Fifty years ago I was content with the concept of an infinite universe --- infinite in time and space. Then I started learning about expansion, deflation, the big bang, string theory, parallel universes, 11 dimensions, criticisms of string theory, etc.
I was shaken from my contentedness by the turmoil and uncertainty of it all. Ms Eclectic and I began reading more and watching more PBS-type television programmes about cosmology. I cannot even pretend to understand the mathematics and all the physics of cosmology [mired, as I am, in my basic Newtonian world outlook which struggles for even/especially/only an intuitive grasp of relativity and quantum physics], but I love trying to understand cosmology.
And so it is with pleasure and delight that I read this article [via RalphK]. It doesn't really help me understand cosmology any better, but it is a fascinating expansion of human knowledge about the earth, the Milky Way, and the universe.
[O]ur galaxy is a mere speck in a larger structure, which was just revealed for the first time by a group of scientists who created a map of more than 8,000 galaxies in an effort to understand where they fit in the universe.
The team placed the Milky Way on the outskirts of a massive, previously unknown galaxy super-cluster scientists have named Laniakea, from the Hawaiian words for "immeasurable heaven."
The finding, reported in this week's issue of the journal Nature, stems from a new mapping technique that combines not only the distances between more than 8,000 nearby galaxies, but also their motion as the universe expands and galaxies are pulled through space by gravity.
It sort of looks as if we're in suburbs of Laniakea:
Note that this is a two-dimensional map of what is surely 3 or 4 (or more?) dimensions. Where were these galaxies and other clusters 5 billion years ago? and is this a map of where astronomers think they are now or where they were when they emitted the light we see now?
"Immeasurable Heaven", Laniakea, is a good term. I like it. And I'm thrilled with the increased understanding of the universe even if this understanding means little or nothing to our lives and struggles on earth.
This article is directed toward Bay Street lawyers in Trono, but probably applies in many other situations [ht Raffi]. And even if the advice doesn't work for all jobs, the overall direction of the advice might be useful.
[A]ll of our experts agreed on these finer points of dressing like a fully formed lawyer
- Well-kept facial hair is fine. Just no soul patch. Ever
- When the collars or cuffs start to wear, toss the shirt
- Skip the bow tie
- Always have a blazer hanging on your door (or cubicle wall)
- If you’re going to wear red lipstick, the rest of your makeup should be subtle
- If you’re not interested in fashion, don’t pretend to be. Stick to classic pieces
- If you want to play it safe, don’t wear jeans in your articling year. Not even on Friday
- A little colour goes a long way. Try not to overdo it
- Always err on the side of over- dressed. That way, you’re ready for anything
Subject line and link courtesy of JR (my favourite drug dealer).
And about the subject line? JR's version of schadenfreude. The subject line of the email message he sent with the link was, "Pleasingly displeasing".
These would make excellent gifts for some people, but I haven't seen any on Amazon. ;-)
I'll be in this production of Death of a Salesman playing Charley, the next door neighbour (who seems to be one of the few honest, sane people in the play).
I love this production. The director, Jason Rip, has a terrific perspective which should open some people's eyes. And the cast is amazingly good, especially the two leads: Rob Faust as Willy Loman and Deb Mitchell as Linda Loman.
If you want to come to the $9 preview on the 18th, book tickets early. The other performances are $20, but seating is very limited, so even for those shows it's a good idea to book tickets early. The ticket-booking site is a bit complex because there are two different theatres at the same site, and the other one is doing "Noises Off" (which I'd love to see, if we can work out some way to visit one of their rehearsals).
Questions to consider, for those who know the play:
Performances at Procunier Hall (of the Palace Theatre):
September 18-20 8pm
September 21 2pm
September 24-27 8pm
For tickets, call 519-432-1029
The intersection between economics and psychology is huge, especially in areas of reinforcement, responding to incentives, learning theory, etc. Both disciplines rely heavily on the concept that people respond to incentives.
Psychologists have known for decades that animals also respond to incentives. Witness the early work with dogs [Pavlov] and rats [Skinner, Guthrie, et al.]
But this story about pandas seems almost more like economics [ht Jack]:
A giant Chinese panda has been accused of faking a pregnancy in a cunning bid for free buns.
