What does the Street have to say about midterm elections? 

i.e., should Republicans be worried?

In the House, maybe. I'd say right now the R's have about 56% chance of holding.

In the Senate, I'd say the same event is about 80% likely.

See the source of my predictions here. The price under "Last" represents the percentage likelihood that the market thinks the event will happen.

And here's a summary of why these kinda of markets are better predictors than opinion polls.

UPDATE: HOUSE.GOP.2006 is trading at 47.5. The Rep. Foley business must be having an effect.



Reductio creep 

Fellow traveller Julian Sanchez at Notes from the Lounge a few years ago coined the term reductio creep. In his own words:
Reductio creep is the process by which an insane extension of some principle, offered a reductio ad absurdum of that principle, is soon afterwards realized.
Well, thanks to New York City's health department, we may have the country's first ban on fat (take that Chicago's ban on foie gras!). The original motivation for Julian's coinage was how during the initial tobacco lawsuit brouhaha, we could stand around and joke "what's next? Some lardo suing McDonald's? Ha ha!" We know how that turned out.

Of course my roommate still denies the public health establishment is all that draconian.



Computers taught to sort opinion from fact 

"Scientists will use machine-learning algorithms to give computers examples of text expressing both fact and opinion and then teach them to tell the difference."


My Name is Mr. Nice 

Would you like to see me dance?

Also: Would you like to see Mr. Nice Hands?


One 'Giant Steps' For Mankind 

Over on the recently inaugurated Distributed Intelligence, Shruti has a thoughtful and sincere reflection on John Coltrane, the occasion of the equinox, and of course his seminal Giant Steps. While I would dispute some of the claims in the post, it is well worth the (brief) read.
While the equinox is about equilibrium, Coltrane's life often bordered on tumultuous with his musical journeys, spiritual epiphanies and addictions.
Coltrane's big break came through his friend and contemporary Sonny Rollins. Coltrane and Rollins would call each other at night, play over the phone and hang up waiting for the other to return with an appropriate musical answer.

Related: I posted this a while back, but it is a two-minute animated film which constructs and then deconstucts the chorus and part of the Coltrane's solo on "Giant Steps."



God's Morality Play 

For a few weeks I've been trying to keep up on Slate's Blogging the Bible, written by deputy editor David Plotz. From his introduction to the series (also hear him talking about the project here):

I have always been a proud Jew, but never a terribly observant one. Several weeks ago, I made a rare visit to synagogue for a cousin's bat mitzvah and, as usual, found myself confused (and bored) by a Hebrew service I couldn't understand. During the second hour of what would be a ceremony of NFL-game-plus-overtime-length, I picked up the Torah in the pew-back, opened it at random, and started reading (the English translation, that is)
So, what will happen if I approach my Bible empty, unmediated by teachers or rabbis or parents? What will delight and horrify me? How will the Bible relate to the religion I practice, and the lessons I thought I learned in synagogue and Hebrew School?
I'll spend the next few weeks (or months) finding out. I'll begin with "in the beginning" and see how far I get.

So far he's gotten up through Deuteronomy. The best part is how conversational and literal the descriptions are. We find out how impetuous and insecure God is, and how sensible and stereotypical Moses is ("Oy vey! Again with the tribes and the non-stop kvetching!"). It's a very entertaining read, and lends itself well to intermittent or selective browsing -- create your own Now! That's What I Call Pentateuch!

I had for several semesters tried unsuccessfully tried to get into the "Bible As Literature" course at ASU. It always seemed like an interesting story, and as the instructor points out on the first day, the tools of literary analysis which we are familiar with using on any other story, also apply to the Holy Word.

If you're looking for a place to start, you may jump into my favorite, Numbers:
Another Monty Python-style episode: If a husband suspects his wife of adultery, he takes her to the Tabernacle. A priest casts a magic spell upon holy water, then makes her drink it. If nothing happens to her when she drinks, she's innocent. But if her belly "distend[s] and her thigh shall sag," she's an adulteress.
The Lord's abhorrence of body hair continues. In Leviticus he
praised bald men and ordered healed lepers to depilate. Now he mandates that Levites purify themselves by shaving off all their body hair. (And on the eighth day, the Lord created the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.)
the Israelites set off toward the promised land. Which means, of course, that they immediately start to gripe. They've only been marching three days and they're already "complaining bitterly."
like a very mean babysitter, God does the old, "You want chocolate, I'll give you so much chocolate you'll puke" trick. "The Lord will give you meat and you shall eat. You shall eat not one day, not two, not even five days or ten or twenty, but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome for you."



Talkin' Bout My Institution 

Bobby Jones (the golfer, not the former Denver Nugget) it turns out is an Emory University alum. I knew that he was a lawyer, but not that his law degree was from Emory Law (1929). Technically speaking, though, he entered practice after only one year, having already passed the bar. This was of course after he studied engineering at Georgia Tech and got a masters in English Lit. from Harvard.

Now there's a scholarship named in his honor which exchanges students between Emory and the University of St. Andrews. It's much like any other fellowship except that it has the very cool feature of giving the student access to a car which they are expected to use to travel around the country. How cool is that?

This makes me wonder, do we know of any other both intellectually and athletically prodigious people?




Just when I thought HBO was starting down the slippery slope in to the realm of "normal" television, the critics come around and start calling this new season of The Wire, "The greatest TV show ever." (read) As much as I lack patience for TV dramas, maybe I'll have to tune in this time out.

