Monday, October 27, 2008

ATHF: Dumber Dolls

I know. I know. It's dumb, it's asinine, it's unpleasant to look at. But Christ, this one kills me... every time.

Without looking it up, who's the voice of Happytime Harry?

Celebrity Collage by MyHeritage

For anyone who didn't figure out that the collage from my previous post was a fake, I thought I'd put a real one up.

It's strange, actually. The first time I tried this photo, I got a bunch of "celebrities" I'd never heard of and my highest percentage was 55%. I thought this is boring, so I made my own populated by really funny looking people. Everyone seemed really willing to accept it as real so, thanks... asses.

This time though, same photo, but some people I've heard of. Still not terribly flattering though.

MyHeritage: Celebrity Collage - Free family tree - Genealogies

James Blunt must be a pop music personality, right? That's why I've never heard of him?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Online Aps are Mean!

I wanted to do the celebrity look-alike thingy that I saw on TAZMINTA. It looked fun.

But sometimes these things can be really mean!

I'm not talking to anyone for several days!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Slate = Fail

My original plan was to quietly take Slate online magazine off of my Blog list 'o links. Slate has long been a guilty favorite of mine. Many of their regular contributors (Fred Kaplan, Jacob Weisberg, John Dickerson, and Daniel Gross) share their founder's (Michael Kinsley) unfortunate penchant for partisan hackery. The usual article from any one of them for the past 8 years has had the same basic same formula: Choose any problem currently getting press, presume that the current presidential administration is evil, stupid, always wrong, and all the all-powerful cause of all that's wrong in the world, from that premise prove the current presidential administration is wrong and that they caused the problem in question through their mendacity, stupidity, and persistent wrongness.

Slate makes no pretense of ideological balance. No Fox News-like claims of fairness or balance. The editors seem to get a special kick out of crafting inflammatory and misleading headlines to get you to click on stories that are only marginally about what's promised (advertizing $$$). The Fray (their message board, like ALL internet message boards) is an utter waste of electrons (they, of course devote a regular column to tracking it). Bruce Reed seems to have some sort of horrible learning disability that makes everything he writes come out as pointless, shallow, and ugly.

Yet there are several features and writers I generally enjoy. Dahlia Lithwick, Witold Rybczynski, Chris Hitchens, Emily Yoffe, The Explainer, The Green Lantern, and Anne Applebaum come to mind. I may agree or disagree, but they are at least often worth reading. Slate also introduced me to some I follow despite their moving on: TMQ and David Edelstein for instance.

But as presidential/congressional race polling data begins to trend toward inevitability, I am beginning to sense emanations of liberal entitlement and pomposity from Slate writers (similar to Rush Limbaugh is 1994), particularly the less talented ones listed in my first paragraph. Seemingly, as a result, the dumb articles are getting dumber. To my eye anyway, as the masturbatory back patting grows more frenetic within their partisan bubble, the idea that thought, evidence, or even the occasional clever turn of phrase might be necessary (or even desirable) in political writing has been jettisoned in an avalanche of pent up hubris, nastiness, and schadenfreude.

Anyway, finally came along the article that was so stupid, shallow, wishful, and mindless, that I had to remove the tacit Sarcastic Weasel endorsement that comes from being linked on my blog:

Libertarianism is Dead, by Jacob Weisberg

Not that Slate benefits from my 3 readers.

Not that I wanted to make a big deal about it.

Not that I even planned a post.

I really don’t have time to put together my own refutation... something about 3 journal papers and one month to write them.

But the article was really ridiculous. And I don't seem to be the only one to find it to be an especially regrettable example of diminishing standards.

But, since Brink Lindsey (Cato@Liberty) took the time, I’ll point you over to his post.
If you want the quick version:
-Economic meltdown causes and effects still unknown.
-Most likely though:
-Public policy failed to stop the problem
-Private actors failed to stop the problem
-Public policy exacerbated the problem
-Private actors exacerbated the problem
-Weisberg = idiot

Thursday, October 16, 2008


It's a new semester. There are too many events requiring me to fill out the ubiquitous do-it-yourself name tag. My mind wanders...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Way Too Much Wind Related Fun

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Economy and Reality

Below is an excerpt from the best writing I've seen yet putting the current world economic situation in perspective. I'm excerpting it rather than just providing a link because it came from the middle of a football article (you shouldn't need my help to tell you which one).

