The economist in me cannot help but think about relative prices and the "substitution effect" [see this].
In today's story about the Danish shootings, the New York Times headline reads,
Terror Attacks by a Native Son Rock Denmark
One might reasonably be led to believe that the most important characteristic of the shooter was that it was a Dane who shot up the free-speech meeting and the synagogue.
It is not until the 6th and 7th paragraphs that we read,
Though the gunman’s name and basic biographical details were still unclear late Sunday, he appears to have shared some traits with at least two of the militants responsible for the Paris violence, notably a criminal record and an abrupt transition from street crime to Islamic militancy.
The Danish news media identified him as Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, but the Copenhagen police did not confirm his name. [emphasis added]
A native son, maybe, but also an Islamic militant.
Over 30 years ago, I bought a very well-made pair of Timberland loafers. I didn't take great care of them, but I did oil them now and then. They held up despite my lackadaisical care and rough treatment.
Slowly they became my slip-on shoes for going out to work in the yard (when we had one) or for short walks to the store or the market.
Finally last fall, I realized they needed new soles, so I took them to the shoe repair shop in Covent Garden Market. I was a bit leery of taking them to that outlet because I hadn't been completely pleased with their service previously, but it's a convenient location.
Two days after the shoes were returned to me, the soles started falling off. So I took them back and had them reglued.
Sure as shootin', a couple of months later, the soles were falling off again, and it looked as if the midsoles were in trouble, too. No way was I going to take them back to the place that tried to fix them initially.
Instead I took them to a new shoe-repair outlet conveniently located near the LCBO that is only two blocks away, Coakley's. I am delighted with the results! (I know, this is early, but the work looks mighty good!)
He restitched and patched and cleaned and redyed and reglued and polished the shoes, and all for a less-than-reasonable price. He will surely get my repeat business.
Here is his final product in this photo. I think the shoes will likely last another 30 years...
Note the valuable economic lesson about sunk costs in this story.
It didn't matter what I had paid for the shoes 30 years ago, and it didn't matter what I had paid only a few months ago for the shoddy repair job.
All that mattered was whether paying to have the shoes repaired would give me a pair of shoes that was worth what I would have to pay at Coakley's. The previous costs were sunk costs. But in economics (and life) costs are forward-looking.
Before taking the shoes in for repair this last time, I had to ask myself,
"Do I want to spend $X to have these shoes repaired for the future, or would I rather use those $X for something else?"
What I spent in the past was irrelevant to making this decision.
Shootings in Denmark and now this:
France’s interior minister said Sunday several hundred tombs had been defaced at a Jewish cemetery in the east of the country, in what he called “a despicable act.”
I had very little idea what the book was about until I read a few reviews. They all seem to agree it is turgid writing with very little romance and some shades (!) of S&M thrown in.
I've seen other fun on Facebook, such as "Fifty Shades of Black" and "Fifty Shades of Earl Grey" (photos of tea, of course).
[H]ere’s one tiny sample of the writing style:
“Did you give him our address?”
“No, but stalking is one of his specialties,” I muse matter-of-factly.
Kate’s brow knits further.
That’s right: This is the kind of a book where, instead of saying things, characters muse them, and they are somehow able to muse them matter-of-factly. And these matter-of-fact musings cause other characters’ brows—which of course were already knitted—to knit still further. The book is over five hundred pages long and the whole thing is written like that. If Jane Austen (another bestselling female British author) came back to life and read this book, she would kill herself. ...
So the plot is: They have sex, she wants to smooch, he wants to flog, there’s a bunch of talking about this, they have sex again, she again wants to smooch, he again wants to flog, there’s a bunch more talking about this, and so on for several hundred word-filled pages.
Finally, Anastasia decides to let Christian flog her, to see what it would be like. So he takes a belt and flogs her on the butt. Then, in the dramatic climax to the story, the moment we have been building up to, Anastasia comes to a shocking, life-changing realization, which nobody could have foreseen in a million years: Getting flogged on the butt hurts.
