Monday, December 31, 2007

 

Lamb Balti. I had good lamb balti tonight at an Indian restaurant in South Kensington. Wikipedia says:

Balti is the name for a style of food probably first devised and served in Birmingham, England. The first written record of the term dates to 1984. [1] ...

The name Balti food has nothing to do with an ethnic group living in India and Pakistan who are also called Balti. These Balti people are Tibetan Muslims. The food 'Balti' is named after the pot in which it is cooked. Balti food is a Punjabi recipe and prepared mainly in the Punjabi way.

The food is a hot curry-style dish, most likely taking its name from the thick flat-bottomed steel or iron pot in which it is both cooked and served. Normally the balti is served with large naan bread...

Balti combines the spices and ingredients of North Indian cuisine with the economics and efficiencies of Chinese cooking.

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Armamentarium 1: the equipment and methods used, esp. in medicine 2: matter available or utilized for an undertaking or field of activity--"a whole armamentarium of devices"

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

 

God's Grace. A little girl was told she could put her hand into the candy jar and grab as much as she wanted. She demurred. Her father put his hand in and got a handful of candy for her. He asked, "Why didn't you try getting any candy yourself?" ---"Because your hand is bigger," she replied. God can give us much more than we can get for ourselves. Indeed, we don't know what to grab for.
 

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Friday, December 28, 2007

 

Tipping. Why do we tip in restaurants? I think it is because we care about the opinions of the waiters and waitresses, even when we know we will never meet them again. If the social convention is to pay a tip, and I do not, then I feel shame at the rightful scorn of the waiter. The effect is strongest if the waiter knows that I have not tipped him. I think there is another effect at work, though, that would operate even if I knew the waiter would not blame me. Suppose the waiter thought that Smith was paying for the dinner, and blamed Smith for the lack of a tip, but actually it was I that paid the bill. I will still feel bad. Part of this is guilt-- the feeling that I have done something wrong. Another part, though, is shame-- the feeling that if others only knew, they would disapprove.
 

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

 

British Counties. The Association of British Counties county map of the real boundaries of the counties of England, Scotland, and Wales (not the ones introduced in the past fifty years). I was cheered to learn that as of the mid-1990's Rutland actually exists as an administrative unit again, after its earlier abolition. I used to toast lost Rutland at TIP events in the 70s.
British Counties
This is good for a game in which the children choose one county at a time for their kingdoms and color them in as they go.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

 

Free Classical Sheetmusic Downloads. This is harder to find than I thought it would be. For page-by-page GIF files, try the Indiana University Library Variations site. It has the complete Beethoven piano sonatas, which is what I was looking for. The largest classical site seems to be Sheet Music Archive, which says it allows two free downloads of pdf files per day. I only succeeded with one, a fine file, and then for the next two days it's said Download Limit Exceeded. For $20 you can get a membership, though. Zimmusic is a smaller site where I found some small-size Beethoven bagatelles. None of these are entirely satisfactory, but they are better than the many other sites I came across.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

 

My 2007 Christmas list. My 2007 list of good things I've discovered over the year is up at : http://www.rasmusen.org/_amazon/xmas2007.htm. Merry Christmas, all!

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Friday, December 21, 2007

 

Temperatures. Every once in a while I want to look up global temperatures, to puzzle over whether the world has been getting warmer since 2000 or not. You can find the NASA monthly data here. The trend is not clear in recent years, but it does look like the world is getting warmer.
 

