Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

FLG Is Saddened

...by this news, but wishes Prof. Deneen all the best.

To be completely honest, FLG is a bit worried about political theory at Georgetown. Not just because of Deneen's departure, but several other probable retirements in addition to this news.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Let FLG Get This Straight

This group protests by having 18 to 20 year old college students from Ukraine go topless?

On one hand, FLG feels sorry for these ladies. They're terribly misguided regarding their messaging. Sure, showing boobs gets cameras, but it's not an any publicity is good publicity type of thing. It's more, hey, look, boobs!

On the other hand, FLG is not going to be the person who will tell 18 to 20 year-old college students to put their shirts back on. Especially considering that these ladies aren't the normally dykish types who normally show up at these types of things.

Also, it just so happens the Ukrainian Embassy is in Georgetown. FLG will keep a weather eye out for happenings there. Just in case, you know, there is some pressing social justice concern that needs FLG's attention.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

FLG Has A Bone To Pick

This blog has readers across the globe, again FLG is fucking huge in Europe, but this is directed towards the copious amount of readers who work in the White House.

Well, FLG told you he was going to DisneyWorld. Did the Obama's trip to the same place on the same day slip your minds? Because, FLG'll tell you what, it would've been far more convenient to take Air Force One, and one of those black suburbans with tinted windows, rather than having to worry about when the airspace was going to be cleared and what roads would be shut down in which direction at whatever times. Anyway, next time FLG says he is going the same place on the same day as the president, well, try to put in word that he could use a lift.

But wait, you say, FLG, are you seriously expecting that you can get a ride on Air Force One? That's crazy.

No, no, it's not. You tell the President that there's a guy who voted for him, but is totally not going to vote for him this time around who lives in a swing state. Maybe, just maybe, if you give the guy a lift he'll vote for you. Shit, the plane is already going where he's going. The marginal cost of FLG on Air Force One is damn near zero dollars. It's Win-Win-Win.

Quote of the day

Tyler Durden:
To be honest there’s not a single thing about any of this that makes an ounce of sense.

FLG is currently listening to

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

FLG Is Getting A Bit Confused

For those of you who don't pay attention to these sorts of things, there have been a slew of realignments in the college athletic conferences in the last few years. As far as FLG can tell, what started the ball rolling was when Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College left the Big East for the ACC in 2004-5. The ACC wanted to get to the magic number of 12, which allows the conference to host a very lucrative conference title football game.

Since then, a whole bunch of teams have been switching. The Big East let in a bunch more teams from Conference USA. Although, they are mostly known for basketball rather than football.

FLG's Colorado switched from the Big 12 to the Pac-10. Utah went too, and it became the Pac-12, reaching the magic number. Two days later, the Big-10, which actually had 11 teams, got sick of waiting for Notre Dame to join and instead took Nebraska. This meant, oddly, the Big Ten had 12 teams and the Big 12 had 10 teams.

Later, TCU agreed to join the Big East, then stood them up when a Big 12 offer came. West Virginia, a Big East team, decided to go there as well. Two more Big East teams, Syracuse and Pitt, followed Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College and went to the ACC. In fact, there are too many realignments to bother listing. FLG has no idea what is going on anymore.

However, this news story caught FLG's attention:
Navy to join Big East in 2015

FLG immediately thought this is a good idea for both the conference and the Academy. But as he was reading the story he came across this sentence that totally boggled his mind:
But when the Big East added Boise State and San Diego State as football-only members and Houston, SMU and Central Florida as full members in December, the Midshipmen were not ready to get on board.

Wait a second. Boise State and SAN DIEGO STATE are joining a conference called the Big EAST?! Along with two teams from Texas? FLG thinks they might want to change the name of the conference, and he wonders how financially viable a collegiate athletic conference requiring nationwide travel can even be.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

FLG Goes Away For A Few Days

...and South Carolina Republicans decide to put way too much moonshine in their sweet tea before visiting the polling booth. Seriously, y'all? Newt Gingrich?