Ai Hin seemed to display all the signs of an expectant mother, including moving less and initially having a smaller appetite....
However, it seems that Ai Hin had everyone duped and was never pregnant at all.
It seems the panda had learnt that her pregnancy news would see her rewarded with plenty of extra buns.
Wu Kongju, a panda expert told China's state news agency Xinhua that giant pandas are moved into a single room with air conditioning when pregnant.
"They also receive more buns, fruits and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life."
A Facebook friend nominated me to list 10 books that have stayed with me the longest or have changed me in some way. Feel free to list 10 yourselves on your own blogs or in the comments here, and consider this a nomination. I posted this list yesterday on Facebook, but here it is again with links.
1. Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman. This book probably did more than anything else to nudge me away from being a socialist toward being a libertarian.
2. Industrial Concentration: The New Learning by Goldschmidt, Mann, and Weston. The collection of papers in this volume pitted the east-coast interventionists against the Chicago-UCLA economists studying industrial organization. I'd been trained as a "Bainsian" by the former, but this book pushed me toward the Chicago/UCLA approach.
3. The Economic Way of Thinking. When I first saw this book in 1984, I fell in love with the approach and later had the opportunity to write the Canadian edition.
4. Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot. I read the entire collection in chronological during my first summer in grad school.
5. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I think this might have been the first novel I ever read on my own initiative.
6. Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe. Some of the best mystery stories ever written.
7. Summerhill by A. S. Neill. What a bizarre, intriguing approach to education and parenting. I loved it at the time. Not so much now.
8. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffen. As a young white man, this book gave me insights that guided me through much of the rest of my life.
9. The Economic Analysis of Law by Richard A. Posner. I reviewed the first edition of the book in the early 1970s and had my mind blown/altered on so many topics through his careful applications of economics. It is still my go-to book when teaching Economic Analysis of Law.
10a. I'm not sure this qualifies, but I have spent more time with this paperback than with most other books: the pocket score for Dvorak's New World Symphony.
10b. I'd be remiss in not mentioning Bill James' 1984 Baseball Abstract. It put me on the road toward Sabremetrics and becoming a baseball sportscaster.
. . . . . . . . .
There are many FB memes talking about how wonderful mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters are. Despite my apparent addiction to FB, I have yet to see any of these things talking about how wonderful dads, grandfathers, uncles, and brothers are. I always want to post comments, correcting or adding to them, but that would become both tiresome and tiring.
Am I missing the ones mentioning males? Or is there some other explanation?
For several decades when we lived in single-family private dwellings we had natural gas hook-ups installed so we could barbecue year-round with little difficulty. It was terrific.
Three years ago, though, we moved into a condo unit where the natural gas lines cannot be installed to the balconies; we have had to give up the idea of continuing our use of natural gas to barbecue.
Provincial law forbids carrying propane tanks in elevators, and I'm not about to lug one up the stairs to our unit, so propane bbqs are not a good solution.
After several false starts, we finally came across the Dimplex electric grill. Unfortunately, Dimplex seems to have decided not to produce electric grills any longer, but we quite like this one. I hope it lasts a long time.
Recently, we wondered whether we might enjoy using a Cook-Air grill that uses hockey-puck-shaped pieces of hardwood or composite fuel, and so we bought one from our local Lowe's. It does indeed heat up quickly, get amazingly hot, and cook quickly. Also, it cools off quickly and cleans up pretty easily. It would be great for tailgating, for sure.
But we will probably give ours to a family member. It smokes quite a bit, even if you trim off as much of the fat as possible, and I really don't want to impose that externality on our neighbours. And to be honest, I don't want to trim the fat, and I like the smokey flavour. The Cook-Air is probably better-suited to tailgating or places where smoke is less of a problem.
Also, after inquiring, we learned that having a wood-type fire on our balcony (albeit small and very well-contained) might not be consistent with all our condo rules.
So.... for us it's back to the electric Dimplex grill, which has been fine (aside from not really searing the meat and not cooking very fast).
Meanwhile, if you have suggestions that don't involve huge propane tanks, charcoal, or wood, we would be happy to reconsider.
