Monthly Archives: October 2009

If I were in the market for buying a mobile home in Alabama, I’d totally buy from this guy.

Category: Market, Theater

Chris Dierkes, a former Jesuit seminary student turned Anglican, has a host of interesting observations about sexuality in the Catholic and Anglo-Catholic priesthoods:

I’ve spent some portion of time in Latin America (Mexico, Peru, and Nicaragua to be precise) and how many times did I meet a local parish priest who had a live-in nanny or church secretary or housecleaning lady or whatever they called her along with the priest’s “nephew” or “niece”? Answer: more than once.

Why don’t we just call it what it is? She’s not the cleaning lady; she’s his wife. He’s her husband. That’s their child. They’re a family. The family is a good, even naturally beautiful thing. What’s unnatural is to be unable to call this what it is.

Just so with gay clergy. Their offering is a very holy one, but the gift becomes marred when locked into this tortured game of doing everything possible–inevitably ending in ironic tragic-comedy as I said–to not admit what is totally obvious and staring you in the face. When freed from this hypocritical charade, their lives become become a symbol both of a desire for and expression of a redeemed humanity, a redeemed creaturely existence. (Or so I believe anyway).

The reasons why homosexuals may be disproportionately represented in the Catholic priesthood seems obvious: if one is uncomfortable with one’s sexuality, choosing a path where one is denied the their sexuality is highly logical. That there seems to be portions of this in the Anglican Communion strikes me as bizarre. Perhaps relating to my own difficulties with faith and how I am an Episcopalian by genealogy and default as much as sturdy conviction, my thought is that if you’re a homosexual that cannot embrace your homosexuality, and you’re a High Church, Anglo-Catholic conservative type… why not just cross the dang pond? To be a conservative Anglo-Catholic of the sort that the Pope is reaching out to is to reject a good portion of what makes the Anglican Church distinct from the Catholic Church. These days, even the conservatism is somewhat optional in the Catholic ministry.

As Episcopalianism is one of the periodic topics of Hit Coffee, I’d been intending to remark on His Holiness’s recent entreaty with conservative High Church Episcopalians to (re-)join the fold, but I haven’t had enough time to develop a concrete thesis.

Category: Church

When I was younger, Mom was complaining about some new onerous inconvenience they were putting on non-smokers and how eventually they were just going to ban it altogether. I didn’t believe her at the time and to some extent I still don’t. But my skepticism was outsized and she was more right than I knew. The torrent of anti-smoking legislation in the past decade has made me wonder where, precisely, this is all leading. Will Saletan has done a fantastic job of chronicling how much more confident the anti-smoking forces have become in terms of citing smaller and smaller inconveniences as unacceptable and how much ground smokers have lost in trying to convince people that their right to partake in their vices, at some point in the conversation, should be taken into consideration.

With each battle they’ve lost, the other side has gained confidence. After each battle, the non-smoking majority realizes how much more pleasant things are when they aren’t forced to endure second-hand smoke. And smokers themselves often realize the virtues of these regs that allow them to go places with non-smokers that they couldn’t go before. The smoking ban on restaurants and bars has been an incredible success. My friend Web excepted, I don’t know anyone that supported the ban regretting having done so and I know a lot of people (including myself) who opposed it have reconsidered. Add to this a lot of people with the resources and discipline to quit have done so, culling a portion of the most capable and privileged and plugged in from the ranks of the smokers. As smoking becomes considered to be the province of the poor, lazy, hedonistic, and disgusting, the sentiment to push it further and further away from non-smokers becomes less and less objectionable to a majority of the population. Perhaps eventually to the point of vindicating Mom and banning it altogether. Or maybe not.

As Saletan points out, we’re starting to cross a threshold where any inconvenience at all to the non-smoker is sufficient grounds to legislate against the “right to smoke” in some place or under some circumstance. You have non-smoking sections, but smoke drifts. You have no smoking in indoor restaurants, but if non-smokers want to eat on the patio they still have to breathe the air. You push smokers away from the door and they’re still on the sidewalk. You push them away from the sidewalk, and they’re supposed to go… where? Their cars? You can smell cigarette smoke from neighboring vehicles and of course people toss their butts out the window and pollute. Their house? Well, if they smoke indoors they are a hazard to their children and if they smoke outdoors people next door can smell it. It really won’t be long before neighborhoods start associating smoking with lower property values and prevent you from smoking outdoors at all. And anybody smoking anywhere has the potential of increasing health care costs.