A pompous windbag who is a also an adulterer trying to come off as some sort of outsider against the establishment candidate when he was Speaker of the House? Gingrich had his shot over a decade ago. People decided then, and hopefully will decide again, that they guy is a complete jackoff.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Risk, Uncertainty, And Modernity

If there's one topic that FLG is completely fascinated by in all its forms, then it's risk and uncertainty. Consequently, FLG was very excited to see that Nassim Taleb was on EconTalk. Now, Taleb has his critics and he has a very healthy ego, but there's no way in hell FLG isn't going to be interested in somebody who talks about risk and uncertainty using both mathematics and the Wisdom of the Ancients.

Taleb's concept of antifragility, which he described as a system that, rather than simply surviving, gets stronger when it comes under stress. He gave the example of the Hydra; when you chop off one head, two grow back. Anyway, it was an interesting podcast.

But what really interested FLG are two particular insights, and one that he himself has been trying to articulate for some time, even before he had heard of Taleb, but Taleb explains much better. Unfortunately, FLG is just going to explain them himself right now.

First, there are some fundamental problems with using statistical models to predict the future because, as Taleb entitled his previous book, there are Black Swans. Basically, just because the only swans that are known to exist are white, doesn't mean black swans don't exist. Or to put it slightly differently, just because nobody has ever seen a black swan in the past doesn't mean that nobody will see a black swan in the future. And so you have this problem of using statistical models, which by definition use historical data, to predict the future.

FLG got really interested when Taleb started discussing how in statistical models there is always an error term. That's pretty much the definition of a statistical model. If there were no error term, then you have a deterministic, not probabilistic model. In the ordinary least squares model, the error term is a normal distribution with an expected mean of zero and some constant standard deviation. Those are part of the key assumptions of the model. But Taleb raised something that has always interested FLG. That estimation of the error term through the parameter of the variance of the sample itself has an error. He then started going on about how the error of the error is a power series or something that FLG didn't quite catch.

Second, the idea that there are people who benefit from the fragility of the system because they shift the risk onto others. Taleb's terminology is a bit confusing and seemed to blend together in a podcast, but it will probably be more lucid in book form, but anyway here's a defintion he has:
Fragilista: Someone who causes fragility because of his naive rationalism. Also usually lacks sense of humor. See Iatrogenics. Often fragilistas fragilize by depriving variability-loving systems of variability and error-loving systems of errors.

But in the podcast it seemed like there was more than just naivete. There was an element of pushing risk onto another party such that one had an option. For example, banks took risks, but because of the actions of the Fed, they knew their downside risk was largely covered. Thus, they had a long option.

Taleb goes on to say that this is a thoroughly modern problem in all its consequences and nuances, social science, experts, bureaucracy, etc. FLG concurs completely. It coincides with his oft-stated position that the start of modernity was Machiavelli. In particular, this passage marks the birth of modernity for FLG:
Fortune is the arbiter of one-half of our actions, but that she still leaves us to direct the other half, or perhaps a little less.

I compare her to one of those raging rivers, which when in flood overflows the plains, sweeping away trees and buildings, bearing away the soil from place to place; everything flies before it, all yield to its violence, without being able in any way to withstand it; and yet, though its nature be such, it does not follow therefore that men, when the weather becomes fair, shall not make provision, both with defences and barriers, in such a manner that, rising again, the waters may pass away by canal, and their force be neither so unrestrained nor so dangerous. So it happens with fortune, who shows her power where valour has not prepared to resist her, and thither she turns her forces where she knows that barriers and defences have not been raised to constrain her.

That one passage, at least for FLG, contains the seeds of the modern world, including the birth of the scientific method, social science, experts, bureaucracy, etc, etc. Somebody has to design, build, fund, and oversee the project. Somebody has to try and predict how high the waters will rise. Moreover, FLG thinks it's telling that Machiavelli uses the word Fortune or Fortuna and not Fate. Fortune is the roll of the dice, the spin of the wheel. It's statistics.

Think back to the ancients. For them, it was Fate. Fate was sealed. If you were destined to kill your father and marry your mother, then that's that. In fact, any effort to avoid your Fate seemed to make it worse.

And so it's not surprising that Taleb would say that he looks to the ancients for a solution to the problem of an always and forever uncertain future. He says that they left us not so much a bunch of rules about what to do, but about what not to do. For example, he says almost all traditions warn against going into debt. But the Ten Commandments and the seemingly constant admonition against Pride immediately sprung into FLG's mind. In any case, FLG thinks that passage in The Prince holds the key to understanding the problems of modernity.