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

 

An Example Where Imperfect Message Transmission Helps. Myerson has an example on page 842 of this Handbook chapter with two possible states and three actions where communication fails if the messages always gets through, but helps some if they only get through half the time. Suppose the Sender knows the state of the world is A orB, with equal probability. The Receiver can choose X, Y, or Z. If the state is A, the Sender-Receiver payoffs are (2,3), (0,2), (-1,0). If the state is B, the Sender-Receiver payoffs are (1,0), (2,2), (0,3). If messages always get through, the Sender's message is irrelevant and the Receiver chooses Y, for a an expected payoff of 2 instead of 1.5 or 1.5. If the message is sent by a pigeon who gets shot down on the way with probability .5, then an equilibrium (not unique) is for the Sender to send the pigeon if the state is A but not if it is B and for the Receiver to choose X if the pigeon arrives and Y otherwise. Both players get higher expected payoffs as a result of using the "noisy" pigeon. See the link for more explanation.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

 

Law (a 2004 repeat) What is the purpose of law? To make people behave well. Under Holmes’s “Bad Man” theory in “The Path of the Law”, laws are for the men who will not do good without the threat of punishment. That, however, neglects other purposes of laws which are important if secondary. One is the “expressive” purpose– that expressing that something is wrong is satisfing to the public. Related to that is the educational purpose of law. Even the good man does not know everything, and the law teaches him. From Psalm 119:

97 MEM. O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. ... 104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.

But for the law to achieve this purpose, it must be a trustworthy guide. We must trust the lawgiver to be willing to learn from the law. God’s law is trustworthy. If nothing else, it tells me what God wants, and that is important in itself. Human law is less reliable. If I see a law saying that it is illegal to perform haircuts without a license, I do not conclude that unlicensed haircuts are immoral, or even unsafe, because I think the legislature is wiser than I am. Rather, I conclude that either the legislature has been fooled, or they have been bribed by the barbers to restrict entry.

The Bible is a comfort to Christians because it is a reliable source of law. It still has many difficulties– notably, knowing what law in the Old Testament is still applicable after the Resurrection– but Christians at least have a basis for right and wrong beyond what their culture teaches them. Traditionalists are less grounded, but they at least can find grounding in the axiom that their tradition is reliable. Liberals, despite the confidence they commonly show, are more at sea. They cannot retreat to their culture, since it is a recent and ever-changing one. They are at risk trying to appeal to logical principles grounded in a few generally accepted axioms too, since they often profess a relativism which rules out logic. But that, I think, is what they commonly try to do anyway. John Stuart Mill is an example. He tried to ground morality on the rule of not hurting others, and that is common today too. But the rule turns out to be empty, since anything to which anybody objects hurts them and since it is by no means self-evident that we shouldn’t hurt other people (think of the hurt caused by winning a contest with others, or by starting a new business in competition with them).

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Friday, December 14, 2007

 

Progressive Taxation. Should tax rates be higher on the wealthy than on the poor? A well-known reason is that the marginal utility of income is lower for the rich, so redistributing wealth to the poor could raise total utility. Another reason might be to get the amount of government spending right. A rich person would be willing to give up more of his income than a poor person for a typical good,including perhaps for a typical public good such as defense spending. The rich man might be willing to pay 20,000 dollars for a new mortar whereas each of two poor men would pay only 3,000 dollars. If the mortar costs 15,000 dollars, a tax system whereby each person paid equal amounts of 5,000 each would result in the poor men voting against the mortar. Both the rich man and the poor men would prefer a tax system in which the poor men paid 1,000 each and the rich man paid 13,000, because everyone would vote for the mortar and everyone would get positive surplus. Not just fairness, but correct incentives for voting require that tax rates match with desired spending. This is probably not a new idea, but I'll note it here anyway.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

 

Meteors. My brother recommended to me the powerpoint file, "Lincoln Science Club Asteroid Night Dr. Steve Ostro, JPL Nov. 29, 2007". It has lots of good graphics and, especially, info on sizes of possible crashes between the earth and meteors.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

 

Huckabee. Governor Huckabee is a sound conservative on most social issues, which is why he is doing so well in the polls and why I like him. He seems to have a penchant for sentimental reprieves of criminals, and the Wall Street Journal says he thinks we are too tough with terrorists and has little affection for free trade. It also says he is vague about his economic policies generally, which I would not find so objectionable if his policy instincts were not questionable. The WSJ likes socially liberal candidates, so it's not surprising that they are dumping on Huckabee. I'd like to support him, but I worry that he would enjoy cutting bigger-government deals with the Democrats.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

 