Stephanie Merry (contrasting the movie with the novel):
After all, the erotic romance novel, based on saucy “Twilight” fan-fiction, did great business, despite being a 500-page lesson in how not to use a thesaurus. Millions of readers paid their dues, skimming countless boring scenes with a narrator who says nothing more profound than “holy cow!” and “double crap!” so they could get to the good stuff: bondage-laced sex scenes between the story’s innocent protagonist and her impossibly hot, impossibly rich damaged-goods love interest. ...
Of course, the tedium of doing business is broken up by about 15 minutes of sexcapades. Compared to the book, which features a much-discussed scene involving a tampon, the movie is a model of moderation. Every sexual encounter plays out to the soothing strains of some lovely vocalist (Sia, Beyoncé), and careful framing means we see plenty of skin, but not as much as you might expect for a chronicle of fringy sexual habits. Dornan doesn’t even get totally naked for the camera.
Taylor-Johnson clearly was going for an R rating, and even with what the MPAA deemed “unusual behavior” — including one difficult-to-watch whipping — no scene comes close to earning an NC-17 designation.
In the end, there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before. But there’s also nothing as agonizingly awkward as James’s prose.
Anthony Lane (rivaling Dave Barry for put-downs):
If the figures are correct, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E. L. James, has been bought by more than a hundred million people, of whom only twenty million were under the impression that it was a paint catalogue. That leaves a solid eighty million or so who, upon reading sentences such as “He strokes his chin thoughtfully with his long, skilled fingers,” had to lie down for a while and let the creamy waves of ecstasy subside. Now, after an enticing buildup, which took to extreme lengths the art of the peekaboo, the film of the book is here....
“Fifty Shades of Grey” is being released in time for Valentine’s Day. That’s a bold move, since the film is not just unromantic but specifically anti-romantic; take your valentine along, by all means, but, be warned, it’ll be like watching “Rosemary’s Baby” at Christmas. Try holding hands as the hero taunts the rituals of sentiment, such as going out for dinner and a movie: “That’s not really my thing.” What his thing actually is, Lord knows, although, to judge by the importance that he attaches to grooming, regular feeding, and nicely buffed leather goods, my suspicion is that he doesn’t want a girlfriend at all. I know Mr. Grey’s whopping-big secret. He wants a pony.
Honestly? Is that really what the book and movie are like? I must be way out to lunch, but why on earth was the book ever popular?
Toward the end of today's NYTimes obituary for David Carr is this [h/t Ms Eclectic]:
“I now inhabit a life I don’t deserve,” Mr. Carr wrote ... “but we all walk this earth feeling we are frauds. The trick is to be grateful and hope the caper doesn’t end any time soon.”
That is so pithy, so true. I'm grateful for having taken the journey and for the life I have. [See my recent post on happiness.] I never imagined having a life so full and rich; I too feel as if "I now inhabit a life I don't deserve." Fortunately some years ago I began to understand this and accept the feelings of gratitude that inundate me every day.
Also, like Carr, I "... hope the caper doesn't end any time soon."
I recall so many of my friends from the intelligentsia over the years saying they had led full lives and could accept death whenever it comes. Not me! Despite the physical deterioration that comes with age, I am loving life, and I want to keep enjoying it.
I am not ready for this caper to end.
A week or so ago, I posted this about confidence intervals and weather forecasts. Other posts about them are here and here. And here is a post nearly a decade old about confidence intervals and standards of proof in the legal system.
The other day, though, JR (my favourite drug dealer) sent me this brilliant statement:
There are exceptions which don't prove the rule, they prove the confidence interval.
Yesterday my daughter suggested we go to see "Jersey Boys" which is playing in town this weekend. "Jersey Boys" comprises a story about Franky Valli and The Four Seasons along with songs from that era. I listened to a lot their music in my younger days and was interested in see the show, but I told her I didn't really want to shell out $75 or $100 for a ticket.
So I looked online just to see what the prices were.
HOLY CRAP! The tickets are $174 - $223 EACH.
I'd sort of like to see the show, but not enough to give up whatever else I might use that money for. [the fundamentals of "opportunity costs"]
I simply cannot imagine spending that kind of money to see a live show, but all the performances are sold out or nearly so, and I know I have friends who have seen the show.
Ms Eclectic says I am out of touch with how much people pay to see live musical groups on tour. I'm afraid she is right.
