Tuesday, November 30, 2004
The Fable of Kazaa I: You Can't Decorate Your Office With an MP3
I'd been meaning to blog the Daniel Gross piece from the 11/21 Times (already off to the paid archives -- this 'Wisconsin ideas' business, plus kids and visiting family, makes for slow blogging sometimes) on recent economic research into the impact of music downloading on the industry, not least because it turns out that the doyen of the economics of downloading is Stanley Leibowitz of UT-Dallas (many links to recent scholarship at his very useful website), some of whose other work (1) I know from my almost but not quite forgotten dissertation. In summary, the growing consensus is that downloading is less harmful than the RIAA would have people believe, though the extent of the harm has not been nailed down very well.
I reached the point of having an excessively long post on the subject that still needs lots of writing and editing. So in the interest of moving things along, I thought I'd start with the part of the economics of unauthorized downloading that economists essentitally all agree on: the substitutability of illegal downloads for legal purchases is adverse to industry, though it's silly for RIAA flacks to contend that a track off a file-sharing network is a perfect substitute for a legal download, let alone a CD.
Apart from the diminution of sound quality issue -- which I admit I can't hear, at least in higher bit rate MP3s in the car -- and the problem that the file sharing services are vectors of all manners of digitial contagion (why I abstain) and, rarely, litigation, record collecting nuts and some others do actually value the physical packages in which music is distributed. In that regard, even CDs are obviously inferior substitutes to LPs (2).
For more of the others, there are pricing models less taken in the U.S. that would capture some sales otherwise lost to downloads and still make a positive contribution to record companies -- in the UK, relatively low pricing helped yield a record sales year.
Part II, forthcoming: "librarying" is not just a really ugly word.
(1) Specifically, his 1990 Journal of Law and Economics article, with Stephen Margolis, "The Fable of the Keys," which purports to debunk a famous economic history paper on how path-dependent dynamics due to increasing return leads to adoption of inferior technologies. About which more later, though note that I'd be a very smug Macintosh user these days but for the nontrivial amount of money that might reach my paycheck if it weren't needed to keep my share of the office PC network alive.
(2) I'll stay out of the analog-vs-digital sound quality dispute. I am one of the nuts who misses the often elaborate cover artwork LPs. The brilliant folks at Restoration Hardware saw a marketing opportunity in this, and as the title of the post goes, voila, office decoration for the aging new-waver:
Clockwise from top right: Ultra Vivid Scene, self-titled LP (1987); New Order, Temptation 12" (1982); Happy Mondays, 24 Hour Party People 12" (1987); The Durutti Column, "The Return of the Durutti Column" LP (1980). Reflected (L to R): The Durutti Column, "The City of Our Lady" EP (1987); Section 25, "From the Hip" LP (1984).
Wisconsin 69, Maryland 64.
Early on, it looked like this would be a 90-point game, which would have been beyond the Badgers' offensive capabilities. Things slowed down to the Badgers' advantage in the middle of the first half, and the Terps spotted them 6 at the break. Then, Maryland came roaring back at the start of the second half, but the Wisconsin didn't fold, and ultimately the battle of poor inside shooting tipped to the Badgers at the free throw line. Late in the game, Maryland had good chances to even things up, but couldn't quite manage it. The officiating was ragged, though not so obviously to Wisconsin's detriment as the highly partisan crowd may have thought.
The Counting Chickens Before They're Hatched Song
Suzanne was asking if I knew the University of Maryland fight song, to which I could only respond that I knew the important lines, "M - A - R - Y - L - A - N - D, Maryland will win!"
It turns out that what I always thought was the Maryland fight song is actually the Maryland victory song -- though I'm reasonably certain it was played even before some heartbreaking losses to the ACC big dogs back in the day.
Here, via the Michigan State-hosted Dave's College Football Fight Songs, the full lyric to the Maryland Victory Song. I don't actually remember the tune to the "boys" lines.
University of Maryland Victory Song
Maryland, we're all behind you
Raise high the black and gold (*)
There is nothing half so glorious
As to see our team victorious
We've got the team boys
We've got the steam boys
Keep on fighing don't give in
M - A - R - Y - L - A - N - D
Maryland will win
Men's basketball: no. 12 Maryland at no. 25 Wisconsin, 8:30 P.M. CST, Kohl Center.
(*) The inescapable-in-Maryland Calvert coat of arms.
Not That Pink Paisley Blanket Again!
Children's Music for Grown-Ups
Most of the time, I am so glad that John (sample morning request: "Watch Elmo on TV!") still has an interest in books that I'll read him anything from his personal library. The Little Engine that Could for the two-hundredth time? Blueberries for Sal three times in a row? No problem.
An occasional bad dad moment is that I'll kick one frequent bedtime request, Spot's Big Lift-the-Flap Book by Eric Hill, under the bed to redirect John to stuff that's more fun for me to read. I'm not a big fan of Spot; he tends to phone it in (see, e.g., Spot's Thanksgiving).
My open-mindedness on books does not extend to music, where I find the toddler love of repetition likelier to drive me bananas. We started programming John at an early age, but it nevertheless made me very happy Sunday morning when John requested Donovan's "Pied Piper" (that's Donovan of "Mellow Yellow" fame).
I also turned a children's music corner of sorts when I added the contents of the new Ralph's World CD, "The Amazing Adventures of Kid Astro," to my iTunes database en route to my car seat-less car. This was looking like an album that Suzanne and I would like more than John (as in John: "no Ralph!" Us: [???] "You love Ralph, big guy"), until we put it on for him anyway. and he was happy to dance along with his folks to the likes of "Fee Fi Fo Fum" (5.9 MB animated QuickTime video or 2.2 MB MP3). No video of me teaching John the Twist, sorry.
Greg Brown's Bathtub Blues unerringly calms at least one fussy boy, and so is coming up on about a year of residence in Suzanne's car's CD changer. Mixed in are some actual grownup songs, and not all of the lyrics have registered with John yet, but especially sensitive parents are hereby warned.
Likewise, who among us does not love the New Main Street Singers, but the lyrics to "Start Me Up" (QuickTime stream) are intelligible in the Folksmen's (d.b.a. Spinal Tap in much different wardrobe, hair, and make up) rendition of the Rolling Stones' hit.
(Hat-tip: book-blogging at SosySteps, the baby blog companion to Life As Is; see also the blogroll.)
Monday, November 29, 2004
A Frolic of His Own
Via Groklaw, a court order for the amusement of the law-talking -- and possibly general -- readership here.
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
KLEIN-BECKER, LLC, and BASIC RESEARCH, LLC,
WILLIAM STANLEY and BODYWORX.COM,
Case No. A-03-CA-871-SS
BE IT REMEMBERED on the 21st day of July 2004 and the Court took time to make its daily review of the above-captioned case, and thereafter, enters the following:
When the undersigned accepted the appointment from the President of the United States of the position now held, he was ready to face the daily practice of law in federal courts with presumably competent lawyers. No one warned the undersigned that in many instances his responsibility would be the same as a person who supervised kindergarten. Frankly, the undersigned would guess the lawyers in this case did not attend kindergarten as they never learned how to get along well with others. Notwithstanding the history of filings and antagonistic motions full of personal insults and requiring multiple discovery hearings, earning the disgust of this Court, the lawyers continue ad infinitum. On July 20, 2004, the Court's schedule was interrupted by an emergency motion so the parties' deposition, which began on July 20, would and could proceed until 6:30 in the evening. No intelligent discussion of the issue was accomplished prior to the filing and service of the motion, even though the lawyers were in the same room. Over a telephone conference, the lawyers, of course, had inconsistent statements as to the support of their positions. On July 20, 2004, the Court entered an order allowing the plaintiffs/counter-defendants until July 23, 2004 (two days from today) to answer a counterclaim. Yet, on July 21, 2004, Bodyworx.com, Inc.'s lawyers filed a motion for reconsideration of that Court order arguing the pleadings should have been filed by July 19, 2004.
The Court simply wants to scream to these lawyers, "Get a life" or "Do you have any other cases?" or "When is the last time you registered for anger management classes?"