Scott Sumner asks this question in a postscript to this post at The Money Illusion. Here is the postscript:
PS. If you insist on asking parents what they would think of their children doing something, then FOR GOD SAKE DON’T ASK AMERICAN PARENTS. Reason just ran this story:
A whopping 68 percent of Americans think there should be a law that prohibits kids 9 and under from playing at the park unsupervised, despite the fact that most of them no doubt grew up doing just that.
What’s more: 43 percent feel the same way about 12-year-olds. They would like to criminalize all pre-teenagers playing outside on their own (and, I guess, arrest their no-good parents).
Those are the results of a Reason/Rupe poll confirming that we have not only lost all confidence in our kids and our communities—we have lost all touch with reality.
“I doubt there has ever been a human culture, anywhere, anytime, that underestimates children’s abilities more than we North Americans do today,” says Boston College psychology professor emeritus Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn, a book that advocates for more unsupervised play, not less.
I’ve talked to both European and Asian parents about this, and both seem to think American parents are utterly insane in their attitudes toward leaving children unattended. Do we really want to rely on the moral intuitions of crazy people?
So many of my friends and I had pretty much free rein as we grew up. We spent many unsupervised hours at the neighbourhood park, we rode the bus downtown a couple of times a week, and we rode our bikes all over creation. As Scott Sumner writes,
Do we really want to rely on the moral intuitions of crazy people?
I answered all ten questions on this GMAT-type quiz correctly [ht JR]. I wasn't completely thrilled with their explanations of the correct answers, though, particularly when they didn't explain the uses of infinitives and gerunds.
Note: the quiz seems to require that you provide your email address to see the correct answers, so you may not want to waste your time if you're unwilling to do that.
This question was posed by a friend on Facebook.
My first reaction was that I own a couple of slide rules, but I don't think I've used either of them in the past couple of years.
Then I saw some bottles of after shave. I use them rarely and they are pretty old.
I have given away nearly all my books, but I have a few that I acquired back in the 1960s, including a bunch of conductor's scores. But I don't read hard copy books much, if at all, so I don't really use these.
Maybe the oldest thing I acquired myself that I still use (albeit rarely) is a maroon wide-wale corduroy pull-over thing that I bought in Chicago about 1966 or so.
But probably the oldest things that I own and still use are things I inherited:
My Facebook friend Raffi posted this picture recently:
His answer was "Travel more". Commenters there added things like "Do it" or "Don't marry". I'm struggling to come up with just two words. Here are some options I have considered:
But I like Raffi's "Travel more" too.
My mother sent me this necktie back in the days when I was doing baseball play-by-play:
One out, nobody on. 5 to 4 and bottom of the 5th.
Yes, I brought the tie with me to Rogers Centre Hotel, from which Ms Eclectic and I will be watching the Trono Blue Jays play the Orioles tonight and tomorrow night.
Bryan Caplan says he is a non-conformist who has succeeded in a conformist world. He is clearly very smart, but he has used his intelligence to help understand the world around him and sort the wheat from the chaff in many social and work situations. His advice for non-conformists applies equally (or in spades even) to conformists.
I highly recommend the entire piece, but here are a few of his points that I really liked:
1. Don't be an absolutist non-conformist. Conforming in small ways often gives you the opportunity to non-conform in big ways. Being deferential to your boss, for example, opens up a world of possibilities.
2. Don't proselytize the conformists. Most of them will leave you alone if you leave them alone. Monitor your behavior: Are you trying to change them more often than they try to change you? Then stop. Saving time is much more helpful than making enemies.
5. A non-conformist attitude toward education is dangerous because academic status is painfully linear and cumulative. To go to college, you must finish high school; to finish high school, you have to finish all the 12th-grade requirements; to finish the 12th-grade requirements, you have to finish all the 11th-grade requirements; and so on.
9. Most bureaucrats are deeply conformist, but bureaucratic (lack of) incentives are great for non-conformists. Think job security.
12. When faced with demands for conformity, silently ask, "What will happen to me if I refuse?" Train yourself to ponder subtle and indirect repercussions, but learn to dismiss most such ponderings as paranoia. Modern societies are huge, anonymous, and forgetful.
14. Spend the first year of any job convincing your employer he was right to hire you, and he'll spend your remaining years on the job convincing you not to leave. This advice is almost equally useful for conformists, by the way.