Update and correction: Leigh pointed out those were dinner-and-theatre ticket prices. The tickets for the show only range from about $80 - $125 or so. [expensive dinners, eh?]
I don't eat much bread anymore, and even if I did eat bread in sandwiches, I'm not sure I'd think this technique was the greatest thing since .... well, never mind [via Jack].
The argument behind the technique is that toast for sandwiches would be ideal if only it were crisp on the outside of the sandwich and soft on the inside of the sandwich. I don't see that, but if you do, you might want to try this technique.
With most toasters, the slots are quite wide now to accommodate thick items like bagels, crumpets, English muffins, etc. So if you want a sandwich with bread that is crisp on one side and soft on the other side, put two slices in one slot, like this:
Seems like a good idea.... if that's what you really want.
Addendum: Marilyn just noted on FB that most toasters with wide slots also have a bagel setting that toasts only one side.... if that's what your really want.
Several times recently I have posted about how much I liked my first bottle of Ledaig 10-year-old whisky from the Isle of Mull [see here, for example]. As I wrote then, I ordered two six-bottle cases of Ledaig last week.
This morning I received the twelve bottles!
Oh Happy Day! Here they are:
What a wonderful way to shop for scotch whisky!
Addendum: This post has been edited several times.
Good morrow, friends. Saint Valentine is past:
Begin these wood-birds but to couple now?
which I read as saying, "Okay the wooing is done; the only thing left for young folks is to 'couple'."
Interestingly, lots of people wooing or already wooed seem to spend LOTS of money at Valentine's Day. From WaPo,
My husband and I have what I think is a romantic routine for celebrating Valentine’s Day.
On Valentine’s Day morning, I’ll turn to him and say, “Honey, do you love me?”
To which he replies, “Sure, I love you.”
“Great,” I say to him. “We just saved about $8 because we don’t have to buy any greeting cards for each other.”
We laugh and go about our day. We don’t need stuff to show our love. I don’t expect flowers (they die). I love chocolate, but neither of us wants any since we are both trying to lose weight. It’s too crowded at restaurants. ...
The average person will spend $142.31 on candy, flowers, apparel and more this Valentine’s Day, up from $133.91 last year, according to the National Retail Federation. The group says total spending is expected to reach $18.9 billion.
Really? That's the average? Not us. We love to eat out, so we do dine out for Valentine's Day (and many other special occasions, such as "Would-you-like-to-go-out-to-eat? Day").
This year, though, we're going out for lunch on Friday rather than buck the crowds on Saturday. And lunch is almost always less expensive than dinner.
But $142 [US! These days that's the equivalent of, what? $7000 Cdn???]! We try to keep flowers or flowering plants around most of the time, so we make no big, special expenditure there for Valentine's Day. And if we have any chocolate for Valentine's Day, it will likely be purchased on sale after Valentine's Day.
Beginning well over a decade ago, Ms Eclectic and I were starting to see articles that questioned the standard dietician advice: avoid foods high in fat and avoid foods containing cholesterol.
Up until then, we had tried the standard diets: count calories, cut down on fats, eat fewer eggs and less meat. We were successful on those diets, but we were also miserable and hungry, and we slowly regained the weight we had lost.
Two and a half years ago, we finally gave up on the standard diets and embarked on low-carb diets. We had read compelling evidence that the body works harder to process calories from fat than from carbs, and so we embarked on a slightly modified version of the Atkins diet [see here]. We have had sustained (sort of) weight losses, and we are rarely hungry.
Finally. Finally nutritionists are recognizing that fats are good and cholesterol is not bad.
Fats vs. carbs: We haven't completely cut carbs out of the diet, but we have severely reduced the amounts refined wheat and refined sugar that we eat. Here is a recent article dealing with carbs. At the same time, we eat meat and eggs, and we snack on cheese. It's wonderful! [more here]
And now, all the major news media are reporting that the US gubmnt has changed it's mind about cholesterol. From WaPo,
The nation's top nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop its caution about eating cholesterol-laden food, a move that could undo almost 40 years of government warnings about its consumption.
The group's finding that cholesterol in the diet need no longer be considered a “nutrient of concern” stands in contrast to the committee's findings five years ago, the last time it convened. During those proceedings, as in previous years, the panel deemed the issue of "excess dietary cholesterol" a public health concern.