Neither the world's problems nor this case will be determined by an answer to a counterclaim which is four days late, even with the approval of the presiding judge.
If the lawyers in this case do not change, immediately, their manner of practice and start conducting themselves as competent to practice in the federal court, the Court will contemplate and may enter an order requiring the parties to obtain new counsel.
In the event it is not clear from the above discussion, the Motion for Reconsideration is DENIED.
SIGNED this 21st day of July 2004.
_____[signature of Sam Sparks]___
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Sunday, November 28, 2004
My Red Team Vs. Your Red Team
As a near-west-sider with only indirect connections to the university, major sporting events on the UW campus mainly affect us via Monroe St. traffic. Not this week, as the 13th-with-a-bullet ranked Terps call on the mens' BasketBadgers (#20 for now) at the Kohl Center on Tuesday evening. Thanks to a thoughtful friend, I'll get to be part of the traffic problem.
To maintain blog decorum -- with a substantially Madison-based readership -- I will refrain from trash-talking, though a solid neutral-court win over Memphis (#25 as of this writing) makes me optimistic, as does the Badgers' loss to Pepperdine. (Pepperdine? I don't know that I can comment further without violating the self-imposed trash-talking prohibition.) I'll be wearing a red sweatshirt, but not the majority red.
Friday, November 26, 2004
Some random, had-half-a-bottle-of-wine-with-dinner (at Magnus), thoughts for the evening:
- The Blogger's Duty. Would blogging while my mother, brother, and future sister-in-law -- visiting from Delaware -- are occupied with the kids make me History's Worst Monster? The amount of NYC blogging from Nina would suggest no. A post on the economics of (unauthorized) music file sharing is delayed into the weekend nevertheless.
- Free Art in Madison. I took my brother and future sister-in-law for a meander up and down State St. in this afternoon's drizzle. The highlight for me was Ruthanne Bessman's origami exhibition in the Overture Center's Gallery I -- ground level, just off the rotunda behind the former Yost's facade. I still think that "Waltzing with Bears" should not be played on "Classics by Request" unless accompanied by a leadership-level gift to Wisconsin Public Radio.
- Confessions of a Coupe Driver. In 20-1/2 years of driving, I've never had a four-door car as my daily driver (*). Now that I have two small children, I occasionally think that I should get a respectable daddymobile. Then the AutoWeek arrives in this evening's mail, and I read the Driver's Log entry on the Mercedes CL65 AMG: 604 hp, 738 lb-ft, $186,520. "Why isn't this illegal?" asks one editor. "This is a car you want to drive straight to your local police department and see if you can get a coupon book of speeding tickets," says another. They both agree: never turn the traction control off. An Accord or Accord-derivative sedan looks as desirable as vinyl siding. (If the guy I was stuck behind on University a couple weeks ago -- 40-something, jabbering into cell phone -- driving his mere 493 hp CL600 like a Saturn SL1 is typical, wealth is wasted on the wealthy.)
- Buy Nothing Today. Numerous posters on State St. exhorted me to spend nothing today, Black Friday, Nov. 26, 2004. I spent $25.30 at B-Side on the CD reissue of Cocteau Twins' "Blue Bell Knoll" (1988) and the "simple, graceful, chiming chug" of Luna's "Rendezvous" (2004).
- Blogger Thanksgivings. The Camics had no yams. Brayden King had no competition in his household for pumpkin pie (**). Ann Althouse did not have turkey (not that there's anything wrong with that). Our dinner was resolutely traditional, though probably unusual relative to the general public in that no convenience foods were used in its creation.
- Economics of Happiness. The Tonya Show reports on a study by Warwick economists assigning dollar values to things like frequent sex. Jeremy Freese drills down to additional sweaty details. Cautionary note: few academic economists are renowned for cultivating institutional knowledge.
(*) Technically, Suzanne and I co-own both cars, so I have an interest in a station wagon.
(**) Not here. John got into pumpkin pie at an early age, so this is a typical scene when pumpkin pie is in the house (lunch):
The lesser condiment on the plate is for an earlier course of the boy's meal -- he's two, but he's not crazy! But he hasn't transferred any of his love of apples to love of apple pie (yet), mwha ha ha...
Real Posting to Resume Soon
I've reorganized and slightly expanded the blogroll off to the right. There may be more template surgery as I try to figure out why Firefox is using different (and less attractive) fonts to render the blog than Safari on my trusty old PowerBook. For best viewing results, use Safari. Get a Mac as needed!
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
I went into the office for just under three hours for an unavoidable conference call, and came back to find two pies (apple, pumpkin), for which I am very thankful, gracing the kitchen counter.
Safe travels and good dinners to family, friends, and all other readers!
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Tuesday Baby Extra
Julia, without the pink paisley blanket in the background (for a change), enjoying her mobile.
John, in the Elmo zone.
If Frostbite in the High Andes Doesn't Sound Like Fun, How About a Rocket Plane to 100 Km?
Tempting, but no thanks -- not yet.
Showing that well-reasoned analysis can show up in the darnedest places, Alex Tabarrok shows at Tech Central Station (better known, on the whole, for conservative professors' shilling for various corporate interests) that even an improvement of an order of magnitude or two in space launch safety would still leave space tourism too dangerous for the mass market. So the immediate successors of Burt Rutan's X Prize-winning SpaceShip One project, such as Richard Branson's hyperbolically named Virgin Galactic, can be expected to appeal only to a narrow segment of very rich risk-takers.
For his trouble, Tabarrok was sharply criticized by a 'space entrepreneur' in a subsequent TCS piece for not understanding the technological 'singularity' represented by Rutan's efforts.
My take: Rutan well deserves the cover of Time for his invention, but Tabarrok is substantially correct. He acknowledges Rutan's safety innovations for the powered and re-entry phases of flight (there are as yet insufficient flight observations to gauge Rutan's success, and as Tabarrok notes, several test flights had flight control problems).
But the SpaceShip One design, in being cleverly geared towards the suborbital flight profile required by the X Prize, effectively punts on the major challenges that currently make spacecraft capable of reaching orbit expensive and/or dangerous: obtaining sufficient performance from rocket engines to reach orbital speeds, and then dissipating the energy on re-entry. Spending the price of the median Dane County house on a few minutes' high altitude weightlessness sounds like a little less than a space tourism revolution.
Madison Real Estate: Flunking 'Residential Architecture Styles 101'
I've previously picked on this listing for the listing agent's method of disclosing the kitchen renovation in the new owner's future. At the time of the earlier post, no picture had been available on the MLS. So I was a bit surprised to see that the
"Grand Ole [sic] Colonial" on Rowley is actually a pretty average-looking Foursquare.
The National Association of Realtors actually has decent online resources for correctly identifying residential styles (the Foursquare was covered in a July '04 article), so the agent looks a little underbriefed.
OK, I'm a stickler about this sort of thing. When we bought our previous house in 2000 when price levels were much lower but rapidly increasing, and the internet still an underdeveloped resource for most real estate agents, the most desirable houses sold so quickly that a house not driven-by because of a poorly written description would be gone forever. (It may also be a lingering legacy of my "American Culture" class from high school, actually more like a history of American decorative arts class, which I thought I didn't enjoy at the time.) In this year's search, among the signs of a peaking market was that there was no house so desirable at prevailing prices that we couldn't sleep on the decision.
Real estate obsessive's note [you mean this entire post wasn't a real estate obsessive's note?]. The City of Madison Assessor's website is a good friend of the serious house-hunter, both as a source of comparable-sales data and as a check on sometimes fanciful square footage claims, though the amount of personal if not officially private information it exposes to the world can be disconcerting.
What the Assessor doesn't have much of a handle on, even by the loose standards of real estate marketing, is style classification.
The city puts the Rowley "Colonial" into an "Old Style" category that's a catchall for a lot of older two-story houses that aren't obviously a popular period revival style (e.g., Colonial, Tudor). This makes some sense -- more, anyhow, than "Grand Ole Colonial."
