Jul

31

It occurred to me lately that a key to reviving a depressed economy, contrary to many theories, is actually to raise prices of most essential goods. This could be done by fixing the prices through an authoritative government or monopolizing institutions, or by raising taxes on these goods. This way, the amount of such goods sold will no doubt be lower (but not too much as these are mostly essential goods), but sales numbers will go up, and moreover, profits/taxes will go substantially up. Then re-distribute the profits/taxes to the most associated parties, who then will make large spending, thus giving boosts to the economy. Clearly, inflation will go up, but this will stimulate members of the society to work much harder, in order to survive as a first motive obviously. Then as the economy wakes up, ensure always to keep prices of many things high, so continued stimulation continues.

So the secret here is to jack up prices! Lowering prices won't work because it's more like welfare, which contributes little back to the economy, as the receivers only consume it.

Obviously, in order for this to work, a pre-condition is that the country stays fairly closed up from the rest of the world.

So haven't we seen proof of this through the past 40 years?

So the question is when and how this will all end? Any comments?

Jul

31

 Tens of thousands of Peruvians and Brazilians live alone or with a few others in the Amazon. They're usually in a group of two or more huts on stilts and live comfortably with full bellies with Jurassic Park in their back yard. The further out you go, the fewer the number of huts, until you reach the sole hermit.

That was my intent in going to the Amazon in 1999, after being accused by the Bishop, CA sheriffs of homicide of a dead body I stumbled over while hiking the length of Death Valley. I found it quite easy to hunt and fish and live in the Amazon, where water was a relief after Death Valley.

All you do is get on a triple-deck boat from a major port at the rate of $10 a day, and travel the Amazon River for three days to a confluence. There you transfer to a double-deck boat up the smaller river for a couple days until it narrows and the boat cannot pass. Flag down a single deck fishing boat that doubles in carrying passengers and mail for a couple days. When it stops in too shallow water, sit on the bank in the mosquitos for a day looking at where no white flesh has crawled, pink dolphins jump, and the people wear rags or nothing, filing their canines to points, and you hope they don't invite you to dinner. Wave your shirt until a peca canoe comes by, and ride with it for a day to the last outpost of a couple of huts on stilts at the end of the stream. Pick a melon from their patch, eat monkey brains, the kids will knock down coconuts to drink, and hire a canoe to paddle deep into the bush for a day, and find someone living alone. If there is none, just have him drop you there w/ a fishhook, matches, machete, and bugnet.

The reason I returned is the jungle is the most inhospitable place on earth. It makes the Slabs in 130F feel like a child's cradle.

Jul

27

 The top 10 of the lower tier colleges and grad schools make as much if not more than the bottom tier of the top ten schools. There are some reasons for this statistic. The competition is harder in the top ten schools so many smart people who can't make the top tier give up. They could have thrived in a less competitive institution. Or so says Malcolm Gladwell in his rambling book, David and Goliath.

Scott Brooks writes: 

Isn't it fair to say that attending a top 10 school gets you into the "good old boy" network of those schools?

If you attend a lower tier school, you don't get that benefit. Even the alumni of your lower tier school don't care about the fact that you attended SEMO (Southeast Missouri State University), too.

I also find (anecdotal) that those that attend the lower tier schools that go on to be successful are "under the radar" with their success. They may live in a nice house, but it's rarely an ostentatious house, and for the most part it's a boring small town or located in a city in "flyover country".

They also have less glamorous businesses than those that went to a top tier school or work for a less glamorous company.

You'd be surprised how many people in flyover country that went to Mizzou, or Missouri Science and Technology (formerly the University of MO, Rolla) or to SEMO that have a successful small business or worked at Boeing for 30 years that are doing just fine.

Most of these people have no debt, they have a decent 2,500 sq. ft. home with a 1/4 acre lot, a two car garage that is paid off, and between their pensions and social security, they've $6k - $10k per month coming in each and every month. They live very comfortably on that and travel the world.

But they also have $1m - $5m in their investments that they rarely, if ever, even touch.

And let me tell you what…95% of these people are very happy and satisfied with their lives.

So I guess the definition of success depends a lot on where you live and how you've come to live your life. 

anonymous writes:

"On the Payoff to Attending an Elite College":

"Students who attend colleges with higher average tuition costs or spending per student tend to earn higher incomes later on."

It's easy to imagine a selection bias there: Students who come from families that can afford expensive schools may already be networked into superior lifetime earning opportunities.

Regarding "Students who attended more selective colleges do not earn more than other students who were accepted and rejected by comparable schools but attended less selective colleges", this could be partly a legacy effect, i.e., children of alumni get, to some extent, preferential treatment and occupy spots in the incoming class that must then be denied to non-legacy students who may well be better prepared and more motivated. Those students get denied and then attend schools with lower requirements, where they excel.