[T]he finding, which may offer a measure of relief to breakfast diners who prefer eggs, follows an evolution of thinking among many nutritionists who now believe that for a healthy adult cholesterol intake may not significantly affect the level of cholesterol in the blood or increase the risk of heart disease.
This stuff has been around for nearly two decades. There's little-to-no excuse for not revising the food guidelines sooner.
Nutritionists, especially those making pronouncements on behalf of the gubmnt, have SO much to answer for.
I first taught at what is now known as the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle in SE England nearly nine years ago. During that first year I was teaching there, several ducks hatched enormous broods of ducklings in the castle courtyard, including the initial set of thirteen ducklings. The ducklings were well-looked-after by their mother and were well-fed by many different members of the castle staff. Eleven of those ducklings survived the first few months.
One of those survivors was considerably lighter in colour than the others. Soon everyone took to calling her "Blondie".
Andy, who works on castle security, says she is still alive and doing well. He sent this photo with the note that this appears to be her new boyfriend/partner.
There's a good reason to be a climate skeptic, especially if the reported data are unreliable (from the Telegraph). According to this article, there have been systematic adjustments upward of the temperature data from weather stations all around the world.
Following my last article, Homewood checked a swathe of other South American weather stations around the original three. In each case he found the same suspicious one-way “adjustments”. First these were made by the US government’s Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN). They were then amplified by two of the main official surface records, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss) and the National Climate Data Center (NCDC), which use the warming trends to estimate temperatures across the vast regions of the Earth where no measurements are taken. Yet these are the very records on which scientists and politicians rely for their belief in “global warming”.
Homewood has now turned his attention to the weather stations across much of the Arctic, between Canada (51 degrees W) and the heart of Siberia (87 degrees E). Again, in nearly every case, the same one-way adjustments have been made, to show warming up to 1 degree C or more higher than was indicated by the data that was actually recorded.
I'm not a global-warming denier, but I certainly am skeptical, and stories like these just add to my skepticism.
As Bjorn Lomborg has written so often, basic air pollution is a much more serious problem in developing economies.
Last month, on the recommendation of a Facebook friend, I managed to locate and try a bottle of 10-year-old Ledaig scotch whisky. She claimed it was even better than my usual favourites, Lagavulin and Caol Ila.
Based on my experience with that one bottle, I can say she is almost surely right. If it isn't better, it certainly is at least as good as the best of the other peated/smoky scotches that I like. Further, I did think it was better, although this assessment was based on just that one bottle.
So I set myself out on a mission to buy some more Ledaig. The Ontario liquor monopoly [LCBO] no longer has any Ledaig in stock in ANY of its stores or warehouses anywhere in the entire province, and for now it has no plans to stock Ledaig on a regular basis. After some discussion with the representatives at the local monopoly outlet, I was given the phone number of the Canadian agent for Burn & Stewart, owners of the distillery in Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland, where this whisky is produced.*
To my great delight, last week I was able to order two 6-bottle cases. It is only slightly more than half the price of Lagavulin and about $10/bottle less expensive than Caol Ila.
If I had a speed dialer (or knew how to use one on my iPhone), this agent would be on it. I'm eagrely awaiting the delivery.... to our door, yet!
From their website:
For ten full years, oak wood casks lie in rest in ancient vaults.
Within them, the aromatic Lochan waters commune with the peated malted barley to create a deep golden treasure that is both floral and smoky.
Ledaig is one of our exquisite peated single malts, an integral part of the Tobermory family, and sits beautifully alongside our signature malts.
Unchill-filtered @ 46.3% ABV.
Hmmm. I wonder if maybe the 46.3% alcohol is one of the reasons I like it. It has a bit more bite than other whiskies with only 40% or 43% alcohol.
Interestingly, this scotch is readily available in Alberta, which is where my order is being shipped from; I gather from another Facebook friend it is readily available in Newfoundland as well.
This is just another example of the service provided in a competitive market: different outlets offer a much better range of choices than monopolists.
