Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Tip Your Advocate

So economists sometimes wonder why people tip at restaurants. It can make sense in some situations, but people often tip even when they are unlikely to return to the restaurant ever. Now, I don't have an answer, but I have a very non-econ idea that I'm ashamed of.

The basic concept is that the waiter, while she works for the restaurant, is also something of an independent operator. She mediates the interaction between the diner and the kitchen. Her loyalties are not entirely with the kitchen; in fact, quite the opposite. She is an advocate for her tables. She gets them their food as fast as possible, she corrects any mistakes, and if things go badly she tries to get the restaurant to give the customer free food. True, she may not have their best interests at heart when she recommends menu items, but in my experience waiters are actually pretty good about that. The major exception is the waiter in India who convinced me to get some vegetable curry that, while it tasted fairly standard at the time, later proved to have been heavily spiced rotten vegetables they were trying to get rid of.

In short, waiters are zealous advocates. They understand the nuances of a complex system and navigate it to serve their clients. Not to put too fine a point on it, waiters are like lawyers. I realized this when a Medici waiter gave me a free milkshake to make up for the fact that the kitchen took forever to bake my pizza. It was actually my second milkshake, because I love those Medici milkshakes. Even though I drank two of them, though, I only paid for one. That's what it must feel like to hire a lawyer and win a big case. The question is, if lawyers and waiters are so similar, why am I wasting 3 years learning to be a lawyer? I was already a pretty good busboy, and in time could have become an accomplished waiter.

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

All the time people make decisions, and divide people into 2 groups: those who are good enough and those who aren't. Having spent a lot of time in the latter camp, I have low expectations for my law firm interviews. In a sense, though, I don't care. It's a rational process and I'll get what I deserve. What bothers me are arbitrary or unfair judgments, particularly ones based on factors beyond our control. Of course, everyone suffers from this problem, but it's not random. Some suffer far more than others.

Underneath all of this is the rage that comes from spending too much time among the unwanted, the fury of watching the ambitious and the beautiful snatch away the world's wealth. I wish I had no taste, I wish I had no eyes to see the good things beyond my reach.

I think there is something to be done, but I'm not the one to do it. Poverty is a major cause of unfairness, but I suspect the really difficult pockets will be things like body image, religious intolerance, and self-segregation. I have no idea how to design a society to minimize those problems, much less how to get there from the status quo. I'll play my role, passively going on from mediocrity to mediocrity, failure to failure, occasionally bleating out that life is unfair.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Where's My Echo?

So I wish we could interview in sandals. Law firms are coming to campus to interview for jobs, and I'm expected to wear a suit and shiny shoes. The thing is, I'd like to show off my toes.

I was looking at my feet earlier, and I have to say, they look great. I did a really good job clipping my nails this time around. Plus, one time I wore sandals to visit my friends at work, and a girl asked me if I shave my feet. The answer is no: one of the things Irish blood is good for is having relatively hairless toes.

My toes look so cute right now. They're clean and well-trimmed. They look like vestigial little fingers atrophied by millennia of evolution. I feel confident that if law firms went by toes alone, I would get a great job. I want to wear sandals and casually fold my legs so that my toes are easily visible.

Now one thing that worries me is that my pinky toes have weird nails. Instead of growing along the surface of the toe, the nails kind of stick out and are tiny. My mom told me this happened because I was a premature baby. I'm not so sure. Otherwise, though, my toes are great. They're kind of skinny, but then the tips are soft and bulbous.

My ankles are okay, not great. I'd like to think that someone who loved me would find them cute, but otherwise they're just acceptable. My feet used to hurt after standing for hours washing dishes in the cafeteria. Then I would go home and take my shoes off and wiggle my toes and feel great.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I take pride in my feet. They're not perfect, but they're probably the best thing about me. I just wish I could make the interviewers understand that.

UPDATE: fixed grammar mistake

UPDATE 2: How embarrassing. Fixed spelling mistake in first update.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


So it turns out that Pat Robertson didn't call for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, according to Pat Robertson (all quotations from this piece in the NY Times).

His original statement was:

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don't think any oil shipments will stop." (emphasis added)

He added:

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Now he claims:

"I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' 'Take him out' could be a number of things including kidnapping."