BTW, FLG wants to be clear that he thinks modernity and science and rationalism and all this stuff has benefits too. Modern medicine and technology is fantastic. It's just that we have too much faith in these methods and tools and apply them incorrectly in areas that make less sense, for example, social science in general gives FLG the hibbie jibbies. Damn you, August Comte!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Banking Odyssey

Not that is of interest to anybody besides himself, but FLG is in the process of changing his banking relationships.

His current primary checking account is with Capital One. Years ago, FLG had a Capital One credit card, and his experience was so piss poor he vowed never to have an account with Capital One again. He only has the account because CapOne purchased Chevy Chase Bank, where FLG used to work and had an account for years. FLG has been too damn lazy to change. In fact, he vowed to change accounts three years ago.

He doesn't go into branches often, but when he does he hates being pitched additional products. It really bugs him. He just wants to deposit a check. If he wanted a savings account, then he'd ask to open a savings account. This selling happened when he was with Chevy Chase, but it seems worse now. Maybe that's just perception, but whatever. FLG decided after a recent trip that enough was enough. He'd switch his accounts soon.

The first place FLG thought of transferring was to ING Direct. As he said, he doesn't have a big need to go into branches and he's had an account there for 8-9 years. Loves them. Already has a savings and checking account all setup. Even a brokerage account. Recommended ING to friends highly for years. Well, guess what? Captial One bought them too. That put a crimp in FLG's plan.

So, FLG then remembered how much he liked his credit union when he was a student in Boulder. Well, he's eligible for a credit union at Georgetown, which is even run by the students. But it only has one location and the services are all, unsurprisingly, geared toward students. Might be fine for just a plain old checking account, but FLG wasn't sure he wanted to be locked in. So, he started looking around more. Turns out, his community college alumni status makes him eligible for a larger credit union with somewhat more convenient locations. So, he's signing up with them and transfer his checking business and some savings over from CapOne.

But then what to do about ING? FLG likes having the option to transfer funds to the direct banks for higher interest when he needs to. He's been happy with ING for years, so even though they've been taken over, he might leave well enough alone until they do something that pisses him off. And then he'll switch either to HSBC's online bank or Ally. Then again, the checking account offered at Ally is so damn good he might have to switch over pronto.

Quick Update

A couple of things:
The FLGs are heading to DisneyWorld this weekend to celebrate Miss FLG Maior's third birthday.

Second, FLG recently discovered that the first three seasons of Merlin are on NetFlix streaming. He originally discovered the series years ago, but only watched the first season. Anyway, FLG blew through those and then figured out that the fourth season, which just began to air here in the States, is already done in the UK and so it's on YouTube. He's a goodly way through that season as well. Another reason blogging has been light.

FLG is currently listening to

...and it's all Flavia's fault.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Not That Many Of You Will Understand

...but FLG could really go for some Duchess today.

Tiki Bars

FLG has to admit that one of the things he likes most about Bourdain is his non-ironic love of tiki bars. FLG has long believed and oft professed that the world needs more tiki bars. If you jump to the 17 minute mark, then you'll see a pretty damn cool one.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Quote of the day

Aiken, Clifford, and Ellis:
Our results indicate that when we exclude self-selected database funds, the average excess returns of hedge funds does not differ markedly from zero.


Monday, January 9, 2012

A Conversation

Co-worker: Hey FLG, you're a guy.

FLG: Last time I checked.

Co-worker: I need a guy's opinion about something. My boyfriend and I aren't talking.

FLG: Oh boy.

Co-worker: I was sick over the holidays and he didn't come over to check on me.

FLG: Did you tell him you wanted him to come over?

Co-worker: No, but he should know, right? It's obvious that if your girlfriend is sick that you should come over and bring soup or something, right?

FLG: Look, I think it was Kurt Vonnegut who said, "Men are jerks. Women are psychotic." For my money, and I'll admit I'm biased as a guy, the biggest problem in relationships, or rather the easiest to fix that causes the biggest problems, is these expectations women have. They pretty much expect that their boyfriend is a mind reader. Frankly, it's crazy.

Co-worker: It's not mindreading! It's just common sense that if your girlfriend is sick, then you come over and bring soup or something. You guys should know that.

