Harvard: Bastion of Liberal Orthodoxy

From the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge newlsetter, here is how the executive summary of “Why Sweatshops Flourish”:

Everyone agrees it is wrong to buy things made with sweatshop labor. Yet many of us are willing to justify our decision when a product—a pair of jeans, for example—is something we really want.

Bolding is mine. No. Not everyone agrees it is wrong to buy things with sweatshop labor. In fact, most of the field of economics regards sweatshops as a good thing. The authors are clearly blind to this.

Next, participants responded to four statements, each of which draws on some of the common moral rationalizations used to justify sweatshop labor such as: “The use of sweatshop labor is OK because otherwise those workers would not have jobs”; “Without sweatshops, poorer countries couldn’t develop”;

These aren’t moral rationalizations. The first one is very factual. It is telling that they don’t bother to define what sweatshop labor is. The vast majority of what we consider “sweatshops” are not slave labor. They are mutually agreed upon contracts between extremely poor people and companies. Sweatshops offend us because we in America are incredibly prosperous. It blinds us to conditions in most of the world. The sad fact is that sweatshops prosper because the options for the employees are even worse. Their other options in life are even more hopeless and desperate. Moral outrage should be saved for the basic living conditions in these countries, not for the capitalistic engine that helps get them out.

And Harvard professors shouldn’t make such blatant ideological assumptions in academic research.

I Like Obama’s Pakistan Strategy

Obama is planning to increase foreign aid to Pakistan to somewhere around 1.5 Billion per year. And we are stepping up our demands for them to root out extreme Islam and increase counter-terrorism on the Afghan border.

At first glance, there’s something a little sick about increasing aid to Pakistan. They’ve let Osama Bin Laden (remember him) hide out there for almost a decade, they’ve sold nuclear technology to anyone who will buy it, they haven’t done much to fight Islamic terrorists. And their popular candidate was assasinated, their Supreme Court was summarily dismissed – why are we rewarding that?

But paying someone else to do the dirty work is a good strategy. How much would it cost us to keep going into Pakistan and root out terrorists? For comparison, the supplemental budgets for Iraq were 661 Billion dollars. If we can remove Pakistan as a haven for the terrorists for less than 10 Billion, we have made a great deal.

(Of course the kicker is that Pakistan has to follow through on it’s end of the deal. Understandably, they just want a blank check. “For years, the United States has simply paid bills submitted by the Pakistani government for counterterrorism operations, even during truces when its military was not involved in counterterrorism. Pakistan has resisted linking its aid to specific performance criteria and officials acknowledged that developing those criteria could be problematic.”)

Links o’ Interest

David Lee Roth soundboard. Fantastic!

Google classic, pre-internet

Swim practice just got a lot more intense.

You’re a bad man, Chris Brown


Sturgeon faces

Then hilarity ensued

An honest criminal

Getting the best of tech support

Seth McFarlane, for Hulu

German police have been tracking a nefarious serial killer for decades. The DNA has turned up at 39 murders. Oops, turns out it’s a worker in the plant that made the DNA cotton swabs.

Fireman dresses as Spiderman to save autistic boy on ledge

What kind of crazy unit of measurement is CNN using?

A fascinating account/explanation of hypothermia.

Doctor has heart attack during surgery. He keeps going, knowing his patient won’t recover if he stops. Wow.

Press corps: “But Mr. President, why did it take you days to come out about the AIG bonus mess when Cuomo was on it immediately???” Obama: “Because I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak. Next?” Press Room: “Oooooooooh..”

Poker Update: Year Two Begins

Did I play this right? Let’s just skip to the key hand. We’re two hours in. I have exactly 2,500 and blinds are at 100-200. I’m on the dealers right. I have been quiet for a long time. Players have been respecting my raises.

I have Qd-Jd. Instead of calling, or putting the standard 600 in as a raise, I put in 800. I want to pick up the blinds. I figure no one will call unless they have premium cards. Unfortunately, the small blind raises it up to 2,000.

Question 1: Was my initial bet okay? Was it overly aggressive, or did I just get unlucky?

So.. should I call? It’s 1,200 for a pot of 4,200. I’m obviously going to go all-in, so it’s really 1,700 for a pot of 4,700. More importantly, what does he have? He’s a good player. He has been known to bet big with very little. I try putting myself in his shoes. Muttrox has been known to bluff, but it’s usually a semi-bluff at worst, he must suspect I have something. The bet of 800 has to get some respect. If he goes over the top the odds are good I’m going to call. He must want me to call. I think there is no way he’s putting that much in unless he has A-A, K-K, or A-K. If it’s A-K, I might call given the pot odds. But I think it’s K-K or A-A. After a lot of thought I fold.

Question 2: Was that the right fold?

