Comment moderation has been turned on

... your comments will have a slight delay before they appear. I'm hoping to dissuade the five chinese gentleman from visiting my blog with their spammy non-sequiters. Once they are out of the habit of coming here, maybe I'll be able to un-moderate.

In the mean time, I've turned off word verification for the rest of you. We'll see how it goes.


Well that's just great. Just... great.

World's Stocks Controlled by Select Few
WASHINGTON -- A recent analysis of the 2007 financial markets of 48 countries has revealed that the world's finances are in the hands of just a few mutual funds, banks, and corporations. This is the first clear picture of the global concentration of financial power, and point out the worldwide financial system's vulnerability as it stood on the brink of the current economic crisis.
A pair of physicists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich did a physics-based analysis of the world economy as it looked in early 2007. Stefano Battiston and James Glattfelder extracted the information from the tangled yarn that links 24,877 stocks and 106,141 shareholding entities in 48 countries, revealing what they called the "backbone" of each country's financial market. These backbones represented the owners of 80 percent of a country's market capital, yet consisted of remarkably few shareholders.
"You start off with these huge national networks that are really big, quite dense," Glattfelder said. “From that you're able to ... unveil the important structure in this original big network. You then realize most of the network isn't at all important."

via livescience, img via spineyhead


Let's alienate some readers by talking about Doctor Who

Not the show, really, just the theme music. This video stitches together every Doctor Who opening theme since the 60s into one video. Woohoo!

The main takeaway for me is that the current theme music ranks amongst the tackiest of the versions.


Q. What do you read, my lord?

Answer is, obviously, "words, words, words."

Q. What's the matter? The matter is contained in the words. Not in the cover art. Not in the spine. And not in the typeface. Groooober says, about typeface:
So the knock against e-books, in my opinion, is that they’re not carefully dressed like print books are. They’re wearing generic uniforms.
Fair enough. But think back to your favorite book in the world. Do you have a strong association with the cover art? With the spine of the book? With the size or color of the page?

For me, the answer to the above is yes, but barely. Even the smell of an old book (which is a powerful and distinctive memory) is amazingly secondary to the matter of the words. The ability to read book after book after book on my (lightweight, always in my pocket) phone is, for me, an extraordinary evolution and enhancement of the written word.

What about you, dear reader? Do you like ebooks, or is your relationship with books less about the words and more about the paraphernalia?


You've got my vote, Mr. Greene

Greene spoke for about seven minutes, and reportedly told Jessica Yellin of CNN, who was in Manning, that his speech was "handwritten on double lined notebook paper."
He began by saying that he is the best choice for the Senate seat, and is "also the best choice for the Image Award next year."


Migrating birds can see the earth's magnetic field out of their right eyes

... but not their left eye. If the theory is correct, the magnetic field is represented by a dark shading over the rest of the visual image.

From a User-Experience standpoint (yes, I'm a nerd), that's friggin brilliant. I am looking forward to when I can get compass-equipped contact lenses.

source, img credit


This is why we don't let people guest blog on The Bellman

"The Trig obsession has also, I'm sad to say, damaged Andrew Sullivan's reputation. I'm stunned by the anger he's generating not just among random Tweeters but among people who've been online for years, part of the rough-and-tumble of blogging. They know that 99% of what Sullivan writes is challenging, smart, and addictive, and that he's very capable of honing in on bigger political and philosophical debates. People want him to take a deep breath and stop obsessing over this conspiracy theory. Count me among those people."

--  Dave Weigel, guest blogging for Andrew Sullivan

P.S., We do let people guest blog on The Bellman.


