Friday, May 30, 2008

80's Movie Quote of the Week

Since we just referenced Back to the Future, here is a quote from Back to the Future II. It also happens to be a quote I can identify with.

Doc: The time-traveling is just too dangerous. Better that I devote myself to study the other great mystery of the universe: women!

Halfway Back to the Future

The Lakers won the Western Conference Finals last night meaning we are 50% of the way towards endless Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird highlights. The Celtics could complete the formula tonight, but they will have to win in Detroit to do it.

If it helps a few more people watch the NBA than normally would, I am all for it.

Semi-relatedly, Kobe Bryant is really good at basketball.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


In the wake of Scott McClellan's book coming out, conservatives are lamenting the fact that liberals who previously thought McClellan was a dolt are now willing to accept his accusations wholesale.

In turn, I wanted to lament the fact that these laments are so common. It takes place on both sides, of course. Almost everyone is predisposed towards giving more credibility to those supporting their opinions. And the other side, never misses an opportunity to point out the hypocrisy.

It then occurred to me, however, that my lament about these laments was itself a tired complaint. And I lamented.


Another former Bush Administration official has left office and written a book. This time it is former Press Secretary Scott McClellan, and he has some things to say.

In addition, Mr. McClellan writes, the decision to invade Iraq was a “serious strategic blunder,” and yet, in his view, it was not the biggest mistake the Bush White House made. That, he says, was “a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed.”
From the article it seems that he has harsh words for almost all involved. Of course, this is a man whose reputation has been rather sullied by his time in the White House. On the other hand, since he is roughly the 519th person to deal with the administration and then criticize it along the same terms, I suppose we could take this with more than a grain of salt.

Friday, May 23, 2008

It's Friday and This is Funny

From the Star's Crime Scene Blog:

Motivational speaker got drunk, naked, tried to fight buddy, fired gun inside home, police say

If you believe it, you can achieve it. Snip:

According to court documents, after a night of binge drinking at local businesses with friend Todd Paulson, Simon took off all his clothes and began fighting with the man, a friend from prison. Simon later struck Paulsen in the face with a statue of John Wayne. It is unknown what the argument was about.
What was the argument about? I think a very plausible explanation is that Paulson told Simon he was no Duke. Simon tried to prove it by getting naked and comparing himself to a replica. Unfortunately, Paulson was not convinced so Simon presumably called him "Pilgrim" and then beat the crap out of him.

It's possible right?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Education and Income

Kevin Drum has a great post about the phenomenon of college educations being worth more, but less people taking advantage of them. I usually like when numbers help tell a story, and in this one there are these figures:

Right. And maybe that's the problem. When I say that the premium for getting a college degree used to be 30% and now it's 90%, what do I mean? One possibility is something like this:

1973: high school grad makes $42K, college grad makes $55K.

2006: high school grad makes $42K, college grad makes $80K.

This probably would motivate more kids to get college degrees. But that's not what actually happened. Here's what actually happened for male workers (all figures adjusted for inflation):

1973: high school grad makes $42K, college grad makes $55K.

2006: high school grad makes $31K, college grad makes $61K.

The skill premium hasn't gone up because a college degree is way more lucrative than in the past. In fact, it's only slightly more lucrative over the long term and completely stagnant among recent grads. Rather, the skill premium has gone up because the value of a high school degree has cratered.
This is pretty striking stuff. High school grads earn about 1/4 of what they did in 1973. College grads have made very modest gains. I suspect if you factored in the rising cost of college educations, the gains by the college educated look even weaker.

The question for every public candidate should be, "What will you do to help ensure a growing economy does, in fact, improve the lives of everyone?" If they don't (at the very least) take the question seriously, they don't deserve to be in a race.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Get Your Culture Now

The cost of travel continues to rise astronomically. Now an airline is adding to traveler woes with new baggage costs.