It didn’t take long after that. A few hands later I raised it up to 600 with A-9, again hoping to get some blinds. I had two callers and the flop was A-x-x. With only 1,100 more to play with I had to go all-in and hope no one had an Ace with a higher kicker, even though I suspected someone did. Yep, I was called with A-J and knocked out.

I still can’t decide if I played it wrong. I think I was just unlucky enough to run into premium cards at the exact wrong time. Either way iIt was not an auspicious start to the new year of poker! I have decide to reset the running total.

Tonight: -$20
Running Total: -$20

An Odd Collection of Hobbies

Here’s one of my favorite weird moments from Futurama. The aliens have announced they are coming to Earth and are going to eat all the humans.

We will begin with the firemen, then the math teachers, and so on in that fashion until everyone is eaten!

The joke is figuring out what “in that fashion” means. What possible ordering could start with firemen and then proceed to math teachers?

In a business meeting yesterday everyone in the room introduced themselves and listed their hobbies. This was one co-workers answer:

I’m into cycling. I’m learning guitar and into music. Fine arts, stock-trading, all that stuff.

All that stuff? What’s the next thing on that list?

Cry me a River, Ben Stein

Ben Stein’s column in The New York Times is a joke. Each one is stupider than the one before it. But in a crowded field of dumbness, this weeks column rises to the top. It is a defense of the business trip. The whole masterpiece is worth reading, but here’s a couple choice paragraphs:

Like other taxpayers, I hate to see my dollars going to entertain employees of bailed-out companies lavishly. Just as a matter of public decency, it is possible that they should wear the hair shirt for a time — although it’s hard to see what business purpose is served by punishing the most productive employees at a company, who are often the ones at business gatherings.

It’s funny that he thinks telling top executives that they shouldn’t take lavish business trips at the taxpayers expense (he’s referring to the AIG trip here) is a punishment. And that they are the most productive. Really? These are AIG’s top people? The ones who wrecked our economy and will have our children in penury for the next century? I’d hate to see their bottom people.

At the gatherings I attend, men and women fly coach, stay in immense, boxy hotels, start their meeting days at breakfast at 7 a.m. and work through the day until far later than seems reasonable to me. Then they do it again the next day and the day after that, finally enduring the torture of waiting at the airport, next to screaming children, in order to get home.

Wah wah! Oh, poor Ben Stein and poor hard working corporate America! Truly I can’t imagine anyone else in America who has to work long hours. It can’t be poor people, everyone knows they’re all on welfare. Oh, and their workday starts with breakfast. In a hotel. With meals paid for. The actual work is… talking and meeting and listening and socializing and learning. No, it’s not always easy and it can be a long day. But let’s get real, a long hard day of white collar corporate work is absolutely nothing compared to a long hard day of manual labor or even working retail. And next to crying babies on the airplane – will someone have mercy on these poor people?

Someone give Ben a pacifier and let him sit in a corner while they give his column to someone who still lives in reality.

Links o’ Interest

A sitcom map of the US. See, this is why the internet was created.

Porn Sting goes to the dogs. Awesome.

My life with cables


Retro Watchmen

Cake of resignation

Irony: Police Spray Water Cannons at Protesters. They’re protesting for global water rights.

You and your research: A great essay on what separates great scientists (and other great people) from the merely good.

Barack Obama’s NCAA brackets

Scene from the recession. 33 Pictures of bad times.

Vladmir Putin (then KGB) posing as tourist with Reagan.

She tried to flush the baby down the toilet in a Wonderbread bag. Then it got weird.

The origins of 8 high tech names.

A Good Idea from the GOP

I first saw this in a long New York Times magazine piece about Newt Gingrich. Last week a Republican friend of mine (yes, I have a few) asked me about it. This article is well-worth reading in full.

Frum is not the only Republican on the case. “If you want a quick answer to the question what would I do,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said recently, “I’d have a payroll-tax holiday for a year or two. That would put taxes in the hands of everybody who has a job, whether they pay income taxes or not.” Other Republican politicians and conservative publicists have made similar noises. They haven’t made it a rallying point, though; it would, after all, shape the over-all tax system in a progressive direction.

A tax holiday on payroll taxes is a great idea. It is a much more focused and effective stimulus program. It’s interesting that for all the talk of conservatives about the government taking “your” money, they have only focused on the income tax, and most heavily on investment income. I’m sure that’s coincidence.

Snarkiness aside, this is a worthy idea that I hope becomes a rallying cry of the GOP.

A “Few” Thoughts

I always thought these categories were clear.

  • How many is a couple? Two.
  • How many is a few? Three. Maybe four.
  • A handful is five. Exactly.
  • Several is seven. Maybe six or eight.
  • A bunch is anywhere from 5-15.
  • Usually means a bit more than you might expect.

