title listed as Principle on LinkedIn.   FLG made note to never do business with a company whose Principal  doesn't know the difference between Principal and Principle.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

FLG Goes Back To Tocqueville

There are a few passages from Tocqueville of which FLG is particularly fond of posting and reposting.   This article about how a hodgepodge of online courses will never replace a proper degree makes FLG want to post one of them again.

Enter the “nano-degree.” If you can’t “disrupt” education through innovation, the thinking goes, just downsize it so much that it becomes training for just one task that a particular company wants at one particular moment.
[...]
We’ve seen this many times before in American history. As I recently pointed out in Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, Booker T. Washington wanted to help ex-slaves acquire practical skills so they could become self-sufficient after the Civil War. And around the time of World War I, chambers of commerce and labor federations united to back legislation for a dual secondary educational system. According to that plan, some young people would be trained for specific jobs, while others would get a broad education allowing them to continue their studies in college. The movement led to the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 to finance vocational instruction.
Those who opposed this vocational turn certainly realized that people needed skills to get jobs. But they also realized that this kind of tracking would only exacerbate social and economic inequality. As John Dewey wrote, some of us “are managers and others are subordinates. But the great thing for one as for the other is that each shall have had the education which enables him to see within his daily work all there is in it of large and human significance.”
Education should aim to enhance our capacities, Dewey argued, so that we are not reduced to being somebody else’s tool. “The kind of vocational education in which I am interested is not one which will ‘adapt’ workers to the existing industrial regime; I am not sufficiently in love with the regime for that.”
This is what Udacity is missing in its willingness to tailor its program to the existing industrial regime’s immediate needs. “You'll learn skills that match industry demands,” the company promises on its website. “With the credentials to prove it.” Fiona M. Hollands of Teachers College Columbia University voiced cautious approval, telling the Times: “We still need rounded people, which you can’t get through mini-certificate courses. But we also have an economy to run here.” Those who make the most lasting contribution to the economy, however, will be the “rounded people.”

FLG, who is deeply skeptical of all things John Dewey, thinks we ought to heed this passage from Alexis de Tocqueville:

It is important that this point should be clearly understood. A particular study may be useful to the literature of a people without being appropriate to its social and political wants. If men were to persist in teaching nothing but the literature of the dead languages in a community where everyone is habitually led to make vehement exertions to augment or to maintain his fortune, the result would be a very polished, but a very dangerous set of citizens. For as their social and political condition would give them every day a sense of wants, which their education would never teach them to supply, they would perturb the state, in the name of the Greeks and Romans, instead of enriching it by their productive industry. It is evident that in democratic communities the interest of individuals as well as the security of the commonwealth demands that the education of the greater number should be scientific, commercial, and industrial rather than literary. Greek and Latin should not be taught in all the schools; but it is important that those who, by their natural disposition or their fortune, are destined to cultivate letters or prepared to relish them should find schools where a complete knowledge of ancient literature may be acquired and where the true scholar may be formed. A few excellent universities would do more towards the attainment of this object than a multitude of bad grammar-schools, where superfluous matters, badly learned, stand in the way of sound instruction in necessary studies.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dodgeball

Did anybody else know that schools are banning dodgeball?   FLG was just informed when asking what Miss FLG Maior was doing in gym class.   What the fuck is wrong with the world?   FLG will tell you what, a bunch of yellow-bellied sissies mollycoddling the fucking kids.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Social Interaction

FLG found this article about politeness interesting.  It's different than the article about male charm FLG was so found of.  Politeness and charm are somewhat overlapping, but ultimately different things.  In fact, some of the most charming people occasionally breach certain norms of politeness.  Or perhaps in a Picasso-esque way, the charming know the rules, so they can break them.   In any case, a few things stuck out.

This passage, considering FLG's focus on time horizons:
She was surprised to see the stubborn power of politeness over time. Over time. That’s the thing. Mostly we talk about politeness in the moment. Please, thank you, no go ahead, I like your hat, cool shoes, you look nice today, please take my seat, sir, ma’am, etc. All good, but fleeting.

