31.12.02

HAPPY NEW YEAR. I'll be working on the railroad.
A PERFORMANCE TEST FOR CLASS MATERIALS? Hope springs eternal. And David Warsh gets the QWERTY story right. (That's not news to Craig Newmark, who provided the link, but the QWERTY myth just will not die.)
THE INFORMATION CONTENT OF GRADES. The SCSU Scholars raise the caution flag about a new service called Pick-A-Prof, which appears to be a convex combination of a day runner, Blackboard, and the student grapevine about who is the easy grader. The Scholars suggest that such information might in fact encourage self-selection: "But other students may look at the grades and other info on Pick-a-Prof along with the other online course evaluations and sort themselves into the classes they want and will do best in. If I did manage to have a class like that, rather than people who took my courses ill-prepared and unsuspecting of my workload requirements, maybe they'd all take A's. Wouldn't that be nice for a change?" Indeed. Furthermore, the system appears to be sufficiently open that personnel departments at major employers would be able to use it. Currently, students submit transcripts and the like which provide scant information about exactly how many other students have earned high grades in the same courses, majors, or universities. With a little research (personnel departments, you may ask me how. For a fee I'll tell you. I'm expensive) knowledge about the sources of inflated grades well might become more public, and more systematic.
MORE ON COASE AND LIGHTHOUSES. Some to-the-point observations by Winter Speak (main point: the lighthouse is incidental to another purpose. Frequently that purpose is commerce. A harbor fee collects some of the gains from trade while providing funds to pay for the lighthouse. The lighthouse services themselves have a proper marginal cost price of zero) and a mini-dissertation by Jane Galt. Evidently neither of the posters have spent much time on the water. A Global Positioning System readout will tell you exactly where you are, but without a chart, you won't know whether you're in the channel or not. Bell buoys and navigation lights will still be useful. Right red returning and all that.
IMAGE PROBLEM AT NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY? "Let it be known throughout the Empire that any organization, country or individual using the colors red, white and black are automatically Nazis." Not to worry, the expensive redesign of the Huskie dog doesn't have to be done over again, it's Misha battling some of his tormentors. Although the Huskie basketball teams have had a bad winter break, it hasn't been as disastrous as Stalingrad.
SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF SEX ROLES. "“Females tend to be better at fine manual skills such as threading needles to which they are more suited than men because of their small fingers.

“If you ask them to do small, fiddly jobs they are going to perform much better than men
." That's according to a (male) psychologist at Northumbria University, quoted in this bit about why men can't wrap non-Euclidean presents. Evidently the good psychologist has no colleagues in the Gauge O Guild.
SAUCE FOR THE GOOSE. It's oppressive for a neighbor to criticize Grandpa for putting up a red Christmas star that might be mistaken for a Stalinist star. It's also oppressive for a landlady to take umbrage when her tenant the granddaughter objects to a U.S. flag. As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. More here.
A 'SLAB' OF MEAT. Engineered steak, no s***, no bovine greenhouse gases. (Interchanged from Mean Mr. Mustard via The Corner.) But will the sizzle be the same?
WHAT ARE WE, CHOPPED LIVER? "There is nothing wrong with programs geared toward attracting brighter students, but I'm not sure that is the role that community colleges are meant to play. There are plenty of private universities that fill that niche," writes Kitchen Cabinet. Excuse me, but some state-tolerated (used to be state-supported) universities are also up to that job. As the community colleges tend to offer two-year degrees, the competition they offer the four year colleges tends to be for the required and general education courses (there is much to rant about there, but not today) and not a few community college athletic programs function as a training camp for Division I. If they can offer strong academic programs for students, that's not all bad. In the Chicago Tribune article Kitchen Cabinet referred to, I saw scant evidence that the four-year colleges were actively recruiting the community college honor students. And who says that "immigrants and the poor" aren't ready for rigorous education?
HOW MANY POLES DOES IT TAKE TO ...? No, it's not going to be a joke. While the rest of the Midwest was telling Polish jokes, the number of people with Polish roots living in Chicago exceeded the number of people living in Warsaw. Perhaps that's another geopolitical implication of Libertarian Samizdata's take on Poland's purchase of Fighting Falcons. From the UK, it looks thus: "Could it be that the above-mentioned 'lobbying' was about more than jet-fighters and that the Bush administration has decided it would be good strategy to gently lure the Poles away from the twitching tentacles of Brussels?"