On the other hand, our house is textbook French Provincial Revival style, to the extent it would be a decent real-life stand-in for the Realtors' sample drawing (perhaps a bit less frou-frou in the details):
According to the Assessor, we fall into a classification called "Victorian Georg[ian]."
There are plenty of Victorians and related styles in Madison's older neighborhoods, for which the classification is appropriately deployed (e.g., my bosses' grand Queen Anne in University Heights), though Georgians -- brick houses in general, really -- are relatively rare around here. That those two styles should be slammed together into one classification should itself raise a titter among the architecturally sensitive.
At least our place has a symmetrical brick facade, which at least gives it some features typical of the Georgian style, though the second story and roofline are all wrong for it. Things get loopier, though, as the Assessor has a habit of using "Victorian Georgian" for Prairie-style houses, for instance these -- among my favorites from the Nakoma walking tour:
Sunday, November 21, 2004
"Touching the Void"
Just about all the convincing I need that I don't ever care to be above ~4000m MSL outside the pressurized cabin of an airplane.
Menu: A Simple Blogger Dinner, Nov. 20, 2004
- Sweet potato chips (*)
- Garlic-stuffed green olives
- Smelly but delicious Wisconsin cheeses
(Farmer John's Provolone, Fantôme Chevre Provencale)
Salmon and Leek Chowder (recipe follows)
Clasen's Sourdough Rye
Apple Pie (Ela Orchard Ida Red appples)
2002 Bucci Verdicchio
2002 Verget Macon-Bussieres "Vielles Vignes du Clos"
2 bloggers, 1 spouse of blogger, children of blogger sleeping (mostly), cat of blogger left to his own devices outside.
Salmon and Leek Chowder
3 cups chicken broth
12 oz. salmon filet
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 slices thick bacon, chopped
2 medium leeks, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)
2 medium or 1 large white-skinned potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (or 2 teaspoons dried)
Bring broth to simmer in a skillet. Add salmon, cover and simmer until cooked through. Transfer salmon to a plate, reserving broth. Flake salmon into small pieces.
Combine butter and flour in a small bowl. Cook bacon in a heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels with a slotted spoon. Add leeks to drippings in saucepan, sauté 3 minutes. Add potato and reserved broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until potato is tender. Add milk and bring to boil. Whisk in flour mixture.
Reduce heat; simmer until soup thickens slightly, whisking frequently, about 3 minutes. Stir in cream, chives, salmon, and bacon. Simmer until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.
(*) Not homemade, but surprisingly easy to do (baked) with appropriate equipment: a mandoline-like slicer that makes quick work of root vegetables with little risk of slicing one's finger off.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
...was probably cursed when I told a colleague we saw at the Hilldale indoor market that John had freaked out just about all he could possibly freak out two haircuts ago, and that things had been getting better since.
The decibel level of the screams was in Who concert territory before the first snip.
Mommy and Daddy need some major tranquilization, and possibly PTSD counseling.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Bush Economic Team to Upper-Middle Class: Drop Dead (but thanks for the votes)
Update 1 (11/20): Via Brad DeLong, the Wall Street Journal reports that tax "reform" is not due until 2006 -- Social Security "reform" is apparently going to be first. Will keep the pitchfork and torches ready.
Update 2: Alan Greenspan gave the markets a good scare yesterday by reminding everone that Stein's Law (1) applies to the U.S. trade and budget deficits.
Update 3: Fafnir on tax reform (do read the whole article):
...only recently [...] a few brave Robin Hoods in the Republican Party decided to take things back from these lower-class fat cats an give it back to salt-a-the-earth robber barons [footnotes omitted].
Max Sawicky has saved me quite a bit of typing with this excellent post on the Bush administration's income tax trial balloon. See also Matthew Yglesias here at Tapped.
The plans being kicked around involve greatly reducing or eliminating taxes on interest, dividends, and capital gains, the revenue losses from which may be offset by, according to the Post:
...eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance...
The focus of the other bloggers has been the incidence of these changes on solidly Democratic northeastern states and California -- the "blue state tax" as Max Sawicky memorably calls it -- and (particularly via the change in tax incentives for employer provision of health insurance) the "middle class."
I'll just offer a couple of addenda.
The effects would hardly be limited to solid-blue states. To fare poorly in an elimination of the state and local tax deduction, a homeowning taxpayer without significant offsetting investment income really only needs two (or more) of high property taxes, high state income taxes, and/or a mortgage with balances exceeding $170,000 or so. The last roughly clears the joint filer's standard deduction hurdle for states without income taxes at prevailing interest rates; the threshold for single filers would be half that.
Under these criteria, quite a bit of the working population of the upper Midwest, which narrowly went Democratic (on balance -- I haven't forgotten about Iowa) but was contestable in the election, would be in line for a tax increase. Homeowners in Madison and higher-priced pockets of southeast Wisconsin would tend to be particularly screwed. Evidently, we're no longer thought to be needed to assemble 270 Republican electoral votes. But also consider that property tax rates in parts of Texas are higher than they are here in the People's Republic of Madison.
Moreover, taxpayers meeting the criteria for a taking a hit will tend to be upper-income, but not quite rich, wage earners. Consider this segment of the upper-middle class -- the bottom four quintiles of the top income quartile, whose AGIs range from $56,401 to $126,525 in 2002 (the most recent available year). Collectively, this group deducts about $25-$30 billion a year more in state and local taxes than they earn in taxable interest, dividends, and capital gains, says the IRS. There are about 26 million returns in this group, so there would be a modest but broad tax increase from the change averaging about $300 annually.
Younger members of the group, who would would tend to have the local taxes but not to have had time to build up much in the way of taxable investments, would fare considerably worse. I'd get my pocket picked to the tune of about $300 a month.
To the extent this group can be swung -- and one narrative of the Republican disaster in the Minnesota legislative elections would suggest it gets annoyed by "stealth" tax increases -- Republican strategists might fail to get their economists in line at their own peril.
(1) "If something can't go on forever, it will stop."
Chapman Street is Dead. Long Live Chapman Street!
While the cool kids were out dining and karaoke-ing yesterday evening, I was sharpening the tines on my pitchfork and assembling torches over the latest administration trial balloons on income tax reform. More about that in a later post.
In the meanwhile, we're celebrating a return to normality here at the ranch, as the destruction and reconstruction of our street winds down. Here, with gratuitous pictures of the children thrown in, is a photo recap...
1. August 30. Arrival of the first trucks may be seen behind the boy.
2. October 2. Approaching the zenith of destruction, the street is reduced to a mudflat. Heavy equipment outside the house provides hours of toddler entertainment.
3. October 14. We -- and our across-the-street neighbors -- preach to the workmen.
4. October 21. Falling leaves, lovely tan film on the (side) street.
5. October 27. The end of the ordeal comes into view as construction equipment arrives.
6. November 13. We have pavement back! There are still some trucks, but the neighbors can park on the street and are spared long grocery schleps.
7. November 17. A big pile of dirt! Just what I always wanted!!
8. If you've made it this far down, here's that gratuitous baby picture.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
A Surpassingly Fake Controversy
Above the fold in today's Wisconsin State Journal, the kerfluffle over the racy Monday Night Football intro with Nicollette Sheridan of "Desperate Housewives" and Terrell Owens of my more-or-less hometown Iggles -- who clobbered Dallas, hooray!
What? Soaring combat deaths in Iraq? Inflation? New, advanced Russian nuclear missiles?
Hey, look over here! Indecency on TV! Indecency on TV!!!!
Because, you know, nobody has ever heard of combining football and scantily-clad women.
(I didn't see it -- we were watching "South Pacific" on DVD. But it sounded amusing enough, as T&A goes.)
Office Ergonomics Note
The benefits of the Herman Miller Ergon 3 chair's adjustments are lost if you slouch back in it for three straight hours.
That Vision Thing
Yesterday, a NASA X-43A research aircraft briefly flew at Mach 9.8 (roughly 7,000 mph), shattering a speed record for aircraft powered by air-breathing engines set by another X-43A in March.
"These developments will also help us advance the Vision for Space Exploration, while helping to advance commercial aviation technology," Administrator O'Keefe said.