FLG: We should know that? Oh shit, please don't tell me that the reason you aren't talking now is because he not only should know to bring over chicken soup, but also that he should know why you are mad and you haven't told him.

Co-worker: Exactly!

FLG: Holy crap. You're in your 30s. You shouldn't be pulling this shit.

Co-worker: But he should know!

FLG: Okay, look, let's imagine that he didn't talk to you for say two weeks after his birthday. You have no idea why he's not talking to you. Finally, you break down and ask. He says, nothing. Nothing's wrong. You persist for about an hour, and all of a sudden he loses it at you because you didn't show up at his house on his birthday in a French maid outfit with a Brazilian wax. Would you think he's nuts?

Co-worker: He would be nuts. There's a huge difference between soup and acting like a pornstar.

FLG: Really? Maybe he expected the pornstar routine for his birthday and you didn't deliver.

Co-worker: How would I know he wanted me to dress in a French maid outfit and not a naughty nurse or something?

FLG: That would be like complaining that he brought over minestrone instead of chicken soup. But that's not the real point. The real point is that he never said anything and therefore is crazy for being mad. And even crazier for thinking you should've read his mind.

Co-worker: I wanted him to want to bring over soup. He should want to without me telling him.

FLG: And he wants you to want to do the French maid routine without telling you.

Co-worker: Ugh, you guys are such pigs.

FLG: We just more care about different things, and women choose to believe that what men care about is dirtier or less important, and thus we are pigs. Look, if every time you feel like he should know what you are expecting without telling him, then think of the French maid outfit. It's best just to tell him what you'd like. If he says no or balks in some way, then maybe there is an issue. For example, if you told him you wanted him to come over with soup and he didn't, then that'd be an issue. Or at least an issue you could discuss like adults. This he should know what I want and then when I don't get it I don't talk to him stuff is, frankly, high school bullshit.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Another Of FLG's Stream-Of-Consciousness Posts With Help From YouTube

For some reason, this song popped in FLG's head:

Then FLG saw in the comments people kept mentioning Jack White. Quickly enough, FLG found this clip from It Might Get Loud, a movie which FLG had seen but didn't remember this part:

Next FLG clicked over to this Charlie Rose interview. If you jump to the 4:30 mark, Jack White talks about the relationship between constriction and creativity:

And then FLG began to think about a speech he saw by Marissa Mayer entitled "Creativity Loves Constraint":

When she was talking about the mark on the piece of paper, that then made FLG think of this video with Tony Bourdain and José Andrés, you'll want to jump to the 2:15 mark and watch for about a minute:

The tradition and the region are the constraints which anchored Ferran Adrià. And then FLG began thinking about a topic Bourdain often returns to, and that's he finds poor people food passed down over the generations the most interesting and best. And this is precisely because there's both that time and region constraint, but also the initial and larger constraint of those who initially developed the dish to try to find a way to make crappy ingredients taste good, and so to spur creativity. Necessity being the mother of invention and all.

And that brings FLG full circle to the blues, and in particular a song with no instruments, just a man singing and clapping, being so fucking powerful and creative.

Not sure that illuminated anything for anybody, but it was an interesting 10 minutes or so for FLG that he wanted to share.

FLG is currently listening to

Intelligent Investing

This post has nothing FLG hasn't heard before, nor anything that he hasn't mentioned at some point on his own blog.

Nevertheless, FLG is constantly amazed at the number of smart people who think they can beat the market. In fact, over Christmas during a cigar, FLG got in a friendly disagreement with his father-in-law about the potential to beat the market. He's an intelligent and successful man, but steadfastly refuses to believe the market can't be beat. Or more accurately, can't be beat by a retail investor over the long run.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

FLG is currently listening to


Posting has been light because it's been busy around these parts.

There was Christmas with Panettone French Toast, New Year's Eve at Jaleo, bowling, and ice skating down at the National Gallery.

Caught up on some Economist reading. The holiday issue always has some interesting stuff: the original state-owned enterprise (well, not really an SOE, but whatever), Belgian beer, and pirates.

Plus, FLG has been and continues to be in job hunt mode, which on top of his current job, school, and family time, means blogging will be light for a while.
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