Peter St. Andre writes: 

The most exclusive schools can choose students with the highest standardized test scores, which measure general mental ability or GMA; and GMA is strongly correlated with career success and lifetime earnings. It's not the education at the exclusive schools that helps you, but the fact that you were smart to begin with. 

Russ Sears writes: 

I wonder if athlete or academic scholarship students have a different distribution of future earnings depending on "cost" versus "eliteness", and if so, what does this say about the education quality or the student's quality that they bring to the table before going to the college?

I believe Malcolm Gladwell argues in his book David and Goliath that you should choose to be a big fish in a small pond in youth so you will be brave enough to try something new.

I found this true in my case. I maybe one of those people in flyover country that fit Scott's retiree profile exactly. But I am interested in other opinions.

Jul

27

 A con is intentional deception to cause a person to give up property or some lawful right. Con games are crimes of persuasion and deception. The victim always trusts the swindler in some way. 

The stealing is accomplished by false pretense, false promise, tricks, scheming - and that’s where the Slabber cons enter.

The Slabs are a con artist’s playground. Each slab is a concrete classroom where you may learn from experience in the same way a clinical psychologist enters an insane asylum.  

The three distinct types of con artists you’ll bump into on the slabs, in ascending order, are:

The essential elements of all of their scams are two people: the con and victim, though other parties may get involved. The mark is the target of a con man. The word comes from the carnival world – people who fell for rigged games were marked with a piece of chalk by slapping them on the back, so other game operators could pick a sucker out of the crowd. I had this done to me in Laws, CA with invisible paint and a sniper in the bush. In the Slabs the same thing happens, only a sucker is marked by texts circulating faster than chalk. 

I love cons, as every red blooded American should, and studied them primarily for self-defense, like martial arts. My mastery is extensive from having built the Confidence Shelf in the ‘grandest library in New England’, and more significantly, after that, in having been conned hundreds of times in over one hundred countries around the world. 

Con games can be broken down into two general types: scams that target individuals, and ones that aim at institutions and businesses. Individual cons are interesting and educational. Institution cons, such as engaged by 95% of the Slab population in bilking the government for welfare and SSI benefits, are boring and dropped now. We are a nation of individuals, which is why it makes sense to study them.

There are two types of individual cons: the short and the long. By far the most prevalent in Slabs are the shorts because the longs require groups and no one can trust anyone else for long here. The short con is a ‘hit-and-run’ requiring a small number of meetings with the mark to set up the swindle. The meetings are like five a five-step that you will recognize on your next stroll through town: the motivation, the come-on, the shill, the stress, and the block. It’s all so simple and fast that only the last needs explanation. The block at the end of the sting is meant to dissuade a mark from going to the police.  

In Slabs, when one Slabber stings another, it’s almost certain the police will not be notified because nearly every citizen is wanted or has no ID. This makes it a con town by logic. A short con occurs in Slabs every five minutes around the clock, and one in a hundred gets reported to the cops. As I am writing the rough of this, a police scanner report blurt that a ‘live YouTube broadcast of a man being beaten by one stick by many individuals in Slab City is taking place’, and the sirens wailed by. A fellow had hit a dog with a stick, and the owner rallied her friends to take the stick, con him that they were beating him to death, while being livestreamed, with the dog barking revengefully, and the owner screaming to turn himself in to the cops because he had a warrant.

The opposite of a short con is the big store. These are long con games that can take days, weeks, even months to set up, but for all the work the payoff is astronomical. The only long cons I know of in the history of Slab City are the police and snitches, the military arms for drugs exchange next door, and the battle for Salvation Mountain.

The pros of cons are simple. Collectively, con artists amass billions of dollars every year in the USA, compared to a paltry few million dollars stolen annually by bank robbers. In the same thinking, the estimated 90% con artists in Slabs is so greater than the national average as to be laughable. The sky is the limit for a Slab con artist. A lone wolf can be wildly successful with a profit margin as large as his imagination. He’s not a criminal; he’s simply playing smart. It’s a game that is his livelihood, like a sports pro rather than a nine-to-fiver. Con artists commit crimes because it pays and is more exciting than working for a living. There’s no real effort and he doesn’t pay taxes. 

Do you want to know what the average con artist looks like? Take a look in the mirror. You can tell a con by his looks – average. But certain psychological factors set con men apart. The profile of a Slab conman is composed of a few murky traits that add to form a clear picture. The traits are:

There are certain muscles especially of the face that can make you attractive to a con artist. I learned this in veterinary phrenology. The first is the ‘good deal’ set. The jaw is thrust, the eyes stationary but irises circling a dream, and the nose lengthened over time in sniffing cheap goals. That’s not the only mindset that causes muscular sets that con artists find attractive. If you are a wild dreamer, it will be defined by a certain look. A gambler? Slightly greedy? Somewhat desperate? Take a short course in Animal Husbandry to learn the physical features that reflect a mindset, or got to the bar without drinking for 3,600 straight nights, as I did, and just watch under your developing Cro-Magnon brows.  

