Tuesday, February 27, 2007

eine kleine nachtmusik im museum

Just in case you didn't catch this- in the very first scene introducing Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) to the night life in the museum, a tyrannosaurus-rex exhibit mysteriously goes missing.

If you listen carefully to the accompanying soundtrack, you can hear composer Alan Silvestri's tribute to John Williams, as he uses the theme from Jurassic Park's "Dennis Steals the Embryo" to highlight Daley's confusion as to whom might have pinched the exhibit.

Monday, February 26, 2007

map-line worship

Though I was less than satisfied with this novel, it did have its redeeming parts. This following passage questions the rationality of nationalism; the illogical and evil religion worshiped by billions millions in their fervor to violently exclude immigrants, block free and voluntary exchange, and of course, to wage murderous wars.

For all of humanity's sake, I hope we can advance beyond this childish notion of fixed-pie economics, where unfortunately the bulk of grownups live a nightmarish reality, feeling threatened by the mere existence of other people.
"How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in the autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply?

What is love of one's country? Is it hate of one's uncountry? Then it's not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That's a good thing, but one mustn't make a virtue of it, or a profession...

Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

For Sale: One Brooklyn Bridge

More on the faux privatization front:
"Investment bankers are blitzing the Spitzer administration with proposals to sell state assets to private firms, as investors seek to buy toll roads, bridges and even Off-Track Betting.

Bankers are making the rounds at the Thruway Authority, the Empire State Development Corp., the state Department of Transportation and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. They seek to capitalize on statements by the new governor that he is open to public-private partnerships." -Article Link

misplaced aggravations

"Merck & Co. said it would stop lobbying states to pass laws requiring that preteen girls be vaccinated against cervical cancer in the face of a growing backlash among parents, physicians and consumer advocates." - Full Article
Sure, it's easy to get all pissed at Merck for a little rent-seeking, but if this doesn't get your blood boiling against the state mechanism which makes it all possible, you have nothing to complain about.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

fiction[-writer] versus [economic] reality

On a topic I hold dear, Mises blog authors discuss the economic and aesthetic repercussions when the real estate market is disrupted via the political process in an attempt to craft a city more to the liking of the planning czars.

Can We Trust the State with Preservation?

By Gene Callahan and Julius Blumfeld
"Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, commenting on the controversy surrounding 980 Madison, sensibly noted that blocking the construction of new Manhattan residential space will result in housing costs being higher than they would be if the apartments were built. Wolfe's response demonstrates his ignorance of the fact that his pet cause entails very real costs: "[The proposed 980 Madison Avenue project] certainly isn't going to help the housing situation. Just more people who have the money will be able to move in" (Gillette, 2007, p. 21).

Wolfe apparently has never considered the fact that, when very rich people move into those new apartments, that will ease the demand for the residences they would have occupied otherwise, allowing the slightly less wealthy to acquire those spots. That, in turn, will free up the housing those people would otherwise have chosen, making them available to yet others, and so on. An increase in the housing stock at any price level will tend to lower housing costs in general, although, of course, that effect might always be offset or even swamped by some other factor working in the opposite direction.

Wolfe, not content with this first display of economic naïveté, continues, "To take [Glaeser's] theory to its logical conclusion would be to develop Central Park." Here, he confuses the recognition that action X would act towards lowering the cost of good Y to imply that, therefore, X must be done! Without a doubt, filling Central Park with apartment buildings would lower New York City rents. Similarly, butchering all of the dogs and cats in the United States for food would lower meat prices. But that in no way implies that either course of action is indisputably recommended. People quite sensibly prefer not to eat their pets, even though doing so would reduce their meal expenditures, just as New York City residents might prefer a bucolic respite in the midst of their urban environment, even given the higher housing costs that entails.
Glaeser is doing nothing more than noting that the elementary principles of supply and demand apply even to virtuous causes, while Wolfe, by refusing to concede such a basic truth, raises the suspicion that his campaign may have more to do with his public image than with concern for the greater good."
I've argued this very same point in the past, as evidenced, here, here, and here that some people would like to have their cake and eat it too.

I guess it's just that some fiction writers have no grasp of reality.

Monday, February 12, 2007

whence order arose

"I have never doubted the truth of signs, Adso; they are the only things man has with which to orient himself in the world. What I did not understand is the relation among signs... I behaved stubbornly, pursuing a semblance of order, when I should have known well that there is no order in the universe."

"But in imagining an erroneous order you still found something. . . ."

"What you say is very fine, Adso, and I thank you. The order that our mind imagines is like a net, or like a ladder, built to attain something. But afterward you must throw the ladder away, because you discover that, even if it was useful, it was meaningless. Er muoz gelichesame die leiter abewerfen sô er an ir ufgestigen... is that how you say it?... It's hard to accept the idea that there cannot be an order in the universe because it would offend the free will of God and His omnipotence."

Friday, February 02, 2007

kitchen unwisdom

I think I've come up with a novel way to end the timeless recipe mix-up involving baking soda and baking powder - just swap their respective containers and go on making your mistakes.