*I have probably mentioned this before, but 5 years ago I spent several days in Oban where I toured the local distillery. During one of those days, I took a day-trip to th nearby islands of Mull, Iona, and Staffa. I had no idea the Tobermory distillery on Mull even existed. If I had, I might have arranged my travels quite differently.
Here are some of my favourite photos from that trip:
Oban, with Kerrara and Mull in the distance.
Fingal's Cave, Staffa
I was raised in a family that regularly subscribed to The Saturday Evening Post. As a result, I saw a lot of the covers of that magazine done by Norman Rockwell and became enamoured of many of them. Two in particular that I remember from my childhood/youth are these.
2. The boy who inspects the physician's credentials before agreeing to receive a shot in his butt. I think I was a bit like this: challenging and questioning authority and jabbing those who had some socially accepted roles. It got me in trouble often, but this picture captured much of what was me back then.
For many more, see this site [via Leonard].
Several days ago, I posted to Facebook this photo of some red pepper soup that Ms Eclectic had made, proclaiming it is "the best red pepper soup in the universe."
Someone on Facebook asked for the recipe. Here it is [note: Ms. Eclectic says "I never follow any recipe, but this is close."]:
Ingredients [Ms Eclectic often doubles this, and we give containers to children and grandchildren]:
In a roasting pan, toss together red peppers, onion, garlic, oil, Italian seasoning [or Italian dressing], salt and pepper. Roast in 425°F (220°C) oven, stirring once, until tender and golden at edges, about 1 hour. Ms Eclectic uses a tinfoil turkey roasting pan for this. The smells are wonderful as the concoction roasts.
In food processor, purée vegetables with stock, in batches.
Whisk in 1 cup (250 mL) water [ Ms Eclectic says: "??? I didn’t do this." - - - EE: I think that is one thing that made the soup so delectable, not adding water!]
Bring soup to boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes [cover it, for sure! Otherwise it'll splatter a bunch].
Make ahead. Then let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate in an airtight container until cold. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 weeks [or forever, which would suit us. We're not picky.]
Note: Ms. Eclectic says I'm trying to be too precise. She says, "Just go for it!"
More evidence that a bit of whisky/whiskey helps promote health. The caveats appear after this quoted section:
There's no real cure for the common cold, but a little bit of whiskey (that's a little bit, we said) could offer some relief.
The classic hot toddy, typically made of whiskey, honey, lemon juice and hot water, can subdue the injustices of your inevitable winter cold. The hot water of the toddy helps to relieve nasal congestion, just like heat of a bowl of chicken noodle soup (or Jewish penicillin) does.
And the whiskey helps with sniffle issues, too. “The alcohol dilates blood vessels a little bit, and that makes it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection,” Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told ABC News.
To the outside world, Sir Martin Gilbert was an eminent historian, a member of Britain’s Iraq Inquiry chaired by Sir John Chilcot, and – overall – Churchill’s biographer.
But to the Jewish world Martin Gilbert, who died Tuesday, was a passionate Jew and Zionist, a Soviet Jewry campaigner and chronicler of the Holocaust, repeatedly using his forensic skills to unpick telling details of the Jewish experience in the 20th century. ...
He ended his long career as the author of more than 80 books, many featuring his trademark history maps showing the paths taken by Jews back and forth, criss-crossing Europe and Russia. He also published a series he nicknamed “Gilbert’s Ghetto Guides,” pocket guides with pull-out maps to allow informed walks around ghettos from Vilna to Venice.
‘One skill I do have is to extract from a mass of documents a clear, strong, narrative’
Gilbert was frequently criticized as a historian because of his tendency to set out the facts and allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. But he demurred.
“I don’t think that’s the case. In fact, I was reluctant to publish ‘Auschwitz and the Allies’ because I was concerned that my own voice was too strong. I was worried that my book on Israel might be deemed to have too strong a Zionist voice, and in my history of the Holocaust, my voice is in part the voice of the survivors. Although in one way, I would like to feel that my voice is not there… if I present the evidence fully and honestly, why should my voice be any more interesting than the reader’s voice?”
His historical work about the creation and the defence of Israel stands out in my mind as extremely important contributions to the discourse about Israel in any setting.