Con men are as American as apple pie. Keep that in mind as you look in their faces. If you look at any successful professional – a salesperson, marketer, trader, real estate agent – they all have the same qualities as the con man. The only difference is that one side uses the talents and collects sales tax, and the con man is taking the easy way out. 

Con artists are everywhere, and in particular they pop out of the concrete cracks at Slabs. Don’t think you can be conned? Congratulations, you just became the perfect Slab mark. The trick, therefore, is to avoid putting yourself in the position of the victim. Every con artist uses one simple tool – the victim’s confidence in the con artist. When you trust the con artist, it’s all over. In Slabs, he’ll be able to take what he wants, when he wants, and as often as he wants until you’re squeezed dry.

How do you avoid becoming a mark and having it spread around Slabs that you are a sucker? The answer is skepticism. I’m talking about a healthy skepticism of everyone and everything, without becoming jaded to all the good things in life. The philosophical skepticism that I prefer questions the possibility of certainty in knowledge until the last shred of evidence is evaluated, and then take action. Skeptic philosophers adopt fresh principles in stagnate atmospheres, and are catalysts to change. So, when you suspect something is a scam, look at it from every angle, come to a conclusion, and in Slab City the assumption must default to a scam. This doesn’t mean that you, the skeptic, should walk away from it, but quite the opposite. You are fleeced every time you get on a Disneyland ride or enter a movie theater, and this is the attitude to take on entering the town limits.

Where to go if you’ve been scammed? Most people in more civilized places think local, state, federal. In Slabs, you only think local, and this dodges the sheriffs who stepped out the silver screens of silent movies as keystone cops. Few Slabbers have ID’s while many have warrants which preempt admission as a citizen to the police theater. 

Instead, when someone is appallingly conned, it strikes the social media, the cell grapevine hums, and a punitive con is leveled at the instigator. It is a con of the con, following the desert creed of 2:1 consequence for cause. I believe there should be a watchdog group for pending cons, and a welcome group to warn newcomers of the pitfalls in the first week’s baptism by swindle. I know of no permanent resident who has not been conned, and let the months pass to laugh it off. 

The thing that separates con artists from their criminal brethren is they almost never use violence. This is particularly warming in Slab City, and is credited to the town demography of higher IQ, individuality, and ability to take care of oneself. Slabbers are great with their brains and mouths. Slab criminals are in the top ten percentile of the nation’s criminal masterminds, and the lower bracket ten percent come here for further education, and to matriculate to teaching for a cut of the profits. 

Willie Sutton said he robs banks because that’s where the money is, and for the same geographic reason you should come to Slabs because that’s where the cons are. You can do much worse in life than to get an education. Come enjoy some of history's most notorious con artists. 

Like a stage magician, the con artist misdirects suspicion. While everyone’s watching for him to pull a rabbit out of the hat, he is actually sawing a Slabber’s mind in half. You think he’s doing one trick when actually he’s doing another. You think I’m dying, but I’m laughing at you. 

Jul

27

You cannot find a single textbook that suggests that World War I was a "big deal" in terms of the history of the causes of the Great Depression. There are literally a thousand references in the academic literature to Smoot and Hawley's awful tariff for every one that suggests that maybe all that spending that started in 1917 had something to do with it.

So, as my final rant for the day, let me share a few numbers. All of these are based on the Constitutional system of accounting, i.e. the U.S. dollar as the same fixed measure and weight of gold.

From 1791 through 1849, the cumulative budget surpluses and deficits of the U.S. Federal government resulted in a net revenue surplus of $70 million. From 1850 through 1916, the result was a cumulative net revenue deficit of $925 million– almost all of which was the result of the extraordinary expenses of two wars– the Civil War/War of Rebellion and the Spanish-American War.

From 1917 through 1919 (3 years), in the War to end all Wars, the U.S. Federal government had a net cumulative revenue deficit of $21,238 million.

As spenders, Obama and the Congress were pikers. In their 8 budgets they did manage to double the outstanding Federal debt; but Wilson and his boys (good male bipartisans all; there were no women in Congress) were able to increase the outstanding IOUs 20-fold in less half the time.

Jul

26

 It has long been suspect that the "crazy" in the "crazy cat lady" is not a far fetched concept. A parasite in cat poop has long been suspected of affecting the brain function and personality of anyone who contacts the parasite. This article states that the parasite, toxoplasma gondii, greatly reduces fear among other things.