It turns out there’s a lot of contention about some of them. Some people even argue about a “couple”. Some people are dumb.

Update: Three years later, XKCD tackles the issue.

Muttrox’s Mortgage Insanity

We recently refinanced our mortgage. We changed from a 20-year to a 30-year loan, and reduced the rate by one percent. Along the way we talked to three different mortgage brokers as well as our mortgage holder, Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo was the worst of the lot. They couldn’t even come close to the rates I was getting offered in other places. I found this odd, since they knew better than anyone what a good credit risk we were.

We just got a letter from our new lender. They have sold our loan. Guess who they sold it to? Wells Fargo of course.

I don’t understand the Wells Fargo decision making. They had a good customer in me. They sent me mailings every month urging me to refinance. When I did talk to them, they had horrible terms. But they were willing to buy my loan from someone else. I imagine they had to pay some upfront money to do so. The new loan is on terms much less favorable terms to them, and it’s the exact same customer as they already had.

Something’s crazy here.

Links o’ Interest

An honest interview answer

God hates figs.

Journey’s Separate Ways – shot by shot remake

I accept your terms.

The skeptics page for The Force

Frank Miller does Charlie Brown

Neat electric ad

Fantastic Nissan ad (with Andy Richter)

Widescreen Tetris. Ridiculous!

32 songs in 8 minutes.

Very neat Youtube mashup, combining other people’s Youtube videos to make new music

Album cover generator. Oddly plausible.

Forrest Gump in one minute, in one take

The only restaurant in America that tells the truth about it’s menu. Take that Liberals!!

World War Two, simplified

Little Red Riding Hood, updated

The Future (Calvin & Hobbes)

Why the media shouldn’t image grab from Google

A guide to social networking sites

A mindblowing do-it-yourself airplane

An excellent Whose Line is it Anyway? ..with special guest star

Dwarft Punk

Pictures of unsold cars. That shows you why the car companies are dying.

Idiot Reporter and Wealthy Idiots. Really amazing innumeracy.

Credit Cards: Why and How they’re shedding customers

The bands music critics hate

The savings rate compared to disposable income. Your world in charts

One Year of Poker: A Summary

My birthday is this weekend. I’ve been blogging all my poker games for one year now. (I started here and here.) After one year, how did I do?

$689! Six hundred and eighty nine dollars.

I did pretty damn good. Almost 700 dollars in the black! My usual games have only twenty dollar buyins. If I played a game a week, we have about $1,000 invested to get $1,700 back. That, my friends, is a very impressive ROI. And I don’t think I played a game a week. Being that far ahead in a zero-sum game is a fine showing.

In addition, I’ve undoubtedly improved as a player. Over the course of the year I’ve developed many good tools, learned how to play many hands. Thanks to the constructive criticism of my devoted Muttroxians, I have worked to overcome my natural passiveness at the table. I am still a value player at heart but I have added bluffs to my arsenal.

If I’m not good enough to conquer Vegas, I’m at least good enough to hold my own and feel that I’m one of the best two or three players in my neighborhood.

And I’ve had a great time doing it. I’ve entertained myself for around 120 hours as well as got to know colleagues and neighbors. If I had only broken even I would still be ahead. Even on nights where I’ve been mercilessly crushed I have enjoyed playing.

Poker Update: Las Vegas Edition

I spent last weekend in Las Vegas. I played in three poker tournaments.

Tourney 1 (Sit and Go, $70 buyin):
A Sit and Go tournament is a one-table tournament. There are only ten players. The blinds move up quickly and you aren’t given many chips to start. Because of this, play is aggressive and the whole tournament takes only 90 minutes or so. 1st place gets 70%, 2nd place gets 30%, everyone else gets a good story.

This was my first one. I really like the format. Lots of fun.

4 of our 10 players went out very quickly. The format attracts idiots and drunks. I should have won. I made it to heads up play. I was better than the other player. He was slightly buzzed and let me catch up from a 2-1 deficit to even. My aggressive play was rewarded continually, I felt I was going to grind him away before he noticed he was in trouble. It didn’t quite go that way. I went all-in with 2-2, he called with K-A. Your basic coinflip hand. He made his King on the flop and that was that. I wasn’t disappointed with my play at all and feel that I can be a good player in this format.

Tourney Total: $110

Tourney 2 (“normal” tournament, 43 players, $80 buyin):
Ugh. Never had cards, never had it going. With no cards I would make a stab at blinds once in a while. Someone always came over the top. If I stayed for the flop I wouldn’t hit anything and any try for the pot would be raised. I was getting pushed around with no mercy and I couldn’t do anything about it.