We’re further along in all of this than you might think. I absolutely can’t smoke in our rented house. I’m not supposed to smoke on the premises. Sidewalks and parks are not yet prohibited in Cascadia, but it’s happening in more and more places. Convenience stores where you buy the cigarettes don’t appreciate loiters (though if you’re white and/or wearing work clothes, they probably won’t say anything. If you own your own home and don’t have children

When the threshold is that no inconvenience or hardship to non-smokers is acceptable at all, then smoking has to be prohibited outright. The further along we get on this path, the more respect I have for people that just come out and say that. Instead, it sort of becomes this disingenuous conversation that is always prefaced about “While freedom is important…” and ends with “… if somebody else’s freedom is adversely affecting others, it’s taking away their freedom.” While for some anti-smoking arguments it makes a degree of sense, if you applied the more recent arguments to food peanuts and peanut oil would be contraband.

I think that the issue here is that American’s have a great appetite for nanny-statism, but they don’t like that they do. So they end up framing it in some way that they can say that it’s not about telling other people what to do. For many this probably is the case, but for those that speak the loudest in the anti-smoking movement, it often isn’t. And at the rate we’re moving, we’re reaching the point where cigarettes will be legal to buy but not legal to smoke for anyone that isn’t a childless homeowner on their own private lot (or knows somebody of the same).

And maybe the would be okay. Frankly, the anti-statism argument against smoking has lost a lot of resonance with me. Smoking simply isn’t like other bad habits in that it literally flies (okay, drifts) right in the face of those that find it unpleasant or are actively harmed by it. It is a lifestyle choice that most who make it want to unmake it. And it is a choice that, when made, is extraordinarily difficult to unmake. Its contribution to culture and society is negligible. Unlike alcohol and unhealthy foods, it is abused by almost everyone that partakes. When used as directed, cigarettes kill. And on and on. You would be surprised how many people I knew on the smokers’ deck at Monmark-Soyokaze who would agree with the proposition that the stuff should be banned. And if I thought our government could pull it off, I’d say the same.

The problem with banning cigarettes is quite simply that we can’t. If we could just get them out of convenience stores we would be making extraordinary progress, but we can’t even do that. We can’t ban cigarettes because people are just not quite comfortable with their nanny-state instincts to sign on. And with both cigarettes and convenience store sales of the same, you have some pretty powerful lobbies against it. And I suppose that some of the disingenuous behavior of the anti-smokers is on the basis that it’s pointless to lobby for the impossible whine you can chip away at it piece by possible piece.

The problem with the Externality-Reduction Approach (a good a name as any), though, is that if you’re fighting it on all battles all the time and you miss out on compromises that could benefit both smokers and non-smokers in living amicably. Even if you have no respect for what the smokers are doing to their own bodies, having respect for smokers can help create a compromise that will ultimately benefit non-smokers.

For instance, if you disregard smokers so much so that you give them unrealistic aims and then view their complaints as “their problem”, you encourage people to disregard the rules altogether. For instance, telling people not to smoke within 30 feet of a main entrance to a public building is quite reasonable. Extending this to all entrances, however, can lead to pushing them out into the scorching sun or rain. Even if you feel that smokers, being as evil as they are, deserve to face the elements, what will happen instead is that they will simply ignore the 30ft rule. If enough of them ignore it, it becomes impossible to enforce it. And if they’re going to break the rule, they might as well smoke five feet from the door.

Alternately, if you require employers that allow smoking on the premises to set up a covered smoking area 30 feet away from any entrance, smokers would be happy to abide by that. My ex-boss Calvin (who belonged to a religion that abhored smoking) set up a little canopy outside the workshop and in my year-and-a-half there, I never saw anybody smoke near any door. Even when the canopy was leaking! You may think to yourself that smokers do not deserve such accommodations, but it was the non-smokers that ultimately benefited.

