Friday, January 30, 2009

Conflicting Versions

H. Allen Smith, book jacket photoWhen there are two conflicting versions of the story, the wise course is to believe the one in which people appear at their worst.

-- H. Allen Smith (12/19/1907-2/24/1976), American journalist and humorist

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pure Communism

The Sun as depicted on the Argentine flagThe sun is pure communism everywhere except in cities, where it's private property.

-- Malcom De Chazal (1902-1981), writer and painter

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

You Bastard!

David SimsOf course, I understand we're all different. But I can't work out where you're coming from. You probably have your reason for doing what you're doing, and in some parallel universe you might be right. I'm a very liberal person, accustomed to seeing other peoples' viewpoints, and that makes it all the more strange that I can't see yours. What sort of character are you? I just can't make any sense of what you're doing. I can't imagine what sort of story you think you're living out. Don't get me wrong, I realize you might just be very stupid -- but that stupid? As it happens, I'm one of the good guys. We defeat the bad guys; that's how we know we're the good guys. If that hurts, then so be it; you've brought it on yourself. You've forced me into seeing you in a way that I don't really approve of, and that makes me even more angry. You Bastard!

-- Professor David Sims, Cass Business School, London, UK, acceptance speech for the Ig Nobel for Literature, for his paper "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Debtor Mentality

The Likeness (cover)Part of the debtor mentality is a constant, frantically suppressed undercurrent of terror. We have one of the highest debt-to-income ratios in the world, and apparently most of us are two paychecks from the street. Those in power -- governments, employers -- exploit this, to great effect. Frightened people are obedient -- not just physically, but intellectually and emotionally. If your employer tells you to work overtime, and you know that refusing could jeopardize everything you have, then not only do you work the overtime, but you convince yourself that you're doing it voluntarily, out of loyalty to the company; because the alternative is to acknowledge that you are living in terror. Before you know it, you've persuaded yourself that you have a profound emotional attachment to some vast multinational corporation: you've indentured not just your working hours, but your entire thought process. The only people who are capable of either unfettered action or unfettered thought are those who -- either because they're heroically brave, or because they're insane, or because they know themselves to be safe -- are free from fear.

-- Tana French in "The Likeness", a novel set in Ireland, cited in Bruce Schneier's blog, 15 January 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

Power Versus Knowledge

Arnold KlingWe got into this crisis because power was overly concentrated relative to knowledge. What has been going on for the past several months is more consolidation of power. This is bound to make things worse. Just as Nixon's bureaucrats did not have the knowledge to go along with the power they took when they instituted wage and price controls, the Fed and the Treasury cannot possibly have knowledge that is proportional to the power they currently exercise in financial markets.

-- Arnold Kling, The Political Economy of the Bailout,, 15 October 2008

Friday, January 23, 2009

Standup Economist

Hamster running in a wheelPaul Solman: An economist comedian, who better to analyze our plight, at the micro level, individual consumers, and at the macro, the economy as a whole? Yoram Bauman asked us to feed him the following straight line.

If the U.S. economy were an animal, what animal would it be?

Yoram Bauman: I would have -- I would have to go with a hamster right now. And it's a hamster that's been running around its cage, you know, for maybe seven years. And it's tired. So, as a microeconomist, I look at it, and I think that the hamster needs some rest. Macroeconomists look at the hamster and think that the hamster needs some methamphetamines.

And I'm sure that they're right. But, after two years, it's going to be one ugly hamster. I mean, it's going to have rotten teeth. It's going to have like bloodshot eyes. It's going to be scratching itself all the time. You know, there's going to be a price to pay.

-- Yoram Bauman, Ph.D., the "Standup Economist", PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 14 January 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama Inauguration Speech

Barack Obama InaugurationAs for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. ... Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

-- President Barack Obama, inauguration speech excerpts, 20 January 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Boat!

US Airways Flight 1549 afloat on the Hudson RiverMy daughter said, "Daddy, the plane turned into a boat."