Not to mention that it will play well with a lot of Reagan Democrats in the States.

30.12.02

FRODO LIVES. Peter Kaminski overhears some twenty-somethings. "Lord of the Rings is the Star Wars of our generation."
MORE WORK FOR SISTER READ. Instapundit finds a Los Angeles Times story giving the most segregated city in the U.S. That's Milwaukee. No secret there. We used to have a joke about it.

Q: What's the longest bridge in the world?

A: The Sixteenth Street Viaduct. It connects Africa to Poland
.
LE CHATELIER PRINCIPLE. Cheap bread, if you can get it. (Nailed to Newmark's Door.)
BUT WILL THE ALUMNI CONTINUE TO COME UP WITH THE WAMPUM? No. 2 Pencil reports that the UNC-Pembroke Braves are an endangered tribe. So, apparently, are the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
SCRABBLE TOURNAMENTS. Joanne Jacobs discovers the world of world-class Scrabble players, some of whom, in the manner of Alexander Alekhine or Bobby Fischer, are hard-pressed to hold real jobs. Hobbies can be like that. Don't get me started on the nuances of "19 East copy two."
WINNERS, WHINERS, AND LOSERS. Andrew Sullivan has a little list.
THE YEAR OF FRESH WATER. Some fresh ideas at Volokh. Highered Intelligence has some recommended reading as well.
POSEUR, OR FUTURE REMF? The St. Cloud Scholars discover that a disaffected faculty member has no publications, and might not even be a faculty member. Developing ...
FOR FURTHER RESEARCH. Here is an interesting hypothesis from D-Squared Digest: "How did the Irish managed to rebuild their social capital? Basically, through local government corruption." I'll let braver souls grapple with the implications of his essay.
LIGHTHOUSES. Atlantic Blog points to a D-Squared Digest reprise of the public good property of lighthouses. D-Squared puts Ronald Coase on his fact checking list. I'd suggest he check some of his own facts as well.

"Second on methodology, while the source of my sympathy for Coase is his methodology; his determination to always look for the real world example rather than the 'blackboard economics' proof, this is one area in which he and Samuelson both screwed up, and it was by adopting the arrogance which is the hallmark of the economics profession. Samuelson had a good argument about the optimal provision of lighthouses, and if he'd studied the history, he would have come up with the Isle of Man and Sir John Clayton examples to show that non-excludability of lighthouse services led to real problems, which caused real ships to avoidably crash. But he had to, as I say, put a f*****g cherry on top by overextending his sensible blackboard argument into a generalisation about the world. Coase then, correctly and admirably, called him on it by falsifying the generalisation, but then fell into the trap of forcing the pieces to fit into his own grand blackboard generalisation -- that free market negotiation between willing participants could always solve problems of resource allocation so long as property rights were well defined."

But wait, there's more ... one of the Deirdre McCloskey columns in Atlantic Economic Journal (Or is it the Eastern???) takes a closer look at "Problem of Social Cost" and notes that the real fun begins when transaction costs are present. That's the real point of departure, whether you're a Coasian or a Samuelsonian. To simply assert that costly information 'justifies' government action is to deprive yourself of a research opportunity. Where information is costly, there might be many ways of conserving on the costs of information.
LOWERING THE BAR. John Mc Whorter must have had better teachers than Sister Joel Read. Sample: "To understand what I mean, we must pull back the curtain to see what admissions committees really do in the name of "diversity." Many people operate under an impression I call "Affirmative Action 101": They assume that admissions committees operate under the "thumb on the scale" principle that Powell suggested, favoring black candidates only in the case of a tie.

