Friday, July 29, 2005

Toddler Caption Contest

by Tom Bozzo


2. This is also my entry for the Columnist Manifesto backyard adventure stories meme. (The porch is in what used to be the backyard.)

Toddler answers later.

Update: The toddler answers...

#1: "I drew the Blue's Clues video."

#2: "Zoo." This is the successor to "Farm," which was destroyed when a playgroup pal knocked it off the table.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

GroundVenture 2005

by Tom Bozzo

Woohoo! I took a toddler to AirVenture and lived — with the assistance of a yummy half-drunk martini — to blog about it. I have to say (or brag, no Wednesday whine for me this week) that John was the model toddler, even though he was probably more interested in the hot dog and freedom fries for lunch than the enormous array of aircraft surrounding him. I'll have a chance to work on him for '06, in any event. Here's the adventure in pictures.

Our ground conveyance. Considering that it would happily cruise at 110kt if only the law would allow, a bargain compared to the avian alternative (q.v.).

The boy is ready for action!

(Still) on the ground in Oshkosh.

AirVenture is, among other things, an enormous general aviation marketplace. Here are some people checking out the Cirrus SR22, a modern piston-engined single.

The very modern cockpit of the Cirrus.

D'Ohh — the heart-attack inducing price!

Not my grandfather's Cessna Skyhawk instrument panel.

Nope, still can't afford it. At least this one's closer to half the price of my house.

A prototype Eclipse 500, a small jet aimed at the air taxi market. I look forward to my liberation from the airlines, depending on just which market the oil peak kills off first.

Two of the Eclipses also gave their first public flying display. Here they are in formation.

There was ground-oriented stuff going on, too, at a big Ford-sponsored tent. Here, I try on the '06 Miata for size. If I had a garage to put it in, I'd take one.

That Ford Focus has a fuel cell under the hood.

Carroll Shelby was explaining that Ford doesn't have the money to develop a V-12 for his supercars. Funny, in that Ford owns Aston Martin, and some Astons have twelves. Anyhoo...

I will never again complain about how hard it is to maintain plausible deniability that my car is silver. The Shelby GR-1 show car shows fingerprints with astonishing ease.

The Piaggio Avanti is a bizarro twin-turboprop.

Inside the Avanti. The Smell-O-Web would tell you that this is upholstered in really nice leather.

The White Knight and SpaceShipOne were mobbed in their role as stars of the show.

A little closer than he'll get at the Air and Space Museum?

Another view of the pair.

The Rutan influence was widely felt at AirVenture, including at this field full of Long-EZ homebuilts.

A C-54 (Douglas DC-4) of Berlin Air Lift vintage.

Catching some shade from a C-130.

Note for future visits: while the official air show starts around 3:30, there are nearly constant flying displays.

Waiting for a wing walker.

This fellow is about to transfer himself from the Stearman to the skid of that helicopter. He is not wearing a parachute. This is the second pass. You haven't lived until you've seen a helicopter do a tailslide and fly backwards in lieu of circling around.

A lovingly restored P-51 taxis out for the show. It's good to be a Microsoft billionaire (if I heard the announcer right, Paul Allen apparently owns this one, too).

The Virgin Global Flyer was supposed to have flown to Oshkosh yesterday, but was delayed a day due to foul midwestern weather. This was for the benefit of today's crowd — here, a low pass over the field.

And safely on the ground.

Steve Fossett (at podium) addresses the throngs, accompanied by Sir Richard (at left). FAA Administrator Marion Blakey was also on hand to welcome Fossett and the Flyer, also NASM-bound.

The warbirds were moving too darn fast for my poor point-and-shoot digital. I am so getting an SLR and telephoto lens for next year. Here's part of the final display.

Another Day O' Vehicles

by Tom Bozzo

I'm playing hooky (*) today so the boy and I can head up to Oshkosh for our EAA adventure — or AirVenture, if you will. Except we won't be flying, which I guess makes it a GroundVenture. Full coverage with pictures later, assuming that the experience of going to a massive airshow a couple hours away with a 2-3/4-year-old doesn't leave me too traumatized.