What's next? Notes the Washington Post (but not the NYT):
NASA has no plans for further scramjet [the X-43A engine type] missions...
Comment: Between FY2004 and FY2005, NASA's aeronautics R&D budget authority request declined by more than 10 percent, adding to earlier declines under Bush administration stewardship. The exact amount is difficult to determine because of a shift to "full cost" accounting in FY2004, which management types love because it allocates all overheads to functional categories, and which many (most?) economists (me included) hate with the fury of a thousand supernovae because there is no causal basis for the allocations.
The aeronautics R&D budget has been pressured by manned spaceflight expenditures for a long time. Libertarians like to look to the Ansari X Prize as a model for private R&D funding, but reality is that the available aerospace R&D funding from eccentric billionaires is so far very small relative to the cost of developing aircraft. Meanwhile, U.S. competitiveness in civil aviation technology has greatly eroded if not completely evaporated. Can this be a good thing?
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Cars You Don't See Every Day in Madison
En route from Sentry Hilldale back to the office, the only car parked in the lot in front of Hilldale Theatre was a Bentley Arnage T (2005 base MSRP $241,985).
Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, the marketing guru recently profiled in Sunday
Styles (now in the $ archive) and the recent Frontline documentary "The Persuaders," locates the consumer decision center in the "reptilian brain." In cars, suggests Rapaille, the reptilian brain wants the exterior of a tank and the interior of a comfy living room. His influence can be seen in the civilian-grade Hummers, Chrysler 300 and PT Cruiser, etc.
The Bentley comes by these characteristics naturally, as it is a huge (212.2" long, nearly 60" tall) sedan evolved, but not by much, from '50s and '60s vintage Rolls-Royces. The shape, particularly in the observed car's jet black, conveys a very clear message to other drivers: "get the f*** out of my way."
Diamond-pattened tufting in the seating area, which identifies the car as the sporting 'T' model, lends a bit of mod flair to a cabin otherwise hewing to the British lots-of-wood-and-leather standard. Whereas successful mid-luxury models must make do by mixing relatively pleasing synthetics with natural materials applied to high-valued surfaces, climate controls obviously lifted from the previous generation BMW 7-series (which indicate that the car is not brand new -- VW now owns Bentley) appear to be the only plastic bits one's fingers would condescend to touch if this were one's own car.
Perhaps more surprisingly, in the Whole Foods lot last week, I saw a presumably operable Chevrolet Chevette. No one should be shocked by the collection of left-leaning bumper stickers adorning its tail. The Chevette had insufficient rust through to be an original Wisconsin car.
Hypertrophied receipt watch: For two items at Sentry, credit card payment, two receipts of 17.5 and 17.8 cm (13.9 inches total). This doesn't hold a candle to Jeremy Freese's Best Buy receipt (500 ml Coke, cash) for sheer length, but Sentry should take the Redundant Information Award, as a single six-digit number is the only information on the longer receipt not also present on the shorter receipt. Both remind me that 162,324 brats and 27,840 hot dogs were sold at Labor Day Bratfest.
Note to Readers
Due to an unexpectedly early toddler wakeup, this morning's blogging activity is limited to Jeremy Freese's comments. Blogging may be slow for the next few days as we adjust to no longer having grandma assistance around the house.
My original JFW comment was partly a reference to Nicholas Kristof's October 27 column in the Times (now in the paid archives) on President Bush's relationship with truth, and thus was more on-topic to another recent JFW post. But the meta-truth of Jeremy's post is unironically true. (My preferred example, as a member of the cashless society, is the stack of paperwork I get at Sentry Hilldale from charging the occasional carry-out lunch item.)
This was also the first time I've been called "Tommy" since my 9th grade science teacher used it to distinguish me from another kid named Tom in the class -- who, admittedly, did not look like a "Tommy" at all.
Monday, November 15, 2004
At the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler reports that President Bush intends to name National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to succeed Colin Powell as Secretary of State.
Recall for a moment this excerpt from Dr. Rice's April 8, 2004 testimony before the September 11 Commission, ending in what turns out to be at best a deliberate mischaracterization and at worst a massive ass-covering lie. That this qualifies her to be Secretary of State cements the bad-CEO model of the Administration in my view.
BEN-VENISTE. I want to ask you some questions about the Aug. 6, 2001, P.D.B. We had been advised in writing by the C.I.A. on March 19, 2004, that the Aug. 6 P.D.B. was prepared and self-generated by a C.I.A. employee. Following Director Tenet's testimony on March 26 before us, the C.I.A. clarified its version of events saying that questions by the president prompted them to prepare the Aug. 6 P.D.B. You have said to us in our meeting together earlier, in February, that the president directed the C.I.A. to prepare the Aug. 6 P.D.B. The extraordinary high terrorist attack threat level in the summer of 2001 is well documented. And Richard Clarke's testimony about the possibility of an attack against the United States homeland was repeatedly discussed from May to August within the intelligence community and that is well documented. You acknowledged to us in your interview of Feb. 7, 2004, that Richard Clarke told you that al Qaeda cells were in the United States. Did you tell the president, at any time prior to Aug. 6, of the existence of al Qaeda cells in the United States?
RICE. First let me just make certain -
BEN-VENISTE. If you could just answer that question. Because I only have a very limited -
RICE. Well, first - I understand, Commissioner.
BEN-VENISTE. Did you tell the president?
RICE. But it's important that I also address - It's also important, Commissioner, that I address the other issues that you've raised. So I will do it quickly. But if you'll just give me moment.
BEN-VENISTE. Well, my only question to you is whether you told the president -
RICE. I understand, Commissioner, but I will, if you'll just give me a moment, I will address fully the questions that you've asked.
First of all, yes, the Aug. 6 P.D.B. was in response to questions of the president. In that sense, he asked that this be done. It was not a particular threat report. And there was historical information in there about - about various aspects of al Qaeda's operations. Dick Clarke had told me, I think in a memorandum - I remember it as being only a line or two - that there were al Qaeda cells in the United States. Now, the question is: What did we need to do about that? And I also understood that that was what the F.B.I. was doing, that the F.B.I. was pursuing these al Qaeda cells. I believe in the Aug. 6 memorandum it says that there were 70 full field investigations underway of these cells. And so there was no recommendation that we do something about this - the F.B.I. was pursuing it.
I really don't remember, Commissioner, whether I discussed this with the president.
BEN-VENISTE. Thank you.
RICE. I remember very well that the president was aware that there were issues inside the United States. He'd talked to people about this. But I don't remember the al Qaeda cells as being something that we were told we needed to do something about.
BEN-VENISTE. Isn't it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the Aug. 6 P.D.B. warned against possible attacks in this country? And I ask you whether you recall the title of that P.D.B.
RICE. I believe the title was Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the United States. Now, the P.D.B. -
BEN-VENISTE. Thank you.
RICE. No, Mr. Ben-Veniste -
BEN-VENISTE. I will get into the -
RICE. I would like to finish my point here.
BEN-VENISTE. I didn't know there was a point.
RICE. Given that - you asked me whether or not it warned of attacks.
BEN-VENISTE. I asked you what the title was.
RICE. You said did it not warn of attacks. It did not warn of attacks inside the United States. It was historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information. And it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States.
BEN-VENISTE. Now, you knew by August 2001 of al Qaeda involvement in the first World Trade Center bombing. Is that correct? You knew that in 1999, late '99, in the millennium threat period, that we had thwarted an al Qaeda attempt to blow up Los Angeles International Airport and thwarted cells operating in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Boston, Mass. as of the Aug. 6 briefing. You learned that al Qaeda members have resided or traveled to the United States for years and maintained a support system in the United States. And you learned that F.B.I. information since the 1998 blind sheik warning of hijackings to free the blind sheik indicated a pattern of suspicious activity in the country up until Aug. 6 consistent with preparation for hijackings. Isn't that so?
RICE. Do you have other questions that you want me to answer as a part of the sequence?