Good point! Hell, he might have meant "take him out for dinner on his birthday." The possibilities are endless. How could the media have been so irresponsible as to report that he meant assassination?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Philadelphia Story

So I really like the movie "Philadelphia Story." True, it has some troubling classist undertones, but overall it's a moving and funny story. Anyway, the thing is, George Clooney is perfect for the male lead, the Cary Grant role. It simply couldn't get any better. It screams out for a remake. If you're reading this, and you can make this happen (you know who you are!), please do it.

UPDATE: fixed typo

Time to Trash Recycling?

So it's too late to see the full article without paying, but this article in the New York Times caught my eye. Basically, the cost of depositing trash at dumps is much lower than was expected in past decades. New methods of compacting the trash are opening up lots of space and keeping prices low. I don't remember exactly, but I think it's around $40 per ton (I could be way off).

That got me thinking. Does recycling make sense? In particular, does it make sense for the government to subsidize recycling programs? No doubt, when industry recycles on its own, that's very likely to be efficient. Apparently steel recycling is very cheap and easy, and there's a market for scrap steel. The question is, what would justify the government stepping in when the market doesn't support recycling? After all, if the recycled material is worth much, companies should pay for it. If it's expensive to dispose in dumps, people should look to recycling as a way of disposing of their waste. If the price companies pay for recycleable material is low, and the cost of disposing it in a landfill is low, doesn't that indicate that the most efficient thing to do is not recycle?

One answer might be that people don't really bear the cost of all the trash they produce. Some trash is thrown into public receptacles, and the whole system is often set up in a way that doesn't create strong incentives to conserve. For instance, trash collecting is often paid with a flat fee, so there's no incentive to reduce trash production. Curbside pickup might be prohibitively expensive for anyone to start up, but the marginal cost might be low for the people already doing the trash collecting, in many cases paid by the city. Trash dumps might impose costs on their neighbors without compensating them. The government might simply want to push society toward the most efficient of many potential equilibria.

All of these seems like pretty thin gruel, though. Steel and glass are probably worth recycling, but I don't know. Plastic and paper are much more doubtful. Given how little it costs to dispose of trash, it's hard to believe it's worth the expense. As disconcerting as it is, one of the most visible environmental virtues might be ineffective or counterproductive.

This critique doesn't necessarily apply to bottle deposits, which might be more of an anti-littering measure. It also doesn't mean that, given the status quo, recycling is inefficient. Given that many fixed costs have already been incurred, the marginal benefit might be worth the marginal cost. Of course, I'd love to see recycling happening through some kind of market process. If aluminum is worth recycling (and I think it is), companies should be willing to pay enough for it that people voluntarily recycle. If curbside recycling is the most efficient way to achieve this, great. The problem with the status quo is that there's no safeguard, no way of knowing that we're better off as a society recycling. Given how cheap it is to dispose of waste, it's very possible that recycling is one of the more wasteful things we do.

I Am Not the Craziest!

So, my last post might leave you with the impression that I'm... unstable. Fair enough, but I've got nothing on Pat Robertson. Apparently he wants to assassinate the president of Venezuala.

A little background: Chavez was democratically elected, but has done some shady stuff and likes to use populist rhetoric. He was deposed in a coup a few years ago, but was restored. The US embarrassingly supported the coup, or at least failed to condemn it, since the Bush administration disliked Chavez's left-wing politics. Among other things, Venezuala provides cheap oil to Cuba.

Anyway, I won't go into the various reasons that it's not a good idea to assassinate anyone in most circumstances, let alone someone who is democratically elected and not perpetrating any major human rights abuses. I'll just note that as long as there's a Pat Robertson, I won't be the craziest man alive.

Indian Chemistry

I'm becoming disenchanted with India. Yes, it's still the world's largest democracy. Yes, its food is the best in the world. No, there isn't anything better than hanging out with Tarun, the conscience of a nation.

But then I read something like this piece of crap article on "assisted" (as opposed to arranged) marriage in the NRI community. They describe their perfect little marriages as "love-cum-arranged." The article gushes, "Only over dinner with Dr. Shah - her ninth suitor - did she finally begin a courtship that was fueled as much by chemical attraction as by familial interest." Chemical attraction!