The ban on smoking in restaurants and bars has proven to be popular, but there may have been a better way of going about it. Until they successfully ban smoking on sidewalks or in commercial districts, one thing the smoking ban has done is push smokers outside the restaurant and onto the sidewalk. Before people could avoid cigarette smoke by not going into establishments that allowed smoking. Now they can’t at all because they have to pass by lines of smokers outside the front door (where, even if there is a 30ft rule, it is ignored because there is no obvious place for them to go). A better approach may have been licensing and regulation. Limit the number of establishments that can allow smoking inside, regulate their HVAC, and disallow it elsewhere. Smokers will gravitate toward and inside establishments that allow smoking and will be off the streets. In the current environment, if smokers have the option of being out of the way, they would love to be so.

In part because smokers fought even reasonable accommodations for non-smokers, there are reasons that non-smokers and anti-smokers view smokers as the enemy. But I think that the tide has turned to such a degree that the animosity is going to cause more harm than good. People who are allowed to buy cigarettes but are not allowed to actually smoke them anywhere will smoke them somewhere. And the more the rules are tilted against smokers, the less they will abide by them. And it doesn’t stop them from being the statists that they swear they are not.

Category: Courthouse

Colosse has had an unusual dearth of homicides lately. It went a full twelve days between homicides. Reporters are scratching their heads seeing if they can see if a record has been broken. Then, of course, a murder happened.

It makes me think of those chalkboards with “There have not been any accidents in __ Days.” Somewhere, I can imagine a secretary or an officer erasing the 12 off a chalk board and replacing it with a 0.

Category: Courthouse

Sometimes we want things from society and the law that we cannot get. For instance, you may believe that abortion is murder or that the death penalty is wrong. However, in most places (well, all places in the former and most places in the latter), you are unable to actually do anything about it. It’s a frustrating situation to be in. Most of the time when this happens, though, we view some wrongs as being more wrong than others. I’m opposed to the death penalty, for instance, but if we’re going to have a death penalty then we ought to try to make sure that (for instance) those that are executed are not tortured in the process and that innocent people are not executed.

Despite my fundamental opposition to the death penalty, I tend to get annoyed with death penalty opponents who play a sort of cat-and-mouse with partial measures. It’s one thing not to want someone to be executed in a way that is tantamount to torture. It’s another to say that method-X is torture. But to suggest that method-X is torture is primarily to suggest, in the short term, that some non-tortuous method is used. The trouble is that when you turn around and suggest that any alternative is still killing people, you’ve undermined your case against method-X. You have revealed that your opposition was to the act and not the method involved. You’ve alienated anybody who generally supports the death penalty but was concerned about method-X. If method-X is genuinely torture, you’ve possibly consigned people to death row to a more tortuous death than would otherwise possible. If method-X is not really torture, you’ve been remarkably dishonest and people (who already disagree with you in bulk) are not unlikely to notice. On the other hand, if and when method-X is replaced by method-Y, you’ve lost a good portion of your argument if your argument was never really against method-X to begin with.

This is why the whole argument about the lethal injection formula at work in our death chambers left me somewhat cold. The fact that the point was never to switch to a more humane method left me skeptical that the fomula (method-X) was really as bad as they were saying. Supporters of the death penalty didn’t even have to say a word. I could be right about that or I could be wrong about that, but that was the impression that I got.

This sort of frustration is how I always feel about nutrition-boosters. I can’t tell you how many discussions I’ve gotten into where I’ve been tut-tutted for liking some food, been told how awful it is for me in terms of fat and lack of nutrients, then listed the nutritional information off the top of my head. Yes, for foods I eat frequently, I remember these things. Turkey pepperoni, for instance, is not appreciably worse for me fat-wise or calorie-wise than sliced turkey on a sandwich. No, it’s not completely stripped of its protein (any more than a turkey sandwich). Yes, a salad would be healthier, but the most likely alternative to a turkey pepperoni snack is not a salad but is cheese. Yes, the cheese has more calcium, but it also has a lot more fat… and wasn’t that your original complaint about the turkey pepperoni?

