Saturday, January 29, 2005

Why A High Tolerance to Alcohol Can Save Your Life

Man peed way out of avalanche

A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it.

Rescue teams found Richard Kral drunk and staggering along a mountain path four days after his Audi car was buried in the Slovak Tatra mountains.

He told them that after the avalanche, he had opened his car window and tried to dig his way out.

But as he dug with his hands, he realised the snow would fill his car before he managed to break through.

He had 60 half-litre bottles of beer in his car as he was going on holiday, and after cracking one open to think about the problem he realised he could urinate on the snow to melt it, local media reported.

He said: "I was scooping the snow from above me and packing it down below the window, and then I peed on it to melt it. It was hard and now my kidneys and liver hurt. But I'm glad the beer I took on holiday turned out to be useful and I managed to get out of there."

Parts of Europe have this week been hit by the heaviest snowfalls since 1941, with some places registering more than ten feet of snow in 24 hours.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Subsidizing the 35,000 Foot Club

Make sure you check out Dr. Dan's answers to the questions posed yesterday in the comments section below that post.

Old Europe scores a big success! It has poured $14 billion dollars into research for Airbus to come up with a mega-plane; the largest commercial airplane in the world. It was a cooperatively fat subsidy to Airbus coming from France, the UK, Spain, and Germany. Here's what Shroeder had to say:

"Good old Europe has made this possible," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told a packed hall in Airbus's headquarters in Toulouse, southwest France.

That was a barely-veiled barb recalling the US dismissal of France, Germany and other EU states in 2003 as "Old Europe" because of their opposition to the war on Iraq.

The head of Airbus continued in the same vain:

Airbus chief Noel Forgeard made similar hints in his presentation of the A380 during a colourful spectacle featuring computer graphics, atmospheric theme music, dancers and fountains.

"The European states -- so easily accused of weakness -- backed this fantastic challenge 35 years ago and have believed in the A380," he said.

I don't know anybody who is accusing the UK of weakness, but when this 35 year effort began, we were knee-deep in rice paddies trying to help the people that were being screwed by the adverse turn in post-French-colonial life. We followed that up by winning the Cold War, while these guys were busy subsidizing development of a plane that will be used by airlines for the following:

Richard Branson, the head of Britain's Virgin Atlantic, said his airline would pamper passengers on the six A380s it has ordered by including gyms, beauty parlours, bars -- and even casinos and double beds.

The last two features meant "you'll have at least two ways to get lucky on our flights," Branson joked.

Here is the simple economics of this great success of Old Europe - by subsidizing the development effort of the plane, they have effectively partially subsidized arifare for those who will travel on these planes. In so far as they will be used outside of these four nations, the taxpayers of those nations just forked over $14 billion to citizens of other locales, maybe even ... gasp ... Americans! Doesn't really compensate us for bailing these losers out of two world wars and the threat of Communist totalitarianism, but we'll take it.

And how do such subsidies jive with the politics of Old Europe? Well, for starters, subsidizing the 35,000 foot club isn't exactly a boon to the poor - not sure that they'll be booking the double beds. How could they be so insenstive - couldn't they foresee how this would look 35 years down the line when a tsunami was bound to hit Indonesia? You foresee a tragedy like that, and you still pour $14 billion into ensuring the sexual rights of ageing rich Europeans? Sounds like something the UN would cook up. Even if you didn't foresee such a tragedy, is this the type of behavior you should resort to in the aftermath:

TSUNAMI-struck Thailand has been told by the European Commission that it must buy six A380 Airbus aircraft if it wants to escape the tariffs against its fishing industry.
While millions of Europeans are sending aid to Thailand to help its recovery, trade authorities in Brussels are demanding that Thai Airlines, its national carrier, pays £1.3 billion to buy its double-decker aircraft.

The demand will come as a deep embarrassment to Peter Mandelson, the trade commissioner, whose officials started the negotiation before the disaster struck Thailand - killing tens of thousands of people and damaging its economy.

While aid workers from across Europe are helping to rebuild Thai livelihoods, trade officials in Brussels are concluding a jets-for-prawns deal, which they had hoped to announce next month.