By God there better be no chemical attraction in my marriage. Don't these NRI's understand that you can't have your cake and eat it too? Beaming about their perfect little marital unions with their perfect little sex lives, letting reporters document their giddiness in tired cliches, they're oblivious to the searing pain of existence. Here's the truth: you shuffle awkwardly through this living hell and if you're lucky enough to find sexual pleasure, it's with someone who despises you. If, on the other hand, you choose a good life partner, the sex is dutiful and boring. There are no other options. Well, you can have sex with lots of different people. But then you get an STD and don't disclose it and feel guilty when your ex girlfriend can't have babies because of you.

One girl in the article says, "My parents won't understand, they'll say, 'But he's from a good family, he's a doctor, he's a doctor, he's a doctor.' And I'll say, 'But he's short.' " But he's short! Who the hell do you think you are? Well, what about this one? Are his eyebrows at the right angle? Are you sure his shoulder blades don't jut too much? Wouldn't you rather have a pony? We could paint it all the colors of the rainbow and eat cupcakes while our driver works over the short doctor with a fucking wrench. Aren't you excited that you have chemical attraction with a racially acceptable mate? Isn't life perfect?

Fuck everyone with a cute ethnicity. Fuck anyone with talent or a work ethic. Fuck anyone whose genetic heritage is anything other than gloomy alcoholism and sordid graceless sex measured out in rushed sweaty gropings and thrustings that leave your partner unsatisfied. Life is meant to be lonely, painful, and ugly. We take dignity from our pain because there is nowhere else to find it. I'm done choking on the triumphalist shit the New York Times cranks out to keep its life-starved readers up to date on the customs of communities to which they can never belong.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Good News if You Can Get It

I don't know enough about the Middle East to add anything meaningful to the discussion, but I do know that Israel's heavily subsidized settlements in Palestinian territory are a horrible idea. I don't think they make sense on a purely pragmatic level, and I think they often trample on the rights of the Palestinians. Even strongly pro-Israel Americans, like myself, should be glad that Sharon is dismantling some of the settlements.

The way it's playing out is unfortunate, of course. According to the New York Times, American philanthropists donated $14 million to compensate Israeli settlers for their greenhouses, but many Israelis have already sabotaged them. Now Israeli settlers are resisting evacuation. The Israeli army is expected to go door to door to force everyone out.

Still, I think there is a potential upside to all this mess. First, Israel is doing the right thing in a highly visible way. If Palestinians have access to reliable media, they will see the state of Israel forcing Jews out of the settlements at gunpoint. The image is reminiscent of the 101st Airborne troops who protected the black students at Central High School in 1957 (I remember one picture of a soldier moving a white girl along at bayonet point). This alone won't convince Palestinians that the Israeli army is a force for good, but it might help them see shades of grey. If they understand that there are friendly Jews and hostile Jews, they might be able to make common cause with leftist Israelis and pursue their cause through the political process.

Second, Hamas has announced that it won't attack Israelis in Gaza during the withdrawal. Hamas is reprehensible, and the move is probably cynical, but it might pave the way for further promises of peace. Conceivably both sides can see the benefits of a peaceful withdrawal from most or all of the settlements, which will leave Palestinians with far fewer grievances and Israel with more security.

All of this is predicated on Israelis and Palestinians getting an accurate picture of what is going on (I'm assuming that our picture is accurate, which is perhaps unwise). If the Palestinians don't have access to non-propaganda media, they might not realize the sacrifices Israelis are making to remove the settlements. Dismantling the settlements is a good idea no matter what, but it will be especially productive if Palestinians get the news.

UPDATE: Settlers are shouting the slogan "A Jew does not expel a Jew!" As painful as it is, this is exactly what Palestinians need to see, Jews expelling Jews. It dispels the notion that Israel is a monolithic entity always protecting Jewish interests at the expense of Palestinians. Actually, it might work the other way too: it might be hard for the Palestinians not to empathize with people being turned out of their homes by the Israeli army.