The real problem, I have come to determine, is not so much that I am eating turkey pepperoni or inulin. It’s that I’m not eating what they eat. Now, if I’m asking for advice on how to lose weight, suggesting replacing turkey pepperoni with celery is some darn good advice. And maybe the turkey pepperoni really is bad for me in some way that I can’t measure. But it becomes rather obvious to me that they really don’t care if it is or not. It’s consumer food. Consumer food is evil.

That’s how I feel about a lot of the complaints about unhealthy beef. It’s not that I don’t think that there’s a problem with tainted beef. There is! I want it fixed! In fact, I think that I want it fixed a lot more than the people screaming most loudly about it. For them, it’s like method-X insofar as it is a tool to their ultimate goal of getting me to stop eating beef. As a beef eater, though, I have more of a stake in how healthy or unhealthy the beef I eat is.

I am reminded of this by a post by Marion Nestle, last seen accusing a 20oz Coca-cola drink of having 800 calories, who argues that irradiation isn’t a particularly good idea. Why is it not a good idea? Because killing bacteria lets the industry get away with selling beef without bacteria in it {cue nefarious music}. So she has now demonstrated that E. Coli is really secondary to the evilness of meat producers.

I’m not arguing that meat producers are benevolent entities nor am I denying that they are guilty of all manner of things including gross mistreatment of cattle. Maybe a law should be passed about that. But every other recommendation (mostly involving testing and handling of meat) I’ve read has come across as far less likely to actually reduce bacteria and more likely to make meat more expensive and the industry less profitable. And it becomes ever more apparent to me that the issue has little to do with bacteria at all and more to do with punishing thy enemy and forcing people to eat less beef.

On a relatively unrelated note, I find it fascinating how bacon became at some point the classy, hip meat. Would the above article have been written if the E. Coli had instead been found in bacon? Oh, probably. But there’d probably be fewer people solemnly nodding their head at the notion that Middle Class America Knows Not What It Consumes.

Category: Hospital, Kitchen

As the government cuts off (or limits) some revenue streams for credit card companies, they’re going to try to pick up the slack somewhere else:

Starting next year, Bank of America will charge a small number of customers an annual fee, ranging from $29 to $99. The bank has characterized the fee as experimental. But card holders who have never carried a balance or paid late fees could be among those affected. Citigroup, meanwhile, has started charging annual fees to card holders who don’t put more than a specific amount on their cards, typically $2,400 a year. Other banks are charging inactivity fees if customers don’t use their credit cards during a specific period of time. You heard that right: You could be spanked for staying out of debt.

These fees are the credit card industry’s response to credit card legislation that will, among other things, restrict credit card issuers’ ability to raise interest rates on existing balances. Credit card issuers are looking for ways to raise income before the new rules take effect in February. During the first quarter, 27% of credit card offers included annual fees, up from 18% a year earlier, according to Synovate Mail Monitor, a credit card direct-mail tracking service.

I’ve seen this argument made by some as a reason that it’s pointless to try to prevent corporations from making money because either (a) they’ll make it up elsewhere or (b) they’ll go out of business, denying everyone of their services.

Personally, I couldn’t be bothered less by it. Oh, make no mistake, I won’t take annual fees lying down. In fact, right now I think I would take the hit on my credit score before I would submit to paying $50 for a privilege of a credit card. And I’m relatively confident that I will be able to find some card issuer somewhere that won’t charge me an annual fee. Perhaps my longevity of service with Discover or my all-in relationship with Wells Fargo will get me a pass. Or maybe not. In any case, I suspect that to the extent that these fees become mandatory you’re going to see a lot of people shifting over exclusively to debit cards. And on credit scores, I think it’s easier for banks to claim in the current environment that people who don’t own credit cards are risky, but in an environment where everyone has to pay for the privilege if they have the audacity to pay their bills on time, it’ll look a lot more like what it is: a punishment for people that decline to be taken advantage of.