As the world’s largest producer of prawns, Thailand has become so efficient that its wares are half the price of those caught by Norway, the main producer of prawns for the EU.

But guess which airline will be the largest purchaser:

The biggest buyer of the new plane is the Emirates airline, which has ordered 43. "The A380 will be the future of air travel," said its chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum.

Weren't the Boeings sufficient to take out the World Trade Center? Now the Sheikh will be coming at us with these planes - thanks a lot, Old Europe.

Power and Control: Dems revert to Klan roots

The "conscience" of the Senate, our favorite former KKK Democratic Senator, takes on Codoleeza Rice, the house slave according to the mindset of many Democrats. But in reality, the analogy should work the other way - as long as a black American stays on the Democratic plantation, he or she is treated softly, but dare that person try to flee the plantation, all matter of racist abuse is justified. Not saying what she is going through now constitutes such abuse, but there have been many racist cartoons and hateful statements made with impunity against the likes of her and Clarence Thomas, among others. Power and Control: Dems revert to Klan roots

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Free Riders

Dr. Dan, a frequent reader of this blog, with whom the Hatcher just recently broke bread, did some research that was recently featured in an issue of the Economist. He and his co-author set up four person games, where players were given some amount of chips that they could eventually trade in for money. Each player has the option to throw her chips (anonymously) into a common pool or horde them; the chips thrown into the common pool are doubled, and distributed evenly among the four. If everyone throws into the common pool, each doubles his money; but there is an incentive not to throw into the pool, because if you are the only one who does, you end up with only half the chips you began with.

It is common in economics to treat the players as rational agents who seek to choose a best response to the anticipated behavior of others playing the game; in contrast, biologists who have used game theory to theorize about evolution, generally treat a given species as being equivalent to a pre-defined strategy that they do not deviate from, no matter what strategies are "adopted" by competing species. Which beckons the question - are humans best described as rational agents who adapt their strategies as they learn what other players in the game are doing, or are we just born as a strategy we stick to? Dr. Dan's results suggest we are born with a strategy, and we stick to it. We don't adapt to the behavior of others.

We are either free riders (20 percent in the study) who horde their own chips, co-operators (13 percent) who give up their chips to the common pool, or recipricators (63 percent) who mimic the behavior of others in the game. Of the participants in the study, Dr. Dan was able to unambiguously determine which of these three categories the subjects fell into with the exception of only a handful of people. He and his co-author, having learned the strategy type of each player, could then mix and match different players in new games, the results of which they could predict quite accurately.

The interesting result is that the average payoff to the different strategy types (presumably across many games matched in different combinations of the different types of players) was the same - i.e. no strategy type led to better results than any other. That would be consistent with the persistence of the three different types - if one strategy were dominant, people who are defined by it would be "preferred" by evolution, and the other types would eventually die out because they don't make enough money to convince anyone to mate with them. (Which means that somehow I managed to pick a strategy outside of these three for many many years, but finally righted my course). There is some evidence that cavemen actually played this game to divide up the cavewomen (there is even an episode of the Flintstones where Fred loses Wilma to Joe Rockhead in just such a game, but the Great Kazoo sets it right for Fred).

Here are a few questions for Dr. Dan, if he would be so kind to respond in the comments section:

1) Were there gender differences in the distribution of strategies? If so, who had more free riders? Remember that if you say women, you'll suffer the fate of Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard, who will go to his grave apologizing for spouting common sense. But if you say men, the same will happen to you - the key point is that men and women have to be the same, otherwise you will be a controversial right-wing nut like myself, your tenure will be revoked, and you'll be left only with Ideas Hatched as a venue to publish your work. I'll give you a cut of my voluntary subscriptions, but I think you can guess what that buys you.

2) Did the players that you couldn't characterize do better or worse than the those with a clear strategy? Did it appear that they were just random idiots, or did they look like they were trying to learn and adapt to what others in the game were doing?