But then there's this statement:
One way to be polite is by not touching people unless they specifically invite it. 
And perhaps this is where the politeness versus charm divide is so striking.  FLG thought of the passage from Primary Colors about the handshake:
The handshake is the threshold act, the beginning of politics. I’ve seen him do it two million times now, but I couldn’t tell you how he does it, the right-handed part of it—the strength, quality, duration of it, the rudiments of pressing the flesh. I can, however, tell you a whole lot about what he does with his other hand. He is a genius with it. He might put it on your elbow, or up by your biceps: these are basic, reflexive moves. He is interested in you. He is honored to meet you. If he gets any higher up your shoulder— if he, say, drapes his left arm over your back, it is somehow less intimate, more casual. He’ll share a laugh or a secret then—a light secret, not a real one—flattering you with the illusion of conspiracy.
If politicians are anything, they're charming.  And then there's the Pick-up Artist community, which while not concerned with charm in the traditional sense or for its own sake, is on the other side of the not touching people divide:
Short for kinesthetics, "kino" is PUA language for light touching in order to get a lady in the mood.  

Even after all that, FLG isn't exactly sure of the relationship between politeness and charm, but if he had to be called one, then he'd prefer charming.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Grammar & Status

The person with the higher status uses the word "I" less.


We use "I" more when we talk to someone with power because we're more self-conscious. We are focused on ourselves — how we're coming across — and our language reflects that.
FLG found this fascinating because, just the other day, one of his newer coworkers was drafting an email to a very senior financial executive and asked FLG to review before sending.  FLG's comment was to drop as many "I"s as possible.  Sounded too submissive.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Quote of the day

Matt Levine:
Here is some market intelligence for you: Don't insider trade in short-dated out-of-the-money call options! Come on. 

The Euro

FLG has long said that the euro is fundamentally a political, not an economic or financial issue. Megan McArdle:

It’s hard to see how anyone gets out of the euro without at least a deep local crisis, and quite possibly another round of global crises, as the chain reaction melts down markets around the world.

[...]

That doesn’t mean that it won’t eventually happen; I still think this remains a real risk. But if it does, public officials will probably be denying the possibility right up to the bitter, unpleasant end.
What makes McArdle's post interesting is that even though the creation, continuation, and dissolution of the euro is fundamentally political issue, it doesn't mean there won't be economic and financial pressures on and consequences of those political decisions.  FLG brings this up because it's easy to be confused, and many people are, that the euro is an economic issue because of this interaction.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Getting Older

FLG saw a picture of one of his high school classmates who is now a dead ringer for Truman Capote.  It freaked FLG out.

Melissophobia

A couple of weeks ago, FLG was sitting in his backyard, smoking a cigar, watching a swarm of bees around a tree.   It reminded him that when he was elementary school he was deathly afraid of killer bees.  FLG's memory is verbatim this explanation -- a dystopian killer bee future where everybody would be afraid to go outside.

That never came to pass, but then FLG was on the shuttle flight up to New York last week, reading the Wall Street Journal, when he saw this article.  So, there was something to the fears.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

FLG's Dream Pocket Square

FLG has a few of the very cool pocket squares from Kent Wang.  This is his personal favorite.  Some others are inspired by tapestries.  If Kent Wang ever offered a pocket square of this tapestry depicting the Battle of Gaugamela, it would be awesome and FLG would be the first to buy the damn thing.  

Time Horizons: Annie Edition

FLG hasn't seen Annie in decades, but it was on TV yesterday.

Assistant:  President Roosevelt called three times. He said it was urgent.

Daddy Warbucks: Everything's urgent to a Democrat.

Monday, August 11, 2014

FLG Didn't Know

Strategy Page:
Like Israel, Singapore can mobilize a force that can defeat any of its neighbors.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Time Horizons: Immigration

Krauthammer:
President Obama is impatient. Congress won’t act on immigration, he says, and therefore he will. 

Prime example of differing time horizons at work.  

Obama:  There is injustice happening now.  Something must be done about it now.  Potential future and second order consequences are not as important as the current and tangible problem.

The Right (and in this case the Right stretches, as Krauthammer points out, pretty far into moderately left leaning folks):  Potential future and second order effects of this type of action are far more important than the current and tangible problem.