The misconception is understandable, as college administrators typically paint this picture until someone with smoking-gun documents drags them into court. But again and again, universities have been exposed as using race neither as a tiebreaker nor as "one of many factors," as they tend to claim, but as the most decisive of all factors, regularly admitting brown students under lower standards regardless of their background
."

Amen.
THE BEST EFFORTS OF A RETIRED EDUCATIONAL INNOVATOR. Sister Joel Read, who recently retired as president of Milwaukee's Alverno College, offers some words of wisdom. I hope the editor is being kind. If that was her idea for a title, it's another reason to pull your kids from any classroom headed by an Alverno grad:

I don't think that any one action if taken on behalf of any one issue, by itself, can make Milwaukee a better place. The issues are too complex. Instead, we need multiple efforts on multiple fronts.

Specifics, please.

"Do I think that would be possible? Yes, I do, if there is the will to do so. There are multiple people with multiple talents and insights that could match and help resolve the multiple issues that confront us. Does this argue for some leader to pull it together so that there would be one solution that would make Milwaukee a better place? No. And here's why I think so."

I know it's good writing to avoid elegant variation, but the multiplication of multiples, again, without concrete proposals, doesn't help much. Or is the Sister simply conceding that she's not up to the task of being the leader, which would be her responsibility should she in fact spell out the problems and offer suggestions?

"We need solutions identified not by one gender or the other. We need both genders; we need to join our talents, interests, insights and the will to do and to get going on the things for which we have a passion."

Here's a classic non-sequitur. I was under the impression that Milwaukee's problems included nest-feathering county board members, inadequate schools (with not a few Alverno graduates in the classrooms), a few priests taking liberties with the altar boys, and indecision about whether to demolish or finish the expressways.

"Perhaps that is the one thing that would make Milwaukee a better place - collaboration on all fronts by both genders, whatever their race, color, religion, politics or economic status."

Collaboration on what fronts? Is this a weather report gone wrong, or is there a renegade Minnesota national guard unit making its way through the Kettle Moraine?

"There are already multiple efforts under way seeking to drastically improve our schools and the status of women and minorities in our economy. Every one of those efforts needs support of time, talent and funds by many more individuals than are currently involved."

Whose economy? Whose schools? Would this lady be able to write a term paper that would satisfy a competent eleventh-grade composition teacher?

"Great cities are the result of decisions made by each of the persons within that city who cherish it and demonstrate that they cherish it by the way they choose to serve the city and the neighborhoods in which they live. I believe such civic responsibility exists, can be harnessed through collaboration and channeled to issues of substance."

OK, put away the platitudes and spell out the issues. Good grief.

"As issues move toward greater and greater resolution, Milwaukee will be a better place."

Huh???