Anyone currently panicking or considering cashing in their 401K (or equivalent) should give this a read.

Excerpted from Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback (10/14/2008)
Gasoline Plentiful, Perspective Scarce:
"Financial chaos is sweeping the world," a New York Times lead story said last week. I didn't notice any chaos in my part of the world -- every business was open, ATMs were working, goods and services were plentiful. There are economic problems to be sure. But chaos? Collapse? Next Depression? Please, media and political worlds, let's stop hyperventilating and show some perspective.

What is going on is a financial panic, not an economic collapse. Financial panics are no fun, especially for anyone who needs to cash out an asset right now for retirement, college and so on. But financial panics occur cyclically and are not necessarily devastating. The most recent financial panic was 1987, when the stock market fell 23 percent in a single day. Pundits and politicians instantly began talking about another Depression, about the "end of Wall Street." The 1987 panic had zero lasting economic consequences -- no recession began, and in less than two years, stocks had recouped all losses. (See John Gordon's excellent 2004 book on the history of financial panics, "An Empire of Wealth.") Perhaps a recession will be triggered by the current financial panic, but it may not necessarily be severe.

Politicians and pundits are competing to see who can act most panicked and use the most exaggerated claims about economic crisis -- yet the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are, in fact, strong. Productivity is high; innovation is high; the workforce is robust and well-educated; unemployment is troubling at 6.1 percent, but nothing compared to the recent past, such as 11.8 percent unemployment in 1992; there are no shortages of resources, energy or goods. Here, University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan shows that return on capital is historically high; high returns on capital are associated with strong economies. Some Americans have significant problems with mortgages, and credit availability for business could become an issue if the multiple bank-stabilizing plans in progress don't work. But the likelihood is they will work. When the 1987 panic hit, people were afraid the economy would collapse; it didn't. This panic is global, enlarging the risks. But there's a good chance things will turn out fine.

Why has a credit-market problem expanded into a panic? One reason is the media and political systems are now programmed for panic mode. Everything's a crisis! Crises, after all, keep people's eyes glued to cable news shows, so the media have an interest in proclaiming crises. Crises make Washington seem more important, and can be used to justify giveaways to favored constituent groups, so Washington influence-peddlers have an interest in proclaiming crises.

An example of the exaggerated crisis claim is the assertion that Americans "lost" $2 trillion from their pension savings in the past month, while equities "lost" $8 trillion in value. "Investors Lose $8.4 Trillion of Wealth" read a Wall Street Journal headline last week. This confuses a loss with a decline. Unless you cashed out stocks or a 401(k) in the past month, you haven't "lost" anything. Nor have most investors "lost" money, let alone $8.4 trillion -- crisis-mongering is now so deeply ingrained in the media that even Wall Street Journal headline writers have forgotten basic economics. People who because of financial need have no choice but to cash out stocks right now are really harmed. Anyone who simply holds his or her ground with stocks takes no loss and is likely, although of course not certain, to come out ahead in the end. During the housing price bubble of 2003 to 2006, many Americans became much better off on paper, but never actually sold their homes, so it was all paper gains. Right now many Americans holdings stocks or retirement plans are much worse off on paper, but will be fine so long as they don't panic and sell. One of the distressing things about last week's media cries of doomsday is that they surely caused some average people to sell stocks or 401(k)'s in panic, taking losses they might have avoided by simply doing nothing. The financial shout-shows on cable tend to advise people to buy when the market is rising, sell when the market is falling -- the worst possible advice, and last week it was amplified by panic.

We've also fallen into panic because we pay way too much attention to stock prices. Ronald Reagan said, "Never confuse the stock market with the economy." Almost everyone is now making exactly that mistake. The stock market is not a barometer of the economy; it is a barometer of what people think stocks are worth. These are entirely separate things. What people think stocks are worth now depends on their guess about what stocks will be worth in the future, which is unknowable. You can only guess, and thus optimism feeds optimism while pessimism feeds pessimism.