American Airlines, the nation’s largest air carrier, said Wednesday that it would begin charging $15 for many passengers to check their first bag, eliminating a free service that passengers in the United States have come to expect during the modern jet era.
All of this makes me wonder if the next generation will have all the opportunities the last few generations have had to see the world. Being able to get anywhere most anytime is something we have taken for granted. It may not always be the case.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

80's Movie Quote of the Week

Got a little off track last week, but with the opening of the new Indian Jones movie tomorrow it seems an appropriate time to go back to the beginning. From Raiders of the Lost Ark:

Indiana: Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes?
Sallah: Asps. Very dangerous. You go first.


I write about the Royals offensive outburst and what happens? The boys in blue were no-hit last night against the Red Sox. Now that is offensive.

Monday, May 19, 2008


The Royals have won 5 of 6 and have scored 27 runs in their last 4 games. Much of this is due to the appearance of Jose Guillen's offense. Guillen is batting .500 over his last 10 games after batting under .200 for the first month of the season.

Amazing what a difference scoring a few runs does to the ability to win games. The pitchers must be delirious with joy.

Sexier Without the Methodology

The Washington Post has a headline and description on the front page that read as follows:

Where Does Your School Rank?
Challenge Index More than 1300 high schools are included in the latest list of the nation's best.
I assumed that figuring out the best high schools in the country must be a pretty difficult task, but the clear implication is that someone must think they know how. Imagine my surprise then when in the methodology I read:

The rating is not a measurement of the overall quality of the school but illuminates one factor that many educators consider important.
Methodology is always causing problems for journalists and headline writers. Fortunately, the general public are such dutiful readers that I'm sure misleading headlines rarely cause misinterpretations of reality.

On a side note, congrats to Hogan Prep and Park Hill. They are the two Kansas City schools making the list. Before you form an opinion about their inclusion or the absence of your school, however, please read the methodology.

Peak Oil

In what I hope to be the first of many, friend of the blog ESL has a guest post about a topic I find very interesting. It's also very pertinent to those of us who have nearly soiled ourselves at the site of the the number registering at the end of a fill-up.

From ESL:

You don’t have to be a genius to understand how supply and demand is causing the cost of oil to set new record highs almost daily. On Friday, Saudi Arabia told President Bush that it would not increase the production of oil from its current levels. Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, said the kingdom decided on May 10 to raise production by 300,000 barrels, at the request of customers, and that increase was sufficient. Al-Naimi said, "Supply and demand are in balance today".

Whether supply and demand are in ‘balance’ or not, it got me to thinking about the production side of the oil business. Could all of our woes be solved by increased production? That question led me to the discovery of Peak Oil.

Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum production is reached, after which the rate of production enters its terminal decline. The chart below estimates that we are approaching, or just past, the Peak Oil point for the world.

You will notice that it looks very much like a bell curve. Here’s the problem with looking at this just as a bell curve though. If peak theoretically happened in 2000, then on a bell curve, we’d have as much oil in 1980 as we would in 2020. However, the population of the world will have almost doubled from 1980 to 2020 and more countries have become industrialized. India alone is expected to triple its demand for oil from 2005 to 2020.

So wouldn’t you think that in the interest of our nation’s future and security we’d be hearing a little bit more from our politicians and leaders about what their long term plans are to get this country off of its petroleum addiction? This problem isn’t going away and, as we have seen, is affecting many other economic sectors. We need to be demanding a lot better answers than just gas-tax holidays.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Radiohead Show

I saw Radiohead in St. Louis on Wednesday evening. Absolutely fantastic. I have seen a lot of great shows lately actually. So do me (and yourself) a favor, and pick a favorite band and go see them live. A great concert is one of the best activities on the planet. Everyone should get to have that kind of fun.

