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Martin Hayes - St. Patrick's Day


Forget the cloying confection of Celtic Woman or the puréed folk balladry of the High Kings, two Irish imports calculated to appease the pledge-drive hunger of U.S. public television stations. If you're seeking something genuinely special in your Irish musical diet this St. Patrick's Day, look no further than the fiddling of Martin Hayes.
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"For me, the genius of Irish traditional music is in the music. It endures in appeal because of melodic structure, which can be very powerful and even hypnotic."
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"I think a big problem in Irish music today is a disconnect with its dance origins," he said. "If I play a reel slowly, I'm still playing it with the syncopation of set dancing in Clare. Those set-dancer rhythms echo in my head. When I play gently and reflectively, it's not about eliminating the dance. It's about reducing its ratio to the melody."

"Fearlessness and Fidelity Mark This Irish Fiddler's Art," by Earle Hitchner, The Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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Posted March 16, 2008 12:47 PM  ·  Permalink   ·  Holidays & Festivals   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBacks (0)


Bubbles: Housing and the next bubble

"In the future, scientists will learn how to convert stupidity into clean fuel."
Prediction 16, "The Dilbert Future: Thriving on Business Stupidity in the 21st Century," by Scott Adams (1998).
A financial bubble is a market aberration manufactured by government, finance, and industry, a shared speculative hallucination and then a crash, followed by depression.
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Because all asset hyperinflations revert to the mean, we can expect housing prices to decline roughly 38 percent from their peak as they return to something closer to the historical rate of monetary inflation. If the rate of decline stabilizes at between 6 and 7 percent each year, the correction has about six years to go before things stabilize, leaving the FIRE economy in need of $12 trillion.
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There are a number of plausible candidates for the next bubble, but only a few meet all the criteria. Health care must expand to meet the needs of the aging baby boomers, but there is as yet no enabling government legislation to make way for a health-care bubble; the same holds true of the pharmaceutical industry, which could hyperinflate only if the Food and Drug Administration was gutted of its power. A second technology boom--under the rubric “Web 2.0”--is based on improvements to existing technology rather than any new discovery. The capital-intensive biotechnology industry will not inflate, as it requires too much specialized intelligence.
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The next bubble must be large enough to recover the losses from the housing bubble collapse. How bad will it be? Some rough calculations: the gross market value of all enterprises needed to develop hydroelectric power, geothermal energy, nuclear energy, wind farms, solar power, and hydrogen-powered fuel-cell technology--and the infrastructure to support it--is somewhere between $2 trillion and $4 trillion; assuming the bubble can get started, the hyperinflated fictitious value could add another $12 trillion. In a hyperinflation, infrastructure upgrades will accelerate, with plenty of opportunity for big government contractors fleeing the declining market in Iraq. Thus, we can expect to see the creation of another $8 trillion in fictitious value, which gives us an estimate of $20 trillion in speculative wealth, money that inevitably will be employed to increase share prices rather than to deliver “energy security.” When the bubble finally bursts, we will be left to mop up after yet another devastated industry. FIRE, meanwhile, will already be engineering its next opportunity. Given the current state of our economy, the only thing worse than a new bubble would be its absence.

There is one industry that fits the bill: alternative energy, the development of more energy-efficient products, along with viable alternatives to oil, including wind, solar, and geothermal power, along with the use of nuclear energy to produce sustainable oil substitutes, such as liquefied hydrogen from water. Indeed, the next bubble is already being branded. Wired magazine, returning to its roots in boosterism, put ethanol on the cover of its October 2007 issue, advising its readers to forget oil; NBC had a “Green Week” in November 2007, with themed shows beating away at an ecological message and Al Gore making a guest appearance on the sitcom 30 Rock. Improbably, Gore threatens to become the poster boy for the new new new economy: he has joined the legendary venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which assisted at the births of Amazon.com and Google, to oversee the “climate change solutions group,” thus providing a massive dose of Nobel Prize–winning credibility that will be most useful when its first alternative-energy investments are taken public before a credulous mob. Other ventures--Lazard Capital Markets, Generation Investment Management, Nth Power, EnerTech Capital, and Battery Ventures--are funding an array of startups working on improvements to solar cells, to biofuels production, to batteries, to “energy management” software, and so on.

"The next bubble: Priming the markets for tomorrow's big crash," by Eric Janszen, Harper's, February 2008 (footnotes omitted)

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Posted March 13, 2008 06:37 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Caught Our Eye , Caution   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)

Night owl or morning person? Can't sleep?

Night owls are more creative, more flexible and more caffeinated, while morning people are healthier, more conscientious and more emotionally stable, studies have found. So, with the help of several experts, our columnist -- and longtime night owl -- has been working to reset her biological clock.