UPDATE AGAIN: I should read the entire article before updating. Some settlers (and sympathizers who have entered the settlements illegally) are being complete thugs. Someone threw ammonia into the face of a police photographer. I can't help thinking this kind of extremism will turn the Israeli public against the settlers. The article is a useful reminder that there are violent fundamentalists on both sides.

FINAL UPDATE: Just fixed a spelling error.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Happy Birthday India

58 years ago at midnight India was born. Jawaharlal Nehru rose to the occasion:

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.

At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, and opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?

Freedom and power bring responsibility. The responsibility rests upon this assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of the pains continue even now. Nevertheless, the past is over and it is the future that beckons to us now.

That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfil the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.

And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart. Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this One World that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.

To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make an appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.

(source: the Norton Anthology of English Literature)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Catholicism's Tragic Asymptote

So Dan Savage, guest blogging over at Andrew Sullivan's blog, made an interesting point right around here:

"Santorum doesn’t just believe that the state should have the right to regulate gay sex out of existence, but two out of three most popular straight sex acts too."

I spent a little while trying to figure out which 3 sex acts Savage was talking about, but I could only narrow it down to 4. Then I realized it doesn't really matter - his point is actually that at least n-1 out of anyone's n favorite sex acts are banned by the Catholic Church. Two out of three is actually about as mild as it gets - try 9 out of 10 or 49 out of 50.

And then I thought, I'm awfully glad I'm not a Catholic.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Work on the Headlines

This headline is not nearly as disturbing as it first appears: "G.I.'s Deployed in Iraq Desert With Lots of American Stuff." I know they're under a lot of time pressure, and writing good headlines is not as easy as it might seem, but come on.

Are Lawyers Productive?

So I think it's worth considering how our jobs will affect society, not just our wealth.

Just kidding. But for some people, money isn't everything. Most of us don't think that income corresponds perfectly to social value. For instance, teachers aren't highly paid, but we think they are much more important than, say, advertising executives. Where do lawyers fit in on this spectrum? Unfortunately, I think they fit in near the bottom, at least in some sense.

To explain, let me draw on a model used by Murphy, Shleifer, and Vishny in their paper "The Allocation of Talent: Implications for Growth." The model is similar to theirs, but simplified.

Imagine a society with 24 citizens. 2 are capitalists, and the remaining 22 are workers. The workers range in intelligence from 10 to 20, with 2 workers at each intelligence level. There is a factory in which each worker can generate $1,000 worth of goods for each unit of intelligence he has. There is also a lawsuit between the capitalists, with damages estimated at $50,000. Each capitalist will hire a lawyer to represent him. The capitalist with the smarter lawyer wins. If the lawyers have the same intelligence, the case is 50-50.

You can pretty easily see that the smartest 2 workers are going to be the lawyers. The capitalists can afford to pay their $20,000 salaries, enough to lure them from the factory. If the capitalists could somehow agree to hire really dumb lawyers, they could save a lot of money. In the absence of such an agreement, though, they get into an "arms race" and end up hiring really smart people. The cost is that society has $20,000 less in wealth (difference in intelligence = 10, times $1,000 units at the factory, times 2 workers).

You might say that I've just assumed what I set out to prove, by not making society's welfare dependent on the work of lawyers. True, but the model should give you an intuition about why lawyers can be highly paid and yet add very little to social welfare: there is an "arms race" in which smarter lawyers are hired not because they create wealth, but because they can shift wealth from one party to another. This expensive chase after wealth does little or nothing to make new wealth, it simply transfers it (at great cost) from one party to another.

This is why I sometimes say things that seem ridiculous, as when I told Ellen that I thought i-bankers might be more socially valuable than lawyers. I-bankers make their money by putting capital to its most productive use, at least in theory. They create value, and are thus able to consume a lot. Lawyers don't necessarily create any value at all.

None of this is to say that law itself, and lawyers in the abstract, aren't valuable. The point is that the marginal value of another smart lawyer might actually be negative. It's a tad depressing, but I think it's true.

James the Puritan Hedonist

So here's the thing. I'm basically hedonistic, meaning that I take whatever actions I think will maximize my happiness. I actually think everyone is purely hedonistic in this sense, if you define happiness correctly. Anyway, the strange part is that I have a puritanical streak that often causes problems. For instance, in college I wouldn't drink alcohol for a while, and then periodically I renounced it. Finally I realized I'm (probably) not an alcoholic, and now I drink it every once in a while. I think my approach to alcohol is fairly healthy.

