So I didn’t have a great day yesterday. I tried to go to work and was stopped when parts of downtown Austin were literally impassable because the streets were sheets of smooth ice, and I was driving a rear-wheel drive pickup. After an hour of trying and failing to go work, I decided to go home and stop at the grocery store. I bought some stuff we needed for dinner and came home, but then I dropped the needed ingredients on my porch, breaking them (and it was black vinegar so it stank to high heaven). I went back to the grocery store, picked up some more vinegar and some fruit, and the total came to $6.66. The cashier – who had a long scraggly beard and long unkempt hair; in other words, he looked like a beast – suggested that today was my lucky day and I should buy some lottery tickets. I have never in my life bought lottery tickets, but for some reason the cashier’s words made sense. I stopped off at a gas station to buy tickets.
Actually, I failed to buy the tickets, because they wouldn’t let me buy lottery tickets with a debit card. But later in the day I somehow acquired American currency and bought some lottery tickets at a different gas station. And the drawing was today. Guess what: Read the rest of this entry »
Apollo posted this at 11:18 PM CDT on Saturday, February 5th, 2011 as Grumblin Mumblins, Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be!, Ourselves
No Comments »
After reading Amy Chua’s article on Chinese parenting, Hubbard was concerned that the children subjected to such parenting would experience burnout, and discusses a burned out swimmer. Instapundit posted a reader’s summary of this sentiment: “What’s so superior about taking a whole decade to realize I’m not a piano prodigy? Congrats to Amy that her children are, I guess.”
First, it’s worth pointing out that no one is born a prodigy and no one discovers they’re a prodigy at anything on their first attempt. Or their second attempt. Or their thousandth attempt. Is ten years long enough to discover that you’re not a prodigy? Perhaps. It’s certainly long enough to learn that you’re not the next Mozart (but since in over two hundred years we’ve yet to discover the next Mozart, perhaps this is an unrealistic basis for comparison). Or perhaps you didn’t practice enough because you just expected talent to float from the heavens and land upon your blessed fingers.
I fall into the latter category. I played the piano for a considerable number of years, and seem to have had some underlying talent. However, without getting into any childhood issues, we’ll just say that I had a fairly lax upbringing. I practiced when I wanted, and I watched TV and played Nintendo when I wanted. Guess which one of those I wanted to do least? I was able to be an above average pianist while exerting a minimal amount of effort. Because I wasn’t excellent, however, it was never fun to play.
But one can’t become excellent without hard work. An honest review of my life shows consistently above average outcomes and consistently minimal effort. Perhaps I could have been genuinely excellent at something, but I simply didn’t put in enough work. Or, perhaps I would have been merely above average no matter how hard I tried. If it’s the latter, my laziness has paid off in spades; if it’s the former, my laziness has been my tragic downfall. The truest thing written on those demotivation posters is that, “Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.” Logically, it’s very hard to get past that.
We must get past that, however, if we’re to achieve excellence. I envy Chua’s children. I doubt their childhood was significantly less happy than mine (and even if it was, so what? why do we fetishize “childhood”? why is it more important to have a carefree first fifteen years than to use that time so that their last 85 years are full of accomplishment and pride?), but they know exactly how good they can be.
Not everyone finishes first every time, not everyone is awesome at everything they try; in fact, very, very few do and are. Success is a function of inate talent multipled by effort. Knowing what I know about piano playing, the amount of time Chua’s children have put in at the bench by itself is enough to enusre that they’re among the top .1% of those who play the piano. They’re better than the vast majority of those who have more talent than they but work less hard.
And so what if, after fifteen years of hard practicing, Chua’s children realize that they don’t like playing the piano, or that they’ve reached their limit and their limit isn’t good enough? I doubt she forced them to take these lessons on the presumption that they would be professional pianists. Rather the experience of having put in enough work to get very good at something, and at least having a grasp of how much hard work is required to achieve true excellence, is an incredible thing to give a child. For those of us who have never tried hard enough to fail, that’s enviable.
Apollo posted this at 11:31 AM CDT on Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 as Ourselves, Philosophy
No Comments »
So apparently, all of our readers should respect our advanced years:
federalistpaupers.com is probably written by a male somewhere between 66-100 years old. The writing style is personal and upset most of the time.
That actually is close to the aggregate age of the regular bloggers here. . .
Hubbard posted this at 7:27 PM CDT on Saturday, September 18th, 2010 as Ourselves, Random Bloggish Things
1 Comment »
To my slight chagrin, Christine O’Donnell has won the Republican primary in Delaware, defeating the sure-to-be-unlamented Mike Castle.