Taking the "P" out of "GDP"

Recorded in our humble blog of record:

The financialization of the American economy has been a disaster. Forget all that stuff about the hollowing out of our manufacturing base or increased global competition or waves of immigrants taking away our jobs. Those are all legitimate issues of one stripe or another, but the far bigger issue is that a gigantic chunk of our productive capacity — Wall Street — is deployed almost solely to make money for one sector of our economy: Wall Street. Until that changes, until the financial industry is focused primarily on providing capital and services toother people, we're always going to suffer from either (a) underperformance in the real economy or (b) an endless boom and bust cycle. Take your pick.
There's one key metric that will tell us whether financial reform is working: the size and profitability of the FIRE sector. (That's Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate.) If it shrinks considerably, it means financial reform, despite all the watering down, has basically done its job. But if the FIRE sector remains enormous, it hasn't. We'll know in a few years. | Drum, emphasis mine |

It is an enduring mystery to me how we have sufficiently abstracted our economy to the point that a huge segment of our economy is devoted to producing exactly nothing. "Services" are a legitimate segment of the economy, but "services" are there to serve people, not rob them.

img credit


Instant replay rule for Soccer? Discuss.

[This is a repost from the last world cup. I thought it was even more appropriate today. Enjoy the finals this weekend, everyone!]

(Lady with cool contact lenses via CNN)

Sure, video evidence would slow the game down slightly, but not as much as the luddites would have you believe. The ball is only in play for 60-odd minutes anyway and double-checking, say, a goal-line clearance, penalty or offside appeal would add seconds not minutes. If there were any doubts at all about the TV replays, the referee's original decision would stand.

Introducing technology would also change the risk v reward debate that zips around a player's head: there'd be no incentive to dive for a penalty when someone in the stands could alert the referee, who would soon be waving yellow in your direction. And why pretend to be punched, when in 30 seconds' time you'd be receiving red for play-acting?

Clearly there's a balance to be struck between maintaining the flow of the game and making the right decision but if other sports can do it, so can football. Ultimately, it boils down to what is preferable: a 30-second delay in play, or the Hand of God? Getting it right, or allowing cheats to get away with it? Certainty, or random chance?

Guardian.uk (thanks, dad!)


Skip this post if you are not interested in Austin transportation issues

It's pretty frustrating to watch the city try to grapple with traffic issues. On the one hand, the city seems somewhat committed to progressive solutions to the problem. But they turn right around and screw it up so badly that it just discredits the whole enterprise.

The latest example is the new plan for MoPac Expressway. I may not grok the whole thing as of yet, but it seems to include adding a fourth, tolled lane whose price can vary based on congestion.

This is a great idea on paper. I support congestion pricing (just like I support all polices for pricing in negative externalities). But take a look at this map:

The red box shows the location of the fourth toll lane. But southbound congestion isn't caused by the lack of lanes in this area. It's caused by the bottleneck at Ladybird Lake (red arrow), where the vast majority of afternoon southbound commuters are forced from three lanes down to two.

Adding a lane to the bridge (by widening the bridge, preferably) would have a powerfully positive effect on the flow of traffic. Adding a fourth lane to be filtered down to two lanes at the bridge seems like it will just cause more problems.

Finally, a loosely related update to my post about the commuter rail from awhile back. I posited that there would be a lot of demand for the trains to run on the weekend. Cap Metro decided to run the train one weekend, and it was a total disaster... because way more people showed up than the train schedule could support.


That's Savage!

I have not, to my knowledge, ever read anything by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Terry Savage. And she is a rare bird in not having a wikipedia entry, which is the only way I know how learn things about people, places, or things anymore. But from her latest column, I can glean a couple facts.

The column is a true story about when she and some family members pull over at the side of the road to patronize a little girl's lemonade stand:

Then my brother asked how much each item cost.

"Oh, no," they replied in unison, "they're all free!"

I sat in the back seat in shock. Free? My brother questioned them again: "But you have to charge something? What should I pay for a lemonade? I'm really thirsty!"

His fiancee smiled and commented, "Isn't that cute. They have the spirit of giving."

That really set me off, as my regular readers can imagine.

"No!" I exclaimed from the back seat. "That's not the spirit of giving. You can only really give when you give something you own. They're giving away their parents' things -- the lemonade, cups, candy. It's not theirs to give."
First, I can tell that she needs to brush up on the meaning of "spirit."

Second, I can tell that she needs to relax, man.


How's that for a lede?

"In the 77 days since oil from the ruptured Deepwater Horizon began to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, BP has skimmed or burned about 60 percent of the amount it promised regulators it could remove in a single day."
img credit
eXTReMe Tracker