(*) Not really.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

A Weekend O' Big Vehicles

by Tom Bozzo

We got to test John's love of vehicles this weekend, missing only a waterborne component — though we did see the burned-out hull of a boat that caught fire in front of the UW Memorial Union tied up near the Tenney Locks.

The Wisconsin and Southern Railroad had an open house at its East Side railyard, with the big draw of train rides to some point between Westport and the "only Waunakee in the world." Like Transport 2020, only in 2005. We mostly dodged the rain for an early afternoon ride, and amazingly were not really punished when John subsequently skipped his afternoon nap!

The locomotive, an EMD E9. Author and son for scale.

Getting ready to board the ex-Metra double-decker car.

All of us on the train. Hi!

Trainspotters were visible at several points along the route, and one of them got a good picture of the train in action here (warning, possible pop-ups).

But that's not all! This week is the EAA AirVenture fly-in (John, Uncle Jim, and I plan to go, via ground transportation, on Wednesday) and some unusual planes were starting to showing up at the Wisconsin Aviation terminal en route to Oshkosh as we were having brunch at the Jet Room. This B-17 was the most attention-getting of the transients.

Back from a ride, taxiing past the GA parking.

The office, upgraded with a modern radio and GPS. John wouldn't tour the plane, which was probably all for the best — there is less room in the forward fuselage than you'd suppose.

The original avionics.

Peeking out from amidships.

John beats the heat under a wing.

Yellow tail and blue sky.


Addendum: Darn, we missed the afternoon arrival of the Rutan White Knight/SpaceShipOne combo, which stayed overnight in Madison en route to Oshkosh. Well... naptime is sacred. We'll catch it on Weds., though.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Juice Up That Third Rail

by Tom Bozzo

As is becoming clear, merely being unpopular and a bad idea isn't enough to kill off the Social Security "reform" effort, now in the guise of a "Senior Security Package." As Mark Thoma notes at Economist's View, vigilance is essential.

The story so far: the privatizers have three standard pitches: appeals to greed — you can't lose! — paeans to the economic freedom that supposedly flows from controlling in some ways at least a portion of the proceeds of one's Social Security taxes (whether one can eat freedom may be another matter), and finally fear-mongering.

1. The greed pitch involves assumptions on forward-looking investment returns that depend strongly on a return to the (stock) returns of the late 'bubble' era. My view — not to mention that of many economists who know a lot more about financial market macroeconomics than me — is that those are Pie in the Sky, with bond yields so low and stocks still expensive. But there are enough experts who will line up on the other side to give it plausible deniability. It also doesn't hurt, from a marketing perspective, that it tells people whose retirement income is tied to stock market performance something they want to hear.

2. The operability of the freedom pitch, in contrast, will be determined in large part by the sort of up-front policy decisions that Fearless Leader was wimpily refusing to discuss earlier in the year. While it has always been fairly clear that investment freedom would have to be carefully constrained to ensure high enough expected returns net of costs and guaranteed benefit offsets to avoid a future counter-reformation, some true believers of my acquaintance have, like Bart Simpson at Kamp Krusty, managed to sustain their faith in the flowering of investment-ownership liberty to come.

They are in for a rude surprise. An article sadly buried in the business section of the Washington Post a couple weeks ago (reproduced by Mark Thoma here) highlights an immutable feature of Bushite policy-making: friendly interest groups call the shots. In this case, it's small business lobbies at work. They strongly favor privatization, but are unwilling to see their membership bear the costs of 401(k)-style privatized accounts. The alternative is an annual accounting of contributions, and corresponding long lags between contribution withholding and credits to accounts. Since the contributions, under the would-be House plan, would initially be invested in government bonds which inherently could do no better, net of expenses, then the status quo of keeping the bonds in the Social Security trust fund, this is a guaranteed loser.