This also highlights one of the aspects of the time horizons theory that FLG took a while to understand -- policymakers of both parties in a democracy are inherently more short time horizon oriented. 

FLG Objects

...on general principle to any list of best college campuses that doesn't include the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Quote of the day

McArdle:
We’re at the crest of a swelling wave of nostalgia for vast corporate bureaucracies, which are easier for vast government bureaucracies to heavily regulate without driving them out of business entirely.

God help us. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nest Egg Choices

Until recently, retirees with defined contribution plans (401ks for those here in the States) had to buy an annuity, which provided a guaranteed stream of payments for life, when entering retirement.   Given the low interest rates over the last few years, it doesn't surprise FLG that this has come into question.   If you happen to retire when rates are low, then you are pretty much screwed with low payments for life. 

Buttonwood mentions that independent advisers are now going to be helping retirees.  He's skeptical of all the conflicts of interest, but this really struck a cord with FLG:
When the government abolished the need to annuitise, it was hailed as a great populist move. I worried at the time that this was a mistake; annuity rates are low because bond yields are low and people live longer. If people think that they can beat what is, in essence, the risk-free rate, they will have to take risk. And who will they blame when the risk goes wrong and they run out of money in their late 70s, as will inevitably be the case for some people? Not the independent advice centre, one suspects
Assuming a retiree does some comparison, then the annuity rate should be the risk free rate.   Therefore, anything above that is by definition risky.

FLG's Personal Wealth Management professor suggested pouring enough money into TIPS so as to guarantee bare minimum nest egg at retirement and subsequent lifetime stream of payments.  Anything above that, which necessarily entails risk, would be gravy.   When you run the numbers in a extremely low interest rate environment like today with the a multi-decade retirement, the prospect of saving even a subsistence level nest egg is downright daunting.  But that doesn't change that doing anything else pretty much necessitates taking on risk.  And with risk, somebody is going to lose out.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

FLG's Currently Listening To

Celebrity Sighting

FLG saw Ezra Klein at Pop's Old Fashioned Ice Cream in Old Town Alexandria.

Now, some of you may be saying, Ezra Klein isn't a celebrity.  Okay, but FLG perused his list and Ezra's probably more famous than some of the others on it.  So, updating the list.

Patton's Speech to the Third Army

Patton was on the other day and FLG simply cannot resist watching the first five minutes.  

What struck FLG, however, is that most people probably think that is the actual speech verbatim.  It's not.  Or at least it's not the exact speech of that attendees recall.  Wikipedia has that version.  It's a much better speech.  The movie version would have been dramatically improved with these included:

All through your army career you men have bitched about what you call 'this chicken-shit drilling.' That is all for a purpose—to ensure instant obedience to orders and to create constant alertness. This must be bred into every soldier. I don't give a fuck for a man who is not always on his toes.
I don't want any messages saying 'I'm holding my position.' We're not holding a goddamned thing. We're advancing constantly and we're not interested in holding anything except the enemy's balls. We're going to hold him by his balls and we're going to kick him in the ass; twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all the time. Our plan of operation is to advance and keep on advancing. We're going to go through the enemy like shit through a tinhorn.

Yes, yes.  I know that second part is in there without the foul language.  But if foul language isn't appropriate when you are about to invade Normandy to fight the Nazis and fight for fucking freedom, then I don't know when it is.

Really?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Birth Control Fervor

FLG is completely astonished by these types of statements:
“The women of America . . . are saying it: It is not our boss’s business, it is our business what kind of health care we need"

FLG always tries to see the logic on the other side of any argument, but this strikes FLG as almost self-evidently ridiculous.  It's not that anybody's boss is saying their employees can't go buy birth control.   The actual fact is that there are a few very religious bosses who are saying they don't want to buy certain types birth control for their employees.  That seems like a perfectly reasonable stance.  Employer doesn't buy it.  Employee can.  Problem solved.

The other side, which seems to be, I have a right to health care...The health care choices I make are between my doctor and me...That anybody would interfere in any way is a violation of my rights...misses that having a right to health care necessitates that somebody else pay for that health care.  Once that happens, isn't it just common sense that the somebody else doing the paying (your uncle, your employer, the government) then does have an interest in the health care choices you make?

