Saturday, January 29, 2011

Billy Walters-Professional gambler

This is the 60 minutes video from a couple of weeks ago. The best part is where he calls Wall Street a bunch of crooks because he got ripped off on Enron and Worldcom. Also, I like Lara Logan.

Shocking news

Hero of Libertarians took advantage of government social insurance:

[She] called altruism a “basic evil” and referred to those who perpetuate the system of taxation and redistribution as “looters” and “moochers.” She wrote in her book “The Virtue of Selfishness” that accepting any government controls is “delivering oneself into gradual enslavement.”

Rand also believed that the scientific consensus on the dangers of tobacco was a hoax. By 1974, the two-pack-a-day smoker, then 69, required surgery for lung cancer. And it was at that moment of vulnerability that she succumbed to the lure of collectivism.
It's true, she paid in so she had a right to them, but that should be a warning to all the folks looking to get rid of these programs.

Foxes and hedgehogs

This article discusses how specialization limits the ability of individuals to have an impact in numerous fields.  I love this example from the past:
In the first half of 1802 a physician and scientist called Thomas Young gave a series of 50 lectures at London’s new Royal Institution, arranged into subjects like “Mechanics” and “Hydro­dynamics”. By the end, says Young’s biographer Andrew Robinson, he had pretty much laid out the sum of scientific knowledge. Robinson called his book “The Last Man Who Knew Everything”.
Young’s achievements are staggering. He smashed Newtonian orthodoxy by showing that light is a wave, not just a particle; he described how the eye can vary its focus; and he proposed the three-colour theory of vision. In materials science, engineers dealing with elasticity still talk about Young’s modulus; in linguistics, Young studied the grammar and voc­abulary of 400 or so languages and coined the term “Indo-European”; in Egyptology, Jean-Fran├žois Champollion drew on his work to decode the Rosetta stone. Young even tinkered around with life insurance.

Corn husking record

46.71 bushels in 80 minutes.  1940.  How about this quote:

Husking corn was the farmer's most time-consuming chore: thus, many often hired extra help. Any man who could husk 10 bushels per hour was regarded a good husker, and their typical pay was 3-5 cents per bushel, or $5 per day.

Land prices are crazy

I've got to agree with this.

Now he can upgrade from PBR

It's good to see that at least this economy is able to provide somebody with a raise:

 Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has more than tripled the salary of CEO Lloyd Blankfein to $2 million, and also granted raises to four other top executives. The investment bank said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday that its board's compensation committee set the new base salary for Blankfein, effective Jan. 1. His previous salary had been $600,000.
The committee set salaries at $1.85 million for four other executives. They are Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn; Chief Financial Officer David Viniar and Vice Chairmen Michael Evans and John Weinberg.
from AP

Maybe with this raise and his annual bonus, he can buy back his soul.

Playing the ponies

I'm a sucker for stories about gamblers.  60 Minutes had a good feature the other week, which I will probably post later.  Brendan Koerner has a post about a relative who's made a living as a gambler. Here is the relative's take on horse racing: 

Horse racing, meanwhile, is a great way to make money if you're willing to put in time at the track. As my relative notes, 98 percent of the people who bet on horses have no idea what they're doing; they plunk down money based on gut feelings, past performance, or cuteness of a competitor's name. You can run rings around those folks if you're willing to attend morning workouts with stopwatch in hand, as well as understand when it's appropriate to take a risk on a parlay. (My relative's share in a successful Pick Six gambit is what put home ownership within his reach.)
Consider me part of the 98%

The Onion is better than Fox News

The Onion features a slideshow of Joe Biden's vice presidency.  My favorite:

Biden receives lifetime ban from Dave & Buster's

To me, Biden is comedy gold.