(See also PGL at Angry Bear here — the thing to note being that with administrative expenses, the proposal is more like taking a dollar out of one's left pocket and putting somewhat less than a dollar in one's right pocket.)

3. As for the fear-mongering, it's reached a new low with the latest stop on the bamboozlement tour, now joined by Barbara Bush. While Mark Thoma does a pretty good job of disparagement with "Bush Calls His Mommy For Help," what's just as interesting is the indication of how prevarication runs in the family. As the Times quoted her,
"I'm here because I'm worried about our 17 grandchildren, and so is my husband," Mrs. Bush said. "They will get no Social Security."
As everyone should know, this is the biggest coprolite in the bamboozlement playbook, and Mrs. Bush is happy to serve it up to the audience, "carefully screened" to devour it (which raises disturbing questions about the psychology of those who can actually get into these publicly funded events). This leads me to believe that Al Franken may have been too kind to her in Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.

Overall, though, I'm not unhappy that Bush is so drawn to the third rail, provided that he doesn't manage to shackle together enough of his legislative branch minions to make good on the threat to do something or else and thus really screw things up.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Friday Random Ten: Serendipity After All

by Tom Bozzo

Sad but true: in matters of transportation to work, my conservative friend Bryan Smith is much greener than me. It's probably not totally unfair to say that this reflects more the relative incentives we face rather than our inherent preferences for greenery, since I have free parking and Bryan is subject to the UW's "Transportation Demand Management" program, of which persistent excess demand for peak-period parking is a central feature.

So I'm Mr. Gas-Guzzler, typically driving (with a little stylization) an isosceles triangle of about 3 miles over city streets to the office, 2 miles to the gym, and 3 miles back home, at an average fuel economy of just over 19 MPG in summer conditions. (*) Note that my total fuel consumption is low, as this routine does imply that my 31-month-old car's odometer only recently broke into quintuple digits.

For this limited driving, I haul around an enormous amount of music, thanks to the iPod and the connector that conveniently patches it directly into the car stereo. The problem is which of the now nearly 1,500 songs I actually want to hear in my brief exposure to the car. One's mileage may vary, but I find that this puts a premium on tracks that would make a good sub-three-minute single in days past. I've gone through as many as forty tracks to find one or two in the three-mile drive in the past, leading me on several occasions to the brink of posts to the effect that "iPod serendipity" is a crock of s***.

Then a happy draw calms the blood, and today was no exception. I actually listened to the first three random tracks in a row, as their selection would have seemed canny had they been planned. So here's the random three from the car, plus seven more that are OK too, even if the shoegazing material appears in potentially jarring locations.

Jonathan Richman
Abominable Snowman In The Market
Best of Jonathan Richman: The Beserkeley Years
Blow Up
Pool Valley 12" (**)
The Chills
Swimming In The Rain
Polar Bear
The Jasmine Minks
Reaching Out
The Revenge Of The Jasmine Minks (***)
West Of The Fields
Little America
Reckoning (****)
Melon Yellow
The Chills
Part Past Part Fiction
Submarine Bells (*****)
The Jam
Town Called Malice
Compact Snap (******)

(*) This is a little worse than the EPA city rating for my car, but a little better than its rating on the EU urban loop.
(**) Digitized from the vinyl.
(***) A very convenient CD reissue that spares me from digitizing several vinyls.
(****) By local standards, this is not turning out to be a very obscure random ten.
(*****) The pseudorandom track selection isn't yielding a very random looking artist selection, is it?
(******) What is this, quantum entanglement with Phantom Scribbler's iPod?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Curious Incentives In The Hybrid Car Market

by Tom Bozzo

I'm not first to note this N.Y. Times article on the phenomenon of performance-oriented hybrid cars, which is itself belated if you've been following the topic automotive press. As resident car guy, I'll just add a couple things.