Television is another story. I watch too much of it. Now that I have digital cable and DVR, I can and do watch up to 4 episodes of Law & Order a day (in practice it's usually fewer because I've seen some of the episodes). This is a complete waste of time, and it's unhealthy. Having recognized that, though, I also acknowledge that it's very hard for me to resist. I think I'm going to have to renounce television.

The problem is that television, like drinking, is a social activity. In our culture it can be difficult to hang out with people and have fun without drinking, not because of the direct effect of the alcohol, but because of the awkwardness of dealing with a non-drinker (and the annoyance of dealing with drunk people when you're sober). Television is the same way; it gives us things to talk about and experiences to share. As depressing as it might seem, television now defines much of our culture and our shared perceptions about the world.

So giving it up is going to suck. I might end up having to take an alcohol-like approach: enjoy TV occasionally without letting it have an unhealthy influence on my life. Unfortunately I think the draw of TV is way stronger than the appeal of alcohol, and a Puritan approach might be the only way.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Few Things to Check Out

So Tarun has a new blog. If you know me well at all, you've probably heard a bunch of Tarun stories, so this is your chance to see for yourself. Also, Dan Savage is guest-blogging over at Andrew Sullivan's blog.


I took a trip up to Lincoln Square to pick up my new knife on Sunday. I took the green line to the brown line on the way up, but on the way back I decided to stop downtown and maybe get a burrito. Chipotle was closed, though, so I ended up getting a coffee at Corner Bakery. As I was walking toward the Metra (so much faster than the L) a homeless guy asked me for money. You know how it goes: start out just asking for your time, but inevitably the story works out so that you're a complete asshole if you don't help this person go to school/get to the hospital/buy a bus ticket to the rehab center. I was somewhat buzzed from the coffee, so I gave him some money (in general I think it's more effective to give to charity). As I walked away, he asked me if I'm a painter or an artist. I'm not sure why he said that (I was wearing my Selfish Hedonist shirt), but I have to admit it made me feel good. That's a bad sign, right, that I take comfort out of being confused with an artist? I think it just means that I'm happy some people still think I'm a productive member of society. Soon, though, I will be all too recognizable in my suit and tie and reasonable haircut. Then there will be no escaping the collective judgment of a jaded society.

I guess I wish I had thought hard about this early on in my college career. In all likelihood it wouldn't have helped, though; I was convinced that I would be an economist. I wouldn't have done much differently. I should have made a list of professions that would make me happy, and prepared for them, rather than wandering aimlessly like a damn fool. Law school is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Defending Posner with Mickey Mouse Sex Toys

So I was reading old stuff in The Economists' Voice, and I came across this letter and this response. The basic idea is that Judge Posner thinks that there might be a consumption externality with Mickey Mouse, and Boldrin and Levine don't. A consumption externality just means that my enjoyment of a product is affected by someone else's consumption of it. If there is a consumption externality, it might justify copyright protection.

Boldrin and Levine get unnecessarily sarcastic: "Perhaps we should give Disney a monopoly because it 'practices good husbandry of its characters?' If Disney had a monopoly on food, they would surely practice 'good husbandry' of food, leaving us all on the edge of starvation."

The sarcam is unwarranted because Posner's point is pretty solid. If anyone could print Mickey Mouse on anything, we would probably have Mickey Mouse sex toys and who knows what else (after years of reading Savage Love, I've learned not to rule anything out). Right now Mickey Mouse is a symbol of childhood fun and innocence. Actually, Mickey Mouse is merely a corporate symbol as far as I can tell; I can't remember ever watching a Mickey Mouse cartoon. He's a crappy character, honestly. But I'm straying from my point, which is that once Mickey Mouse starts getting plastered on sex toys, the jig is up. Disney characters succeed in part because they are relentlessly presented in a safe, sunny environment. They conjure up feelings of fun and imagination well within the bounds of decency. All of this comes crashing to an end when Mickey Mouse is plowing Donald Duck while Goofy watches.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


So it never works to create your own nickname. There's even a Seinfeld episode about it. I'd like a nickname, though, and to get the ball rolling I'm including a selection of past nicknames. Feel free to pick one and spread it around, so that I can have, you know, a nickname. In rough chronological order:

1. Jimmy. I didn't even realize this wasn't my name until well into my childhood. I abandoned it after Father Tribou told us that men have to use real names. This is not one to bring back, but you may hear my family and old friends using it.