BEN-VENISTE. Well, did you not - you have indicated here that this was some historical document. And I am asking you whether it is not the case that you learned in the P.D.B. memo of Aug. 6 that the F.B.I. was saying that it had information suggesting that preparations, not historically, but ongoing, along with these numerous full field investigations against al Qaeda cells, that preparations were being made consistent with hijackings within the United States.
RICE. What the Aug. 6 P.D.B. said - and perhaps I should read it to you.
BEN-VENISTE. We would be happy to have it declassified in full at this time, including its title.
RICE. I believe - I believe, Mr. Ben-Veniste, that you've had access to this P.D.B.
BEN-VENISTE. But we have not had it declassified so that it can be shown publicly, as you know.
RICE. But let me just - I believe you've had access to this P.D.B. - exceptional access. But let me address your question.
BEN-VENISTE. Nor could we, prior to today, reveal the title of that P.D.B.
RICE. May I - may I address the question, sir? The fact is that this Aug. 6 P.D.B. was in response to the president's questions about whether or not something might happen or something might be planned by al Qaeda inside the United States. He asked because all of the threat reporting, or the threat reporting that was actionable, was about the threats abroad, not about the United States. This particular P.D.B. had a long section on what bin Laden had wanted to do, speculative, much of it - in '97, '98, that he had in fact liked the results of the 1993 bombing. It had a number of discussions of - it had a discussion of whether or not they might use hijacking to try and free a prisoner who was being held in the United States - Rassam. It reported that the F.B.I. had full field investigations underway. And we checked on the issue of whether or not there was something going on with surveillance of buildings. And we were told, I believe, that the issue was the courthouse in which this might take place. Commissioner, this was not a warning. This was a historic memo - historical memo prepared by the agency because the president was asking questions about what we knew about the inside...
Julia at One Month
Now: a rare occasion in a not-pink outfit, only pink accessories!
Then: 8:49 A.M., October 15, 2004 (age 8 minutes).
Sunday Afternoon Q-&-A
Q. So how did you spend your Sunday afternoon?
A. Working on some outdoor winterizing projects.
Q. That's exciting.
A. After a morning of the Twos being Terrible, it was a needed couple hours of naptime tranquility.
Q. So what did you do?
A. Put one of those air infiltration barriers on the family room windows.
Q. Aren't those the newest windows in the house?
A. Yes, but just in a relative sense.
Q. Why didn't you just install some of those lovely Marvin Casemasters.?
A. Let's just say I chuckled mordantly at Bill Wineke's column on the guy from Forbes who thinks you can get a big house in a nice neighborhood in Madison for $268,000. Also, the Marvins' installed price would pay for about 300 years' worth of the plastic sheeting.
Q. So when are you replacing the windows?
A. Just as soon as the Clinton-Rubin economy comes back.
Q. What else did you do, wishful thinking guy?
A. I built a leaf corral in the back yard.
A. It's like a compost bin for leaves. Ferns love leaf mold, and are probably the only things that will grow in some of the shady areas of the yard, which is to say basically the whole thing.
Q. I didn't know you were some kind of organic gardening nut.
A. You obviously missed the parts of the blog about being a pro-Kerry Madison liberal.
Q. Anything else? What about Prof. Freese making money off of Bush's re-election?
A. As a 'neo-classical' economist, I am disinclined to question how others spend their money, even if it's in bad taste. Nor am I inclined to begrudge him the $200 (*). [Edited to eliminate intra-social-sciences fighting words.]
Q. Isn't that the economist sin of arrogance?
A. Nobody's perfect.
(*) I also wouldn't expect the Academy to vote POTC Best Picture, but I've provisionally valued the wager using the naive Tradesports market probability as Jeremy reports it. Charles Manski has a preprint out on the complicated correct interpretation of the prediction market prices, but I haven't had the time to wade through it.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Additional Reflection on Pseudonymous Blogging
A reasonably good night's sleep leads me to ask, is there any reason why I consider the oeuvre of a plush toy named Fafnir Edgar Gustavus Fafnir Fafnir, or an authoritarian plush toy named Giblets worth reading aloud (to the extent giggling can be controlled) to an unconverted and occasionally eye-rolling spouse, while I level a cold gaze at pastry-themed verse elsewhere?
(As a long-delayed supplemental response to a now long-buried comment, one of the known images of Fafnir is in the Fafblog! masthead.)
One giant Starbucks city mug of half-caf Ancora D'Oro leads me to say yes. LDM's ragged meter (staggering between pentameter and, with a much-needed contraction of "wonderous", octameter) is appalling!
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Whither the Blog?
So we caught the Wisconsin Chamber Choir earlier this evening -- Suzanne sang with them in pre-baby days -- and on the way out the door, a friend of ours who had visited when this site's main purpose was to spread baby pictures asked whether I'd been posting much political commentary of late.
What immediately came to mind was the headline looking up from the Capital Times divider of Marigold Kitchen's newspaper rack this morning: Blue State of Mind.
I've kept up a stream of posts to keep myself distracted and, hopefully, to keep the small but loyal readership here mildly amused, but I haven't been brimming with inspiration. This may or may not be better than the arrival of the Festival at JFW (less pressure on the proprietor, at least).
Expect somewhat more random thoughts than usual for a while, amidst the baby pictures, as equilibrium is re-established.
Friday, November 12, 2004
Friday Baby Extra: Feel the Love Edition
Lost in Transliteration
This post was originally going to be a brief reflection on some odd Kanji spam that's been evading my ISP's filtration but not (after a little training) the Bayesian filter in Apple's OS X Mail program. (How does one respond to a come-on one cannot read?)
Then I saw some gnashing of teeth at Ocean over the early demise of the Big Bowl Asian Kitchen in the Greenway Station
Why cannot we sustain a fresh and original Asian eatery in this town – one that wont break the budget and will reliably deliver ingredients in wonderfully simple, crisp and appealing presentations?
I might point to Firefly, which seems to implement the same basic idea. Uniting good restaurant concepts with good implementation has been the challenge for the Food Fight outlets, but we've had a couple decent meals there. We haven't been there recently (pregnancy time scale), and perhaps Nina's mileage has varied regardless.
I haven't been to Muramoto yet -- still mourning the loss of Dog Eat Dog, in whose former King St. space Muramoto resides -- but one of my bosses, who I'd consider to be picky about such things, gave it an enthusiastic recommendation.
While the proliferation, and sometimes unfathomable success, of upscale chain restaurants may point to a Gresham's Law varation in which unoriginal restaurants drive out the indigenous and original, quick research suggests that Madisonian tastes are not solely to blame for the demise of our Big Bowl.
Instead, it looks to be a matter of corporate reshuffling. The Big Bowl chain was sold back to its originator, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE), a prolific Chicago restaurant group (*). Cf. press release. LEYE wants to focus attention on the Chicagoland Big Bowls, according to the State Journal blurb.
(*) LEYE's restaurants include Tru, where some of my D.C. restaurant friends engaged in a how-high-can-we-make-our-check's-per-cover-average game a while back, and Brasserie Jo, our usual post-opera dining spot (a mostly Sunday matinee series constrains our Loop/River North choices somewhat).
More on the 22nd Amendment
At the Yin Blog, Tung Yin, referencing Nina's invocation of the 22nd Amendment, notes:
Of course, that pesky 22nd Amendment also kept Bill Clinton from running in 2000. I have to think that, despite Lewinskygate and impeachment, Clinton would have beaten Bush pretty easily in 2000.
I'm inclined to agree, though I might have had to apply some torture-like persuasive measures to my mother, who only recently has forgiven Clinton his personal failings. Unfortunately, I don't think the counterfactual here is quite right.
The problem is that absent the 22nd Amendment, I'd guess Reagan would have been strongly favored to win a 3rd term in 1988 -- and maybe in 1992 as well. (Since I was -7 years old when he left office, I have to punt on Eisenhower.)
The good alternate-history question is what would have happened to George W. Bush's political career had George H. W. Bush never become President.
Four Weeks: Good Baby!
Partial chronology, morning of November 12, 2004. All times approximate CST.
4:15 A.M.: Julia requests feeding (normal interval).
4:40 A.M.: Julia returned to crib.