Heck, let's set aside employers and instead go to the government paying for the service.  Remember when conservatives were concerned about death panels coming out of Obamacare?   There the interest is cost, not religious objection, but the point still stands.   Once somebody else starts paying for your health care, they have an interest in what they are paying for.   For the government, the controversial bits will be related to expensive end-of-life care. (In fact, at that time, FLG remembers liberal commentators saying that if individuals were unhappy with the amount of care provided by the government, then nothing would prevent individuals from buying additional care on their own.  He'll have to find the old posts.) For closely-held, religious companies, it's certain types of birth control.  FLG has a hard time seeing how this is some gross violation of individual rights.

Although, to be completely clear, FLG would be more sympathetic if this were about extremely costly procedures or medicines, but it's not.   He has a hard time believing that the aggrieved, who are in jobs with pretty good health care coverage to even worry about this issue in the first place, would be bankrupted by paying for this out of pocket.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Quote of the Day


12) What if my employer says it has a sincere religious belief in human sacrifice -- can he kill me?
Yes. If your employer has a deeply held religious belief in human sacrifice, they can strap you in a cage, reach into your chest with their bare hands to pull out your still-beating heart, then drop the cage into a fiery pit. It’s a tough break, but from time to time, the Tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots. Sorry about that.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dark Pools & Charts


Matt Levine:
The naive reading of that chart is: "We have a lot of institutional investors and very limited predatory trading in our dark pool." But the correct reading of the chart is: "We have software that allows us to produce this chart." The chart is a perfectly self-referential object, demonstrating only that the chart exists. The chart is a chart of how much chart there is.

Monday, June 30, 2014

FLG is currently listening to



FLG has never really paid attention to the video before, but he noticed just now that the bar patio they are sitting on is the Wynkoop Brewery in Denver, which brews his favorite beer -- Rail Yard Ale.

Given this low rating, FLG must assume it doesn't taste as good out of the can as it does out of a tap.  Sawtooth from the Lefthand Brewery does pretty damn well though and FLG's favorite beer he can actually buy in the DC area.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Texting and Grammar

WaPo:
Overall, we found no evidence that the use of grammatical violations in text messages is consistently related to poorer grammatical or spelling skills in school students.

FLG is skeptical. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Too Much Emphasis On The Little Guy

FLG agrees wholeheartedly with this:
This is the sort of thing that drives me nuts. Of course "smaller investors are being penalized." They're being penalized all the time, in everything that they do. They get worse research, worse service, worse allocations, worse customer perks, worse everything. There are volume discounts on bonds, as there are on most things in life. Is this unfair? I really don't care.

Later on...
 The SEC's job is to regulate the financial markets. One way to approach that job would be to put a priority on optimizing market efficiency and stability. Another way to approach it would be to put a priority on protecting retail investors and preventing two-bit frauds. Obviously both are good but one is more important. If you think about bond market structure in terms of protecting the little guy, you will make one set of choices; if you think about it in terms of providing a stable liquid platform for massive flows of capital, you will make a second, probably somewhat different, set of choices. The second set of choices is probably right.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Time Horizons -- Development Edition

For those of you wondering, FLG still holds fast to his time horizons theory*, which was applicable again in this EconTalk interview with William Easterly.

Russ: Well, when you are steering the car, you dowant to know the GPS (Global Positioning System) to be very accurate. You want to get a measurement every second. So, the more often, the better. Guest: Well, the more often, the more often you are going to be very badly wrong. Because the short run data are just too unreliable. What those data are useful for are really to give you much more of a long run verdict. Which system is better: a system based on individual rights or a system based on technocrats and dictators? And there I think the long run evidence is very conclusive. The gigantic reductions in child mortality have come mainly in free societies, and not in autocratic societies. It came much earlier and much bigger in free societies than they came in autocratic societies. That's what I think the data is telling you. And so the data is really weighing in on this big debate that Bill Gates is completely ignoring and avoiding, about: Is the autocrat of Ethiopia actually a big part of the solution to development in Ethiopia? Or is he actually a part of the problem? I think the big long-run picture says he's actually part of the problem, not the solution. Russ: Well, we had an episode with Morten Jerven on the unreliability of data, often--in the long run and in the short run. So, one of my concerns is that in many of these poor countries, data collection--it's not so great in the United States sometimes. So in a wealthy country that has lots of resources-- Guest:Yeah. But it's not just the long run and the short run. You can't equate the two. The great saving value of the long run is that no matter how big the measurement error is--and it is very big--but if it's just unbiased and just sort of fluctuating up and down even by a large amount, over the long run that tends to average out. And so you do tend to get a more accurate measure even with measurement error when you go to longer run data. That's one thing this book really insists on repeatedly, is that to really get the right evidence for what's working in development and what's not. You really need to go very long run and not over-react to kind of short run episodes of improvements in either development or child mortality or whatever. Those are just really not reliable. But the long runis reliable.
----------------------------