3) I seem to recall evidence suggesting that economists and economics students were more likely to be free-riders, precisely because they had been taught the benefits that can accrue to such behavior. This would seem to suggest that even if we are born with some innate strategy, we can take a course from Professor Vic, for example, and switch to become free riders. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Inauguration Day Recollections

As you might have guessed by the absence of any live blogging, the Hatcher was unable to attend any of the inauguration day festivities, save for catching the tail end of the parade turning off of Pennsylvania Avenue onto 20th street, as I pedaled home from work. Calvin Coolidge once said that the business of America is business, and so I celebrated by being stuck in meetings all day. Since my day rate is higher than the per capita income of many third world countries, I aint complaining, but I would have liked to go take in some of the protest crowds firsthand. Here is someone who did, and writes about it to hilarious effect.

If I were more entrepreneurial, I would have went to a group of said protestors with contracts in hand, offering them jobs touring the country as a circus of freaks. I'd buy a trailer with several different rooms that people could walk through, like one of those cheap carny exhibits. In each room I'd have one of these freaks jailed with a TV monitor showing a Halliburton commercial, or GWB celebrating, or C-Span showing Tom Delay give a speech to the House, and the patrons would see our little monkeys bouncing off of the walls. The only problem is that my traveling circus would get lots of competition from all the freaks (who go unsigned) who are willing to make asses of themselves for free. These guys need to unionize so they capture some of the considerable rents that attend to their asininity. Why protest for free when the Hatcher could take the best of the lot and turn them into a well-paid touring ensemble?

But I digress. It turns out that one actually needs a ticket to attend the inauguration, a fact that escaped me until the morning of the swearing in, at which time I abandoned all hope of going. My makeshift press ID that identifies me as a blogger that shamelessly panders to my limited audience by telling old stories that they are all too familiar with doesn't cut it in John Ashcroft's Amerika, where security would have deprived me of all of my civil liberties, and kicked me to the curb.

Despite this disappointment, I'd like to relay a short story that indicates a high probability that the Hatcher actually crept into the mind of GWB not long ago, in the way that stray thoughts that do not originate via conscious will inflict us all. About two weeks ago, I decided that I was going to run to work rather than bike. My route takes me over the Potomac on a pedestrian path that crosses the river running parallel to I-395 traffic heading in the opposite direction (south). As sometimes happens in DC, a motorcade led by six or seven police cars was heading south in the lane next to the footbridge, not five feet from me. In the first limo of two, I see a big head of white hair, and I think it is Barbara Bush. In the second I see W, looking right at me - we made eye contact, I am sure of it.

W has actually run a sub 20 minute 5K as President, although I think knee troubles have led him to abandon running for mountain biking. But nevertheless, he is a very competitive guy, and a better runner than most. My bet is that when he locked in on me running, there was a brief moment where he tuned out whoever was talking to him, and sized up a quick comparison. His initial Bayesian thought, given his better than average ability as a runner and the limited data processed in regard to an estimate of my speed, would have surely been - "I am faster than that dude." I think his eyes probably lingered another second to verify his conclusion, enough time to make a more informed assessment of how we ranked comparatively, and changed his mind, glad that he hadn't said anything out loud. Bottom line - I earned W's respect, and he would have wanted me at the inauguration. I am sorry I let him down.

Since that incident, whenever I traverse that bridge, I don my sign just in case: "Economist for Hire - Head of Council of Economic Advisors - call 867-5309."

Sunday, January 23, 2005

We're 1-3!

Altogether now, Eagles fans ... Whewwww! It was a relatively easy win, costing me a paltry $32 on the Falcons, which doesn't come close to what I had to pay to secure the AL Pennant for the Sox or the leadership of the free world for Bush. But now the Hatcher faces his biggest challenge - I don't know if I can pull it off for the Eagles, but I got three partially funded college funds that say otherwise, and a fourth that I'll nip in the bud to help me sweeten the pot. Maybe the best we Eagle fans can hope for is three straight Super Bowl losses followed finally by redemption. That will give me three opportunities to bet the money line heavy on their opponent, building up a nice war chest that can be parlayed to weather the inevitable Hillary storm in 2008; by mid-November 2008, I'll be blogging from the tropics with a pina colada sweating on my keyboard and my toes buried in the sand.