4:55 A.M.: Julia audibly fusses.
5:00 A.M.: Julia spontaneously stops fussing.
5:01 A.M.: Parents get back to sleep.
6:00 A.M.: Alarm goes off (WERN).
6:51 A.M.: (Monitor) John is counting in his crib: 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11.
We might just make it...
For interested reader(s), a baby photo update will be posted this evening, subject to availability of material.
Update 7:24 A.M.: Material presented itself earlier than previously expected.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Madison Real Estate: Questionable Pricing Strategy
This sort of thing makes me wonder just how obvious it really is that demand schedules are downward sloping in price. From a listing on fsbomadison.com, the area's most prominent FSBO real estate site:
If no accepted offer through fsbo by Dec. 10 we will list with realtor and raise the price to cover realtor fees.
Brief disclaimer: I don't mean to pick on these people specifically -- they just happen to be advertising the 'FSBO now, higher priced conventional listing later' behavior.
In the course of spying on local housing market conditions in the wake of our early summer purchase, I've yet to see this succeed at anything but causing emotional distress for the sellers, as in the case of some former neighbors who turn out to have fared poorly. (1) While this may also be symptomatic of the local housing market (finally) topping out as interest rates work their way up, I'm mainly inclined to score this one for traditional demand theory.
The above pricing strategy assumes that a Realtor can find someone willing to pay $X+3% or $X+6% (depending on how the FSBO seller felt about buyer agent fees) when the FSBO listing couldn't locate someone willing to pay $X, which basically means that the MLS more completely disseminates the listing information.
This is a poor assumption for a couple of reasons. One is that practically everyone who can afford the $300,000-and-up prices prevailing Madison's more popular neighborhoods (including Middleton Hills) has internet access. (The most recent national data (PDF) from the CPS are aged, but even in 2000, 79% of households with income exceeding $75,000+ had it at home.) Another is that buyer agents all know about the FSBO resources, eroding informational advantages to the conventional listing. I'd guess it takes 2-3 weeks, tops, for the information to propagate to every current market participant.
Simple advice to sellers: if you can't get $X within a few weeks, adjust the price to $Y<$X. (2) Repeat as necessary.
(1) When we sold our old house, which took just under 48 hours, we got some mostly friendly guff from other neighbors for extracting an insufficiently high price. An almost identically small house a few doors down had been listed for an additonal $10,000 not long afterwards, as if to prove them right, but that house has since been reduced well below our transaction price. Plus, our buyers had posted a Kerry-Edwards sign this past election season.
(2) I hereby disclaim all responsibility for anyone else's choice of X or Y.
Madison Real Estate: Architectural Building Arts, Help!!
In the copy for a newly listed 1498-sq. ft., 81-year-old house in the Regent neighborhood:
Likely the original kitchen.
Yours for just $285,900!
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Sins of the Economists
Via Marginal Revolution, I see that Deirdre McCloskey has a new essay "The Secret Sins of Economists." (Stop smiling, Brian Leiter!)
A workable joke about economist sins is eluding me -- something about violating the "Law" of One Price by filling up at the more expensive gas station on the corner, maybe, or buying something where the price exceeds the value of its marginal utility. Ah well, not so funny.
I read it, and I can recommend it as one of the better examples of the what's-wrong-with-economics genre, though (or because?) McCloskey's style is a little over the top in places. McCloskey seems more inclined than Leiter, and much more inclined than some of the philosophers Leiter cites, to absolve us of a number of serious but nevertheless venial sins.
As for the mortal sins -- a lack of quantitative precision in theorizing, and a matching obsession with statistical significance testing on the econometric side -- these are legitimate, at least with respect to some practice in the fashionable academic districts.
(Part of my post-election coping mechanism has been to greatly expand my economics literature intake beyond the friendly Journal of Econometrics, in hopes of being a better economist and thus earning enough to survive Bush's "Ownership Society." My delight-to-disappointment ratio is so far zero, though the denominator is still small, and there's a bit of selectivity bias as I do some screening of what I read for possible commercial relevance. In any event, I don't deny McCloskey's indictment, especially as it applies to most empirical results reported in the blue ribbon economics journals.)
Still, criticizing economics for failing to ask and/or answer "how much" questions is indicative of a somewhat blinkered view of the profession. I'd aver that non-academic economists, not to mention some academic stars like Steven Levitt, are primarily concerned with such questions -- as those are our clients' questions -- as opposed to basic qualitative judgments a la "trade good!" or "monopoly bad!" for which we probably could not be paid.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Slow Blogging Today
...made slower by this evening's Frontline documentary "The Persuaders", about advertising and marketing methodology. The segment on Frank Luntz's MO and contribution to the political discourse (e.g., "death tax") was chilling. The program will be viewable online on Friday.
Note to local readers: while Wisconsin Public Television typically rebroadcasts portions of its primetime schedule after 10 P.M. the next day, tomorrow's would-be slot for "The Persuaders appears to be occupied by the basketball Badgers' game against UW-Parkside. Even at Maryland, we didn't care about the UMBC game that much!
Monday, November 08, 2004
That Forthcoming George Lucas Documentary
A colleague screened the Star Wars Episode III teaser trailer for the Christensen Associates Star Wars faithful last week (against all reason, there are still some of us). It's now very prominently linked from the starwars.com homepage.
Short review: dark, very dark.
In the meanwhile, it may be time to put Thomas Pynchon's Vineland on the to-be-re-read stack. (See also Elaine Safer, "Pynchon's World and Its Legendary Past: Humor and the Absurd in a Twentieth-Century Vineland," Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, 32. no. 2 [Winter 1990]:107-125.) I've been bogged down at the start of the Bellerophoniad in John Barth's Chimera, and Robert Rubin's In An Uncertain World is a little too heartbreaking under the present circumstances.
What on Earth is Going On in Florida?
PZ Myers of Pharyngula (best Father's Day posts, ever), notes some highly irregular county-level voting patterns in the Florida returns. (He apparently got it from Brian Leiter.) I'd seen this kicking around before, but hadn't done any due diligence on the numbers and thus assigned it a low credibility rating.
The odd result of the election is that George W. Bush carried, often by large margins, Florida counties with very large Democratic advantages in the partisan voter registrations.
I did enough poking to say that the important figures appear to check out. Florida's (partisan) voter registration data by county are here. The county-level returns are, among many other places, here.
I can think of some potential explanatory mechanisms -- stale party ID on old registrations, incompetent reporting of the registration data by the State of Florida, more evangelical-leaning Democrats, for instance -- but on the whole, the idea that Democrats largely stuck by Kerry (89 to 11, according to the exit polls; sorry, Ann Althouse) everywhere but Florida takes my credulity and drops it down a wormhole where it emerges in the Gamma Quadrant in no recognizable form.
Interestingly, the issue is with counties using optically-scanned ballots, which is generally considered the most reliable available voting technology. Though as a result, the optical scan jurisdictions would be under much less scrutiny than those using touch-screen voting. At least it should be straightforward, in principle, to validate the vote totals from the original ballots; I fervently hope someone with appropriate legal resources does so (hello, Florida Democrats)!
I've leaned towards acceptance of the results on the grounds that Bush won fair and square -- or at least as fair and square as you get with a system that admits the fear-mognering, gay-baiting BC'04 campaign -- and that we get another crack at his minions in two years. I'd go critical if there's been a massive fraud.
Update: A Pharyngula commentator makes a moderately persuasive case that the issue is screwy party IDs. In a couple of the counties of interest, presidential and congressional preferences have been fairly strongly disconnected in the past few general elections. So I've toned down the title of the post accordingly.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
Guess I'll Ease Up on the "East Dakota" Crack (*)
From the Star Tribune, a lede we'll hopefully be seeing more of in '06:
Minnesota Republicans were hoping to enter the 2006 election cycle -- a crucial one in which the governor's office, a U.S. Senate seat, three constitutional offices and the entire Legislature are on the ballot -- in a lot better shape than they found themselves on Nov. 3.
