Thursday, February 20, 2014

Excising a Cancer from MLS

Great news that MLS has bought out the ownership of Chivas USA. They will take over running the team until new owners can be found.

The former owners were committed racists (and committed incompetents) who were an embarrassment to the league. The team was composed almost exclusively of players who were Mexican or of Mexican ancestry, they ran the franchise as a farm team for Chivas de Guadalajara, and they apparently tried to purge non-Mexican office employees. Numerous lawsuits resulted.

Getting rid of such people is a great step forward for MLS.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why Would People Stay in Places Like NY and IL?

Climate probably has something to do with the migration patterns shown here ... but I don't think it's totally coincidental that Texas passed up New York a decade or so ago, and Florida will pass it this year -- and both have no personal income taxes.

On the contrary side, it's not all that simple. When I was being recruited for a job in Texas in 1988, one of the big selling points they used was the 'no income tax' bit. It wasn't a major factor in the decision to move, but it definitely sounded good. Then we got there and I found out that our property taxes in Austin, for a house of the same value, were roughly double what they had been in Phoenix.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Car Alarms

One downside of living in Ecuador is the @#$% car alarms.

I probably had not heard as many car alarms in the preceding ten years or so as I've heard in the month I've been here. I have come to the conclusion that either I live in the most crime-ridden neighborhood on the planet, with a car stolen every three minutes or so, or the local car alarm installers are incredibly inept -- they must set the alarms to be so sensitive that the alarms go off if someone sneezes within twenty yards.

There were two alarms in the time it took me to type the preceding paragraphs (admittedly, I'm a slow typist).

Friday, February 7, 2014

Kids and Great Music

Here's a video of a flash mob performance of Beethoven's Ode to Joy (or Himno a la Alegria) in a public square in Spain.

What I especially liked about it was the pleasure little kids were taking in the music (I loved the boy, at about the 3:40 mark, who had climbed up on a light pole to see better and is holding on by one hand and conducting the orchestra with the other – though I imagine his mother didn't approve).

Little kids can appreciate great music if they are exposed to it. If all they ever hear is crap, then that's what they will live their lives with.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Speaker May Finally Be Listening

I was wondering if the Republicans might kick John Boehner to the curb over the immigration issue. I wrote a few days ago about how stupid I thought it was to even deal with the subject this year.

Throwing out the Speaker doesn't happen often, and it was certainly the longest of long shots, but it was interesting to speculate about. In any case, it looks like Boehner has gotten the message.

Given the negative political implications of dealing with immigration right now, as I wrote before, as well as the president's open unwillingness to enforce laws he doesn't like, Boehner really had no choice but to back down.

Hopefully, a new congress will deal with the issue next year, in a more sensible manner than the current Senate did. I'd like to see a strong effort to enforce existing laws, including stiff sanctions against employers of illegals; followed by an easing of restrictions and streamlining of processes to allow many more skilled immigrants, and then finally some sort of amnesty for most illegals who have been in the US for long periods without breaking other laws.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Resolving Historical Issues in Court

Bolivia is suing Chile at the International Court of Justice, seeking to overturn the results of the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), and regain access to the Pacific Ocean (most of northern Chile belonged to Bolivia before the war).

Most commentary I have read says, not surprisingly, that Bolivia doesn't have much chance of winning. I suspect that there's even less chance that Chile would pay any attention to such a ruling.

But, on the off-chance that the ICJ rules for Bolivia, I wonder what the next such case might be: Perhaps the Romans could be ordered to pay reparations to Carthage?

PS: I wrote almost a year ago about the practice of countries (Bolivia was one example) using old grudges and other nationalistic tricks to distract their populace.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Immigration -- Why Now?

From The Fix by Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post:
If the 2014 election is a referendum on President Obama, Democrats are in deep trouble. 
That’s according to a new state-by-state study of Obama’s job-approval ratings released by Gallup that puts his disapproval rating at over 50 percent in 10 of the 21 states where Democrats are defending Senate seats this fall. In many of those states,Republicans have recruited strong candidates and are preparing to spend big bucks to win the six seats they need to regain the majority.
When even the Washington Post is admitting that President Obama's unpopularity could well bring down the entire Democratic Party this fall, why in hell would the Republican Establishment want to change the focus of the public to immigration (or anything else)?

It makes perfect sense for Democrats to try to change the subject from Obama and Obamacare to ... well, to whatever – marijuana,  the Republican War on Women, income inequality, anything, anything other than Obama and Obamacare.

But why should Republicans try to help them out of the mess they've created? But that's what the Republican Establishment seems to be trying to do.

Regardless of how one feels about immigration reform (and I am in favor of reforming our laws to make legal immigration easier – though I differ with the Establishment in my skepticism about whether new laws will be enforced any better than the old ones were) – again, regardless of that – from a political standpoint, bringing up immigration now is totally insane.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


I learned something new today: There is a unit of measure of the risk involved in activities – a micromort is equal to a one in a million chance of death.

This Wikipedia article notes that each of us faces about 39 micromorts on any given day of our life, though this is based simply on an assumption of a seventy year (25,000+ days) lifespan. Such a measure includes natural death, of course, so the greater value is on measuring the increased risk of various activities.

The linked article lists the degree to which we would have to engage in certain activities to achieve one micromort of risk. For example, drinking half a liter of wine is said to carry with it one micromort of risk of death from cirrhosis of the liver (I've read that drinking wine in moderation has certain health benefits, so I wonder if those benefits might counter this increased risk). Smoking 1.4 cigarettes also has one micromort of risk, which would mean each pack is worth about 14.3 micromorts (with no known offset). So back when I was smoking two packs a day, I was racking up over ten thousand micromorts a year.

In terms of accidental death connected with various means of travel, we learn that the following equal one micromort:

  • 6 miles by motorbike
  • 17 miles by walking
  • 10-20 miles by bicycle (sources differ)
  • 230-250 miles by car (sources differ)

It's interesting that travel by car is far safer (in terms of distances) than walking or biking – though, as with wine, those activities have health benefits that I suspect more than offset their dangers.

Two activities that I have sometimes engaged in are also mentioned. Scuba diving has a risk factor of 4.7 micromorts per dive, while skydiving is worth seven micromorts per jump.

The next time one of my smoker friends gets on me about jumping from planes (which I have done, alas, only a few times, due to the cost), I need to remind them that five of the cigarettes they smoke equal one jump.