I think the Eagles will make it close, but the Patriots never seem to make a mistake, and they always seem to come up with a big play when they need one. I am starting to develop a deep-seated hatred for Tom Brady, primarily because there is nothing to hate about him - and guys like that are the worst. A domestic abuse charge, roughing up a paparrazzi photo, hell I'll even take one instance of excessively gaudy celebrating - give me something, Brady, to let me think that in some small aspect in life I am superior to you. Lacking that, I have no choice but to hate the guy. Kobe Bryant, if you are reading this and growing up in Philly meant anything to you, call Tom Brady and give him some advice pronto.

The big question is whether T.O. will be able to play. But wouldn't it be great if they won it without him!

Friday, January 21, 2005

Krugman Cannot Write

A charming man courts a woman, telling her that he's a wealthy independent businessman. Just after the wedding,however, she learns that he has been cooking the books, several employees have accused him of sexual harassment and his company is about to file for bankruptcy. She accuses him of deception. "The accountability moment is behind us,"he replies.

Last week President Bush declared that the election was the"accountability moment" for the war in Iraq - the voters saw it his way, and that's that. But Mr. Bush didn't level with the voters during the campaign and doesn't deserve anyone's future trust.

And so begins a recent column by NYT's editorialist Paul Krugman, owner of some of the most valuable real estate in the daily press. He goes on to say something to the effect that, while Bush didn't necessarily lie, he mislead about WMD blah blah blah. His evidence for misleading - some post-election poll citing lack of knowledge on the part of many with regard to the true facts on what wasn't found in Iraq. And this is Bush's fault, apparently because he didn't wear a sign saying there were no WMDs, even though the media said nothing different for a year.

Now forget for a moment the idiocy of this meme - that Bush lied (or mislead) about WMDs. If he were the moral reprobate these guys assume, he would have planted the WMDs. Forget the fact that practically every Western intelligence agency thought Saddam had them. Forget the fact that the Clinton administration not only claimed he had them but also said they knew exactly where they were. Forget the fact that Saddam never proved he got rid of them. Forget the fact that he clearly had maintained the capacity to mass produce them quickly (perhaps once the sanctions were lifted). Forget the fact that he had billions of dollars to fund eventual production due to our "allies" and the UN taking bribes from him in the Oil for Food Scandal.

Forget all of that, and let's ask ourselves one question about the NYT and Paul Krugman - how can such a poor and uninteresting writer be given such a platform? The first paragraph is clearly meant to lay an analogy. But why bother laying such a vapid and unentertaining analogy? Is it meant to be humorous? Does it add anything to our understanding of his point? And when he talks about sexual harrassment, wouldn't he anticipate that we'd be confused about which president he is talking about? As far as moments of accountability go - at least the President had one - where is Krugman's as a op-ed columnist? Can't the NYT find a respected academic economist willing to make up facts who can at least crack a decent joke while he spins a yarn?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Ed Rule

Another Tom Wolfe book, all 670 pages of it, devoured, and now I have to wait another five years (at least) for another, assuming he lives that long. Whereas all previous Wolfe books, fiction or non-fiction, have introduced me to an alien subculture (bond traders, acidheads, astronauts, etc.), this one was familiar territory - college life. If you have a daughter, buy the book and make her read it a month before she heads off for college, so she'll know what to fear. If you have a son, do the same, so he'll know what to look forward to. As always, he gets reality more perfect than reality. Here he is describing the gym scene as one of the characters embarks upon shedding his 98 pound weakling body.

"The muscular students here were merely subscribing to the new male body fashion - the stacked, ripped, buff look. They were all over the place here on the weight-lifting floor! Ordinary guys with such big arms, big shoulders, big necks, big chests, they could wear sleeveless T-shirts and strap-style I'm Buff shirts to show off in! What were they going to do with all these amazing muscles?... Nothing, that's what. They weren't going to be athletes, and they weren't going to fight anybody. It was a fashion, these muscles, just like anything else you put on your body ... cargo shorts, jeans, the preppies' pink button-down shirts and lime-green shorts, Oakley sunglasses, black rubber L.L. Bean boots with the leather tops ... whatever. Pure Fashion! nevertheless, Adam wanted in.