Republicans in 2012

Since the mood of the country has seemed to sour somewhat on Obama, I've been somewhat concerned about who the Republicans will run as an alternative.  The past election made it appear that in Republican primaries, the dumbest candidate seemed to win most often.  I would prefer that they actually find somebody with brains to run for president.  Unfortunately, the list of possible candidates who meet that requirement looks pretty slim.  Daniel Larison discusses John Huntsman, who's actually probably too smart to run.  I really liked this portion of his post:

I suppose he can serve as the “competent, wealthy Mormon executive who is not Mitt Romney” candidate, but is there really high demand for such a candidate? If Romney is the candidate with a liability on health care, Huntsman has publicly supported cap-and-trade. This is a position that is generally far more unpopular with the general public, to say nothing of Republican primary voters.
Anyway, the only other candidate I think could do a competent job would be Mitch Daniels, but I think competence is seen as a weakness with the base.  Hopefully I am wrong.

Grandma

We met with the preacher who is going to do the service for grandma's funeral.  He didn't know her, so he asked us to tell him stories so that he could put together a eulogy.  He told us to tell him funny or awkward stories because they often really connected with the folks at the funeral.  So we told him some.  After one somewhat racy story about grandma and grandpa, he said that he wouldn't use that.  He thought it was the first time he'd heard a story from the family of the deceased that was too much for him to use.  Unfortunately, that was mild compared to several others we could have told.  I'm starting to get the feeling that our family may be a little off-kilter, and I am shocked by this possibility.

Concern Trolling CFL bulbs

Concern about the CFL bulbs seems overdone. This post on The Daily Dish wonders whether CFL bulbs could be a net environmental loss.  I bet not.  I guarantee I was exposed to tremendous amounts of mercury in science class, when we rolled balls of it all over our desks.  In our physics class, a girl ran into the mercury barometer and it went everywhere.  I had a CFL gas off in my kitchen, and I didn't see any mercury anywhere.  If mercury is such a big concern, maybe we shouldn't burn coal, and these CFLs will help us burn less.

Cavs

Sleep well, Cleveland.

Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day....

I PROMISE you that our energy, focus, capital, knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only:

DELIVERING YOU the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue ...
Dan Gilbert, July 8

I take it that his plan is to try to win the #1 pick in the lottery.

Friday, January 28, 2011

In Memoriam

My maternal grandmother died last night.  In a most likely unrelated development, Canadian Club manufacturer Fortune Brands stock price fell today.  Every Christmas after I turned 21, my gift to her was a half-gallon of CC.  Many years, she would receive 5 half-gallons and a fifth as gifts at Christmas.  This would last her through Mardi Gras, except in years when Easter was late.  She really thought that was as good of a gift as she could get. 

Grandma was from the last generation of life on the farm that was all backbreaking labor and drudgery.  She would tell us stories about her family butchering the hogs, and curing and wrapping the hams, and hanging them on the porch.  The pork loins were sliced and laid in buckets and covered over with lard.  She would be sent down to the cellar to dig through the lard and pull out some loins for supper.  Every once in a while, grandma would get nostalgic about the good old days, and once I asked her, "if they were so good, why didn't you still butcher hogs."  She told me that she never wanted to do that work again.  It was a reminder for me that if farmers were still using horses and shucking corn by hand, I would almost certainly be in another line of work.  The people who did that work are leaving the land of the living.

Besides her family and her neighbors, grandma will be missed by the Republican party.  She could always be counted on for a donation to Newt or Boehner, especially if she had already had her drinks for the evening.  She would say that she felt bad for poor Bush, everybody picked on him and called him dumb.  I tried to tell her, they generally had a point, but she didn't listen.  Even when her mind had faded, and she didn't really know what was going on, she knew that she didn't like Nancy Pelosi.