Drek's impressive post on "impression management" and the adoption of green — or pseudo-green — technologies is right on, even if I'm more accepting of the performance-enhancement application of hybrid technologies. That point goes to the instant title: eligibility for the "clean fuels" tax deduction is not based on fuel cleanliness per se, but rather on the cost of the extra hardware in the hybrid car. So it shouldn't be a total surprise, given that there is a horsepower war on, that the deduction has ended up subsidizing performance as well as fuel economy. As Matthew Yglesias correctly notes, if saving fuel were the true aim, raising fuel taxes would be the obvious policy solution.

That said, as boondoggles masquerading as greenery go, allowing the tax deduction for performance-oriented hybrids could be worse. If you figure most hybrid buyers to occupy mainstream upper-middle income tax brackets, then the average subsidy for eligible hybrids is currently close to $500, though it'll be more for cars just coming to market like the hybrid Lexi.

Not unironically given the Times's emphasis on the modest fuel savings of the performance hybrids, it's actually worth more in terms of avoided fuel consumption to subsidize a performance rather than an economy hybrid. The old saying about bank robbery applies: high-performance cars and other gas guzzlers are where the fuel consumption is. Plus, as should be abundantly clear from the performance hybrid marketing (as well as the Times's anecdotes), by and large the performance hybrid buyers would be expected to be coming out of performance non-hybrids. Likewise, a few environmentally conscious celebrities aside, economy hybrids probably substitute mostly for other economy cars.

The bottom line is that a hybrid drive system tuned for a 10% fuel economy improvement, holding performance constant, would have twice the annual fuel savings applied to an 18 MPG performance car versus a 35 MPG economy car at 12,000 miles per year. (*) Variations in marginal income tax rates between performance and economy hybrid buyers might be expected to level the subsidy per unit of fuel savings to some extent, but probably not completely. A quick calculation based on a 10-year vehicle life suggests that the subsidy costs $1-2 per avoided gallon of gas consumption — a bargain compared to ethanol.

A better question is whether hybrids are actually the lowest-hanging fruit for passenger car fuel savings. Signs point to no. High-performance diesels, in particular, appear to offer better fuel-economy improvements than current hybrids for a given level of performance, can themselves be hybridized, and solutions to their tailpipe emissions problems don't appear to be intractable.

But fuel economy theater is the order of the day, at least until fuel prices press matters further.


(*) A table accompanying the Times article shows Consumer Reports test data indicating more than a 20% fuel economy improvement for the Honda Civic hybrid over the base non-hybrid Civic, though the hybrid is markedly lower-performing. The second-generation Civic hybrid promises improvements in both departments.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Lunchtime Notes: Computer Feature Wish List Entry

by Tom Bozzo

For no good reason, a power glitch somehow just managed to reset my monitor and to set the battery back-ups in the Vital Electronics rooms beeping briefly, without resetting my actual computer (yay!).

In my years with the PowerBook — even the late period during which its original battery held next to no charge — I had, to an extent I'm only now realizing, laughed in the face of electrical supply irregularities. Now I actually have to remember to save my work, when there is work to save, on the iMac.

So the question du jour is why non-portable computers, even highly and mostly thoughtfully engineered ones like the iMac, don't have some minimal built-in battery backup to let the processors and memories ride out momentary power glitches or perhaps even to permit an orderly shut-down in the face of lengthier outages? The latter may be impractical for traditional box-under-the-desk PCs with separate monitors, but the former strikes me as likely to save considerable (if infrequent) annoyance at relatively low cost.

'Deviltry Most Villainous'

by Tom Bozzo

For a goodlye laughe, reade thee whole thinge at The Poor Man.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

by Tom Bozzo

For averting nuclear parent-toddler conflict: the inventor(s) of the washable crayon.

What's Good for GM?

by Tom Bozzo

To reinforce Brayden King's recent-ish post at Pub Sociology on the effects of factors like the U.S. healthcare system on employment costs, here's something near the end of a lengthy AutoWeek interview with GM's Vice Chairman Robert Lutz:
The four pillars of GM are compelling products, a new way of going to market, continued cost reductions and a relief on the healthcare burden. [Emphasis added.]
Not specified but go figure: the possible form(s) the relief might take.