But the main reason I couldn’t care less is that if absent the backdoor profits they receive from fees they need $50 a month for maintenance on a credit card account, then that’s what they should charge. Then people can make the decision for themselves to sign up or not sign up. Instead, in the current model, people sign up thinking that it’s not going to cost them anything (or much) and then end up getting charged at the back end when all does not go according to plan.

I thought about all this when I got a letter from Discover that they’re raising my interest rates on an account that I have not been delinquent on. Along similar lines, I’ve been dealing with my health insurance company. I had a recent appointment and some blood work done and I got a bill back for $200 when my insurance company apparently decided that all but $15 was not covered.

In the greater scheme of things, I don’t care if it was not covered. It was worth $200 to me and it needed to be done. What I hate is that when I go to the doctor, I never have any idea how much it’s going to cost me in the end. I don’t know of any other industry with greater opacity. My history with health insurance has actually been less contentious than dental insurance, but in neither case can I simply ask how much something costs. This isn’t because of the different rates they charge for the insured and uninsured so much as it is because the subject of cost is a conversation (in the form of billing codes and contract bylaws) between your provider and insurance that you are not a part of.

Defenders of insurance companies say that it has to be this complicated to keep costs down. Leaving aside the immense costs of billing and compliance, the fact that it is so complicated is a cost in and of itself. First, it’s a literal cost insofar as if people knew that they were going to end up paying for certain things they wouldn’t go through with them (I am not sorry I got the blood work done, but if I’d known the bill ahead of time I might have quietly declined). But there’s also the cost of the uncertainty of the protracted negotiations between your provider and insurance company and not knowing what the verdict is going to be. But even discounting all of these things, there comes a point where if transparency comes with its own costs, it’s a price worth paying.


Category: Market

BMW’s been running a series of “if we all switched to diesel” ads lately, a bid to make their cars (in general) seem more environmentally friendly. The mileage they are advertising is actually “good but not great”, as their roadsters are advertised at 36 miles per gallon of diesel (diesel is slightly more energy-dense to start with, so there’s actually no increase in engine efficiency for the car itself, and as we’ll see below, diesel is a much less plentiful resource than gasoline). That “36 mpg” is also a highway measurement, and the real-life city measurement drops precipitously because diesel engines have a much narrower power band than gasoline engines. Diesel engines are made for “long haul, steady use” applications, such as trains, heavy truck shipping, and electric generators. They’re much more inefficient than gasoline engines when it comes to stop-and-go traffic.

The major conceit in the advertising is a ridiculously false basic premise. As I discussed somewhere a while back, the split of various products produced when you “crack” (distill/refine) a barrel of crude oil is more-or-less set. It can be massaged by maybe 2-3 percentage points through advanced distillation methods, but there’s only so much of each given type of hydrocarbon in the barrel, and you get what you get. It’s theoretically possible to convert diesel to gasoline or vice versa, but the problem is that once you start doing this, you are spending more energy than you will get back and thus, you’re just wasting fuel.

The underlying conceit of BMW’s ad – that it would be possible for every single person to switch to a diesel vehicle – falls flat. The ratio in a given barrel of gasoline to diesel/heating oil is approximately 2:1. Diesel vehicles already have to compete with demand for heating oil; that’s part of why diesel prices rise around October, when homes above the 40th parallel generally begin turning off their air conditioners and turning on their oil-based heaters for winter.

Indeed, it seems that the secondary assumption of BMW’s ads – that it would be a good idea for even a small chunk of the market in cars to switch to diesel, say 10% or so – doesn’t work out. A few years ago, the price of diesel fuel went above the price of gas, and the price of jet fuel, heating oil, and other “associated products” went up. Or rather I should say, they didn’t “go up” so much as they were available in less quantity. The factor was that ethanol replaced MTBE as the fuel stabilizer/octane-booster of choice for gasoline blends in the US, aided and abetted by some very junk science the EPA used to mandate corrosive ethanol-laced gasoline in certain major metroplex markets such as Chicago, New York, Houston, and Los Angeles. The “hidden” factor was that the gasoline blends went from using ~2% MTBE to 10% (or sometimes even sneakily greater with severe consequences) ethanol. Instantly, in other words, ~8% more “gasoline” was being produced per barrel of oil and shipped out. Faced with a relatively static demand for gasoline (the primary product from the barrel of oil), the oil refiners scaled back, and so diesel, heating oil, and everything else suddenly had an ~8% supply availability drop with a corresponding rise in price.