Back in 2003, I had a summer internship with the Collegiate Network working in Washington DC. In order to get an apartment, I had to have the CN send confirmation of my employment to the apartment manager. When I called the CN, Communications Manager Christine O’Donnell answered the phone and emailed the apartment complex that I was, in fact, employed.
Additionally, I believe that my primary contact at the CN was fired/released/whatever as a result of this lawsuit. If memory serves, O’Donnell actually logged into his email to send the employment confirmation, but I might be wrong about that; at the very least, this seems like the sort of thing that I shouldn’t be able to remember after seven years. I liked the guy, but know nothing else.
In the unlikely event that O’Donnell wins, this will replace stumbling over Amy Klobuchar’s luggage on a French subway as my oddest encounter with a U.S. Senator.
Apollo posted this at 8:25 PM CDT on Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 as Ourselves
No Comments »
Yesterday I had to take care of registering my car – always a daunting prospect when facing California DMVs. At first I thought to make an appointment through the DMVs nifty online appointment system. I received my appointment for 3:20 pm. September 13th. I made this appointment 2 weeks ago. Sigh.
After taking care of the requisite smog check (sigh) I drove over to the DMV to see if I could just wait in line. Upon arriving the line was wrapped around the building. Twice. It was 4 hours long. Sigh.
I drove back to work fearing I would have to wait until September 13th. Upon arriving I told my tale of woe to a coworker who informed me that AAA takes care of 90% of DMV related tasks. Eureka.
I drove to the nearest AAA where they scanned my card and gave me a seat in nice plush chairs in their air-conditioned office. 5 minutes later I was called by name. 5 minutes after that I was out the door with my new tags. All this was done for free with my membership.
I’ve been a AAA member for 4 years now. I have not once used their roadside assistance services. This one trip has convinced me that my $45 a year was worth every penny.
Jamie posted this at 9:33 AM CDT on Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 as Ourselves
4 Comments »
Reviewing some of my personal writings this evening, I found this paragraph in a write-up of a “peace” protest I covered in 2002:
Another block to the east, holding signs and pacing back and forth on the steps just north of the Capitol Reflecting Pool, was Zeouss. He was Greek, as his name, thick accent, and complexion attested. He had a scraggly goatee and scraggly, bushy hair. His pants, shoes and shirt were dark colored and of fair quality, and he had a trash bag on his shoulder, probably left from when it rained. He appeared unwashed, and his hand felt filthy, but the quality of his clothes and the fluidity of his anti-Semitism led one to believe that he was an eccentric academic rather than a bum.
Apollo posted this at 12:21 AM CDT on Tuesday, August 17th, 2010 as Ourselves
No Comments »
A dinner menu that went over quite well this evening:
- Homemade “crackers” (with 1/4 whole wheat flour), with black bean hummus (served with sour cream and smoked oysters)
- Grilled asparagus (olive oil and salt – don’t get cutsey and add other crap)
- Rissotto with saffron and chanterelles
- Seared scallops with the beurre nantais from this recipe (without all the froofy spinach and chives – I mean, wtf?)
Granted, the Dobos torte doesn’t intuitively follow, but I’ve never found anyone who complained about receiving a slice. To drink, we had a Texas pinot grigio (the ’08, not the ’07), and then a white Rias Baixas, which I wasn’t familiar with before tonight, but enjoyed quite a bit.
Apollo posted this at 1:03 AM CDT on Sunday, April 11th, 2010 as Deep in the Heart of Texas, Ourselves
1 Comment »
I think the last time I geeked out this hard was when I was standing in front of Steven Spielberg at Sam Goody…while buying Close Encounters…
Jamie posted this at 6:46 PM CDT on Monday, March 8th, 2010 as Ourselves, There Is Only One God And Jonah Goldberg Is His Prophet
No Comments »
For five years I lived in greater Los Angeles. I regarded driving on the freeways as something between a chore and hell on earth, depending on the time of day. Not so coincidentally, I’ve recently realized, I drove cars that were not particularly fun.
This week I’m visiting my in-laws in one of the L.A. burbs, and I brought with me a rather fun car. Frankly, I’m blown away by how fantastic it is to drive here. So long as there’s no traffic, every time you get on the freeway the left two lanes are like entering a race. The speed limit in the carpool lane is “as fast as the guy in front of you,” and if there’s speed enforcement in the other lanes, it’s pretty sporadic. The drivers, reputation aside, are at least as skilled and attentive as anywhere I’ve driven. And no matter how fast you go, someone will pass you. I originally thought that there was a de facto speed limit, imposed by the dilapidated state of the roads, of 85, but a rather exhilarating drive to the airport tonight suggests that that’s wrong. The faster you drive, the more bumps you skim over.