One thing's for sure, HBO is slipping. Dane Cook's series was a train wreck from the beginning, Entourage never really went anywhere (nor did Sopranos) and Lucky Louie, while it did have a lot of cocks both on-screen and spoken, didn't really feel like HBO's kind of show. It remains to be seen whether Curb can keep it up.



Just when I thought HBO was starting down the slippery slope in to the realm of "normal" television, the critics come around and start calling this new season of The Wire, "The greatest TV show ever." (read) As much as I lack patience for TV dramas, maybe I'll have to tune in this time out.

One thing's for sure, HBO is slipping. Dane Cook's series was a train wreck from the beginning, Entourage never really went anywhere (nor did Sopranos) and Lucky Louie, while it did have a lot of cocks both on-screen and spoken, didn't really feel like HBO's kind of show. It remains to be seen whether Curb can keep it up.



Mr. Anti-Establishment 

A new documentary, Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater, is set to premiere September 18, 9pm on HBO. It's made by CC Goldwater, Barry Goldwater's granddaughter and if past performance is any indication, the HBO imprint indicates it'll be great. A typical combination of interviews with major political figures and archival footage create the picture of a man, who in his time was the scourge of liberals, and is now their reluctant anti-hero: a principled conservative all the way.

Also if I recall correctly, my former boss was interviewed for the film but I'm not sure that it made the final cut. Here are a couple lines from the movie:

"He looked like a guy that came out of central casting."
--James Carville

"People say Goldwater lost in 1964. I often say he won, it just took 16 years to count the votes."
--George Will


Imagining the Universe 

(The first 10 dimensions of it anyway).

Here is a nifty flash animation describing a ten-dimensional world (click on "Imagining the Ten Dimensions"). String theory tells us, all the properties of the four dimensions we interact with owe to the vibration of sub-atomic string-like particles in the 10th dimension. Okay, simple enough. Except...what the hell is a 10th dimension (and six through nine for that matter)! In the manner of A Brief History of Time, The Elegant Universe, "What the Bleep Do We Know!?," and of course the greatest movie of all time, this little ditty puts it into an intuitive sketch.


Living on a Prayer (if not a wage) 

Rob over at AMillionMonkeys has taken particular interest in the living wage ordinance (aimed at Wal-Mart) recently vetoed by a politically brave, if insular, Mayor Daley.

No one needs to actually read my thoughts on the subject to know where I fall on the whole thing. But here is Harvard Professor Gregory Mankiw (and former President's Council of Economic Advisors Chairman) on the subject. In the post, he references an op-ed he wrote four years ago on the general living wage issue. An excerpt:

How often does [Harvard's] janitorial staff have to vacuum the classrooms and wash the blackboards? It's a judgment call. An increase in the wage from $8 to $10 a hour raises the cost of labor by 25 percent. It is wishful thinking to suggest that this won't affect the number of workers hired.

...the adverse effects of a high minimum wage go beyond its impact on total employment. In addition to reducing the amount of labor demanded, a high minimum wage compounds the problem by increasing the amount of labor supplied. In other words, not only are there fewer jobs available for unskilled workers, but more people apply for those jobs.
(emphasis added)
UPDATE: Read Thomas Sowell here (from November 2005) on the effects of a minimum wage, with particular emphasis on the racial dynamic.

The first federal minimum wage law, the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, was passed in part explicitly to prevent black construction workers from "taking jobs" from white construction workers by working for lower wages. It was not meant to protect black workers from "exploitation" but to protect white workers from competition.



Episode Four: In which Satya returns home to find his house empty, but for the smell of smoked ribs. 


Will Rocky and Bullwinkle ever cease vagabonding?

Never did I think, in all my God-angering induction, what with all the non-believing, that I would weather two biblical storms – in one Summer. The first was, by my own admission, scary as hell. While I was in DC for the last few months, I only assumed the cleansing waters of the rapture was a quadrennial event meant to purge the gluttonous behavior of the Capitol Tribe, the government-ites. Penance in liquid form.

As an aside, I never got over what an obvious metaphor DC being built on a swamp was. And nowhere was the smell as pungent as in the hallowed halls of the Longworth congressional building. Capitol Hill is an area with no less than eight different responsible policing agencies, but where older tourists still get mugged under midday sunlight, under the ever growing shadow of the famous capitol dome.

It was a Sunday (of course it was) when the streets of downtown DC ran brown with the blood of the skies. One of my roommates, who, after returning to his car parked on Constitution Ave--which was now on top of the curb thanks to the rising water level and also having been obviously T-boned by a passing car – was forced to sit for several hours waiting for a tow truck, told me he eventually laid on his back and floated down the street. He ended up four blocks downstream.

The second flood was on my drive back to Atlanta . I couldn’t stop yakking about Atlanta all Summer. So somewhere around Charleston , a giant “SHUT UP” in the form of torrential downpour came my way. All at once, in a spontaneous dance of awakwardness, everyone on I-85 went from 80 mph to zero. I’ve never seen such a thing.

My roommate and I, fresh off a stop at the University of Virginia , came home to a house we had never stepped foot in. It was dank, musty, dusty, and overcome by moths. Naturally we invited everyone over for a Labor Day BBQ. We re-christened the smoker, fresh out of storage. Those insect suckers didn't know what hit 'em.

Up next this semester: a Tom Petty concert, an experiment on some undergrads in Virginia , a trip to Six Flags, a wedding, followed by a trip to somewhere West of the Mississippi .

As always, anyone is welcome to stay at my house if they should pass through the Dirty, Dirty South. (In contrast, my house is now cleaned, fully furnished, and well-appointed with food).


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