I suggest that someone undertake a study of speculators and try to see if there is any correlation with having the parasite and success, risky behavior, or whatever. This would be a great study for big pharma, because if they did find any gold, they might develop a pill made from the parasite that would give one courage. Of course, big pharma will probably need to develop a pill for all those nasty side effects, the kind of side effects that are always at the bottom of the advertisements.

Jul

25

 I've been in Montana and Wyoming the last month. Today I'm in Michigan and keep seeing the sign

HELP WANTED.

Often with this added:

Pays Bonus for signing up today.

You can say whatever you want about Prez Trump but you cannot deny the economy is rocking like we have not seen for many, many years.

My view of him is the reverse of "love the sinner but hate the sins".

I don't like him a great deal as a person but what he's done is off the charts.

anonymous adds: 

I've been traveling in northern British Columbia. (Trying to fly fish) Up north, the towns are nearly deserted and dying due to the apparent death of the lumber and fishing industries. The cities in the middle are struggling. The Canadian dollar is really weak and the USD buys $1.32 CAD. It sure is less crowded up there. The US is really getting crowded.

Jul

23

 Listening to Gunsmoke: 50 selected episodes on radio is a pleasant divertiment from the market and statistics and teaches one about aspects of life. The series was the longest running show on radio and television and spanned almost 50 years. Most of the time it was the #1 rated show. The episodes were written by John Meston who wrote about 200 episodes for radio and tv.

The shows depict a very high minded and fair Marshall Dillon, very loyal to his friends the doc and Katie. Most shows start with Matt or one of his friend being caught by bad men or falsely accused of some crime. The criminals are usually overconfident or too eager for a quick kill, and Dillon by being careful and methodical and usually with some trick catches the criminal.

Dillon hates shooting and tries to solve all the crimes without bloodshed. He approaches the bad guys without guns most time. The shows are augmented by good sound effects that are very realistic and good music. There is a museum in Dodge, the Boothill Museum that has many of the relics of the shows. It provides a good window to a simpler time in the last half of the 20th century when people admired and empathized with a good man who did his job well without ambivalence.

The one defect of the shows is that often a rich cattleman turns out to be evil and greedy and takes advantage of a poor farmer who can't defend himself against the businessman.

Jul

21

 Here's a New Yorker video about professional poker players replaying their most memorable hands. You can find many similarities between trading and the game of poker. Many market lessons are offered in this short video.

Alston Mabry writes: 

This book is short and well done:


Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts
by Annie Duke

"Poker champion turned business consultant Annie Duke teaches you how to get comfortable with uncertainty and make better decisions as a result".

Jeff Watson replies:

This is a good interview with Duke. It's long but worth it. 

Alston Mabry writes: 

I recorded most of the Main Event at the World Series of Poker that was just played and I have been catching up on it off the dvr.

There was a very dramatic hand that decided the last seat at the final table (video here), where out of ten players, three of the players had these hole cards:

AA

KK

KK

All three went all in, and the aces won the hand.

They keep replaying that hand and then showing a graphic that explains that the odds of having three players with those hole cards at a 10-player table are 70,688:1.

The irony is that if you consider seeing, for example, these pairs of hole cards at a 10-player table:

7h, 4c

10d, 6s

Jd, 2c

the odds are even higher, because in the Aces and Kings example, the suits of the Aces aren't specified. But we usually don't take note of the combinations that seem "random", i.e., that don't create a meaningful-for-us pattern.

Likewise, the chances of flopping a Royal Flush of Spades is no greater than flopping, for instance:

2s, 3h, 7c, 9d, Jh

or any other 5 cards specified by both rank and suit. The irony there is that if you're watching Texas Hold'em tournaments, the odds of seeing somebody flop a Royal Flush of Spades are actually better than the odds of seeing somebody flop that specific junk hand, because players who start with components of a royal flush are more likely to stay in the hand, whereas those with junk hole cards are more likely to muck them and nip the possibility in the bud.

Of course, the WSOP is a TV show, and they want as much drama as they can get.

Mr. Isomorphisms writes: 

Brian Lee Yung Rowe recently posted about a game he invented for training staff in quantifying confidence/uncertainty: Fermi Poker.

Jul

21

 Petty crime is a way of life, and if you don't contribute you may be called John Law and run out of town as I nearly was in the first months for driving a rental car and refusing to use it to boost thefts and haul brass from the gunnery range.

The FBI crime clock shows one about one aggravated assault every minute, one burglary every 15 seconds, and one motor vehicle theft every thirty seconds across the country. The crime clock for the Slabs is about the same for the first two talents, but there is only one vehicle theft per week.

A walk through Slab City is like watching an episode of 'Dragnet', but there is so little violence that it becomes a habit. It's the best incentive for the walking cure for disease in the country.