In the big blind (100-200) I limped in with K-8. The flop was 5-6-7. That was good enough for me to go all-in with my last 2,000. Hopefully the other three players would fold, but even if they did I had 8 or 12 outs (depending on their cards). Two players folded. The third player correctly read me for a straight draw. He called me and turned over 6-x. I was lucky and got my king on the turn to double up. I suddenly felt right. I had weathered the bad cards and suddenly found myself with an average stack. I could get back to work.

I was feeling even better on the next with J-J. I re-raised a 400 bet up to 1,200. The player I had just drawn out on re-raised me to 2,400. Hm. Obviously he could have a higher pair, or perhaps K-A. Something like that. On the other hand, he could be trying to make up for last hand. I called. The flop was K-x-x. He put me all in. Do these guys think I’ll fold everytime they push me around!? Well, they’re right! I think I had to fold, there were just too many hands that could beat me. What do the readers think? Was it the right call? Was my mistake calling the 2,400? I wish I knew what he had that hand. I suspect a pair of Queens or K-A, but I’ll never know. That’s poker.

I was back to low stack. Urgh! Only 800 or so left, and 150-300 blinds coming up in a few hands. Q-10 was good enough for me to go all-in. She turned over a pair of Aces. C’mon!!!

(My friend made it to the final table. He finished in 6th. The top 5 were winners, but they had already decided to give the entry fee back to sixth place. I thought it was very good to get 6th place. He felt that he just spent 3 and a half hours of grinding to end up back where he started!)

Tourney Total: -$80
Running Vegas Poker Total: $30

Tourney 3 (Sit and Go, $60 buyin):

Somehow I ended up playing hyper-aggressive. I didn’t want to, but the cards and the quick structure made me. I limped with Q-J. The flop was Q-x-x. The button raised it, I called. On the turn, he bets big again. Because you start with so few chips, this most of what we had left. I was already pot committed. I called. The river was a Jack. It turns out he had Q-A and was (rightly) furious when my two pair on the river knocked him out.

Barely into the second round, I have 9-9. I re-raise the bet to 600, hoping to push him out. He won’t be pushed. In fact, he puts me all-in. It’s 725 more into a pot of 2,200 or so, I have a made pair, I have to call. He has Q-Q and the rest is history.

Tourney Total: -$60
Running Vegas Poker Total: -$30

Overall I didn’t play my best poker. I was better than many players, but not all of them. I wish I could have played more, I felt like I was just getting the feel of Sit and Gos when the trip was over.

I also discovered a bad tendency of mine. I like to push from the button, small, and big blind. That’s proper, those are the best places to push. But because of that I tend to seriously discount raises from those positions. I tend to assume they are bluffing and I get into big trouble when they’re not. Something to work on.

Las Vegas Total: -$30
Running Total: $669

Timezones: Unclear on the Concept

There was a herd of highschool girls on the train into the airport. They were heading to Indiana.

“Is Indiana in a different timezone?”
“O my god, it’s so weird, like half the state is in one timezone and one half in the other”
“Can you imagine if your house was in one time zone and then someone else’s was in another?”
(Here’s where it got good.)
Girl 1: No, really! There’s actually a place like that in Australia! One part of the town is one timezone, and then you walk a couple blocks and you’re in another one!
Girl 2 (after pause): You can do that in lots of places. You can just go from Georgia to Alabama and you’re in another timezone.
Girl 1 (not getting it at all): But that’s a really long walk!

(And by the way, a group of highschool girls needs a good collective name. A “herd” doesn’t sound right, but they are more than just a group. A group of highschool girls is it’s own thing.)

Poker Update

Some nights nothing you do works out. If you raise with premium cards they fold. If you raise with marginal hands they come over the top. If you call with a low or medium pair, nothing comes on the flop. Could they have a read on me?

I only made it to hour 2 because of a lucky river card. As blinds crept up, I couldn’t keep my stack going. The pattern of nothing working continued to hold up. I needed to make a move. The blinds were at 200-400 and I was down to 2200. Two players limp. I am next to the dealer. I push in 1400. I am confident everyone will fold. I haven’t bet for the last 30 minutes, it’s the right amount, I have a good position, it’s just the right time to push.

The dealer instantly goes all in. Should I call or not? Perhaps I forgot to mention the cards I am making this big move with. The cards are a King and a five. Unsuited. I’m sure he has premium cards, one of the top 4 hands. But calling my last 800 to get 5200 is pretty good pot odds. And if I fold, my remaining 800 is not enough to do anything. I call. He has K-A. Come on fives! The flop is A-A-10. Just to taunt me, the river was a 5.

Tonight: -$20
Running Total: $689

Tonight was supposed to be the warm-up game. Tomorrow I leave for 4 days in Las Vegas, including a poker tourney. It will probably be a $100 buy-in or so. Hopefully I’ll have good news to report from the road!