* For those of you who are new around these parts, FLG's time horizons theory is an evergreen theme here and the short version is that conservatives place more emphasis on the long run and search for root causes while liberals place more emphasis on the short run and proximate causes.  This then leads to a few corollaries, but FLG is too lazy to list them all right now.

Fashion Circle

Most people think of menswear, if they think of it at all, as a spectrum.  Crappy, cheap stuff on one end and designer, expensive stuff on the other.  FLG, on the other hand, thinks of it more as a circle where the super-high end stuff ends up wrapping around to be more expensive, but worse than the cheap stuff, if only because it costs 100x more than it should.   For example, pretty much everything Givenchy on Mr. Porter looks like it should be in the discount bin for five bucks at Target.

FLG first became aware of this when he saw an interview with Val Kilmer about The Saint.  He was very particular about this sweater, which he wanted to be one where you couldn't tell if the person wearing it was a bum or about to board his private jet.

FLG was reminded of this today when he saw this picture of Lapo Elkann on the Sartorialist.  Now, FLG thinks Elkann's suit is awesome in this case, but if you do a search for Lapo Elkann on Google Images, you can see that he perfectly embodies the circular nature between extraordinarily expensively elegant and wearing an outfit that costs thousands of dollars, but looks like you just fished it out of a dumpster only moments before.  

Then again, Tom Ford says he considers Elkann to be the best dressed man on the planet, so what the fuck does FLG know?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Central Banks

Buttonwood:
In the old days, we did not know what the central bank was up to, and it was easy to believe that it had access to information of which we are not aware. Now it publishes all the numbers and we can see it's often wrong. Dorothy has found out that the Wizard of Oz is an old man behind the curtain.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Somm

The FLGs watched part of this last night.  Had some issues with Netflix streaming and decided to finish it up later, but it's pretty damn good so far:

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Not So Quick Round Up

A Conversation

FLG was on the metro.  Two women in their early-to-mid 20s were having a conversation.

Woman #1:  I was going to get him a flask with his birthday engraved in it.  But then I thought his initials.

Woman #2:  Didn't you say were going to get him something else?  I forget what, but not that.

Woman #1:  Yeah, I saw a great leather jacket, but it was too expensive.

Woman #3, a lady in her 70s or 80s leans over.

Woman #3:  Let me give you a piece of advice an old lady, probably younger than I am now, gave me back in nineteen-fifty-five.  If you want to give him a personal and thoughtful gift...

Woman #1 interrupts:  Exactly.

Woman #3 smirks:  I thought so, then give him a blowjob.

Every guy in earshot's head turned.  

Woman #3 continued:  I don't care if you give him one everyday.  You tell him his birthday gift is a blowjob, then he'll be happy.  If he wants a jacket or a flask, he can buy it his damn self, but I haven't met a fella yet who can give himself a blowjob.

Every guy in earshot's head nodded.

----------------

Questions from your Maximum Leader:

1) What food do you most resemble - physically?

Dunno.  A slice of pizza?

2) Assume that everyone has an ability that they could call their “superpower” what would yours be?

Does having the Force count?  If not, then telekinesis.

3) What is the earliest memory you have?

Wrote about that already.

4) A good day would be…

Any day FLG spends with his wife, girls, a Tiki drink, and a Cohiba Robusto.

5) A bad day would be…

When a full train breaks down on the Metro during rush hour.

6) Cameras on every single portable electronic device. Blessing or bane?

Bane.

7) Favorite Pixar character? Why?