She wasn't a fan of practitioners of the medical arts, and tried to avoid doctors as much as possible. I believe she was born on the farm, and she could remember how many times someone in her family of 12 went to the hospital.  I believe it was less than 12. A few years ago, she had a joint replacement surgery, and it was almost postponed because she had a low potassium level.  After the surgery, her potassium level dropped, her heart stopped, and they had to use the paddles to bring her back.  The doctor told her that she was dead for a little while there.  She responded that she was not dead, because she didn't see any bright lights or angels.  My question to her was if she felt any heat or smelled sulfur (I am an ass, I know).  She used to tell us that when things got grim, she wanted us to call Dr. Kevorkian, but alas, he was forcibly retired and she didn't need him anyway.  She managed to go from home to the hospital, rest for a couple of days, and then she got to see the bright lights and angels.

Spring is right around the corner

That's right, bock is back.  I always try to cram in as many different seasonal beers as I can. Right now, I've got some Sam Adams double bock in the fridge.

Space Shuttle Challenger

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the explosion of the Challenger.  I saw some mention of it on facebook, and it was a reminder that before September 11, that was my generation's "Remember where you were at" moment.  I remember a rumor passing through the class that the space shuttle blew up, then an announcement on the PA system, then they rolled the TV into the classroom and we sat there and watched replay after replay of the launch and the explosion.  Compared to September 11, it was a minor event, but at the time it seemed huge.  One thing about this anniversary, it sure makes me feel old.

Seriously?

The Hulk and Steven Seagal have teamed up to fight illegal immigration?  Sounds like a terrible movie in the making.  Can anything good come of this?

Update-Can anything good come of this, other than the fact that when these guys are roaming the streets they aren't making any movies or TV shows.

Go choke on your Terrible Towels

No question, I am a Packers fan for the next 2 weeks.  Western Ohio is split between Bengals fans (me) and Clowns fans.  I guess because both of these teams have been horrible for most of recorded history, a large number of pains-in-the-ass have jumped on the Steelers bandwagon.  They are by far the most obnoxious people at any sports bar in Western Ohio on any Sunday in the fall.  I realize that a couple are actual refugees from Pennsylvania, so they can be excused.  The rest are just terrible people.

Palin

I think Sarah Palin is a total moron, but since she is not currently running for any office, I will not post any of her stupid, self-serving tripe.  If that were to change, then it is game-on.  That will require me to follow her stupidity at other sites, but I refuse to repost.

Bud Selig makes $18 million?

I saw a Dayton Daily News chart yesterday showing the various sports commissioner salaries in light of Roger Goodell vowing to work for $1 if there was a work stoppage.  I can't find a link to the chart through the DDN, but here is another page covering the salaries.  If someone had told me that Bud Selig makes $18 million a year, I would have told the person they were sorely mistaken, there is no way he makes that kind of money.  I would have been absolutely wrong.  How on earth can he make that kind of money, he does nothing.  I've been critical of overpaid bankers and athletes, but this man tops them all.  I do not feel guilty in calling for much higher marginal tax rates on extremely high incomes, when you get that kind of productivity for $18 million.

The Invisible Hand solves everything

Tom Levenson has a nice post at Balloon Juice about Adam Smith, and modern simplification of his philosophy. Maybe it appears ridiculous to be referencing John Dickinson in a blog name, and criticizing people who misappropriate 18th century figures for modern political arguments, but it seems like Smith is greatly simplified by today's anti-regulatory vanguard.  I really liked the following quote, both because it points out the flaws in our polarized debate, and it highlights what makes it hard to have informative discussion in a region where 70% of the electorate supports one party:

Introduction

The name of the blog refers to the Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania. This is not because I have ideas of my own grandeur, or because I want to rally opposition to the Townshend Acts.  It is mainly because I am a farmer in Ohio, and I wanted to try out blogging, but I'm a sucker for history and don't know enough about classical history to steal names such as Cato, and anonymous names from the past like Publius are already used by well known bloggers. The blog will be a rambling account of my take on politics, the economy, agriculture, sports, beer and other random subjects, along with descriptions of activity in Western Ohio.  I'll try to link to some interesting things I see on other sites, as well.  The blog will be updated slowly, because I'm a rather poor writer.  Anyway, this is the start, I hope it isn't going to be too boring.