There is no way the American economy became 8 percent less valuable between breakfast and morning coffee break Friday, then became 3 percent more valuable at lunchtime (that is, improved by 11 percent), then became 3 percent less valuable by afternoon teatime (that is, declined by 6 percent) -- to cite the actual Dow Jones Industrials swings from Friday. And the economy sure did not become 11 percent more valuable Monday. Such swings reflect panic or herd psychology, not the underlying economy, which changes over months and years, not single days. For the past few weeks pundits and Washington and London policy-makers have been staring at stock tickers as if they provided minute-by-minute readouts of economic health, which they do not. It's embarrassing to see White House and administration officials seemingly so poorly schooled in economic theory they are obsessing over stock-price movements, which they cannot control and in the short term should not even care about.

Consider this. On Black Monday in 1987, the market fell 23 percent. If you had invested $100 in a Dow Jones Index fund the following day, it would be $460 now, a 275 percent increase adjusting for inflation. That's after the big slide of the past month, and still excellent. So don't panic, just hold your stocks. And if you'd invested $100 in real estate in 1987, it would be $240 today, a 30 percent increase adjusting for inflation. That's after the housing price bubble burst. A 30 percent real gain in 20 years isn't a great investment -- until you consider that you lived in the house or condo during this time. To purchase and live in a dwelling, then come out ahead when you sell, is everyone's dream. Not only do stocks remain a good buy, America on average is still coming out ahead on the housing dream. (This example uses the Case Shiller Index for the whole country; because housing markets are local, some homeowners have lost substantial ground while others enjoyed significant appreciation.)

Economic problems are likely to be with us for awhile, but also likely to be resolved -- the 1987 panic and the 1997 Asian currency collapse both were repaired more quickly than predicted, with much less harm than forecast. Want to worry? Worry about the fact that the United States is borrowing, mainly from foreign investors and China, the money being used to fix our banks. The worse the national debt becomes -- $11 trillion now, and increasing owing to Washington giveaways -- the more the economy will soften over the long term. It's long-term borrowing, not short-term Wall Street mood swings, that ought to worry us, because the point may be reached where we can no longer solve problems by borrowing our way out. TMQ's former Brookings Institution colleague Peter Orszag, now director of the Congressional Budget Office, was on "Newshour" last week talking about the panic. Orszag is a wicked-smart economist -- for instance, he is careful to say pension holdings have declined, not been lost like most pundits are saying, as if there were no difference between decline and loss! The below exchange occurred with host Jeffrey Brown. Remember these words:

PETER ORSZAG: One thing we need to remember is we're lucky that we have the maneuvering room now to issue lots of additional Treasury securities and intervene aggressively to address this crisis.

JEFFREY BROWN: Wait a minute. Explain that. Lucky in what sense?

PETER ORSZAG: That people are still willing to lend to us. If in 20 or 30 years we continue on the same path, with rising health-care costs and rising budget deficits, we would reach a point where we wouldn't have that ability.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Uctural-say Elth-Hay onitoring-May on Ind-Way Urbines-Tay

If Google ever learns to translate Pig Latin, by efforts to avoid linking of my "professional" life and my bloggy life will disappear in a uff-pay of oke-sma.

Since I just got back from somewhere in northern Germany on a research related trip, I thought I would share some pictures.

Here's the big picture of what was going on in... uh, picture form:

(Notice the sexy beast in the lower right-hand corner.)

One nerd:

Two nerds (S.W. w/ ATZ a.k.a. TUWotSW):

Biggest Nerd Ever (actually not the Sarcastic Weasel {shock}):

(That's a Segway under his dress, in case you were wondering.)

The future (the things are going offshore):

Some guy in a very sarcastic pose:

A church bombed during some war they had over there. The roof was not replaced and the church is now a memorial. Some jackass is spoiling the shot with his compulsive need to follow lines on the ground:

Finally, a bucolic scene:

Oh noes!

(illustration source: signed G. A. Harker: composite made in < 1 min using M. S. Visio)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Even Less Impressive In Person

Unholy f***er of mothers! The Lions were awful.