Definitely Crush the turtle.  Dude is chill and old.

8 ) Tell me about one deeply held belief of yours that has evolved or changed over time.

That religion is bullshit opium for the masses.  Definitely changed on that.

9) Your favorite word?

Tie between defenestrate and hagiography

10) If I met you at a dinner party, what would you NOT like me to ask you?

To touch your junk.

11) Tell me something I don’t know

FLG has never gotten busy in a Burger King bathroom.

--------------------------------------------------
 FLG's intense dislike of fairness makes him want to buy this book:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Quick Round-Up

Unfortunately, FLG has been unable to blog, but he send himself some links to remind himself to post things.  Here are the results of that.  Btw, long-time FLG readers jonesing for some object sex posting will be happy.

Ross Douthat on the Left's problem with traditional masculinity:

I see a social revolution that has brought good and bad, intermixed, and whose supporters could profit from the realization that some of the human goods they seek are actually more clearly visible behind us, somewhere back in a cultural past they still insist they’re fighting to overthrow, whose actual details the darkness of forgetting has almost swallowed up

 FLG loved this one by Matt Levine on stretching the definition of index fund:
Oh I see. So Pax World Gender Analytics will subjectively rate companies on their commitment to women, Pax Ellevate Management will then choose a list of the companies that Pax World Gender Analytics rates highly, Pax Ellevate Management will give MSCI that list, MSCI will call that list an index, and Pax Ellevate Management will then invest its index fund in that index.

Last, but certainly not least, presenting the Autoblow 2.  FLG believes you may still be able to fund the project.   Check out the video. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Quote of the day

Michael Gerson interpreting Obama:
we will not, as others urge, enter nuclear bunkers and live as mole people

That part about mole people made FLG laugh out loud. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Quote of the day

Oliver Burkeman:
one of the most fundamental yet still under-appreciated truths of human existence, which is this: everyone is totally just winging it, all the time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Few Things

FLG was reading J S Mill the other day and found this sentence fascinating.    He is not quite sure why he hadn't noticed it before:
It is a bitter thought, how different a thing the Christianity of the world might have been, if the Christian faith had been adopted as the religion of the empire under the auspices of Marcus Aurelius instead of those of Constantine.

He also really liked this list of biases that afflict people when investing.

Lastly, FLG nodded his head in agreement with this piece.

It happens every semester. A student triumphantly points out that Jean-Jacques Rousseau is undermining himself when he claims “the man who reflects is a depraved animal,” or that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s call for self-reliance is in effect a call for reliance on Emerson himself. Trying not to sound too weary, I ask the student to imagine that the authors had already considered these issues.
...
In campus cultures where being smart means being a critical unmasker, students may become too good at showing how things can’t possibly make sense. They may close themselves off from their potential to find or create meaning and direction from the books, music and experiments they encounter in the classroom.

FLG reflexively and certainly unfairly places the blame for this on the Left, as this type of "critical thinking" is turned time and again against authority, history, and tradition.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Couple Of Things

Both dave.s and Withywindle have asked whether FLG still thinks NATO should be abolished in light of the recent Russia expansionism.  Short answer -- yes.

Longer answer --- In the short term, the existence of NATO seems to have benefit.  FLG believes that the existence of NATO, however, allows the Europeans to free ride off of the US for their security.   He believes that if NATO were abolished, then the EU could and would provide a similar protection for Eastern European countries.  And given that this was explicitly under the EU, it would necessitate the Europeans increasing their defense spending to provide for the collective security of the EU.   Moreover, as far as US involvement goes, there would be nothing precluding the US from sending some troops to Poland, etc, even in the absence of NATO.


So, to summarize, short term, it looks like NATO has value.  Long term, NATO is still a crutch for the Europeans and doesn't really have much usefulness.  

NATO delenda est.

On an entirely unrelated note, FLG was in a cab on the West Side Highway the other day when he saw a truck for Arethusa Farm & Dairy.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring Break

This might be the funniest segment FLG has ever seen on The Daily Show.