I should note that this doesn't lead ineluctably towards a single-payer system, even though single-payer strikes me at least as the overhead-minimizing approach in principle. Under current management, we'd presumably be pushed towards something like mandatory purchase of private catastrophic insurance plus HSAs, though it's hard to imagine too many people outside of the Cato Institute's Borg cube or like environs popping Champagne corks over that outcome.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

When You Have Happy Lemons, Make Happy Lemonade

by Tom Bozzo

Should I have the opportunity for future cybernetic enhancement, my first implant will be a good digital camera. See, we left ours at home for this weekend's quick run to the Twin Cities, and while the obligatory trip to Punch Neapolitan Pizza may not have been overly photo-bloggable, the same cannot be said for the main event of the voyage, a Ralph's World full-band show on the plaza between Nicollet Mall and Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. Ralph's World, for the uninitiated, is an indie children's rock group from Chicago that the Marginal Utility household considers essential listening in the department of music kids and parents alike can love.

This was John's second concert, the first being another Ralph's World concert at the Wisconsin Union Theater. As the concert was free as in no admission charge (but q.v.), we arrived quite a bit early to stake out a good, and shady, spot. Minneapolis had been suffering through what anyone outside of the desert southwest or like environs would consider miserable heat, so the latter was particularly valuable.

Anyway, as we were settling in, we saw the band arrive, with Ralph himself bringing up the rear lugging two huge roller bags. We deduced that the bags probably contained Ralph's World stuff, which was borne out as Ralph wheeled them over to a tent on the periphery of the plaza. John was pretty much agog at seeing Ralph in person, and Suzanne took John over to say "hi" to Ralph while I held down the fort at our shady table. At this point, I was really wishing I had the camera.

Then, after some exchange of pleasantries with Ralph, Suzanne got behind the table in the tent and started helping Ralph set up the stuff! Then she went on to staff the table!! A no-camera double-d'ohh!!! John, at this point, was just standing in front of the tent trying to figure out, I suppose, what exactly Ralph and his mother were doing at the same place at the same time.

Anyway, I can tell you, and Suzanne could tell you better, that the admission price may have been zero, but many of the patrons voluntarily contributed to a pretty substantial haul for the band — even at prices seemingly designed to minimize change-making ($20 CDs, etc.) rather than constitute a bargain.

Interestingly, while many of the other early-birds presumably knew what they were in for, and indeed just about every parent near me was singing along to the concert even if their kids weren't, Suzanne reported that there were plenty of people who were just down there for an event without any Ralph foreknowledge, so she ended up fielding questions like:
Suzanne left her uncompensated work for the band highly impressed with Ralph's generosity in dealing with his audience. Ralph was available to sign stuff and pose for pictures afterwards, and that meant dealing with everyone (including us) in a long line on a 97-degree Minnesota afternoon, with no obvious diminution of spirits.

As for me, I was bailed out by the camera attached to our newish cellphone. The image quality isn't worth a damn, but it's better than nothing.

Ralph, Suzanne, and John. Did I mention it was 97 degrees outside?

Thanks, Ralph! (This is the cover from a nice solo album of mostly acoustic grown-up but kid-friendly music, predating the Ralph's World phenomenon.) Come back to Madison soon!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Lunchtime Notes: Fire Burn and Cauldron...

by Tom Bozzo

An interesting article on housing affordability from the front page of today's Personal Journal has the scary subhead, "Creative Mortgages, Which Have Kept Monthly Payments Down, Start to Lose Steam." Uh-oh.

The article reports results of a Bear Stearns study showing that initial payments on jumbo mortgages declined from 2002 to early 2004 — reflecting the increasing prevalence of "creative" mortgage products in that end of the housing market — but have since started to turn back up as price increases have accelerated and the spreads between fixed-rate mortgages and more creative alternatives have narrowed.