Look at these fucking guys checking themselves out in the mirror ... Practically every wall is a vast sheet of mirror. The cover story, you understand, is that the mirrors are here so that you can see if you're doing your exercises correctly. Pure bullshit, of course ... They're here so you can drink in and drool over the beauty of your fashionable body! Between exercises, our dense fashion plates sneak looks at themselves. They can't even wait for the next exercise. Look at that one over there ... casually straightening his arm down by his side ... so he can sneak a look at the way his trices pop out ... and that one ... he's pretending he's just stretching ... so he can make his latissimi dorsi fan out like a giant stingray ... and that one, over there ... pretending to rub his hans together at waist level ... when he's really pressing them together with all his might so he can watch the mighty pectoral muscles pop out ... Behold! The fashionable brutes! The deisels, they called them! Every thirty seconds - you can count on it - some brute-in-embryo would straighten an arm and sneak a look in the ubiquitous mirrors at his burgeoning triceps. Muscles were very much in fashion."

I am guilty of all three casual mirror flexes, but what alumni of Total Soreness is not? For the uninitiated, Total Soreness is the nickname of a gym that me and many other ex cross-country runners used in partially successful fashion to shed our own 99 pound weakling bodies (in exchange for 160 pound weakling bodies). Nestled behind a Pizza Hut in a converted garage, we swarmed upon it on summer nights to build up our muscles for ... nothing, that's what! Too perfect. The only thing Wolfe missed was the Ed Rule - a rule that is so obvious that it only required implicit rule status until one within our group broke it, at which time the rule was codified in the annals of manly abuse and named after the perpetrator. The Ed Rule is that you can never (as a guy) force your lifting partner to take the 45 pound plates off of the bar in order for you to do a set of bench presses.

While in college, I joined a local Gold's Gym with a few of my fraternity brothers. That place was far removed from Total Soreness and its Rockly-like grittiness. The Ed Rule was of course only implicit there, as Ed had never lifted there, but one rule that was actually codified - up on the wall in big black letters - was that you were only permitted to take your shirt off for flexing. The first time we read it we thought it was a joke, but it was an actual rule. The gym boasted a couple of national body building competitors who would have it no other way, as that was part of their workout, and since the equivalent Ed Rule for them is never have anything less than two 45 pound plates per side on the bench, you can bet I never made fun of the flexing rule while at the gym. That place boasted a lot of cheesey guys. There was one - a shortish mailman with male pattern baldness who would wear cycling shorts, a muscle shirt, and those black high top Reeboks that weren't nearly sturdy enough for an actual game of basketball, making you wonder why the guy needed ankle support.

My gym days now consist of doing the beach workout once a week at the Washington Sports Club close to Dupont Circle, where I work. The beach workout was fashioned at Total Soreness, and was literally performed prior to hopping in the car and heading for the Jersey Shore. Just enough to get a good pump going - some bench, some curls, a little military press, a couple dips, and then it was off to try to get served at Kiddy Liquors to ease the pain of traffic down to the shore. By the time you got there, of course, the pump had entirely worn off, but not the memory of it. I was recently heading into the locker room at my gym when there, walking out of it, was none other than George Stephanopolous. Whenever I see that guy I think about the character in the movie No Way Out who is the aid to Senator Gene Hackman - a young closeted homosexual who is completely in love with his older, rather horny, and very heterosxual boss. He is ... very small. My guess is that had he been in our circle back in our days at Total Soreness, the Ed Rule would be the George Rule.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Why Couldn't MLK Be Born in March?

What is the last thing you need in mid-January? That is right - another holiday. But here we have it, and though I officially have the day off, I am working it as originally planned so that I could go to the inauguration this Thursday. But it doesn't look like that is going to happen (my attending, that is), because I've got an all day meeting scheduled for that day, of all days.

Here are a few things you did not know about Dr. MLK. First off, the Doctor title came with the help of a little plagiarism, although that is like saying my wife is a little pregnant. But the plagiarism is fairly well excused by the fact that he had very little free time as he was usually getting a little somethin somethin on the side, outside of his marital bed. All that said, he was a great great man, and deserves a holiday. (Sure, he didn't soil some tart's dress so that he could defend the constitution, but he was great anyway.) All heroes have their flaws, and he is no different.