I’m not sure that driving this way on a daily basis would be good for my health, my fuel mileage, or my insurance premium, and it might get old after a while (though probably not). Objectively, there’s enough traffic to more than compensate for the occasional bursts of speed (on the way back from the airport, twice I was going so slow that my Garmin asked if I wanted to enter “Pedestrian Mode”).
But as a once-a-year visitor who can pick the hours he drives – wowee this is fun!
Apollo posted this at 3:33 AM CDT on Friday, January 1st, 2010 as Amer-I-Can!, Ourselves
No Comments »
I am not what you would call an audiophile. I don’t obsess over my meticulously cataloged music files in .FLAC format, I don’t own $500 headphones, and I don’t buy all my albums in vinyl because “the music just has more soul, man.” That said, I was recently lent a copy of The Beatles Mono Box Set from a friend of mine.
To say that this was an entirely different experience is putting it mildly, it was like hearing many of these songs for the first time. Over the course of the day, and evening, it became quite clear that most of these songs were never meant to be heard in any other format. They were written, arranged and mixed for mono sound and to hear them the way they were intended is to hear the true genius of the greatest band of all time.
I highly reccomend this box set for any true fan of The Beatles (stereo…blech) I know I will need to buy it as my friend is expecting his copy back today.
And rightly so!
Jamie posted this at 10:28 AM CDT on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009 as Nerdom, Ourselves
2 Comments »
It seems that TSA’s Standard Operating Procedures manual (or, at least a version of the SOP dated May 2008) got released online. Some years ago when I was a member of the national security apparatus (either as a James Bond-like secret agent whose job was to win poker games and bang models in Monaco, or as a schlub in northern Virginia who wrote training manuals for airport baggage screeners; my memory’s hazy on some of the details) I had access to that document and probably read most of it. I’m anxiously waiting to find out which contractor posted it – it may well be someone I know. How exciting!
Anyhow, reading the now-released details that are supposedly the most revealing, I have the exact same reaction that I had back when I worked on such matters: 1. It’s hard to think of a concrete way how someone could use specific details of screening techniques to defeat the screening process; but 2. the most important information in the book is how un thorough the screening actually is.
One of our great advantages in battling terrorists is that terrorists aren’t very bright and don’t seem capable of solid analytical reasoning. Anyone who flies a half dozen times a year knows exactly how spotty the screening can be. Immediately after I quit my job working on airport security issues, the wife and I went to France for a month. When we got to Paris I got to looking for something in the backpack I’d used as a carryon, and I found but a box cutter we’d used while packing. Ask anyone who flies regularly, and they’ll have a half dozen of those stories. I was disappointed that I’d made it onto an international flight with a box cutter, but I wasn’t surprised (well, I was surprised that it was in my backpack, but I wasn’t surprised I made it through security).
I’m not saying the screening process is a completely wasted effort. Nor am I saying that we need a significantly more complete screening process – a nation of frequent fliers like America would not tolerate El Al levels of scrutiny on every Des Moines to Chicago flight. But I am saying that a big part of why we’ve spent eight years without an act of air terrorism is because the baddies aren’t very good at calculating their odds of success. To the degree that releasing the SOP allows them to precisely calculate those odds, we’re less safe today than we were last week. However, I just don’t think many terrorists are smart enough to figure that out. Three cheers for ignorance and irrationality in the Muslim world!
Apollo posted this at 9:45 PM CDT on Thursday, December 10th, 2009 as Global War on Terror, Liberty and/or Security, Ourselves
1 Comment »
This review of a Ford Fusion Hybrid provides the best description I’ve yet to read about what it’s like to drive a hybrid. This could just as easily apply to my Civic:
Like other hybrids, the Fusion has a profound effect on the driver that can only be properly compared to a personalized regimen of mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety pills and attention-deficit medication. Leaving town through Friday rush hour congestion would normally be a cut-and-thrust exercise for me, an id-tickling campaign of maximum effort leading only to minor advantages in speed and lane placement. That’s just how I roll. But despite believing deeply that traffic is a battle to be fought, I found the Fusion guiding me towards a center lane. There, the Fusion settled into a sedate, nay, a mature pace. I found myself focusing on the battery levels, indicated mpg, and accelerator level. Sure, the point of a hybrid is to be driven efficiently, but there’s more to it than that. Like any good psychotropic cocktail, the Fusion Hybrid leaves you wondering what happened to your old personality, and why the new one can’t stop fixating on something as relentlessly prosaic as fuel efficiency.