2. Little Man. This comes from my time at Davidson College, at summer camp. It refers to my small physical size.

3. Spanky. This is also not one to revive. High school is so cruel.

4. The Prisoner. This stems from my reclusive habits freshman year of college. I rarely left my room, just like a prisoner. Variations include Prison Bitch and PBJ (Prison Bitch James). I don't mind this one as much as you might expect.

5. Jazzy James V. It's unclear why my coworkers at the restaurant came up with this one. I like it, though. Variations include the V and the V of all James V's. The V is pronounced like the letter, not the Roman numeral.

6. The Shank. My coworkers gave me this one, too. I told them a story about getting in a knife fight with a Puerto Rican, and they thought my exploits merited a violent nickname. I'd be hard pressed to disagree, although the knife fight never happened.

7. Sharky. Another coworker nickname. This one comes from the time I beat a coworker at 9-ball. It's a variation of pool in which you sink the balls in order until you miss. The person who sinks the 9-ball wins. The nature of the game is that a beginner can do very poorly but happen to sink the last ball, which is what I did. Since I beat a much better player, they concluded that I am a pool shark.

So there you go. It's a pretty good selection, but if you don't like them, I have some other ideas:

1. The Rainmaker. It ain't braggin if it's true, which it isn't.

2. A Bengali nickname. These typically have nothing to do with your actual name, and are diminuitive. Some Indians just shorten their names and add an "u" sound at the end, as in Indu for Indira or Chandru for Chandrasekhar. I guess I'd be Jamu, but that's confusing because it's a state next to Kashmir or something.

3. Jacob or Jake. These are etymologically identical to James, the Supplanter, brother of Esau the hairy one.

4. Hefe. I know this isn't really a nickname, but I think it would be cool to be called Hefe. Also Boss or Chief.

So there you go. Leave a comment with any suggestions you have. Be creative! Or if not creative, at least pick one of my old nicknames to bring back.

Potato Cooked in a Punjabi Village Style

So I've cooked this recipe from World Vegetarian, by Madhur Jaffrey, three times in the last three days. Partly that's because I had a lot of ingredients I wanted to get rid of, but mostly it's because it's so much fun to prepare. Lots of chopping, and then frying onions. Frying onions, by the way, is the cat's pajamas. They hiss when you throw them in the hot oil, and after a bit they take on a rich reddish brown color. I'm not saying that chopping onions is fun. Today I cried for 5 minutes.

So the deal is, if you want to try some potatoes cooked in a Punjabi village style, just let me know. I will so totally cook them for you. They're not really a complete meal, unfortunately, but they'd be great accompanying some rich source of protein. I'm not saying you should eat meat, I'm just strongly implying it.

So yeah, this is an open invitation to come over and have a meal here. Or I can bring the potatoes, and we can have everyone bring something, and maybe eat dinner and hang out and drink beer.

Clear Skies

So Al Franken has this joke that the Clear Skies Initiative is designed to clear the sky of birds. I'm a lazy man, though, and while I tend to be liberal, I need someone to explain to me what's the matter with a market approach. In fact, my faith in the market is part of what leads me to be a liberal, but more on that another time. This article in The Economists' Voice gives a pretty compelling defense of Bush's Clear Skies program. Basically, you can achieve lots of reductions in emissions at relatively low cost by allowing companies to trade the right to pollute. Like the authors of the article, I find some faults in Bush's proposal, but overall it seems like a good idea to me. The one thing I would be careful about is mercurcy, which is more of a local pollutant than a regional one and could create "hot spots." The paper addresses this issue, but not entirely persuasively.

Anyway, I would love to be proved wrong, so any liberals out there should let me know if there's something I'm missing. I'll follow up if I hear anything. Until then, with great reluctance I have to side with Bush on this one. Franken should make an argument or drop the joke.