But here is an interesting hypothetical to ponder - how would we perceive him differently if he had lived to see his success in the political arena? In the closing years of his life, he was already losing a great deal of influence among young blacks who were turning away from his doctrine of non-violence to the "by any means necessary" outlook of Malcolm X, and the violence of the Black Panthers. To his credit, he didn't alter his style or what he preached in order to keep his unoffocial status as the civil rights leader. And looking back I don't think the threat to his legacy really stemmed from the more violent strain of black radicalism, as that was a short-lived phenomenon. The larger threat to his legacy would have stemmed from his very success - once you've achieved equality, your job as the guy who is there to secure equality is over. If you cling to it, constantly trumping racial prejudice as the primary problem in the inner cities like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, you become Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. You might as well get a fuzzy multi-colored wig and some big floppy shoes, because you'd be a clown.

But the temptation to blame racial prejudice for what amounts to a breakdown in family life in the inner cities - a breakdown that coincided perfectly with the institution of generous welfare policies that MLK favored - that would have been a strong temptation. I'd like to think that he would have risen above it.

Friday, January 07, 2005

HRC at $32

Well, it didn't take long - Hillary is trading at about $32 on Tradesports for the 2008 Democratic nomination. God help us all (except her, of course). The upside, of course, is that you'll get a healthy 200 percent return if you bet now. But now would be a bad time to bet, in my view - there is likely to be very little change in the values over the next 2.5 years, so you'd be foregoing use of your money for nothing over that time period. I also stick to the theory that the media will give us a 2008 version of Howard Dean - manufacturing a viable competitor so that they have a story, and the Hillary futures will dip at that time.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

You Feel Lucky, Punk? Posted by Hello

Kid's Need A Little Fire Power

Some of you may have noticed my left hand raised and shaped in the form of a small pistol in the picture yesterday, and thought to yourself - how deprived was the Hatcher as a kid with no toy gun? Well, perhaps that picture stirred feelings of guilt in the Brady parents stemming from the same realization. Because our next picture shows that the situation was clearly reconciled, and with no mere six shooter. What chance does a kid have in a gunfight with a mere pistol? A kid needs a machine gun if he's to have any chance against the bad guys. Even if two kids are using toy pistols to go after each other, everyone knows that a pair of two-year olds could be trying to have a shootout three feet away from each other and exhaust their ammo without so much as scratching the other. But a machine gun opens up some real possibility for imaginative gun play among even the smallest of kids. And they make for cute pictures.

By now Professor Vic is dusting off his copy of Bowling for Columbine and his eyes are getting bleary with rage, but they need not, Professor Vic. I won't deny the possibility that such role playing among kids in my neighborhood could not in theory have led to some potential problems down the road, but I in fact have empirical proof that the public schools in my hometown of Oaklyn, NJ do not equip students with sufficient skills to pull off a Columbine - I know this because a group of kids tried this about two years ago in Oaklyn and failed. They were apparently armed to the hilt and ready to go on a killing spree, all dressed like Neo from the Matrix. Very early in the morning the leader of the group tried to get a guy in a car to stop in front of the public school - the plan apparently was to kill the driver and take his car to begin the spree. The driver saw a pretty serious weapon, swerved out of the way of the kid, sped away and called the cops on his mobile. Year's ago the Oaklyn city planners, in their wisdom, placed the Dunkin Doughnuts only a couple of blocks from the police station, enabling a quick response to any call. The Neo-wannabes were apprehended without anyone getting hurt.

I might also add that these kids are now a generation behind me, perhaps far enough in time for them to have been deprived of some serious toy firepower. That may account for their later behavior. Because it is probably easier to get a real gun for your kid than it is a toy gun in this day and age. My brother-in-law Jay once hilariously described to me his effort to get a toy gun for his son. Toy merchants who were asked where the toy guns were looked at him like he was a sociopath (which is not true, despite his affiliation with the ACLU). And this was in Lousiana, not some pansy blue gun-control crazy locale in the northeast. Maybe if these young apprehended would-be killers had been provided some play time in their early schooling years with the machine guns pictured above, they'd be well adjusted now. It's like the logic goes with sex and public schools - you cannot prevent kids from having sex, so you might as well provide them condoms, the pill, a brochure for Planned Parenthood (just in case), the ability to meet after school in groups of two in private rooms where they can copulate without being drunk and unable to properly protect themselves, etc. etc. Same goes for guns - you cannot prevent kids from using guns, so you might as well let them spend their very early years weilding toy guns around, and maybe they'll get it out of their system.