The number of births per female in Iran dropped from nearly 7 in 1960 to under 2 in 2000, and it has stayed there. See this [via Alan]
The linked article makes several interesting points:
"One explanation for Iran's strikingly infertility rate is the high level of consanguineous (cousin) marriages....This surmise probably is wrong. Iran's rate of cousin marriage is about 25%, lower than most of the Middle East."
The article then points out that like many countries with low fertility rates, Iran is facing a long-term problem of an aging society with a small productive demographic base.
There is a Time piece that purports to estimate how much time individuals have "wasted" on Facebook since joining it. It assumes that each posting to one's timeline takes about 17 minutes, on average, and the search algorithm totals the number of postings made (not the amount of time surfing, reading, and messaging!).
By their count, I have posted over 14,600 items to my Facebook feed since I joined it over eight years ago [a rough average of more than four items posted per day!]. By their estimate, I have wasted 35 days and 10 hours posting items on Facebook. Of course this is a very rough estimate. In my case it is likely a gross underestimate of the time I have "wasted" [or spent!] on Facebook. But here are some reasonable qualifications:
Recently, several Facebook friends posted this link to what 40 different authors have said about happiness. I really liked some, laughed about some, and thought some were stupid and insipid. Unfortunately the link requires a separate click for each author. So here, as a public service, is the list in the same order in which it is presented at that site (along with my comments and observations, which are likely just as superficial or insipid or deep or scintillating as the quotes themselves):
After having gone through this list and having offered my brief comments, I see that there must be many different concepts of happiness. For me, I think there are two broad types of happiness: contentment-happiness and ecstasy-happiness.
The contentment-happiness I feel is something I've had for maybe ten years or more, and it has grown beyond my imagination, which is why I feel so much gratitude about life and living.
My most recent examples of ecstasy-happiness would include the feeling after having given a good performance on stage, the feeling I had playing with various musical groups at times, and probably most importantly the feeling every time (roughly once every six months) we get a message that our granddaughter is still cancer-free after a horrendous bout with neuroblastoma three years ago.
With this rough categorization, it becomes clear (to me anyway) that ecstasy-happiness is something people often actively seek and is generally short-lived, whereas contentment-happiness slowly happens and grows. Contentment-happiness requires long, hard work, after which it becomes a state of mind, a state of being.
The head of a U.N. inquiry into last summer's conflict between Israel and Gaza said on Monday he would resign after Israeli allegations of bias due to consultancy work he did for the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Canadian academic William Schabas was appointed last August by the head of the United Nations Human Rights Council to lead a three-member group looking into alleged war crimes during Israel's military offensive in Gaza.
In a letter to the commission, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, Schabas said he would step down immediately to prevent the issue from overshadowing the preparation of the report and its findings, which are due to be published in March.
Everyone knew of this person's biases long before he was appointed head the group. He had done paid work for the Palestine Liberation Organization and had gone on record as referring to Israel as his enemy.
And what timing!
The commission had largely finished gathering evidence and had begun writing the report...
So this person who is known to have extreme biases against Israel was left at the head of a commission until its work was nearly completed? How unbiased do you really think the report will be?
As the Elder of Ziyon says,
Everyone knew Schabas was biased. He referred to Zionists as "enemies." He participated in a kangaroo court against Israel. Even he admitted he was biased, but he claimed that he - unlike every judge on the planet - would be objective despite his having already formed his anti-Israel opinions.
This attitude was widely criticized by prominent lawyers, as are listed at UN Watch.
However, the sheer nerve that he shows here takes the cake. He finally decided to step down after Israel was ready to show evidence that he was paid by one of the sides that he was supposedly investigating. Instead of apologizing for hiding this very salient fact about his history when he was appointed to the commission, Schabas instead lashes out at those who exposed his utter contempt for the concept of impartiality.
Who just happen to be his "enemies."
The late-date move is a farce anyway. The commission has already written the majority of not the entire report by now. All of the evidence and testimony has already been slanted by Schabas' anti-Israel bias. If anything, his taking his name off of the commission might end up giving the slanted report a little more credibility after he has already poisoned it.
Here's one final question: If Schabas had planned from the beginning to be a new Richard Falk, and to use this UN commission to do everything possible to demonize Israel while paying lip service to the idea of fairness, would he have acted any differently than we have seen him act?