Now look to modern time. Decrease the demand for gasoline by 10%, and increase the demand for diesel/heating oil by a corresponding amount. How does the idea of $7/gallon diesel fuel sound to you? Essentially, a shift in demand for diesel is going to disproportionately punish diesel usage, and as was just shown above, BMW’s diesel vehicles are not any more energy-efficient (in terms of joules per mile) than their gasoline counterparts.

Of course, I’m sure BMW doesn’t care. They get an ad campaign claiming their cars are “clean” and “better for the environment”, and most of the population is too stupid to understand what’s really going on. The real fright will come if/when other car companies begin mimicing BMW, and there’s enough of a shift in usage patterns to make diesel and heating oil cost-prohibitive.

Category: Road

I have an article up on MANzine about the dearth of black coaches in college football and how the kvetching media shoulders some of the blame for it.

Category: Downtown, Newsroom

Shortly before we were married, Clancy and I were talking to some acquaintances of hers and some friends of acquaintances and one young woman said “You should elope and put down the money on a house. Weddings are a waste of money.”

I didn’t know her very well and that really did not get us off on the right foot. First, when someone is excitedly talking about their coming wedding, it’s pretty bad form to pooh-pooh weddings. Secondly, she did not have sufficient information to render a judgment (her folks were footing the bill, it wasn’t a particularly extravagant wedding, we wouldn’t be buying a house for years anyway, and so on). Thirdly, her logical priorities were not ours. Clancy and I had no dreams of white horses and carriages, but having a fair number of people there was pretty important to us and allowing them to join us in celebration of our union was as good a use for that money (ours or not) as any. The memories from that weekend will last a lifetime.

So my general thought towards her was, well “Who the flip are you?” Or perhaps with more colorful language and more in reference to her self-image than her actual identity. Now, over the short time I got to know her I came to like her a great deal and the kind of person that I wish I knew more of. But that was definitely in spite of and not because of the advice that she gave.

Last week Web took issue with some internet personal finance guru who said that a great way to save money is to relocate to a less expensive area. Web and I locked horns for a bit, but ultimately I don’t think that we’re all that far apart. Underlying the problem of the original piece that Web took on was that the author didn’t say that relocating to a less expensive area may be a good idea to save money nor did he say that it’s something some people should consider. Rather, he said that it is something you should do to save money. Therein lies a pretty crucial difference.

First, as Phi pointed out, for some people living in an expensive area (as represented by San Diego) is worth the price premium compared to living in a less expensive area (represented by Valdosta). Further, already having a job in Los Angeles will often be a lot better for your finances than moving to Reno and trying to find a job. Suggesting that moving to less expensive area is something “people” (broadly spoken) should do ignores individual circumstances that can carry a lot of weight. I still maintain that it’s really good advice for a whole lot of people, but it’s also bad advice for a lot of people to.

To take another example from the original article, not having pets was something else that he recommended. Sure enough, having pets can be a pretty expensive proposition. But pets provide their own reward for a lot of people. In fact, I’m pretty sure pets correlate with happiness more than children do. The author was wise enough not to suggest that everyone go childless to save a few (okay, a lot) bucks, but pets are another area that he might should have thought twice. Yeah, if you don’t have the money to support a pet, you shouldn’t get one. But implicit in the author’s calculations is that the value of a pet is outstripped by the expense. For some people this is true, for others this is very, very untrue.

A number of items on the list fall under the category of “This is what money is for.” Some people want to make the big bucks precisely so that they can live in New York City or Los Angeles. Some people will take a huge quality-0f-life hit in order to live in Portland or Boca Raton. Some people would take the money saved on not having a dog and would spend it on something that would bring them less happiness than a dog would. Even discounting the housing crash, some people know that they won’t be buying a house and believe that the memories attached to a big wedding would actually bring them more happiness.

