Thursday, December 27, 2007

Studies on Break

Things I learned in NY, even while on break, which is sort of not allowed, but only sort of:

1. Brooklyn is filled with Jews, even if they look trendy (although plenty do not, to be assured).
2. Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!
3. Fairway has as much food as a regular supermarket, it is just crammed into the size of a peanut. Kind of like a superdense mart.
4. That, in the words of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, what really matters this time of year are the awesome sales boxing day generates.
5. If there is better (where better maximizes the function of yummie to cheap) restaurant in NY than Golan it exists somewhere between 27th and 28th on Lexington.
6. The movies will always be crowded erev Christmas in NY.
7. Australian women are no more attractive than American women.
8. Hot cross buns exist outside of Suzuki? Who knew?
9. MTA elevators were created for the lazy as well as subway passengers.
10. Although guests and fish start to smell after two days, O&M do a remarkable job of putting up with smelly Zev. For that I thank them very much.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

False Prophets

I think financial reporting is worse than science journalism, which is saying something. As WSJ is not open for free consumption yet, I am stuck with the NYT, which appears to have an inability to actually communicate what is actually going on in the market, and when it does it uses technical terms that are never defined (such as repo rates, etc). Here, to my feeble financial mind, is another example.
Until the boom in subprime mortgages turned into a national nightmare this summer, the few people who tried to warn federal banking officials might as well have been talking to themselves.

Edward M. Gramlich, a Federal Reserve governor who died in September, warned nearly seven years ago that a fast-growing new breed of lenders was luring many people into risky mortgages they could not afford. -NYT
We discussed the same phenomenon in my class on China last night. After sovietologists failed to predict '89 they were excoriate for not seeing it coming. Now all experts on China swear that China is in transition to democracy so that when China transitions they can all say, "I told you N years ago China was going to transition!" If it is between stability and change, always predict change and one day you will sound like a prophet.

To my understanding Wall Street would have been terribly upset if the Fed had stuck its nose in the house market in 2000 (when Mr. Gramlich initially warned Greenspan of impending doom), and then in successive years when the housing sector was the strongest of the economy. How would it look if the Fed regulated away years of great prosperity? Furthermore, if the Fed chooses to panic, as the market did in August, it only leads to further volatility (I am sure that is a debated point among economists, however).

The point is, Donny, it is always easier to say I told you so. And also sounds pretty lame.

Monday, December 17, 2007

One Internat

1 Internat = the shortest amount of time it is possible to sit down at a computer = (gmail+webmail+facebook+nyt+C) where C=some constant amout of time you waste no matter what.
This morning C was due to XKCD. I got my internat down to 15 mins. Not bad, but I can do better.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Congrats to Will Baude on his selection to clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts for the 2008 term. Roberts chose well.

Addendum: Rant

A frum guy, Yaakov Roth, was chosen to clerk for Justice Scalia as well as Moshe Spinowitz, whom I believe was at Gush when I was there in 2000 on college break (or break from college, I am not sure which). Am I in a bubble or do frum men do things like this and not frum women? (No gauntlet intended, but if you want to prove me wrong, I would be rather pleased.) The ratio is about 3:2 men to women among the clerks, so I gather. I think we need more stay-at-home dads.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Unpacking the Coens

I just saw No Country for Old Men on Saturday night. A continual project of mine is attempting to decipher what makes the Coens such great artists of film. This movie clarifies matters insofar as it cleaves the story from the direction. The story, apparently scene for scene, is not property of the Coens but rather McCarthy. When the unforeseen inevitability occurs it is does not come from the mind of the Coens. I found the story rather reminiscent of Fargo, as the story is not the plot, and the characters actions represent something wholly other than they understand.

What the Coens, then, understand is how to tell that story. What tone, meter, saturation to give a monologue. What a sunset looks like. When a character is best portrayed as his reflection in a Technicolor television set. How the story moves and how we move within that story. They understand, better than any living director, how to tell as story. Spielberg and others make stories, the Coens tell them.

I think it will be a long time before I get Jones's pronunciation of "maisure" out of my head. For the best.

Sailing to Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees -
Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

-- William Butler Yeats

About Face

I am too tired an busy to address this issue with the care it deserves. I do have a few questions which I believe need engagement in the wake of the National Intelligence Estimate pronouncemed with
high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program. Judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (DOE and the NIC have moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.) Assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007 (NIE p. 9)
1. Why did Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, report just last month that Iran was operating 3,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges capable of producing fissile material for nuclear weapons?
2. What new intelligence has been obtained to reach these conclusions?
3. Why have others not been privy to this information (such as the Whitehouse, Israel, EU, etc)
4. Why do Israeli officials still maintain their short-term time table, now with a four year gap with the most pessimistic U.S. NIE of 2013?
5. Why has Iran remained so defiant if they are, "vulnerable to influence"? Why have they remained in non-compliance with the IAEA and the UN? It is seems a rather risky rouge to employ for a rational actor.

I am sure there will be many who rejoice at this pronouncement. I am too, but it seems too simple just to make an about face on something this big.