A propos of Nina's mandate post, the Minnesota experience shows that it's more than possible for conservative Republicans to badly overestimate the scope of their mandate and to end up running in defense of policies a majority of the electorate didn't like so much after all.
Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota's Republican governor, won a plurality victory in '02 as the DFL and Ventura-Reform candidates split the center-to-left vote, so Minnesota may have been unusually primed for a backlash. Though ya'd think our far-right Wisconsin legislature might take the opportunity look beyond their artfully drawn districts to notice that Democrats hold every statewide office and make up half of the U.S. House delegation. (Based on the Isthmus profile, no link available, I doubt that John Gard, our assembly leader who apparently hates Madison elites so much he's willing to sacrificially be part of the Madison political elite to save us all from the Madison political elite, is so inclined.)
So what's the issue for the '06 election? One suggestion that may resonate with the middle to upper-middle classes: "stealth" taxes, particularly on education -- obnoxious fees on practically every public school activity other than showing up in the morning, soaring UW system tuition, etc. Seemed to work in Minnesota.
(*) Our Governor, Jim Doyle (D), was on the stiff side introducing Springsteen at the big Kerry rally, but was in top form on A Prairie Home Companion, January 10, 2004 (the East Dakota line is around 10:40 in the Real Audio stream for Segment 4, near the end of the Guy Noir sketch, or see the script).
Public Radio Fundraising
Jim Fleming of Wisconsin Public Radio seems to have an unnatural enthusiasm for the WPR pledge drives. But his "To the Best of Our Knowledge" was bringing home the bacon (Niman Ranch applewood smoked uncured bacon, perhaps) with special guest Chef Odessa Piper. Winter market shopping expeditions with Chef O. followed by brunch cooking at 25 N. Pinckney were going, at $500 a pop, like marzipan croissants back in the good ol' roll-the-dice days of the downstairs cafe. Never underestimate the power of the moneyed foodie elite!
Sunday Morning Retrospective: More Market Saturday
After our circuit of the market, we retained enough toddler credit, courtesy of the scone, to pop down State St. to show Uncle Mike and Aunt Angie (Suzanne's next two younger sibs) Overture Hall. While there, we caught enough of Yid Vicious (local klezmer band, playing Kids in the Crossroads) through the ground floor oculus overlooking the Rotunda Stage to thence pop across the street to take a quick look at the Lee Weiss: Recent Watercolors exhibit at the Fanny Garver gallery. It also didn't hurt that we also had the additional distraction capacity along. The exhibition was a bit low on Weiss's signature botanical images, though if we had $3,000 in the Decorative Arts line of the household budget, we probably could have found something to our liking. Some rock images in the collection, though, struck us as a bit too monochromatic.
By that point, we had the pregame warmup between us and home. Among the bad choices available to us, we opted for the dense but mostly moving stream of cars on University, which was probably the slower route on balance. I tend to prefer Regent St. for the pure 'beer and circuses' spectacle, though.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
Last Market Saturday
Even though the indoor winter markets now run year-round, the end of the season is still a little sad, and a bit more so with signs of the Events of the Past Week around (e.g., at the Bee Charmer stand, photo chez Nina).
I tried dressing John in something red for the home game Saturday, but was informed that I picked a shade neither UW cardinal nor "U" maroon. (As John is the Madisonian son of a Minnesota alumna, the ambiguity is a propos.) He was lured to the Market with the promise of scones. I think he ended up with a cranberry scone
It must have been the mild fall to date, but the market seemed on the bountiful side for November 6. Our haul was principally fruit by weight: 10 lb. of Ida Red apples (pie will be made this weekend), another 2 lb. of Macouns, 2 lb. mixed pears from Future Fruits. As unpasteurized cheeses are no longer forbidden due to pregnancy, I picked up a chevre Provencal from Fantome (having just missed the last plain chevre -- we didn't exactly motivate early). Chevre inflation strikes me as brisk. Various veggies (parsnips, red leaf lettuce, carrots, Brussels sprouts, shallots, and garlic) induced a sore shoulder by the time we'd completed the circuit.
At 1:04 PST, there's a glowing spot in the otherwise dark/snowy image from the Mt. St. Helens VolcanoCam.
AP reports that this is a new lobe of magma on the lava dome inside the crater.
They link a USGS image with glowing rock, but it's not yet available on the Cascades Volcano Observatory's MSH images page. Drat.
This was inspired by a prettier but insufficiently graduated map in this week's Isthmus.
Notes for GIS fanatics and individuals wanting to know how many muskies voted for Kerry:
1. Given the range of the Kerry vote share by ward (see legend), I didn't even bother to try a red-to-blue color gradient.
2. ArcView 3.2 produces cruddy JPEGs. Sorry!
3. The shaded area includes the parts of Lakes Mendota and Monona within the city limits. The affected wards extend into the lakes following the Census block boundaries, at least in the data files I used, which I got from the Legislature's redistricting page (and I didn't have time to extract polygons for the local bodies of water from the DNR's bigger Wisconsin hydrography file and knock the lake areas out in the time I'd allotted myself for the exercise).
4. If you want to build a floating or underwater lair, you can know where to vote -- and, more or less, where to go if you don't want to be sending an annual check to the City Assessor.
Friday, November 05, 2004
Addendum on Consumer Products and the DMCA
Another example of the printer business model that's near to my
Thursday, November 04, 2004
(Some) Limits on the DMCA?
I'd initially missed this with most of my non-baby attention focused on politics, but the Sixth Circuit -- responsible for putting the Ohio vote challengers back in business early Tuesday morning -- took a solid whack at one of the more consumer-unfriendly applications of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act last week. The addictive Groklaw has the ruling and the concurring and partially dissenting opinions.
At issue is the practice of putting computer chips in consumer products (in this case, Lexmark v. SCC, toner catridges for laser printers) that control use to the product in some way (i.e., requiring that the toner cartridge authenticate itself to the printer). The theory is that adding the chip can shut out potential competitors via copyright law and the DMCA's broad prohibition against the circumvention of access schemes for digital representations of copyrighted materials -- such as software on the chip or in a compatible product. The harm to consumers stems from paying higher (monopoly) prices due to the lack of competition.(1)
The Sixth Circuit's panel wasn't at all receptive to this application of the DMCA, as it evaluated the merits of Lexmark's DMCA claims in the course of vacating a preliminary injunction imposed by the district court. From the main opinion:
Nowhere in its deliberations over the DMCA did Congress express an interest in creating liability for the circumvention of technological measures designed to prevent consumers from using consumer goods while leaving the copyrightable content of a work unprotected.
The concurring opinion went further, and nailed the underlying economic harm:
We should make clear that in the future companies like Lexmark cannot use the DMCA in conjunction with copyright law to create monopolies of manufactured goods for themselves just by tweaking the facts of this case: by, for example, creating a Toner Loading Program that is more complex and "creative" than the one here, or by cutting off other access to the Printer Engine Program. [snip]
By contrast, Lexmark would have us read this statute in such a way that any time a manufacturer intentionally circumvents any technological measure and accesses a protected work it necessarily violates the statute regardless of its "purpose.[..]" If we were to adopt Lexmark's reading of the statute, manufacturers could potentially create monopolies for replacement parts simply by using similar, but more creative, lock-out codes. Automobile manufacturers, for example, could control the entire market of replacement parts for their vehicles by including lock-out chips. Congress did not intend to allow the DMCA to be used offensively in this manner, but rather only sought to reach those who circumvented protective measures "for the purpose" of pirating works protected by the copyright statute. [Emphasis added.]
Among other things, this logic would seem to apply to Apple's threat last summer to pursue DMCA remedies against RealNetworks over technology that would allow music from Real's online music store to be played on the iPod (which evidently involved some reverse engineering of iPod digital rights management software). An irony of that situation was that Real's efforts would tend to help iPod sales (which are apparently highly profitable for Apple) at the possible expense of iTunes Music Store sales (which are apparently not highly profitable for Apple, and which are substantially intended to help sell more iPods).
(1) A minor complication arises in cases where a manufacturer effectively gives away a product to gain access to a stream of profits from selling aftermarket supplies, as seems to be the case in the printer market. This could lead to heavy users of official supplies subsidizing the low entry price for light users, so not every user need benefit individually from removing a monopoly on aftermarket supplies.