Jul

18

Just got this observation. Mr ____ is a huge trader there.

Meanwhile, Mr. ____ asks me to let you know the situation about a share market. It has issued so many IPOs in recent years. Now only 10% of the shares are in circulation. 90% of the shares have not been lifted the ban on circulation yet. As soon as the ban get lifted, most shareholders want money instead of stocks. Their cost of shares are basically only a few cents, so there will be a big amount being thrown at the market. Anyone dares to pick up the shares?

Jul

18

I've been aggravated for most of my adult life with slow drivers in the left lane. I notice the slow drivers the most during working hours, 8-5. It's very frustrating to have someone going 40 in a 55 while the right lane slowpokes are passing by. Looking at the dawdlers in the left lane, I cannot help but see that many of their vehicles are government owned cars, corporate vehicles, or delivery trucks of large companies. It occurred to me that those slowpokes are on the job, and can go slow because they're paid by the hour, or are on salary. There is no need for them to go fast, or even the speed limit for that matter because they're getting paid no matter what. In their case, time is not money. The small plumbing, lawn, and heating/air conditioner workers are paid by the job, and one never notices them going slowly, they seem to be in a hurry all the time. They will get on my bumper if I'm not going fast enough. In their case, time is money and they have to hustle. Thoughts?

Kim Zussman writes: 

I have the impression that drivers in expensive cars speed more and drive more aggressively. Not just hot-rodding BMers, but Mercedes, Lexus, and Range Rovers.

Time is money. To wealthy people that translates to high productivity, whereas hourly employees might take the opposite view.

anonymous writes: 

Kim will have his own opinion, since this is a comment about California and LA, in particular. My daughter Nora, a UCLA Med School graduate (and fan of Leonard Nimoy for his wonderful remark to the administration when they asked him to teach for a semester: "My price is an assigned parking place") thinks the rule for all traffic is simple: "Most expensive car goes first".

To be clear, the rule is what SoCal drivers do as Nora observed in 4 years of driving to the hospitals in the Basin. It is not her own approach, especially now that she lives in North Carolina where the rule is that everyone should practice for NASCAR by driving as close to the rear bumper of the car in front of them (they call it "drafting"). 

Gregory Van Kipnis writes: 

Worthy of a study. What are the underlying determinants of slower drivers sticking to the fast lane?

Several states have determined this behavior itself leads to more accidents as other drivers become impatient and outflank the offender by passing them on the right. These left lane turtles are subject to moving violations. Further there are TV public announcements criticizing this behavior.

Is there potentially useful market related information from such a study? A preponderance of people who try to slow down trading, markets, and decision making betray a distinct value system. I believe it has something to do with wanting to exercise control over others. 

Russ Sears writes:

For most traffic offenses it is easy to imagine a valid reason a driver would be agressive or have a momentary lapse of judgement. It occurs to me that the reason left lane turtles are so irritating is that there is no "good" reason for it besides passive aggressive malevolence for the productive such as suggested: their employer or other drivers. But as the rule goes its usually incompetence before malevolence. As the boomers age I expect this to increase. Perhaps this bodes well for Tesla and Uber.

Jul

14

 Jessica McClure

"Baby Jessica"'s miracle rescue in 0ctober 1987 rhyming with Thailand cave rescue today?

Markets both juiced up….

Or is this just a great remembrance of mine?

Jul

14

40 more gene therapies to be approved in the next four year, MIT.

Hmm… what will they be.

The hunt is on.

Jul

12

 Reading of two freight hoppers who called 911 while hanging between two cars after they became scared the train was moving too fast and are now in custody, puts me in mind back on the rails hoboing a ladder.

Across the Great Salt Lake I swept one year, with a forehand and a backhand on the six-rung boxcar ladder that didn't quite reach the lip of the top. I had latched on in desperation after the train had paused in the middle of the causeway for some mysterious reason, and started a few seconds later with a jolt leaving me separated from my pack and hanging by fingertips and toes. It's a cardinal hobo sin to leave the pack behind or I wouldn't have been suspended by these threads.

The technique of riding a ladder is pretty simple, which I had rehearsed mentally and physically for muscle memory many times on stationary trains. First, you climb to the top rung to try to reach the catwalk. On a short ladder, you philosophically pull out gloves and make sure rope is handy. You quickly run through a half-dozen positions using different muscle groups, tie on your hat, and prepare for the ride of your life … you hope. Don't forget to crane your neck out for branches, signals, and tunnels.