"Learning to Live Like an Early Bird," by Melinda Beck, The Wall Street Journal, March 4, 2008

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Posted March 5, 2008 01:57 PM  ·  Permalink   ·  Caught Our Eye   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)

Chinese Restaurants in America

Chef's Ma Paul Tofu
Chef's Ma Paul Tofu (Wu Liang Ye Restaurant, NYC)
What most Americans know as Chinese food would be more properly termed American Chinese food, a category that includes chop suey and lemon chicken, dishes born in the U.S. Given, as Lee points out, that there are about 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S., "more than the number of McDonald's, Burger Kings, and KFCs combined," Chinese food might be our national cuisine. "Our benchmark for Americanness is apple pie," she writes. "But ask yourself. How often do you eat apple pie? How often do you eat Chinese food?"

Chinese restaurants are ubiquitous, usually taking the form of urban carryout shops and suburban buffets. But how did these restaurants flourish across the American landscape? For the most part they are independently run, so how is it they seem to share similar characteristics, such as gigantic menus filled with egg rolls, garish red sweet and sour sauce, and General Tso's chicken?

Each chapter answers these questions and more, examining soy sauce, the distinctive shape of takeout boxes favored by Chinese restaurants, and fortune cookies, which Lee discovers are Japanese in origin.

"West eats East: A fact-filled look at Chinese food, which just might be America's national cuisine," by Bich Minh Nguyen, ChicagoTribune.com, March 1, 2008

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Posted March 3, 2008 08:47 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Caught Our Eye , Chinese , Food Blogs   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)

Campus rape

The campus rape industry’s central tenet is that one-quarter of all college girls will be raped or be the targets of attempted rape by the end of their college years (completed rapes outnumbering attempted rapes by a ratio of about three to two). The girls’ assailants are not terrifying strangers grabbing them in dark alleys but the guys sitting next to them in class or at the cafeteria.
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If the one-in-four statistic is correct--it is sometimes modified to “one-in-five to one-in-four”--campus rape represents a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. No crime, much less one as serious as rape, has a victimization rate remotely approaching 20 or 25 percent, even over many years. The 2006 violent crime rate in Detroit, one of the most violent cities in America, was 2,400 murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants--a rate of 2.4 percent. The one-in-four statistic would mean that every year, millions of young women graduate who have suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience. Such a crime wave would require nothing less than a state of emergency--Take Back the Night rallies and 24-hour hotlines would hardly be adequate to counter this tsunami of sexual violence. Admissions policies letting in tens of thousands of vicious criminals would require a complete revision, perhaps banning boys entirely. The nation’s nearly 10 million female undergrads would need to take the most stringent safety precautions. Certainly, they would have to alter their sexual behavior radically to avoid falling prey to the rape epidemic.
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University of Virginia students, for example, have at least three different procedural channels open to them following carnal knowledge: they may demand a formal adjudication before the Sexual Assault Board; they can request a “Structured Meeting” with the Office of the Dean of Students by filing a formal complaint; or they can seek voluntary mediation. The Structured Meetings are presided over by the chair of the Sexual Assault Board, with assistance from another board member or senior staff of the Office of the Dean of Students. The Structured Meeting, according to the university, is an “opportunity for the complainant to confront the accused and communicate their feelings and perceptions regarding the incident, the impact of the incident and their wishes and expectations regarding protection in the future.” Mediation, on the other hand, “allows both you and the accused to discuss your respective understandings of the assault with the guidance of a trained professional,” says the school’s sexual-assault center.

Rarely have primal lust and carousing been more weirdly paired with their opposites. Out in the real world, people who regret a sexual coupling must work it out on their own; no counterpart exists outside academia for this superstructure of hearings, mediations, and negotiated settlements. If you’ve actually been raped, you go to criminal court--but the overwhelming majority of campus “rape” cases that take up administration time and resources would get thrown out of court in a twinkling, which is why they’re almost never prosecuted. Indeed, if the campus rape industry really believes that these hookup encounters are rape, it is unconscionable to leave them to flimsy academic procedures. “Universities are equipped to handle plagiarism, not rape,” observes University of Pennsylvania history professor Alan Charles Kors. “Sexual-assault charges, if true, are so serious as to belong only in the criminal system.”

"The Campus Rape Myth: The reality: bogus statistics, feminist victimology, and university-approved sex toys," by Heather MacDonald, City Journal, Winter 2008

See also "How Crime in the United States Is Measured," by Nathan James and Logan Rishard Council, CRS Report for Congress, RL34309, January 3, 2008 (68-page pdf PDF)



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Posted March 2, 2008 08:27 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Caught Our Eye   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)