The Bears fans were nearly as numerous as Lions fans, much more vocal, and were way more likely to stay to the end of the game (4 to 1 margin, at least). Out of a masochistic sense of duty, I stayed to watch every last impotent gasp of failure and sub-mediocrity that the Lions put forth until the clock ticked to 0:00.

This is a team that isn't afraid to be a laughingstock. They are as far beyond laughingstock as a quasar is beyond an off-brand AAA battery. They have reached the point where Schadenfreude turns off, irony cannot insulate your senses, and we as a species of humans have to stop, take stock, and feel humbled, confused, and ashamed that this sad example of institutional failure and stupidity has somehow oozed its sorry way to a playing field from among our number (Similar to any enterprise headed by an MBA). They are going through the motions of playing professional football, but are already mentally, morally, and emotionally checked out.

Beating this team in football is like beating up a mentally handicapped, blind, quadriplegic,... pacifist... with very advanced osteoporosis. I'm not sure how an opposing team can derive any sort of enjoyment from the process. If I were a Bears player after the game yesterday, instead feeling triumphant, I would feel dirty. Dirty, ashamed, and a little sick to my stomach that my job forced me to come into such close, nearly intimate, personal contact with this sad bunch of contemptible cowards who dare to claim the moniker of "professional" athlete. I might consider demanding a written apology from the team for the very direct insult that the Lions' level of play represents to them and to the rest of the league (and to the idea of professional, spectator sports in general).

My favorite moment of the game was, after managing to grab a turnover down near the goal-line, the Lions did score a touchdown making the score 31-7. The Lions players on the field celebrated like they just won the game, and they actually had the gall to have some guy come on the P.A. and sing their ridiculous "fight song" which, I kid you not, goes like this:
Lyrics to Gridiron Heroes
(The Victory Song of the Detroit Lions)

Hail the colors Blue and Silver let them wave.
Sing their song and cheer the Gridiron Heroes brave,
Fighting for fame, winning the game,
Dashing to victory as they go.

Forward down the field,
A charging team that will not yield.
And when the Blue and Silver wave,
Stand and cheer the brave.
Rah, Rah, Rah.
Go hard, win the game.
With honor you will keep your fame.
Down the field and gain,
A Lion victory!
(Source: Lions Website)

I laughed till I hurt.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Goodbye to Matt

John U. Bacon bid farewell to Matt Millen today:

Good Riddance to Millen

He did a good job in summarizing the prevailing mood regarding Millen, the Lions, and their ownership. He did also point out something positive that I'd forgotten about Lions ownership (easy thing to do), and that was their willingness to build a new stadium and stay in town with very little in the way of public financing (bribes from the city and state). Many other NFL franchises extort stadium money or they threaten to bolt to another city... on the other hand, if the Lions ever did "threaten" to leave town, I'd chip in a few bucks to help see them on their way.

On a related note, the Official Husband of the Official Middle Sister of the Official Wife of the (officious) Sarcastic Weasel is a Bears fan and has tickets for the upcoming Bears game. The Sarcastic Weasel is invited. I'll go, but the Bears game happens to be in Detroit and I now have to decide, should I get/borrow some Bears paraphernalia to wear, or should I consider donning the internationally recognized Lions fan game-day apparel shown below:

(picture source: NY Times Website: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

You May Now Vote

The Name the little weasel poll is now open.

Please bear in mind:
a.) The poll is only to choose the blog pseudonym for the forthcoming kid, not to select its actual real-life name.
b.) The Sarcastic Weasel has already narrowed the field to winnow out any suggestions that are overly biologically graphic (i.e. yucky and not fun to type).
c.) The Sarcastic Weasel reserves the right to hold a super-selective manual recount (using his own rules) of votes from areas more likely to vote for his favorite results. No court (whether Supreme or lacking tomatoes and sour cream) will be allowed to intervene.
d.) Cook County election rules apply regarding number of times you may vote. If you can game the system, vote all you want.
e.) Anyone confused by the butterfly ballot format, is way more confused than they think.
f.) Vote for more than one option if it pleases you. Voting for all of them is nice too, but somewhat defeats the purpose of voting (just like selective recounts).
g.) Any rules not spelled out in advance will be made up by me when they become necessary.