Friday, February 09, 2007

Behavioral Modification

This article helps reaffirm the truth behind a rule one of my old bosses used to repeat on a regular basis: "Tell me how I'm measured and I'll tell you how I'll behave."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Crimson Pansies

Among the Ivy League schools, Yalies (like myself) take a lot of crap about going to school in New Haven. This is largely predicated on the New Haven of the past (late 80s, early 90s), which was a significantly more dangerous place.

But it really is a school in the middle of a city. The immediately surrounding areas have been cleaned up significantly (largely through the efforts of the University), but serious poverty is still only a few blocks away—and homelessness and crime often trickle their way onto campus.

It's a joke to other Ivy Leaguers that I lived off-campus my junior year and was about a block away from a shoot-out between cops and robbers. Tanstaafl, who went to high school in New Haven, was once notoriously asked "Did you spend the whole time ducking bullets?" when he arrived on the West Coast campus of his alma mater. But maybe that does Yalies some good?

From the Harvard Crimson comes a harrowing tale of fear and woe:

A few weeks ago, I witnessed a bizarre scene. As I crossed the Yard on my way to Lamont Library, I saw a dog stalking a squirrel while its owner stood close by. The dog crept forward stealthily, guided by an instinct that years of leashes and dog food could never completely suppress. Meanwhile, a crowd of bystanders gathered, titillated, perhaps, by the prospect of bloodshed, but at the same time confident that the dog would not succeed. Minutes passed. And then, with a rapidity and ferocity that shocked the onlookers, the dog pounced, caught the squirrel by its bushy tail, and proceeded to tear the helpless rodent to pieces. We gasped, not as much from horror as from disbelief. This was not supposed to happen.

Neither were the two armed robberies that recently took place on Harvard’s premises.

Much like dead squirrels, the idea of Harvard students being threatened with knives and umbrellas in the shadow of Widener Library is quite unsettling.
Heck, I'm pretty sure some Yalies hunt squirrels, not just their dogs—but that's besides the point.

Crime is not a constant on the Yale campus, but it is a reality. Yalies do not live in fear of it, but they act appropriately. For example, girls do not walk home alone late at night; they know better.

I don't have any evidence to suggest that Yale alumns approach the world more realistically than, say, Harvard students—but I do think that it's important to remember that not all education comes from classroom experience. Living with crime is part of the real world, and all too many college students are insulated from this reality.

How sad is it that Mr. Herz-Roiphe is so shocked that dogs eat squirrels and that thieves will target seemingly rich college students?

(We'll ignore the hilarity that an umbrella is considered by Harvard students to be a weapon used in armed robbery.)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What is wrong with the world?

New York State, which includes the city in which I work every day, is apparently considering legislation to ban listening to an iPod while crossing the street. Do it, and you may face a $100 fine:

New York State Sen. Carl Kruger says three pedestrians in his Brooklyn district have been killed since September upon stepping into traffic while distracted by an electronic device. In one case bystanders screamed "watch out" to no avail.

Kruger says he will introduce legislation on Wednesday to ban the use of gadgets such as Blackberry devices and video games while crossing the street.
He also says "Government has an obligation to protect its citizenry." That's true, but not from themselves.

Somebody is listening to an iPod and doesn't hear a car coming? He deserves to get hit. I feel worse for the poor sucker he stepped out in front of. In fact, I'll propose my own law: if you're listening to an iPod and get killed by a car, your estate has to pay to have the dents buffed out of said car.

This is a simple issue in my mind: people need to be held responsible for their own actions, especially the stupid ones.

And while I'm on the subject, McDonald's Chicken McNuggets suck now that they took out the trans-fats. What is wrong with New York? Talk about a nanny state.

Other Coverage
Suitably Flip
The Man (special thanks for the image)

A Positive Step on DRM?

Yesterday Steve Jobs urged the major record labels to remove the DRM "protections" from music sold online:

Jobs said there appeared to be no benefit to the record companies to continue to sell more than 90 percent of their music without DRM on compact discs while selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system.
I suggested something similar back in December, so I'm glad to see Mr. Jobs get on board. I just hope the RIAA doesn't misinterpret what he said and put DRM on the 90% of music they sell on CD.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hedge Fund Approach to Climate Change

I meant to link to this article last week when I saw it. I think this is one of the best approaches I've seen to the climate change debate. Mr. DeLong does not argue that he knows the science or the ultimate answers to the issue or questions of the existance, causes or remedies of climate change. Instead, his point is that no one REALLY knows what the answers are, and that the drum-beat of 100% certainty that we get from the MSM opens the door to make some money. What I like about his approach is that it calls for the humility of recognizing what we don't know instead of the arrogant posturing that usually characterizes this particular debate. I especially like this paragraph:

In this world, the worst sin is assuming something has a 100% probability when it may well have considerably less, or assuming it has zero probability when it actually has a real shot. "They forgot the tail of the risk," is a term of contempt, bringing to mind bygone firms gone bust, such as Long Term Capital Management.
Read the whole article. And, if anyone has any suggestions of some mispriced assets from this debate or any other, put them in a comment here, and let's see if we can make some smart investments.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Nope, no bias here

I just heard George Stephanopolous on This Week say, "You have to feel bad for the guy [Biden]. He's definitely not a racist, but this fed into the perception that a lot of Democrats have, he shoots from the lip."

Setting aside the really bad pun on "shoot from the hip," what the hell?

When Trent Lott (note, I am no fan of his, either) said that the world would be better off if Strom Thurmond had become president, he clearly meant that Thurmond was a good man and would have made a good leader. But the press chose to make it "clear" that he meant it would have been better if the Segregationalist Party had won the presidency, and he was drummed out of his leadership role.

But Biden, who makes an equally offensive (and equally innocuous) slip of the tongue deserves our pathos?

Sounds fair.

[Note (2/5/2007 - 12:39): As I apparently had a stroke and initially wrote "Tom Delay" instead of "Trent Lott" I have corrected the above appropriately.]