The Radiohead setlist was awesome. It was:
“All I Need” “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” “Airbag” “15 Step” “Nude” “Kid A” “Weird Fishes”/ “Arpeggi” “The Gloaming” “You & Whose Army?” “Idioteque” “Faust Arp” “Videotape” “Everything in Its Right Place” “Reckoner” “Optimistic” “Bangers ‘N Mash” “Bodysnatchers”
“Exit Music (for a Film)” “Myxomatosis” “My Iron Lung” “There There” “Fake Plastic Trees”
Second encore
“Pyramid Song” “House of Cards”/”No Surprises” “Paranoid Android”

There were a lot of great moments during the show. During “You & Whose Army?”, there was a ginat screen closeup of Yorke's mug, alternately looking challengingly into the camera and behind him as though someone was sneaking up behind.

Another great moment was captured by a good dude named Rusty. This is some kind of dance.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


This fall, Republicans are going to try to defeat Dennis Moore and win the 3rd Congressional District of Kansas for the first time since 1998. The candidate they are putting forward in their attempt is Kansas State Senator Nick Jordan.

I'm afraid they have already given up on Jordan, however. The Buzz Blog tells me President Bush is coming to a fundraiser for Jordan later this month. Who in the Kansas Republican party despises Jordan so greatly? Isn't calling in President Bush to a district that has elected a Democrat 5 times in a row the political equivalent of concrete shoes?


Slate is running a series on procrastination. In a story about slacking helping the economy, Daniel Gross writes:

It may even be a good investment: Recent research suggests that procrastination is on the rise—30 years ago, just 5 percent of Americans were self-described "chronic procrastinators"; today that number is up to 26 percent.
The question arises of whether more of us really are procrastinating or more of us just think we are procrastinating. It has been well-documented that the pace of our lives has been quickening for some time. So isn't it possible that procrastinating today means waiting for an hour to do something, whereas 20 years ago it might have meant waiting days?

I certainly don't have any evidence to suggest either, but I am going with the second explanation. I'd rather we didn't come to any conclusions that say we need to increase the breakneck pace we have come to set for ourselves already.


File this one under a picture being worth a thousand words. The chart above compares the number of warrants issued to spy on Americans for security reasons with the number of terrorism related prosecutions. A cynic might say that it almost seems like all the extra spying is kind of for its own sake. From Kevin Drum.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hopefully I Can Continue to Drive When Gas is $7 a Gallon

Big story in the New York Times today about a big increase in mass transit riders all across the country.

Transit systems in metropolitan areas like Minneapolis, Seattle, Dallas-Fort Worth and San Francisco reported similar jumps. In cities like Houston, Nashville, Salt Lake City, and Charlotte, N.C., commuters in growing numbers are taking advantage of new bus and train lines built or expanded in the last few years. The American Public Transportation Association reports that localities with fewer than 100,000 people have also experienced large increases in bus ridership.
This paragraph is notable for some of the cities listed in it. We're not talking about New York, L.A., or D.C. here. These are cities with a lot in common with Kansas City. Of course, what they don't have in common with KC is that they have growing transit systems.

Meanwhile, we seem on the verge of doing absolutley nothing. Some would argue that is fine because nobody in this town is going to use public transportation anyway. The head of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority is quoted in the NYT story, and he talks about the same assumption in his city.
“Nobody believed that people would actually give up their cars to ride public transportation,” said Joseph J. Giulietti, executive director of the authority. “But in the last year, and last several months in particular, we have seen exactly that.”
I'm still hoping that high gas prices will keep the pressure on local leaders to make public transportation happen no matter the obstacles. We might end up being the last ones to the party, but that would be better than never showing up.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

80's Movie Quote of the Week

You can learn a lot from some 80's movies. From the Bobcat Goldthwait classic Hot to Trot you can learn about the hazards of drinking too much.

Fred: I woke up, I'm bucknaked and everyone one is looking at me. I'll tell you, that's the last time I drink tequila.


So my check will be arriving soon apparently. What should I do with my money? Blow it? Save it? Donate it? Pay debt with it? Burn it in protest?

What will you do with yours?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Beat Goes On

And on and on perhaps. Obama can't land the definitive blow, but Clinton is finished by all accounts. Yet, as expected, we will be subjected to several more weeks of two people who basically agree with one another doing John McCain's work for him by beating each other's brains in.