The vicissitudes of hoboing a ladder are exhilaration for the initial ten minutes, with the wind in the face and bucking the rung like a parachute in a whirlwind. This fades to boredom during the next ten minutes, and you fall to gazing between your feet at the wheels rolling with the same hypnotic stare of buying time watching the laundry spin at the laundromat. The next time a commuter train or subway car rolls into the station, sneak a peek at the large metal wheels. You'll see that instead of being perfect cylinders, they're actually angled. It's a clever design to allow the train to roll around corners without flying off the tracks. The wheel flanges holding the rails are tapered to thicker on the inside, as the wheels hug the inside of each track, it is self-steering to veer slightly left and right toward the rail. If I were to tell you a rolling stock wheel is 3' in diameter would be incorrect because the diameter changes an inch or so depending on the lateral swing. This is the motion that puts a hobo to sleep, which is the great peril in the next ten minutes of the ride.

I slapped my face, and splashed water on it. This fatigued the holding hand. But as long as I was about it, I switched hands, and tied on with a Boy Scout bowline on a bite around my waist and two-half hitched it to the ladder rung to lean on legs out from the boxcar like a lineman on a pole with free hands. I have called this the Daniel Leen in honor of the author of the first book Frieghthopper's Manual to North America that inspired me to catch my first train out of, coincidentally, Ogden, Utah.

For this is the First Transcontinental Rail completed in 1869 on the same historic right-of-way that opened the West! I recalled from my hobo sociology class that the original track looped around the lake, of course, with the golden spike pounded midpoint at Ogden, Utah, an hour ahead of me. Thirty-five years later the Southern Pacific created a shorter route of lesser curvature and flatter grade directly across the lake called the 12-Mile Cutoff. When the lake was diced in two by the causeway the northern became more saline than the southern because all of the three major rivers flow into the south arm. Water level also rose some feet higher on the southern end. The salinity difference has curiously created two distinct ecosystems on the lake. The south arm is dominated by blue-green algae which colors the water green, and on the northern arm the higher salt content allows the growth of a beta-carotene alga that gives the water a wine red color.

My ride was in 1985, three years before the company rectified the ecological effect of the causeway by installing a 30-meter breach to allow the salinity and elevations to equalize to an extent. However, you can still see on Googlemaps the disparity in the overhead view of the murky north and clear south arms of the lake.

Picture the earth and rock filled embankment as a narrow strip a few feet above the water so looking down at one's feet into the blue is like sailing! The train kept a 20mph sail for twenty minutes until the east shore began to approach. For the final mile before land tens of thousands of birds floated and frolicked along the shrimp rich causeway on my south side of the causeway, but few on the north. There were gulls, pelicans, many fall season migrants, and the black specs in the sky may have been eagles. The birds were inured to the passing trains, rising in a tide as it approached to hoover above me in a cloud, and then settling behind the caboose. Trains had cabooses then.

I waved goodby to the causeway as the train picked up speed on solid earth. The hands had grown weary, the legs fatigued as in the last miles of a race, and the neck stiff from reading too long. I hung like an animated pretzel for ten minutes each of the various rehearsal positions, until finally locking elbows around the ladder like the stay apparatus of a horse to keep it from faltering, and hung on and hoped. The thought to reach and pull the brake hose for an emergency stop arrived too late for I was in the final stages of exhaustion.

Rolling into the outskirts of Ogden, the train sided for an Amtrak, and I fell like a slug to the track, grabbed my bag, and snailed into the yard.

You can catch a freight train ride to freedom, but stay off those ladders.

Jul

12

Those cheap soybeans are ending up all over the world, including Brazil which will be importing cheaper US beans to satisfy their domestic needs while exporting their own beans to China.

Jul

12

 Starting Aug. 1, 2018, USDA will end the media lockup for crop reports. According to Ag Secretary Perdue, this "Will level the playing field and make the issuance of the reports fair to everyone involved." Call me skeptical.

Dylan Distasio writes: 

Thanks for this. Are you skeptical they're actually going to do what they claim, or is it something else? 

anonymous writes: 

Government reports have always been leaked and I'm sure insiders and other interested parties will continue to get their info early.

Jul

12

 London first became known for its coffee houses in the 1600s and the glorious tradition lives on in today's coffee shops. Coffeeology, in the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, recently posted as its message for the day, "There is too much blood in my caffeine system." Not far away is a new coffee shop enigmatically named "Kiss the Hippo." As I passed by it a young couple was smooching passionately out front. They were so entwined that I could not determine whether the lass was inspired by a resemblance between the lad and a hippopotamus.

In the same vicinity a prominent sign proclaims a building's address: One Kew Road. British propriety being what it is, no similar sign adorns #4 on that street. What baffles the American visiting these precincts is the Britons' inability to master their own language. It is not just a matter of their atrocious misspellings, e.g., tyre, kerb, programme, sceptic, soya bean. Neither is what we from the States find most jarring their stubborn pronunciation of "schedule" as if it were spelled "schedule." Rather, it is the British misuse of even the most basic vocabulary.