More Election Returns: The Near West Side is Deep Blue After All
The Dane County Clerk's office has posted unofficial ward-by-ward results for the 2004 election, offering a look at (and inside) the City of Madison.
I had been somewhat surprised to see in the 2000 returns that Wards 66 and 67 -- covering our current Dudgeon-Monroe and our old Nakoma neighborhoods, respectively -- voted liberally, but not that liberally, with 63-64 percent of the vote for President going to Al Gore.
This time around, Kerry fared extremely well around here. In Ward 66, with turnout up 30 percent over 2000, Kerry attracted 83.8% of the presidential vote. Despite the increased turnout, George W. Bush actually got fewer votes than in 2000 (247 vs. 414). Bush fared little better among the Nakomans: Ward 67 went 79 percent for Kerry, and Bush lost 125 votes from 2000. Citywide, Kerry's vote share was up 7 points from Gore's 67%.
It's great to be in a happy island of liberalism! We'll have to work on the outside world.
Update: A friend sent a link to this modest proposal from the Moby Journal. Beats sending our tax dollars to the "red" states.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
A Quick Look at Some Wisconsin and Maryland Returns
John F. Kerry beat George W. Bush by more than 90,000 votes in Dane County, and by approximately 120,000 votes in Milwaukee County, according to unofficial returns. These margins are up about 13,000 and 30,000 votes, respectively, over Al Gore's 2000 performance. The increased Dane and Milwaukee County margins are approximately 340% of Kerry's statewide lead.
This leads me to conclude that rallying the southern Wisconsin base last Thursday was a useful tactic for the Kerry campaign.
Meanwhile, Max Sawicky gave me a good chuckle:
7. The Peoples Republic of Montgomery County [Maryland -- MU ed.]. We stomped the Right, on every ballot decision. We practice voodoo and trade our children for whiskey. Federalism! Bwa-ha-ha-ha ha!
Kerry's Dane County win was stronger to the tune of 0.5 percentage points than Montgomery, though neither was in the ballpark of my old stomping grounds in Prince George's, where Kerry won 4.7-to-1.
The only problem is that modern Republicans are all for federalism except when they're against it.
On With the Story
If I Were Two, I'd Look Like This Now
I feel less sick than Jeremy, and less sad for the moment than Nina (in Jeremy's comments), though I don't think reality has fully set in yet.
What kills me is the result (PDF) from my alma mater's School of Public Affairs that a good chunk of that other 51 percent apparently think they're voting for a Democrat, at least on foreign affairs issues. I'm also not at all looking forward to the administration's claim of an electoral mandate, let alone what they'll contrive to do with it.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Anxiety Fades Enough to Return to Election Blogging
The rest of the family is off to bed. The race (10:33 PM CDT) remains close, with almost no surprises in the electoral college so far.
Kos reports that the MSNBC exit poll indicates turnout is flat turnout in the 18-29 group and down among my 30-44 demographic. If this turns out to be true, I'd have to deliver to my age cohort a verision of Matthew Yglesias' foul-mouthed valediction. Being (just) on the young side of the 30-44 cohort (and an economist), I expect to survive to pay for Bush's shift of the tax burden to future wage-earners, even if I may not have to serve in the neocon war to reshape the Middle East.(1)
Good local news so far: Tammy Baldwin annihilates Magnum as if he were Ron Greer. Michels concedes to Feingold.
Update 11/3/04: Josh Marshall clarifies that younger voters did turn out in larger numbers, just no more so than older ones.
(1) Since the tax "cuts" have been a pure addition to the Federal debt, they'll need to be made up with future revenues plus interest. All this would apply a fortiori to the 18-29 group.
Too Anxious to Blog
Still hopeful it will be a squeaker.
Election Day 2004
Early indications are for a high turnout in Madison -- over 52,000, or 30 percent of RVs, before 11 AM, according to the Capital Times. This is well ahead of the 2000 pace. The city clerk's office speculates that turnout could reach 90%. Other things equal, this would be good for Kerry.
Our trip was uneventful. We rolled both children out the door around 9:30, hoping the morning crowds -- reported as heavy by colleagues -- would have dissipated in time for us. The line at the door was, indeed, only 3-4 deep while I was there, fed by a slow but steady stream of arriving voters. Three serious-looking and silent observers were sitting behind the table with the voter rolls, one sporting a button that registered as belonging to a Democratic observer group. Not sure about the other two. Poll workers were abundant.
I deposited ballot number 433. Just under 1300 ballots were cast in Ward 66 in 2000, so just over a third of that total had shown up by 9:45. Adding early votes, we'd look to be on track for a considerably higher turnout this year.
Monday, November 01, 2004
Yellow is the New Red (*)
Hot on the heels of Circuits' review of cat-blogging, the Times' car page covers the ascendancy of yellow (registration req'd) as the look-at-me color of choice for show-off cars.
This is not exactly news to anyone who has closely followed the sports car market. In '97, a friend (and fellow car-nut) and I sharply disagreed over a "Dakar Yellow" BMW M3 coupe at the Madison auto show. The M3 has traditionally been available in a few outlandish colors not available on lesser 3-Series trims. We both loved the car's mechanicals, but when I got my '98, I opted for metallic black. (I subsequently instructed Suzanne and my mother to institutionalize me if I ever get another black car in this climate.) The current E46-based M3 has been available in "Phoenix Yellow Metallic," with a Dijon mustard tone.
The retro-whatever Chevrolet SSR (distinguished mostly by the commercial using the Philip Steir remix of "Magic Carpet Ride" for the "Go" soundtrack) was shown in yellow in 2001. In the upper reaches of the market, Lamborghinis have been drawing even more attention to their outlandish lines with yellows for some years.
The money quote from the Times is that yellow is "a real impulse color." Yep. My friend and I are now both happy with our cars in good old silver.
(*) This is funny if you have a toddler who is still in the process of getting his colors down.
Our Prince's Turn as a Frog
Nina was asking about trick-or-treat pictures. We did not actually trick-or-treat this year. On Friday, the destruction and reconstruction of our street reached the point of partial sidewalk removal, adding a degree of treacherousness to the already arduous task of steering a two-year-old from house to house. So John served as costumed greeter to the early trick-or-treaters. Fortunately, the couple of just-preteen boys with hideous monster masks didn't knock until he had already gone to bed.
The road and sidewalk work suppressed the Halloween turnout even relative to the low level our neighbors had primed us to expect. Those that showed up got multiple pieces of candy and we were still massively overstocked. To avoid needless waistline growth, I may fob some of the excess off on my colleagues. Maybe.
Signs of Fall, November 1
After taking my mother and grandmother (that's Mom-Mom and Great Mom-Mom to John) to the airport Sunday morning, I took a spin through a few near-east side wards (33, 34, and 35; mainly down Jenifer and Rutledge Sts.) for a last reading from the sign wars.
Here in the near-west, Kerry signs probably outnumber Bush signs 10:1 or so, in wards that voted for Gore 2:1, and I'd say from what I remember of 2000 that the Kerry numerator is a lot higher and the Bush denominator a bit lower. Even the high-priced streets of old Nakoma are solidly pro-Kerry. This mosly induces warm feelings in this neighborhood Democrat.
The near-easters make us look like Texas. Between East Washington at First St and Williamson St. at John Nolen Dr., I saw more signs for Badnarik than for Bush. Those adorable bungalows on Rutledge just west of the river? A Kerry bloc, thank you.
What was missing was evidence of support for Nader or Cobb (but Nader in particular) in anything approaching the amount of pro-Nader sentiment that could be seen around there in 2000 (though Nader actually polled best in some northeast side wards). The most popular third-party candidate was clearly Green district attorney candidate Sally Stix. There are several examples of her sign out in combination with Kerry-Edwards, so perhaps the group of pragmatic Greens extends beyond the Green for Kerry kid at the rally.
Here's hoping: a less-fragmented progressive vote will make it difficult for Bush to carry the state.