-- Martin Sosa, who was with his family on the US Airways flight that ditched in the Hudson River, New York Times, 17 January 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Video image of the Obama inauguration captured liveA teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

-- From the poem recited by Elizabeth Alexander, poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher, at the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama II as the 44th President of the United States

Monday, January 19, 2009


Martin Luther King, Jr. at a press conferenceI'm concerned about justice. I'm concerned about brotherhood. I'm concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about these, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr. (15 January 1929 - 4 April 1968), African American clergyman, civil rights activist, and Nobel laureate, address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 16 August 1967

Friday, January 16, 2009

Peaceful Ends And Means

Martin Luther King, Jr. with President Lyndon JohnsonAnd the leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace. Every time we drop our bombs in North Vietnam, President Johnson talks eloquently about peace.

What is the problem?

They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal.

We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.

All of this is saying that, in the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr. (15 January 1929 - 4 April 1968), African American clergyman, civil rights activist, and Nobel laureate, Christmas Sermon, Sunday, 24 December 1967

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Take The First Step

Martin Luther King with Malcolm X, 1964 March 26Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr. (15 January 1929 - 4 April 1968), African American clergyman, civil rights activist, and Nobel laureate

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Something That He Will Die For

Martin Luther King, leaning on a lecternI submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr. (15 January 1929 - 4 April 1968), African American clergyman, civil rights activist, and Nobel laureate, speech in Detroit, Michigan, 23 June 1963

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Apple Tree

Martin Luther King, Jr.Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr. (15 January 1929 - 4 April 1968), African American clergyman, civil rights activist, and Nobel laureate

Mea Culpa -- I've since had my attribution corrected from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to simply Martin Luther.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Transmission Shot

Teen driverWhen buying a used car, punch the buttons on the radio. If all the stations are rock and roll, there's a good chance the transmission is shot.

-- Larry Lujack (6 June 1940-), Chicago-area top-40 music radio disc jockey

Friday, January 09, 2009

Train Wreck

Train wreck at Montparnasse, France, 1895This thing started when people with no money and lots of debt, having little or no way of paying back money, were given loans so others could profit. Now we have businesses with no money and lots of debt, having little or no way of paying the money back, asking for loans so a few can profit. Maybe I'm being too simplistic but is seems like a train wreck in slow motion.

-- JimPh [lightly edited for readability], The Dilbert Blog comments, 12 December 2008

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Profound Disappointment

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – JTF Guard Force Troopers transport a detaineeIf they adopt the Bush administration position, or some version of it, it is going to be a moment of profound disappointment for everyone in the legal community and Americans generally who believe that the Bush administration has tried to turn the presidency into a monarchy.

-- Brandt Goldstein, professor, New York Law School, on the Obama administration's stance on detainees, New York Times, 3 January 2009

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

2008 Mileage

Don Appleman's 1999 Saturn SC2 (35+ mpg)For the year 2008, driving my 1999 Saturn which now has >189,000 miles, with past years' stats for comparison:
                  2008        2007        2006          2008 delta  % delta
Total miles : 24,346 25,847 25,111 -1501 - 5.8%
Total cost : $2,188.79 $2,231.76 $1,942.72 -$42.97 - 1.9%
Total gallons : 686.27 812.14 776.47 -125.87 -15.4%
Avg gallons/day : 1.875 2.225 2.127 -0.350 -15.7%
Avg days/fillup : 5.3 4.7 4.9 +0.6 +12.7%
Avg miles/day : 66.52 70.81 68.80 -4.29 - 6.0%
Avg cost/day : $5.92 $6.00 $5.27 -$0.08 - 1.3%
Avg cost/gal : $3.14 $2.75 $2.50 +$0.39 +14.1%
Avg miles/gal : 35.48 32.24 32.77 +3.24 +10.0%
Last year when comparing stats, I resigned myself to losing a chunk of mpg each year as the car ages. However, this year two changes came into play: first, in March I replaced my clutch, and mpg appeared to immediately jump about 5%. Second, the price of gas became ridiculous; I replaced my already fairly sedate driving habits with new ones, and mpg again appeared to immediately jump about 5%.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Waste Your Money

Michael LeBoeufWaste your money and you're only out of money, but waste your time and you've lost a part of your life.

-- Michael LeBoeuf, Ph.D., business author, lecturer, and former management professor

Monday, January 05, 2009

Fixed Income

CurrencyTime is a fixed income and, as with any income, the real problem facing most of us is how to live successfully within our daily allotment.

-- Margaret B. Johnstone

Friday, January 02, 2009

Life Was About To Begin

Calendar candleFor a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin -- real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles WERE my life.

-- Father Alfred D'Souza