As an experienced hybrid driver, I can also fixate on feeling morally superior.
Apollo posted this at 5:56 PM CDT on Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 as Ourselves
No Comments »
Thought of the day: I’m studying under Tom Pangle, who once roomed with Alan Keyes, who ran for Senate in 2004 when Jack Ryan dropped out due to a sex scandal involving his wife, Jeri Ryan.
Dorothy posted this at 12:32 AM CDT on Friday, September 18th, 2009 as Nerdom, Ourselves
No Comments »
Please refrain from using the hand-dryer to dry your junk.
P.S. They never get things completely dry anyway.
Jamie posted this at 9:25 AM CDT on Friday, September 4th, 2009 as Ourselves, Uncategorized
4 Comments »
So the wife and I are at a point in our lives where we can consider some of life’s major purchases: a first home, if prices dipped low enough, or, barring that, a new car.
And what a deal for us, right, being in the buying market at just the time that the government is throwing piles of stimulus money at anyone willing to open up their wallet? As first time homebuyers, we would get $8,000 of stimulus money; and, of course, everyone is going nuts trading in their “clunkers.” But if my hunch is correct, this may actually be a terrible time for us to make a major purchase.
1. Government interference screws with pricing in direct ways. It’s not like home sellers are unaware that first time home buyers get $8,000 for buying a house. Virtually every ad I’ve seen has mentioned this incentive. While not every home buyer is a first time home buyer, enough of them are that this has to artificially increase the price (I’d guess $3,000 – $4,000). This increase in price would probably wipe out a significant portion of our benefit from the government money.
2. Government interferences screws with prices in indirect ways. By giving a subset of people $8,000 to buy a house, the government is getting people into the home buying market who otherwise would not be. This artificially increases demand, driving up the price above what it should be.
3. There will be a let down. A big reason we would consider buying a house is as a medium-term investment. If we bought a home now, it’s hard to imagine its value not going down in the short term, once the government subsidy stops increasing the value of the home, and all of the first-time buyers brought into the market by the $8,000 incentive leave the market. Whether it’s profitable for me to buy a house then becomes a function of how much that short term decline is, how long we intend to keep the house, and how fast we think housing prices will recover. All these things might still make this a profitable venture for a five-year investment, except . . .
4. There will be another foreclosure boom,. It’ll be smaller than this one, and it will be in different places than this one. But it seems impossible that the factors I just listed (lots of first-time home buyers being coaxed into a market they wouldn’t otherwise venture into, buying houses the values of which have been artificially inflated by government subsidy, with a short term decline in value) would not lead to another boomlet of foreclosures in a few years. Which would again drive down the value of homes on the market (absent another government subsidy), and make it difficult to sell a home.
5. Because of this massive interference, market prices are hard to determine. Whether the above speculation is right or wrong, the fact is that we simply cannot get an accurate gauge of the housing market. Perhaps the bottom has really fallen out and the stimulus money is keeping it afloat for a few months before it sinks some more. Perhaps the stimulus really has saved the market and it will go up from here. Either way, it’s impossible for amateurs like myself to make informed decisions. It would be unwise to make such a large purchase in an environment where we cannot accurately determine the value of what we’d be getting, so we’ll sit this one out.
1. The government is driving up the future value of used cars. By destroying lots of “clunkers” that would otherwise be for sale in a year or so, the government will create an artificial shortage of cheap used cars, which should drive up the value of some (but not all) used cars. Cars that fall on the lower side of $10,000 (like mine!) should benefit the most from this.
2. The goverment is creating an artificial bubble of new car demand. I’ve seen convincing analysis that the Cash for Clunkers new car selling boom isn’t creating all that many additional car sales, but mostly just compacting into a period of weeks car sales that would otherwise have occurred over a period of months. This means there’s almost certainly going to be a let down in sales after the period is over, increasing the bargaining power of those who wait (particularly if, as I’ve heard at least one Congressman foolishly predict, auto makers ramp up production in response to this sales boom – normally I’d say that’s too stupid to happen, but we’re talking about auto makers here).
3. The government is creating positive market incentives for people who aren’t me. My car definately does not qualify as a “clunker”; I get better mileage than virtually all of the new cars out there. I could sit around pointing out the moral issues of the government rewarding those who have been using inefficient cars while providing no reward to those of us who have driven clean, efficient vehicles and might like newer ones; but the reality is that the government is providing incentives for some, but not all of us to enter the new car market. All told, it’s actually providing incentives for some of us to stay out of the new car market. So we will.
Apollo posted this at 10:08 PM CDT on Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 as Bailoutistan, It's Economics - Stupid!, Ourselves
No Comments »