Scandalous and unacceptable. But not surprising, given the biases rampant throughout the UN.
Update: Check out the NYTimes bias in how they report it:
Nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 500 children, were killed, according to the United Nations, with 100,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. On the Israeli side, six civilians and 67 soldiers were killed.
No mention of all the tunnels from Gaza into Israel and scant mention of the rockets fired from Gaza. What a way to conclude the article. Don't tell me the NYTimes is unbiased and a legitimate news source.
I was ecstatic when he joined EconLog, along with regulars Bryan Caplan and former student David Henderson. His insights and his energy contribute to making EconLog one of my favourite blogs.
His recent posts about how the Keynesians [typically of the Alvin Hansen type: spend big and forget about the deficits] had it all wrong are persistent in demonstrating how awfully incorrect the Keynesians have been. This one from a couple of days ago says it all best, I think, with his criticism of the Congressional Budget Office's forecasts using what are basically Keynesian models. His concluding remarks:
Two grand Keynesian experiments and two abject failures. Followed by two times where the Keynesians started crowing about how they'd been right about everything. You can't make this stuff up.
PS. Some people ask me; "If the Keynesian model is so bad then why do experts like the CBO use that model?" Good question.
To see his explanations in detail, follow the link. It's clear and careful.
And what the Keynesian models invariable miss or mis-estimate is the importance of money, monetary policy, and central bank behaviour.
Because we have been trying to reduce the number of carbs in our diets, especially from wheat, we don't eat standard pizza much anymore. At one point, we tried making some with a "crust" made with eggs and egg whites, but we didn't much care for it.
This version, made with shredded zucchini is pretty darned good, though. Just keep in mind that it is really a casserole, not pizza, and you most likely can't eat it with your fingers.
Here's the recipe we used:
Begin by shredding your zucchini [bless the invention of food processors!]. Sprinkle the zucchini with salt – allowing the zucchini to stand for 10 minutes; squeeze out all the moisture. [Oops. we didn't squeeze the water out the first time we did this. Doing so made it much more pizza-like for our second attempt.]
Mix the zucchini with 2 eggs, 1/8 C Parmesan and 1/4 C mozzarella and 1/4 C cheddar cheeses. Add in 1/2 – 1 tsp. Italian seasoning. [I think we used some Tex-Mex at this stage]
Press the zucchini mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 9x13 glass baking dish.
Bake the “crust” uncovered for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. [ We discovered on our second try that a little longer is a bit better -- maybe 22-23 minutes. While the "crust" is baking, we cut up the onion and green peppers and sliced the mushrooms and pepperoni].
Remove the crust from the oven. [We let it cool for at least 30 minutes the second time. That works better than putting the toppings on right away.]
Then arrange the sauce, toppings, and cheese as you would for any other pizza. Here's a photo of what it looked like before we put the cheese on it. This photo is from our second try; it's vegetarian.
Bake for 20 minutes at 400 until the pizza is heated through and cheese is melted and slightly browned. This was the finished product:
Allow the dish to stand for 2-3 minutes before slicing and serving. [Actually maybe 10-15 minutes might be better]
It looks sort of like this photo from some other site, and it tastes great!
In one of the very best assessments of the field of economics, Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek nails it. Here is a lengthy excerpt, followed by my own observations:
While... today’s professional economists continue generally to have a better and more nuanced understanding of economic reality than do non-economists, I fear that the mature and realistic understanding reported by [George] Stigler more than 55 years ago is today neither as widespread nor as deep among economists. A greater focus on mastering complicated tools has dimmed the typical economist’s insight into the functioning of the economy; this focus has denied to a larger portion (than in the past) of economists what Deirdre McCloskey describes as “the refined common sense we call price theory.”
Focusing on tools has had this baneful effect through a number of channels, some of which I’ll just mention here without going into too much of an explanation.
First, as economics becomes more mathematically intricate, the people who, as students, choose economics as a major tend to be those who naturally excel at mastering the beautiful sparse logic that is math rather than at pondering the great complexities of real-world economies – pondering that is fruitful only with some knowledge, not only of formal economic theory, but of history, of political science, and of institutions (especially law).