But allof his points are really good advice for everyone.
In the very early 1950s our family was on a trip through the south. At one point, to cool off, we stopped at a municipal swimming pool in Memphis, Tennessee. I was too young to catch on right away since I had been raised in the north and had no idea what segregation was, but my parents immediately saw that the pool was segregated.
The segregation there greatly amused my parents for its silliness: there was a rope down the middle of the pool. Whites swam and played on one side, blacks swam and played on the other. My parents rightly pointed out to my sister and me how silly it was because the water circulated throughout the entire pool and we all ended up swimming in the same water. It was as if the water didn't matter but the potential for contact did.
I was reminded of this incident last weekend when I met Pat Thomas at a community pool where my son lives south of Houston. He was telling us that when he was young, he grew up in Plano, Texas, which also had segregation. Only in Plano the pools were for only white people; his dad had to drive him 18 miles each way into Dallas for him to go to a pool where he could learn to swim. That was in the early 1960s, when civil rights and desegregation were (finally) becoming such important issues in the United States.
The community pool last weekend was a model of integration: whites, asians, blacks, Mexicans, east Indians, and all sorts of combinations of the various colours and races. For all I knew there were some arabs and jews there, too.
We've come a long way in 50 years.
Just before the plane taxied to take off from Pearson International Airport, I texted my son* in Houston, "we gotta get some guns and oil beer."
He figured I was making some kind of statement about guns in Texas but he had no idea what I was talking about.
So he googled "oil beer".... and eventually concluded that I was referring to a beer brand, Guns and Oil. Indeed, the person sitting next to me on the plane has a small ownership interest in the brewery, which is what sparked my interest in the beer.
I suspect that Guns and Oil targets (!) the NASCAR, NRA, redneck market niche. My seatmate said it tastes like Dos Equis, but I haven't found any yet to try.
*my younger son, aka Adam Smith Palmer.
I'm not much of a poet and not much of a wordsmith, either. 5-year-olds demolish me in Scrabble. So I was pleased to be able to dash off a haiku yesterday.
My FB friend, Marla, wrote:
Dear Invasive Weeds,
Die. Burn in Hell. Die again.
I hate you. Yes, you.
I wrote in response:
Use more chemicals.
They are healthier.
I'm pleased with my first effort, but I don't think I'll be giving up my day job to become a poet. .... oh wait, I don't have a day job.
A friend sent this around earlier today. Since tomorrow is a holiday in Canada and the weekend will be a holiday in the US, I hope some people will try this:
from PhD Comics via Brian Ferguson,
My favourite photo of me in my regalia is this one with former UWO President, Paul Davenport (note my Ricky Henderson-type crouch):
A followup, via a comment from MA, from Wikipaedia,
Western University may refer to:
- University of Western Ontario, branded as Western University, a university in London, Ontario, Canada
- Western University (Azerbaijan)
- Western University of Health Sciences, a private graduate school in Pomona, California
- Western University (Kansas), a historically black college operating from 1865 to 1943
- Western University of Pennsylvania, a former name of the University of Pittsburgh from 1819 to 1908
Yes, Azerbaijan! And this listing doesn't show all the other universities referred to as "Western".
A couple of years ago, The University of Western Ontario rebranded itself as just "Western University". The change cost a lot of money in planning, reprinting documents, etc. [my guess is that it was over $1m], and it was a ridiculous exercise.
The change formalized the name that people in Ontario and other places in Canada had already been using. In Ontario, "Western" has long been synonymous with "The University of Western Ontario".
But in Michigan, "Western" means "Western Michigan University"; and in Illinois, "Western" means "Western Illinois"; and for all I know in Belize, "Western" means "Western Belize". Or as one former colleague suggests, Western University might mean some place in Western Azerbaijan.
The point is that there was no reason to make the change. Everyone in Ontario (if not Canada) knew what you meant when you said "Western". But now what do you tell someone from another country about where you teach (or in my case, taught)? And what institutional affiliation do you list when you write something? In my case, I list The University of Regina and The University of Western Ontario; I don't say "Western University" because nobody has a clue what or where that is.
