Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Sunset...


(A few more pictures can be found here...)

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Today's Smaug level - very low

This year, we've been looking forward to Tintin. Here's something to look forward to for next December...

The Hobbit

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

That explains so much...

The brilliant Michael Ramirez looks at Jon Corzine's potential testimony on how MF Global, under his management, "misplaced" $1.2 Billion...

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OK, not EVERYTHING went right for the Patriots this weekend...

...because they lost Andre Carter for the season.

But other than that, they had something positive happen during every game slot. When play started on Sunday afternoon, there were four AFC teams at 10-3, and the Patriots were behind the others in playoff-seeding tie-breakers. To get a bye, assuming they won out, they needed either Houston OR both Baltimore and Pittsburgh to lose again. To get the number one seed, they needed Houston AND Baltimore and Pittsburgh to lose again. 36 hours later, they had sole possession of the best record in the AFC, just two home games against sub-.500 teams away from the number one seed, three home games away from hosting the AFC Championship game, and four home games away from the Super Bowl.

Early Sunday game:
Carolina 28, Houston 13
(Bonus: Kansas City 19, Green Bay 14, preserving New England's record for the longest regular season winning streak, and their status as the only undefeated team in the 16-game era.)
Late Sunday game:
New England 41, Denver 23
Sunday night game:
San Diego 34, Baltimore 14
Monday night game:
San Francisco 20, Pittsburgh 3
I actually have very little confidence after the home playoff losses of the last two years, and the defensive performances (which have been very offensive) this year. But after this weekend, they are very likely to enter the post-season as the number one seed in the AFC. Again.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Nativity Carol

Nativity Carol

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The Twelve Days Of Christmas

My feelings about The Twelve Days of Christmas are that a) it's a fun song and b) the best thing you can do with it is get through it as fast as possible. It's too long, and when people start playing games with it, there's a tendency for it to get tedious. Well, at about the third day, during last night's Boston Pops concert, I started to get very concerned. What followed, however, was brilliant.
"I knew we had a winning new arrangement of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" when we premiered it in 2007, but the audience's enthusiastic response night after night was unlike anything I've ever seen at the Pops," said Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart. "Then a flood of letters and phone calls came in requesting a recording of the new arrangement-an incredibly creative twist on one of the greatest Christmas-time classics. We knew then and there that we would make a recording of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and that it would become a staple of our Holiday season programming."

A different piece of (appropriate) music for each day, and the result is spectacular. As Lockhart said last night, it's a "bit of a mixed blessing" because they all know that they're "never going to get away with not doing it again."

The Pops at Symphony Hall is a real treat, and, in addition to Sleigh Ride, they'll be doing that arrangement for a long time.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

I hope that this is correct...

...but I also hope that the supply I've laid up since 2007 makes it unnecessary for me to buy any more anyway...

Spending bill blocks light bulb standards
The shutdown-averting budget bill will block federal light bulb efficiency standards, giving a win to House Republicans fighting the so-called ban on incandescent light bulbs.

GOP and Democratic sources tell POLITICO the final omnibus bill includes a rider defunding the Energy Department's standards for traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more energy efficient.

DOE's light bulb rules — authorized under a 2007 energy law authored signed by President George W. Bush — would start going into effect Jan. 1. The rider will prevent DOE from implementing the rules through Sept. 30.

But Democrats said they could claim a "compromise" by adding language to the omnibus that requires DOE grant recipients greater than $1 million to certify they will upgrade the efficiency of their facilities by replacing any lighting to meet or exceed the 2007 energy law's standards.

Fueled by conservative talk radio, Republicans made the last-ditch attempt to stop federal regulations from making their way into every Americans' living room.

"There are just some issues that just grab the public's attention. This is one of them," said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.). "It's going to be dealt with in this legislation once and for all."
Based on my anticipated needs, I've got a 30-year (or longer) supply of 100W incandescent bulbs in my basement right now. (Unless they start breaking or burning out MUCH faster than they ever have, or I suddenly end up tripling my fixtures.) But I hope that I'll still be able to buy them next year...

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas music

Park Street Church Sanctuary Choir - 12/11/2011

Introit - African Noel




Anthem - Magnificat (Heinrich Schütz)

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Monday, December 05, 2011

Why Keynesianism Works Better in Theory Than in Practice

This, by Tino Sanandaji, is an excellent piece about why Keynes was both right and wrong, and why the 2009 "stimulus" appears to have failed to stimulate...
...The Obama administration chose a strong dose of Keynesian medicine, confidently predicting that unemployment would be lowered to 6 percent by the end of 2011. As we now know, this promise was not fulfilled, with unemployment currently at 9 percent. This has, fairly or not, once again soured American voters on Keynes, with three-quarters of the public concluding that the stimulus failed.

Of course, the high unemployment rate alone does not prove that the stimulus failed.
[LB: Absolutely true, and a point that far too many people miss, on this topic and many others. "Prove" requires far more evidence than we generally have when speaking of counterfactual possibilities. Events have, indeed, "proved" that the administration's predictions of the effects of the stimulus package were wrong, but they don't "prove" that the stimulus did more harm than good. I believe that to be the case, of course, and see the current situation as evidence in support of my position, but I don't claim that it's been proven.] It may be that unemployment would be 15 percent without it, as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested. On the other hand, the poor health of the patient cannot be ignored when evaluating a Keynesian cure which in practice has a spotty track record. [LB: This, of course, is also relevant.]

Another argument, most notably made by Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, is that the high level of unemployment simply proves that the stimulus was too small....It is worth noting that Paul Krugman has used the same explanation for the failure of Japanese stabilization policy, i.e. that the failure of aggressive Keynesianism to achieve growth proves that deficits were too small.

In the decade following the 1991 crash, Japanese deficit spending was on average 5 percent of GDP per year, and 7 percent of GDP in the decade that followed. Japan’s debt increased from normal levels to a staggering 233 percent of GDP today, far higher than in every other advanced country, including Greece. None of this managed to stimulate growth.

In this vulgar form, Keynesianism is turned into a non-falsifiable theory.
[LB: And, of course, falsifiability is essential for something to be a good scientific hypothesis. If the only two positions one allows for are a) the stimulus really worked or b) it really would have worked if it had only been bigger, then one has taken a position that's faith-based, not fact-based. (I recognize, of course, that the converse is true as well. Those of us who will only accept that a) the stimulus was a failure and b) a larger stimulus would have been a larger failure are also holding those positions as positions of faith, because, like the stimulus supporters, we can't prove it. We cannot go back in time and re-run the experiment. It does seem as if the evidence in support of our position is a little bit stronger and more fact-based, though...)] If borrowing and spending 150 percent of GDP fails to achieve growth, why, that merely proves Japan should have borrowed and spent 300 percent of GDP!
This part is good, too.
Still, a doctor whose remedy frequently fails can always say that things would have been even worse without it, but at some point he also has to be open to the possibility that his prescription is wrong.

Remember that the estimates of the number of jobs “created or saved” by the stimulus that we have seen used by the Congressional Budget Office, Mark Zandi, and others are not direct measurements. Rather, they are based on simulations where the effectiveness of the program is assumed
a priori by applying a so-called multiplier to deficit spending. As Stanford University economist John Taylor points out: “You learn virtually nothing about the efficacy of a stimulus package if you use the same models to evaluate its impact ex post that you used to predict its impact ex ante.
Read it all...

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For Unto Us a Child Is Born

For Unto Us a Child Is Born - Park Street Church Sanctuary Choir and Orchestra, 12/4/2011

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