Sharing one’s experiences and perspective is a good thing. And pushing back against what one perceives to be the ill-considered actions of others is not necessarily a bad idea. Pointing out to someone that talks about how nobody can afford to live a middle class life anymore that they it’s possible they could live a more middle class life in another city ought to be fair game. But lecturing them on the fact that they chose their current predicament and that a middle class life is as simple as moving to a more affordable city is, among other things, tactless. So am I being tactless when I say that Half Sigma should have stayed in Arizona? Perhaps, though in my defense Sigma brings it on himself by doing the exact same with regards to law school and college in general.

It is Half Sigma’s position that if you’re not going to one of the Top 14 law schools, that you’re wasting your time and money. I think that tucked in there is a very good assessment of the perils of law school. I wish people would have been saying that back when I was taking the LSAT and I may not have bothered. And his advice may well be 100% correct if you live and want to continue to live on the upper east coast, but his universal advice does not necessarily apply to people that live in Delosa. Sigma is right that going to the University of Delosa School of Law doesn’t guarantee anything and may be a whole lot more risky than going into engineering, medicine, or 50 other areas of study, but for a lot of people – even people that are capable of taking the classes to become an engineer – if they have a passion for or interest in law, are particularly motivated and smart, and don’t have aspirations of going to NYC or DC and being a hotshot, they will often be better advised to take the risk of law school. I know that among my friends that have gotten law degrees, none seem to have expressed any regret for having done so and none went to Top 14 schools. Again, I’m not saying that it’s not a risk and that people should not be apprised of the risk that it can be, but advice like “Don’t go to law school if you can’t get into the T14” may be good for a lot of people but is bad for a lot of others.

Of course, in Half Sigma’s defense (and perhaps my own), blogging is perhaps the sort of place where one should be able to just let things fly. Of course, that only works if you listen to what people tell you in return. That’s something that bloggers don’t do a particularly good job of. In fact, the more inclined someone is to give everyone advice the less inclined they are to listen to anyone else, in my experience. I know that I have previously made some pretty broad comments that, in retrospect, should have been more narrow insofar as they applied only to some people and not quite as universally as I had imagined. But, after years of listening and even spending some time defending their point of view*, I have come to understand the good counterarguments that a lot of people have.

* – I’ve found that one of the best ways to understand an argument is to get into a debate and try to advocate it. There are a number of positions I’ve taken on Hit Coffee and elsewhere that I don’t entirely agree with (one such example is obesity). Sometimes I actually come around to believe what I’m saying and other times I don’t, but even in the latter case I get a lot better idea of where they’re coming from.

Category: Coffeehouse

I was in line at a convenience store the other day waiting f-o-r-e-v-e-r behind this woman that was having some sort of problem. Apparently, the little kiosk they have for state lottery ticket generation wasn’t working correctly. After several minutes, the guy behind the counter told her that he guessed it was broken, but if she was interested, someone had earlier had some lottery tickets printed out that he realized only afterward that he didn’t have the money to buy. That was initially fine with the woman, but after looking at the tickets she said “I don’t want these.”

“Can I ask why not?” The clerk asked.

“I don’t like the numbers.”

At this point, a guy behind her chimed in. I couldn’t tell if he was presumptuous or if they were in there together, but he said, “You don’t like the numbers? What does it matter?”

“Well,” she explained, “on this ticket they’re in order. 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36. Who picks those numbers? What are the odds that the numbers will be sequential?”

“Good point,” the guy said.

Of course, she’s completely right. What are the odds that they would be sequential? The answer is that the odds are the same as any other six numbers that she might pick, unless they do something special with the number generation for the lottery that I don’t know about. If I had a kid with me, I would use that to illustrate that if the notion of six consecutive numbers seems six steps beyond unlikely, that’s why you shouldn’t play the lottery because there is no way to pick any series of numbers that is any more likely to occur. Then, of course, I would probably launch into a tirade about the evils of a state-run lottery system. At which point they would roll their eyes and probably ignore the more useful information that came before my jump on my high horse.

Category: Market