For example, I spied signs in shop windows reading, "Baristas Required" and "Stylists and Receptionist Required." Well, duh! Of course it requires baristas to run an upscale coffee shop and it requires stylists and a receptionist to operate a hair salon. In America, the verb we ordinarily use in such circumstances is "Wanted," but if we were to approximate the Brits' message we would write-accurately-"Baristas Needed." Over in the land of Shakespeare and Milton they fail to grasp what "required" actually means.

At a W.H. Smith shop I spotted a placard advertising a 500-ml bottle of water. The regular price was 99p, but the offer was, "Only 49p when you buy anything instore." Imagine, half off if you buy anything in the store! Naturally, I bought a bottle of water. Riding in an Uber I saw another curious sign that read, "Use cycle path, not carriage way." Presumably, refusing to follow the rules of the road constitutes cyclepathic behavior. Despite the Brits' linguistic confusion, I am pleased to report that correct-that is to say, American-usage is making steady progress in the UK. For example, the bizarre construction "Mothering Sunday" is being supplanted by the more euphonious "Mother's Day." Yet when greeting cards appeared with the message, "World's Greatest Mom," the retrograde Telegraph, far from applauding the nation's advance toward retiring the silly-sounding "Mum," urged the government to impose a tariff on American English in retaliation for President Trump's tariff on British steel. Readers from Birmingham, apparently the most enlightened section of the island nation, posted online protests that they do in fact call their mothers "Mom."

Well, that covers the highlights of my recent visit to Merry England. The natives attached great significance, though, to their national team's successes in the world championship tournament for soccer, a sport they seem to confuse with football. The country is also said to contain several sites of cultural and historical interest.

Jul

12

It's a common thing, when people either witness a dramatic event or watch video of the event, that they see things they think are anomalous and insist on some nefarious interpretation. It's similar to the statistical mistake of not knowing the base rate of an event. I remember times when people would show me video of the WTC collapse and point out aspects that "proved" there were explosives in the towers. And I would ask them if they had seen so many skyscrapers collapse after being hit with fuel-filled commercial jetliners that they knew what it *should* look like and therefore that the WTC situation presented clear anomalies. Not that they gave up the argument, but at least I tried.

anonymous writes: 

This is very true.

It's another cognitive bias. We tend to try to match the cause of an event with the severity of an event. (I hope I recall it correctly) List of biases.

We are brilliant apes. Thankfully brilliant, yet apes nonetheless.

Larry Williams posted a discussion with his son a while back. At the end they refer to the Baloney Detection Kit by Carl Sagan. Michael Shermer published an updated Baloney Detection Kit. Great every day tools.

We are easily tricked by others and by ourselves.

In the end even Carl Sagan was tricked by the Russians about nuclear winter.

Jul

12

Parrondo's Paradox with a 3 Sided Coin:

Parrondo's game is a recipe for proving one need not always search for a winning strategy (or algorithm) in a game," Benjamin said. "Classically, there are many applications of Parrondo's games, ranging from explaining physiological processes in the cell to increasing our understanding of Brownian motors and even in diversified portfolio investing. Classically, Parrondo's paradox has been shown to work using classical random walks.

Jul

9

 1. He was a stock speculator and made successful trades in many railroad stocks as well as consuls.

2. He died with an estate of 700,000 pounds equivalent to 30 million today.

3. He spent his last years studying worms and the roots of plants and became a part of the nature that he loved.

4. He was a good father, husband, and master.

5. He kept double entry accounts of all expenditures and balanced books at the end of each year.

6. He played 2 games of backgammon each evening with the wife Emma and he was up by 2800 to 2600 in games when he died.

7. Emma and the son-in law played Mozart trios and Beethoven second movements to create harmony.

8. He had 10 children and they all contributed to his researches and books.

9. A Mr. Rich who he had never met bequested 15,000 pounds to the kids just as a gesture of tribute for the contribution that Darwin made.

10. He exchanged numerous letters with Wallace and arranged for Gladstone to give Wallace a pension of 500 pounds a year, which Wallace needed because he was a Hoodoo who whenever he bought a stock it was bound to crater.

Jul

3

 The book The Last Cowboys by John Branch introduces us to the modern world of rodeo and the declining world of the old west. It cover the dynasty of the Wright family of John Branch. Introduces you to a vanishing way of life in the mid-sized cattle business and a very common way of life in mid sized professional sports, in this case saddle bronc rodeo.

The world of rodeo is like the world of satellite tennis and squash tournaments and many other sports where it costs almost 50% of the possible prize winnings to endure a season. But it is unlike any other because you are forced to overcome hundreds of injuries to compete. It is part Monte Walsh as it describes the current business of cattle raising for middle sized owners as they struggle with a declining opportunities and interference from the government as well as competition from the big operators.