Second, more time spent mastering formal tools means less time that is available to read, ponder, discuss, and debate history – including economic history and the history of economics – and other aspects of reality that one must be much more than passingly familiar with in order to become a genuinely good economist.
Third, to master a tool – be it high-level mathematics or econometric techniques – too often gives to those who master it a false sense of mastery of economics. Yet just as mastering, say, how to use a hammer does not thereby make the hammer-master an excellent homebuilder, mastering technique does not make the technique-master an excellent economist.
As you might imagine, I share these views. Yes, I have done some mathematical work in economics, but it seems to me that most (though certainly not all) of the important work in economics is more of the "price theory" or "political economy" sort. I said as much in my 2013 address at The University of Regina, "I Didn't Learn a Thing as an Undergraduate." [video tba if/when the video tapes get transferred to dvd]
The trend really is amazing, as so many graduate schools find that the students most successful in their programmes have majored in mathematics or engineering as undergrads, having studied at most one introductory course in economics. These students go on to do high-powered mathematical economics and rarely, if ever, develop the nuanced, rich understanding of markets that George Stigler and Don Boudreaux are talking about. And, to top it off, we put many of these same graduate students in front of introductory economics students as teaching assistants [TAs]. The one benefit of this process is that by TAing introductory economics, the graduate students are almost forced to learn a little about institutions and nuances.
I shudder to think of the number of times I have sat in on interviews of job market prospects only to hear yet another young mathematician tell us they can prove such-and-such theorem. But during the questioning, it all-too-often became clear they had little idea about the institutions involved in trying to relate their theorem to anything in history, in markets, in gubmnt, or in the real world at all. They may be technically proficient, but they do no grasp The Economic Way of Thinking.
There are of course exceptions, thank goodness. They are too rare, though.
Preparing for a bit of snow and cold weather..... We tried this recipe with hot Italian sausages (the original recipe called for smoked sausages) [via Dagmar]. Low-carb and tasty!
FRIED CABBAGE WITH SAUSAGE (great for low carbers)
This is a quick and easy dish.
1 stick butter or margarine
1 small head of cabbage, chopped [We used only half a head. That was plenty]
1 small onion, chopped [We used a large-ish onion]
1 pound hot Italian sausage, sliced into round pieces
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes or rotel tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Melt butter in large skillet. Add cabbage, onion, and sausages and cook on medium high for about 5 minutes stirring to keep from sticking to pan. Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes.
Makes about 8 servings. Only 4 g net carbs per serving.
Half a head of cabbage cut up:
Pre-frying some sausage and onions:
A bowlful of delicious:
There was a sweetness to the dish that was pleasantly surprising; and the fried cabbage had none of the sharpness that I'm not so fond of in raw cabbage.
Every day there are articles in various trade and financial press publications discussing the price of oil and, especially, where it is headed over the next two or more years. See for example this one. And here is another.
Expectations about the future price of oil are important. If oil drillers think the price of oil is going stay low, they'll stop spending the money on exploration and drilling, as was pointed out in the linked article:
According to Baker Hughes, the decline in oil drilling rigs was the most since it began keeping records in 1987. With drillers having idled about 24 percent of their oil drilling rigs since the summer, some traders may be betting that an anticipated slowdown in U.S. oil production is nearer than expected. [emphasis added]
It seems to me the best predictor of what will happen to oil prices in the future is the futures market for oil, where people buy and sell oil for future delivery. This site has a pretty good table showing oil futures prices. Over the next two years, the prices of oil futures for delivery at different dates rise slowly up to nearly $63/bbl.
Contrast these expected future prices with the costs of drilling for new oil, and what I said back in December is holding true:
In general, if the price of oil is expected to remain below $65/bbl, then there won't likely be many new shale oil facilities that will make it beyond the planning stage. And if the price of oil is expected to remain down nearer to $50/bbl for a long period, no new projects are likely to be begun in the arctic, tar sands, or deep sea.
The marginal costs of pumping oil from existing wells are being covered, so it is unlikely that oil production will slow much, if at all. But so long as people in the oil industry expect oil prices to remain low for the next several years, oil drilling and new fracking will likely slow to a near standstill.