I asked them, and my former colleagues also list their affiliation as "The University of Western Ontario".
As Ms Eclectic often says, "Change for the sake of change..." A freakin' waste!
Those of us who are "under 90" face the prospect of having to take an actual road-test driving test at some point in the future if we wish to renew our drivers' licences. And, of course, the road test invariably includes parallel parking.
I don't mind parallel parking. I used to be pretty good at it, and I'm still ok at it on the very rare occasions when I do it.
I had figured that when the time comes, we would just buy or rent a car with the automagic parallel parking feature, but I gather that strategy is not allowed. :-( When our oldest granddaughter took her driving test, she was told explicitly that she could not look at the back-up-camera screen on our car and that an automagic parking feature would have to be disabled in any car used for a road test.
So, here is a nice, simple set of instructions and diagrams for parallel parking. You may have to click on the image to see the instructions.
I'd never heard of it until about a week ago, but it is clear from this article [via Jack] that I suffer from nomophobia.
Brought about by such triggers as a lost phone, poor reception, interrupted coverage, dead batteries, or lack of account credit, the condition — known as nomophobia — is characterized by the disproportionate “discomfort, anxiety, nervousness, or anguish caused by being out of contact with a mobile phone or computer,” ...
“Generally speaking, [nomophobia] is the pathological fear of remaining out of touch with technology,”....
Like internet addiction, it is a modern malady, arising from changes the mobile phone has made to human habits, behaviours, identity, and “common ways of perceiving reality.”
Sure, I'm addicted to the internet. I have been for decades. In fact, one reason I put off getting a smartphone several years ago was that I knew I would be on it a lot of the time. My signs of nomophobia:
It's an old joke, but with the Ontario provincial elections coming up this Thursday, I thought I would pass it on:
While walking down the street one day, a Member of Parliament is hit by a truck and tragically dies.
His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'
'No problem, just let me in,' says the man.
'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.'
'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the MP.
'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'
And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.
Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.
They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.
Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly & nice guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.
Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises....
The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.
'Now it's time to visit heaven.'
So, 24 hours pass with the MP joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.
'Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.'
The MP reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.'
So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.
Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.
He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.
The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. ' I don't understand,' stammers the MP.
'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?'
The devil looks at him, smiles and says, ' Yesterday we were campaigning…..
Today you voted.’
Let me add that Ms Eclectic and I dated for awhile, then didn't see each other for a couple of years. When we got together again, we became good friends... and I was suddenly struck that I had fallen in love with her... and we've been together over 32 years.
Google often has fun with its various maps. I recall some directions that suggested swimming to Japan or jetskiing to China. But check this out [via MA]:
Travelling from the Brecon Beacons to Snowdon in Wales would take 21 minutes by dragon.
Riding Nessie between Fort Augustus and Urquhart Castle, which sit on Loch Ness in Inverness, Scotland, would take 28 minutes - four minutes faster than taking the bus.
Punting between Magdalene College and Mathematical Bridge in Cambridge takes 45 minutes, versus 18 minutes on the UNI4 bus.
While Magdalen College to Wolfson College on a punt in Oxford, weaving around the River Cherwell, takes 1 hour 32 minutes.
And it takes 1 hour 16 minutes to travel along the M4 between Windsor Castle, and Buckingham Palace.
Dragon travel is shown on this map:
Over the adult years of my life, my weight has yoyo'd a couple of times between highs over 200 and lows near 150. I once figured I had gained and lost maybe 200 pounds or so as an adult.
But then I realized these weight gains and losses were not smooth; there have been ups and downs along the way, and actually I have probably gained and lost closer to 400 pounds.
"But wait. There's more."
During each day I gain and lose several pounds, depending on my diet and exercise. Those fluctuations alone mean I've probably lost and gained maybe 1000 pounds each year, over 40,000 pounds in my adult life.
It all reminds me of fractals and measurement. When measuring a coastline, the finer the measurement, the longer will be the measured length of the coastline. And similarly, when measuring weight changes the total variation will be much greater if measured every hour than it would be if measured just once a month.
Addendum: my latest weight loss success was motivated by my role in Academia Nuts, opening June 4th in the 2014 London Fringe Festival, in which I appear somewhat scantily clad in a brief scene.