It provides a vista to the Wright family, a Mormon family that has been operating a mid-sized cattle business for 150 years but is faced with the problems of making ends meet in modern times. The Wright have dominated saddle bronc rodeo competition with frequently 7 of the top 10 finishers descended from Cory Wright, two time world champion, his brothers and his sons and grandsons. Cory still competes at the age of 40 and is in the top ten.

There is a window provided to the bad refereeing in the tournaments and how you have to travel often for 72 hours and 20,000 miles to win $100. It is highly recommended to bring you to a vanishing way of life peopled by a heroic family.

Larry Williams writes: 

 Tonight the Red Lodge Rodeo "Home of Champions" begins and I only wish I could ride bareback one more time. Certainly the toughest sport I ever tried. Each ride, and you have to ride to win, flirts with injury ft not death. But what an exhilarating feeling when that gate opens and all hell busts loose as you find that 8 seconds is much longer than you ever thought it could be.

In the back of the chutes tonight cowboys (some who do not ride, they just rodeo) will start stretching, then slip into leather gloves, light up rosin* to drip onto the gloves for sticking power, the climb up the chute to settle on top of trouble.

Speculators and rodeo stars are cut from the same cloth; we only get paid if we win. You get tossed off and you get nothing but the bumps and bruises and hopes you will hold on for the next ride. Where else to entertainers not get paid for performing?

Here are a few of the best rodeo songs I know.

* I had too much rosin on one time and could not get out of the handle (suitcase grip) horse dragged me all over the arena before I popped out; pretty embarrassing!

Let 'er buck!

Jul

3

 To succeed in any field – business, sports, relationships, politics, war – good enough never is. You set your standards so high that after diligent practice even the flaws are excellent. At that point, you build a competitive edge that no other owns to reach the top, and remain. There, success breeds success, until someone else with a keener edge laughs you down.

Wrestling is my favorite spectator sport and coach Grady Penninger of the National Champion Michigan team demanded excellence. But one wrestler was an edge above that. George Radman, my paddleball partner, was a long-limbed 167 pounder who trimmed trees in our Lansing, Michigan during summer, swinging like an orangutan from stout oaks with the left while holding a power saw in the right. This became his edge on the mat called a cross-ankle pickup where he reached and snatched the opponent’s foot out from under him, and no leg was stronger than an oak. Coach Penninger acknowledged Radman was the cleverest wrestler he ever coached, and the most nerve-wracking. I would watch George take national champions to the mat with a cross-ankle pickup, let them up, so he could trim them again and again. Coach would scream from the side of the mat until his watch stopped, but George just put his hands on his hips and laughed and laughed. He had the overpowering tree-trimming move. He battled weight constantly and saw no reason to hunger all week to make his weight limit when he could run in place in the sauna, spitting, for an hour to drop seven pounds before stepping on the scale, laughing.

Radman and I had a thing in common where I also fell asleep in the industrial laundry hamper before big matches in paddleball and racquetball, so they would know where to find me. I was to paddleball what George was to wrestling in having an edge. I had practiced for hours per day for years to develop a spin of the ball to make it rise like a top on an ascending string as it neared the front wall. Because air is cooler and more dense closer to the floor, my kill shots never touched the floor, skipping along like a stone on water on an air cushion. I suppose this is the first time I’ve revealed the physics principle. My The Complete Book of Racquetball would be laying around tournaments clubs across the country, and I’d sit in the bleachers watching other pros, including one named Rich Wagner, a handsome young player on the book cover with me, appearing a bit goofy in dual colored Converse shoes, so everyone assumed Wagner was me. The girls would squirm on the bleachers plotting how to lay Steve Keeley after the match, when after all it was Wagner. I would laugh and laugh because Wagner would be my next opponent whom I had taught every nuance except my edge.

The gigolo of Slab City is not the most handsome, masculine, best dressed, or smartest. But he has slats like popsicle sticks inserted under the epidermis of his penis providing a perpetual erection. The girls share his secret only with their best friends, and the men complain that he gets more ’seat’ than the Rhino Room outhouse at the Music Range. Understanding how monopolies work, I asked him how, looking for an edge. He replied, ‘To succeed in this business, you have to move in a new direction of adding value to the relationship.’ He laughed and laughed so hard his crotch began to clap.

Jul

3

Has anyone reviewed this work?

"Cambridge Judge Business School Academic: Tennis Scoring System Boosts Underdog Chances at Wimbledon"

Maybe it is worth a look to debunk or confirm.

Jul

3

Here's a free copy of Ian Hacking's scholarly book on the history of probability theory. Much like Clews has a revered place in any spec's library, Hacking's tome should be given the same respect. This is good weekend reading.

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