29 June 2010

The Black Swan Is not a Black Swan

I like to buy a book at the airport before a flight. The random element of what I might find in the airport bookstore amuses me. My most recent airport purchase was Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Usually I provide a link when I mention a book, but this book does not merit a link. Indeed, to aid someone in purchasing the book, even inadvertently, would require that I do penance to expiate my guilt. This book made such a splash a few years ago, that though I doubted it could live up to the hype, I thought it must surely have some merit. But it took only a few chapters to persuade me that the only merit in this book was in its engorgement of Talib's bank account.

According to Talib, a black swan is a highly improbable event, one that cannot be predicted. Those events are not just important, but are apparently the sum total of meaning in the world. They explain nearly everything, and nothing is explained in any other way. The thesis seems to grand, too sweeping, to be seriously entertained, yet Talib can hardly suppress his enthusiasm for it. I penciled in my first question mark on only the second page of the prologue, by the claim that

A small number of Black Swans explain almost everything in our world...

Sisyphus Objects

The promulgation of economic fallacies never ends. From Kai Ryssdal, host of public radio's Marketplace:

Productivity is at an all time high. That means workers are working harder.

In other words, Sisyphus is the most productive worker of all time.

And that farmer in his air-conditioned combine? Obviously less productive than his great-grandfather handling the plow behind a team of horses was, no?

Has anyone ever cataloged and categorized the standard economic fallacies? #1, I think, would be the "lump of labor" fallacy. But I'm not sure what number to give to the "productivity = working harder" fallacy.

20 June 2010

Not Quite Missing My Dad on Father's Day

I'm never more than mildly enthusiastic, at best, on father's day. I'm fortunate that my kids are fond enough of me that they give me hugs and kisses nearly every day, even the one who's soon to be a teen. They can't really do that much more on father's day without going to the kind of extravagances I don't generally enjoy (with the exception of Independence Day--I love being extravagant with fireworks).

But not all dads are so lucky, including my own, who died 13 years ago this year. Most of his kids, including me, didn't appreciate him that much. Of course it's hard to know what to do to make the day of a man who's annual Christmas request was, "Oh, I don't know, a pair black socks, maybe." But as a guy who's verging on black-socks-for-Christmas territory myself, I recognize now that that's a sign of material contentment more than it is a sign of lack of imagination. When my wife asked what I wanted for father's day, all I could think of was, "brats on the grill," which might be imaginative if we hadn't already had that meal twice in the past couple of weeks. No, material contentment was the one fortunate element for my father. Nearly everything else was a mess, including his relationships with his children.

The Return of Positive Liberty, after a fashion

The principals of Positive Liberty have at last restarted with a new blog, "The One Best Way (No, Really)" at http://theonebestway.wordpress.com/. Despite our eagerness to get our blog restarted, there were the typical coordination problems of busy people, and there are few posts as of yet (although Jon Rowe is moving fast, at least).

A lot of enthusiasm, energy, and momentum was lost during the recurring technical problems at PL, but we are committed to continuing to blog together, and I'm sure in good time we'll be going great guns again.

14 June 2010

Me in the Marines?

No, but I am going to the Marine Corps Officer Educator's Workshop next week. They're flying me to Virginia, and I'll watch potential officers go through their training. Specifically, they're young folks whose summer job is going through Marine Corps training, but without having to make a commitment to the Corps. They can do this for two or three (I think) years, and then they are given the option of committing to the Corps after graduating college. If they do, they go to an abbreviated OCS and become officers. If they don't, they part ways amicably and owe the Marines nothing.

The recruiting officer who nominated me for the program said the great majority who go through the program do commit to the Marines, but the Corps isn't interested in making the commit prior to that, because they only want those who really want to make a real commitment.

I'm looking forward to observing their training program and learning more about the history of the Marines. I'm not sure, but I think I'm going to be at Quantico. That's where the National Museum of the Marine Corps is, which has the flag that was raised on Iwo Jima both of them, actually).

Sometimes I'm amazed at the opportunities that come my way.

09 June 2010

The Continuing Saga of Philip J. Berg (Esquire!)

Over at obamacrimes.com, lawyer Philip J. Berg (Esquire!*) continues to beg for the public's attention, this time by announcing that "by and through" he himself, "WE THE PEOPLE"** are sponsoring "OBAMA BIRTH CERTIFICATE / ELIGIBILITY/ OBAMACARE March on Washington." Not just "a" march, but the march. Unfortunately, "We the People," don't seem that interested in actually participating in this thing we're supposedly sponsoring "by and through" Mr. Berg.

Due to scheduling conflicts and the importance of this March, the date of the OBAMA BIRTH CERTIFICATE / ELIGIBILITY/ OBAMACARE March on Washington was postponed from Memorial Day Weekend to sometime in August / September 2010.

Hey, I know this here march against Barry Soetero Obama Hitler Chavez thing is important, but you didn't expect me to give up my Memorial Day cookout and the Co-Cola 600, now, did you?

When "We the People" do get off their couch-potato asses to march on Warshington, Berg has a special request.

All individuals participating are requested to bring a copy of their Birth Certificate.

That would be your original long-form vault copy birth certificate, by god. If this "march" (shuffle, perhaps, is more like it) ever gets off the ground, I'd be tempted to go just so I could go around to individuals demanding to see their birth certificates, then insisting upon seeing their original sealed vault copy.

* This "Esquire" business of lawyers bugs me to no end. My Environmental Law teacher at Cal State Bakersfield was a recent law school graduate who had not passed the bar, so he couldn't cal himself esquire. But he could, and did, get a license plate for his car that read, "esqr2be." Pathetic plumping for praise, it seemed to me. I have a Ph.D., which took twice as long to get as a JD, yet I don't insist upon people calling me "Doctor Hanley," nor do I ever--ever--refer to myself as "James Hanley, Ph.D."

** I'm one of "We the People" by the way, and nobody ever asked for my sponsorship. Perhaps I should sue Mr. Berg for dishonestly listing me as a sponsor of his miniscule-men march?