This goes a long way to answering the who-the-hell-can-afford-these-houses question, particularly in the face of the last few years' relatively stagnant incomes (*), though it also should provide an "eek" moment (or two) for anyone inclined to believe that the recent outsized price increases can go on forever. Once the gains from technological advancements in house financing are exhausted, as they'd seem to be, the combination of rising prices, rising interest rates, and relatively flat incomes can reasonably be expected to thin out the market, with prices and quantities adjusting accordingly. Just don't ask me when.

To note a point developed in the previous comments thread on the topic, conditional on being inside one's unpopped regional bubble, move-up price increments are not necessarily onerous (in effect, the entry price can be paid out of one's own inflated housing currency, and then incremental space is priced somewhat in line with its replacement cost) even as migrants from low-priced areas find themselves SOL. The catch is that when the supply of suckers buyers runs out because nobody can afford anything, this is a transmission mechanism for the pop between markets as well as market segments.


(*) Some upper-bracket house purchasers have undoubtedly done better than the median in the income department.

Security Theater Review

by Tom Bozzo

Before last week's visit, it had been quite a while since I'd last been to D.C. in person (damned e-mail and teleconferences), so somewhere along the way I missed or forgot about a change to the security drill for passengers to the airport I'll only refer to as plain old National Airport — or DCA, to those in the know.

When service resumed there, boarding a plane to DCA involved Vegas-grade security theater — dedicated gates with conspicuously armed police and a good chance of getting frisked twice in a one-way airline trip. That is no more.

Now comes the announcement that the other unique feature of flying to DCA, the house arrest for the half-hour of the flight closest to the airport's infamously short runways, will soon be eliminated, too. I'd have said that the move represents, more than anything, ratification of a "rule of reason" that seemed to be prevailing, at least on my DCA flights. But the Post article does note that at least 100 flights actually were diverted to Dulles over the rule's lifetime, but quotes a frequent flyer to illustrate "haphazard" application of the rule.

Indeed. What I'd seen in the early days was that a dense or distracted passenger who took the half-hour announcement as the last call for the bathroom would blow a sky marshal's cover before the passenger was in the aisle, without calling for even more disproportionate official responses. (I'm curious as to who is supposed to make the call.) On my most recent arrival, the belated rise of an elderly woman a row ahead of me for a bathroom trip — to the First-Class lav, which economy passengers are not supposed to use for security reasons, at that — resulted in nothing more than a flight attendant helping her with the lavatory door.

Anyway, good riddance!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Visit To Tear-Down City, or "Even If This Isn't A Bubble, You People Are Still Crazy"

by Tom Bozzo

Perhaps the most interesting part of last week's trip to Washington was an excursion to Bethesda, Maryland to see the house newly purchased by one of my former Terponomics friends. It's a brick colonial typical of 1940s suburban development: nice lot, no garage, pathetic kitchen, 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, 1500 square feet or so above ground, now priced just north of $800,000 — around double my neighborhood's going rate (compare, e.g., here).

This presents a certain etiquette challenge, of which I've also seen the flip side (*). This is where the yokel from more-or-less outside the bubble (me) is challenged to react to the features, or lack thereof, of the insanely expensive house. Things were made easier for me as I was given advance warning of the kitchen. Still, none of the choices are good, including:
  1. Laughing nervously and/or inappropriately;
  2. Imagining life with twice the mortgage, fainting;
  3. Pointing out what $800,000 will buy in yokel-ville;
  4. Noting impending end of world, screaming.
I mostly stuck with #1, though my friend's disquisition on their interest-only ARM nudged me towards #2 and #4 a couple of times.

Not surprisingly, these modest but very expensive houses are prime tear-down candidates. Indeed, a number of nearby McMansions of obviously recent vintage have either engulfed or entirely replaced the neighborhood's original dwellings, providing the week's observation of the undertaxation of the rich.

Differential local taxes have a measurable, if not a dominant, effect on relative housing affordability. Madison mill rates are about twice those in that part of Bethesda — our assessments respond more quickly to market transactions, too — and Madison taxes on an $800,000 house would be around $730/month more at the full market price assessment. That would pay the interest on nearly $170,000-worth of interest-only ARM, or around $130,000 in a fixed-rate loan. The upshot for payment-chasers is that the gross payment would be the roughly same for a Madison house and a Bethesda house (not necessarily comparable) priced 15-20 percent higher, depending on the financing details.