Trying to Change God, Not Ourselves The sermon today at St. Ebbe's made a good point: when God makes us notice our sin, our response is often not to change our own behavior, but to change God. We want Him to withdraw His disapproval in exchange for something else we offer, or just to forgive us because he is merciful and we ask. We don't want to give up our sin. I'll have to keep this in mind. Micah 6:7-8 is the passage preached on:
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, [or] with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn [for] my transgression, the fruit of my body [for] the sin of my soul?
He hath shewed thee, O man, what [is] good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

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Saturday, December 8, 2007

 

Takings for "Public Purposes. (recycled) Kau v. City & County. A reader sent me the depressing court opinion, Kau v. City & County, No. 23674 (Haw. Sup. Ct. June 22, 2004), which reiterates the Hawaiian judicial precedent that the government can seize your property, if it pays the market price, and give it to someone else who wants it and has more political power, even if there is no public purpose involved. It is even worse than I'd thought, because the *supposed* public purpose is to reduce land prices-- that is, pure redistribution, to hurt landowners and benefit other people.

(Click here to read more.)

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

 

HTML Password Protection. There's no way to put password protection in a webpage via HTML commands, but it can be done with a simple javascript available from HTML Goodies. Here is how I got it to work. Take the code and replace the password (peppermint) and the web page address (scripttip73correct.html) with your own names. Then put the code into the file that's publicly linked. Clicking on the link will take people to the script code file, and if they get the password right it passes them on to the file you're protecting. This protection method is not very strong, since the password is written in the file, but it is pretty easy at least.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

 

Evolution. "Microevolution looks at adaptations that concern only the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest" (Gilbert, et. al. 1996, p. 361). The anti-ID site Panda's Thumb gives the abstract for the Gilbert paper, which it seems gives an alternative to ID for the puzzle of macroevolution:
“A new and more robust evolutionary synthesis is emerging that attempts to explain macroevolution as well as microevolutionary events. This new synthesis emphasizes three morphological areas of biology that had been marginalized by the Modern Synthesis of genetics and evolution: embryology, macroevolution, and homology. The foundations for this new synthesis have been provide by new findings from developmental genetics and from the reinterpretation of the fossil record. In this nascent synthesis, macroevolutionary questions are not seen as being soluble by population genetics, and the developmental actions of genes involved with growth and cell specification are seen as being critical for the formation of higher taxa. In addition to discovering the remarkable homologies of homeobox genes and their domains of expression, developmental genetics has recently proposed homologies of process that supplement the older homologies of structure. Homologous developmental pathways, such as those involving the wnt genes, are seen in numberous embryonic processes, and they are seen occurring in discrete regions, the morphogenetic fields. These fields (which exemplify the modular nature of developing embryos) are proposed to mediate between genotype and phenotype. Just as the cell (and not its genome) functions as the unit of organic structure and function, so the the morphogenetic field (and not the genes or the cells) is seen as a major unit of ontogeny whose changes bring about changes in evolution.”

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Monday, December 3, 2007

 

The Stylized Facts of Entry. I was just reading Paul Geroski's "What do we know about entry?" International Journal of Industrial Organization, 1995. It's a well-written survey of empirical patterns like the following:
Stylized fact 2. Although there is a very large cross-section variation in entry, differences in entry between industries do not persist for very long. In fact, most of the total variation in entry across industries and over time is 'within' industry variation rather than 'between' industry variation. Stylized fact 3. Entry and exit rates are highly positively correlated, and net entry rates and penetration are modest fractions of gross entry rates and penetration.

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

 

Advent Readings. Advent starts today. I looked on the Web for a set of readings for each day till Christmas. The site I liked best was Advent 2007 by Debbie Perkins. Here's the first day's reading:

Bible Reading:

Isaiah 40 Comfort for God's People 1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD [1] ; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. [2] 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

 

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

 

Clinton-Era Security Lapses George Neumayrof The American Spectator has a nice wrap-up of the numerous security breaches of the Clintonites, exemplified best and most recently by former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger’s theft of secret documents: (Click here to read more.)
 

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