Obama needs to really concentrate at this point on staying positive. If he essentially can't lose, there is no reason to sully the reputation by needlessly getting down in the mud.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

In God We Trust (Our Profits)

Last year, I posted about the topic of my distaste for Christian rock music because of its general standing as a weak imitation of the regular product. At the time I said:

Perhaps the problem is that so many churches deem all other rock music to be evil, and consequently these young bands haven't heard enough good music from which to build. Or maybe the bands just can't shake the guilty thoughts that their own music might be riding the line, and they may be playing their way to hell.
Today, Slate featured a book summary of Daniel Radosh's Rapture Ready. The book is about the parallel universe that evangelicals have set up to mirror the real world. The article is very interesting, but on the subject of music there is a particularly fascinating point about Christian music. Not only is the music crappy, but it could lead to a crisis of faith for its consumers.

For faith, the results can be dangerous. A young Christian can get the idea that her religion is a tinny, desperate thing that can't compete with the secular culture. A Christian friend who'd grown up totally sheltered once wrote to me that the first time he heard a Top 40 station he was horrified, and not because of the racy lyrics: "Suddenly, my lifelong suspicions became crystal clear," he wrote. "Christian subculture was nothing but a commercialized rip-off of the mainstream, done with wretched quality and an apocryphal insistence on the sanitization of reality."
My first reaction to that is the horrific thought that it was a Top 40 station that created this revelation. That is a pretty serious indictment of Christian music in itself. But I also think the point is important. It's sort of the equivalent of corporations trying to do counter-culture or 50 year olds trying to talk slang with teenagers. It always ends up seeming empty.

The more important point may be that this really is just an extension of the marketization of everything. Do it for Jesus, or at least a few Franklins.

Monday, May 5, 2008

If Only has a column in which the author talks about baseball's failure dynasties. Not surprisingly, your Kansas City Royals are one of them. The methodology is a little sketchy, but by any stretch they qualify. Within the column he lists five bad moves the organization made (presumably what he feels are the five worst I would think).

I would have to argue with his first two which involve trading Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye. Yes, those were bad moves. On the other hand, we all know about the economics of baseball and what that means for a team like KC. Perhaps, the author meant that the terribleness was just in what they got back. It doesn't really read that way though.

Two other bad moves are clearly impossible to argue. The Colt Griffin/Roscoe Crosby draft and the hiring of Tony Muser may not be the worst things this team has done, but they are pretty bad.

It's the final move that is most intriguing, however.
4. Passing on a chance to move to the National League.

My friend the Evil St. Louisan loves to remind me of the fact that the Royals had the opportunity to move to the National League Central, and decided against it. That is the same National League Central that allowed the 83-79 Cardinals to be in first place and go on to win the World Series. The last time the Royals finished 83-79 in the American League Central, they finished third (7 games out of first).

It's not hard to dream of how things would have been different had the Royals switched leagues. A light hitting team isn't as much of a problem, and some of the Royals pitchers have showed as much pop as the rest of their lineup anyway. There would be an extended rivalry with the Cardinals as the teams competed in the same division. And if the team made it to a point where they were in contention, they would only have to deal with one of the teams with a payroll of over $120 million instead of four.

If you wish in one hand...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

As a resident of the Missouri side of the metro, I don't pay too much attention to Kansas politics. However, I was very surprised to see that the Kansas House could not override the veto of Governor Sebelius to build a coal powerplant in western Kansas.

Perhaps the problem was with House Speaker Melvin Neufeld's exhortation of his fellow members.

Before the vote, Neufeld told House Republicans that it would probably be “the most important vote you’ll cast for the future of this state.”

It sounds like a few of them listened.

80's Movie Quote of the Week

Movies in the 80's didn't get much better than Police Academy.

Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris: Remember Mahoney, nobody screws with me.
Carey Mahoney: Well, maybe you'll meet the right girl and all of that will change.

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