Before would-be Wisconsin property tax avoiders start packing their bags, note that Maryland has local income taxes. Note that I would consider it fairer to raise a given levy with income taxes rather than with property taxes. Of course, that's not on the table in property tax "relief" discussions here.


(*) My grandmother's neighborhood in Syracuse is very similar to Madison's near west side neighborhoods, but since upstate New York has become a much less desirable place to freeze for several months of the year than south central Wisconsin, their price levels are roughly half ours.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Lunchtime Notes: "Worst Analysis Ever" Contest Entry

by Tom Bozzo

Via Jay at Folkbum, at this hour I am in the process of raising my jaw from my keyboard shelf after reading an astonishingly misconceived analysis from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of why the Wisconsin Lottery is a bad deal for the poor.

The JS analysis looked at payout rates versus poverty rates by ZIP Code, and purports to show lower payout rates for relatively poor ZIPs. The problem is, payouts are only linked to recipients' ZIP Codes for larger prizes which must be redeemed directly from the lottery. Those comprise a small minority of the lottery's payouts — 6.3% of revenue for the studied ZIP Codes, for a lottery that casual research shows to pay out about 56% of revenue as prizes. This is like trying to draw conclusions about employment patterns from data that excluded, say, the private sector.

While the misuse of the lottery data is egregious, the real problem is that the JS misses the forest for the critters frolicking on the forest floor. Anyone with half a brain should be able to figure out that the reason the poor are screwed by the Wisconsin lottery is that it is a reverse Robin Hood scheme of remarkable crassness, in addition to the usual problem that players are taking 'unfair' bets (*). Unlike some lotteries that at least purport to do some social good by remitting their proceeds to programs benefiting, say, senior citizens (PA) or education (NY), the Wisconsin lottery's proceeds net of prizes and expenses are paid to me, and people like me: owners of 'homestead' residential property. To reduce my tax bill by last year's $110.42, someone — most assuredly not me — played and lost the lottery 2.4 times per week (**). This, as one might say, can't possibly be efficient.


(*) In the sense that the expected payout is roughly minus 44 cents on the dollar.

(**) Based on a $1 bet and considering the lottery approximately 12% overhead.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Slow(er) Blogging Ahead

by Tom Bozzo

I'm off at the crack of dawn tomorrow for some business travel, so updates may be scarce until later in the week.

Those of you with high tolerance for boredom or lots of time on your hands can tune in to the webcast of the Postal Rate Commission hearings on Wednesday at Depending on the exact pace of the action — hearings begin at 9:30 Eastern time and I'm the third scheduled witness — I expect to be testifying late morning or early afternoon Eastern time.

Independence Day Garden Update

by Tom Bozzo

What have I been doing this weekend instead of blogging? Why, digging! The last of the plants for our front beds arrived on Friday, and I was keen to get them into the ground so I can just watch the baby plants grow for a while — at least until the ground cover for the side bed shows up.

Want some real blogging? Read actual constitutional law prof Oscar's brilliantly imbalanced three-part series on the O'Connor legacy at The Columnist Manifesto. Also, this post on competition, market power, and the foundations of capitalism at Mark Thoma's Economist's View inspired a few thoughts for the occasional Marginal Utility series on executive compensation, which I hope to post if time permits during some mid-week travel.

If you want to find out more about the garden, read on.

The pre-existing conditions, Spring 2004:

The Plan:

The Plan in action:


The future spread of the viburnums will determine whether we'll need to reinforce the clump of dicentra to fill in the right front bed.

July 4, 2005: there's a house behind there after all.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Life Imitates The Onion

by Tom Bozzo

After an extended period of resisting headwear, John insisted on wearing a hat to market this morning.

This hat:


(Note, unlike Onion dad, I was perfectly fine with it.)

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