So once again, parents, be wary of letting your kid take a toy gun to kindergarten. Unless, of course, the gun shoots out condoms.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Lack of Troops an Example of Shirking?

This article is rather long, but it has an interesting theory toward the end - that military claims of lack of sufficient troops for a given undertaking may be a from of shirking. Don't know if it applies in Iraq, but I am always reminded of the Union general (was it McClellan) who Lincoln couldn't get to budge from his camping trip on the Potomac to go and fight Lee. Mackubin Owens on Don Rumsfeld on National Review Online

Smoke 'em if you got 'em! Posted by Hello

Politically Incorrect Christmas Presents for Kids

At a loss for what to get your kids for Christmas and birthdays that will provide them lasting memories of enjoyment? I am not surprised, after a season of shopping, because all of the good toys have been taken away. Consider for a moment candy cigarrettes.

Here is a picture of a younger, tougher Hatcher, circa 1973. You had to be tough to wear a pair of pants like that. That is a candy fricken cigarette dangling from my mouth, and the Brady brothers stand in the middle proudly displaying their packs of candy menthols. My brother Mog is on the left flank, and it appears he hadn't yet taken up the habit. I look so damn tough in that picture I could have been the Marlboro Kid, with pictures of me used to advertise candy cigarrettes to toddlers all over the country. If you ask me, candy Marlboros were a great idea - what better way to introduce your kid to a life long habit of coolness? You surely can't let them share a smoke with you until they are least 10 years old, but that is no reason to entirely deny them the simulated pleasure.

I had an instinctive understanding at the time that the window for a red haired guy to look tough is a short one - it pretty much stretches from kindergarten to third grade. After that, no one will ever be intimidated by you. But during that time, redheads are the natural bullies - next time you see a kid show with a bully, I guarantee you he is a freckle-faced redhead, and a chubby one at that. I swear it is like a rule in Hollywood - redhead boy - bully; redhead man - nice, non-threatening guy, and it goes without saying that he doesn't get the girl.

But I digress. Try this experiment - buy your kid some candy cigarrettes, and go some place that is very public to let them smoke away. It should provide a lot of laughs. Except that it is probably impossible to get them these days. If your kid showed up at kindergarten with a Camel dangling from his lip, they'd probably expel him, but of course not before handing him a condom as they kick him out the door (anything else would be irresponsible). Actually, it is not impossible to get them - just go here. But if you want your kid to be the class pet rather than the scurge of the school, send him with some candy condoms instead.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Zen Master Scandal

For quite some time now I've had it in the back of my head to parody the recent revelation by the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson, that he had sought the advice of a psychiatrist last season to aid him in dealing with Kobe Bryant. There is perhaps no greater material for parody than the Zen Master laying prostrate on a leather couch complaining to a psychiatrist about his difficulty dealing with a guy who is not even liked by his parents. As a parent, I could see where having a kid you cannot stand could lead to guilt feelings that find you seeking the validation of a shrink. But a coach doing the same? I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at his shrinks weekly poker game with his fellow psychiatrists, recounting in detail the trials and tribulations of his "client", whose name he is prevented from revealing due to confidentiality concerns, though he can say that he is the head coach of a prominent and successful "LA basketball team."

But unfortunately the desire to parody the situation has given way to anger over the scant attention paid to this whole sordid mess by whatever institution it is that acts as the Vatican of Zen. What degree of patheticness does a so-called Zen-Master have to admit to before the Zen powers that be come down hard on the guy and excommunicate him? Can a Zen-Master, for example, admit to being a big fan of Paris Hilton without censure? Doesn't psychiatric therapy sully the image of a Zen-Master with shaved head, sitting in the lotus position in a comfortable robe, forever contemplating a meaningless koan? How to deal with a gazillionaire prima-donna basketball player is no koan that can lead to any real enlightenment. And yet there he was - Phil Jackson, the tallest Zen Master ever - talking about his subjective feelings!, an exercise that is the antithesis of the Zen goal of tapping into the oneness of creation.

And of course the godless Zen-loving media establishment has ignored the whole story.

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