FLG, like many people, has always had an issue with folks saying "kids these days" about shit they did when they were younger.   Now that he has kids he sort of gets it more, but he tries to fight it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Contraints

FLG has written before that the ultimate goal of the Left is a misunderstood form of Aristotelian leisure.  This ultimate goal, which  FLG believes most don't even fully understand themselves, manifests something like this:

there not only shouldn't be constraints on human desires, but the only constraints are economic and the present state technology. Both of these are theoretically rectifiable. It lends to the idea that the eventual and proper state of human life is one with no constraints on human desire. Therefore, any constraint is by definition an obstacle to be overcome. 

FLG found this interview with a White House economist fascinating because it so illustrates my point:
I agree that the 77 cents on the dollar is not all due to discrimination. No one is trying to say that it is. But you have to point to some number in order for people to understand the facts. And what it represents is the fact that women on average are put in situations every day that for a variety of reasons mean they earn less. Much of what we need to do to close that gap is to change the constraints that women face. And there are things we haven’t tried.

The pay gap isn't the best case for FLG.  The issue arises more when people on the left view the adverse consequences of bad decisions made by an individual eventually become, not the adverse consequences of a series of bad decisions, but rather unfair constraints in a some future decision.  Since FLG has trouble thinking of children as a bad decision, so it's harder for him to point to that as a major issue in this type of analysis.  But nevertheless, the decision to have children comes with a variety of long-term consequences, which are unavoidable and also fall differently, potentially disproportionately, on each parent.


FLG certain that we can't fundamentally change the adverse consequences of having children, and is deeply skeptical that the government should try to ameliorate certain of the second order effects.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Principal-Agent Problem

FLG has written before about what he sees as a principal-agent problem in the last decade or so of Microsoft's history:
Microsoft, to take one example, wastes so much money getting into new businesses looking for growth that FLG thinks shareholders would be better off just milking Windows and Office and call it a day.
A recent piece on Marketplace about how Facebook is transforming into a venture capital/holding company makes FLG think this might be a uniquely and especially problematic issue with regard to tech companies:
Victor Hwang, CEO of T2VentureCreations, a Silicon Valley Venture firm puts it this way:  “On Wall Street, the biggest fear is missing the numbers, not making earnings.  In Silicon Valley, in the startup world, the biggest fear is obsolescence.  Because obsolence is the equivalent of death.” 

Unlike Mark Zuckerberg, FLG as an investor doesn't particularly care if Facebook as a company remains relevant.  He just wants that stream of revenue maximized.  The crux of the matter turns on a simple issue for FLG -- Does he think that Zuckerberg is going to be better at picking the next set of winning companies than he is?  If so, then maybe investing in Facebook makes sense, but FLG is not at all convinced that is the case.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Gender and Social Versus Peer Pressure

Two recent pieces of media rattled something in FLG's brain.  Today there was this piece by Catherine Rampell:

It’s not clear from the data why women might be more sensitive to grades than men are.
“Maybe women just don’t want to get things wrong,” Goldin hypothesized. “They don’t want to walk around being a B-minus student in something. They want to find something they can be an A student in. They want something where the professor will pat them on the back and say ‘You’re doing so well!’ ”
“Guys,” she added, “don’t seem to give two damns.”

 And last week FLG was listening to a this episode of a podcast that he listens to frequently.   It was the first time listening to that podcast when FLG just couldn't relate to the guest.  Sure, he could relate intellectually, but the sort of emotional empathy wasn't there.  Now, this doesn't mean the guest was wrong or anything, just that her experience seems fundamentally different from FLG's experience, which makes perfect sense given that she is a woman and we are talking about body issues, sexuality, etc.

Both of these reminded FLG of his conclusion that women are more sensitive to societal pressures and influence.  The thing he is pondering now is the difference between peer pressure and social pressure. Just to be clear of the distinction -- social pressure is broad, societal expectations; peer pressure is more of an acute pressure within a given context from specific individual or individuals.

FLG's current working hypothesis is that women/girls are more susceptible to societal pressure than men/boys, but with peer pressure the reverse is true.  A small group of women/girls may generate acute peer pressure that magnifies societal expectations, but a group of men/boys together can go completely off the fucking rails.  A sorority might torment pledges about their weight, but a small group of fraternity pledges might just burn a fucking building down when none of them individually would have even considered it.
 
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