22.12.02

MERRY CHRISTMAS. The Cold Spring Shops are taking a vacation.
HANDS IN THE COOKIE JAR. Education Weak reports that an REMF had to reimburse the school district for some,. um, expenses not deductible on Schedule A or Form 2106. "This happens in school districts across America and provides a clue as to why teachers do not have money for pencils or tissues." Indeed.
RESEARCH PROJECT "The answer, of course, is that what is good for each individual child is what is good for society. Society gains nothing by having the next Albert Einstein sitting in a class where he's bored out of his mind because all the other students don't understand how to add. Society gains nothing by ensuring that teachers have to split their attention between twenty different levels of ability. Society gains by encouraging every child to reach his or her potential, something that is impossible when a genius is in a class with a dimwit," notes Highered Intelligence. Much more to think about in that post. More thoughts from me next year...
STOPPED COLD. Packers 10, Buffalo Bills 0. Despite more injuries and substitutions, the defense stops the NFL's eighth most productive offense, and the Packers win all eight games at Lambeau.
PERMA-POSTING. The Cranky Professor discovers that the grade book in Blackboard does not allow scores to be altered once a time limit passes. Perhaps one of these days there will be Blogger-style editing features in the gradebook. The current version permits posting of letter grades, which is sufficient for my purposes. That spares me the responsibility of preparing secret codes in order to allow students a peek at their grades before the University mails the report cards. On the other hand, it makes more easy the preparation of argumentam ad misericordiam emails from the disappointed students.
TIME TRAVEL. Cal Pundit asks, "If you could choose to be anybody during any historical period, who would you be?" His choice: quantum physicist in Europe around 1920. Good choice, and there are lots of other good answers. But consider this possibility: you find yourself in the role or era of your choice, and a week after you arrive, suffer a scratch, or catch the 'flu, or suffer some other minor injury for which we currently have a fix, and die because it isn't treatable with the knowledge in that era.
PUBLIC CHOICE. What do Senators Mary Landrieu and Trent Lott have in common? "[T]he old southern pol's promise: to use government to help her tribe against outsiders." According to Virginia Postrel, "That promise is what connects the segregationist politics of the past with the pork-and-protection policies of the present. Hence the transformation of Strom Thurmond from a segregationist to someone who got federal dollars for black colleges in South Carolina. In neither case is government to be a neutral arbiter between equal citizens. The difference is merely who counts as an insider worthy of privilege." Presumably that is why each state has two senators and at least one representative, in order to preserve the fiction that each lives at the expense of the other.
CHRISTMAS TRUCE. The SCSU Scholars report that Vice President Church will be apologizing to the local College Republicans for his misguided request that the students remove an Israeli flag from an information kiosk. The College Republicans have received a letter from the Israeli Embassy approving of their display of the flag. No resolution yet of the attempted strong-arm robbery case.

20.12.02

TRIUMPH OF THE BULLDOZERS. Milwaukee's east-west freeway, and the south leg of the Zoo freeway, use the right-of-way of the Milwaukee Electric Lines Rapid Transit Line, and the Hales Corners branch. The freeway is worn-out, and the somewhat newer Marquette interchange (so named for its proximity to the home of the basketball team formerly known as the Warriors) is due for renovation. As part of that renovation, the Aldrich Chemical building in the middle of the interchange is to be removed. That building used to be an office tower and freight house for the Milwaukee Electric Lines, with freight tracks on two levels, and it guarded the entrance to the never-completed Milwaukee subway. Sic transit gloria interurbanus Wisconsinensis.

As part of the renovation, several Milwaukeeans, including someone whose name I recall from high school, are proposing to make the rebuilt interchange a toll road. But if Wisconsin scans cars for a toll transponder, will it accept Illinois I-Pass accounts? (Link via The American Mind.)
NO CHRISTMAS TRUCE IN THE CULTURE WARS. The Twenty Most Annoying Liberals (via The American Mind.)
WE DO IT ALL FOR YOU. Evidently not. Perhaps the Arches require a new marketing strategy.
CELEBRATE DIVERSITY, NOT CHRISTMAS. James Lileks is not amused. There are limits to the commercial aspects of Christmas, but I have trouble seeing Tom Lehrer sending an anti-Christmas card.
OBSERVANT TRAINSPOTTER. Michael Jennings (via Transport Blog) has caught the conjuring tricks in the latest Harry Potter movie, and offered all sorts of thoughts about providing high-speed rail in England. The latest movie shows the hotel in front of London's St. Pancras station, rather than the front of King's Cross (which, to my eye, is not that bad looking, although taking away the post-WWII concourse would help), and access to the Hogwarts Express on No. 9 3/4 apparently is through the supporting wall between Tracks (platforms, over there) 4 and 5 where the two arches join. The Hogwarts Express, by the way, has a Great Western Railway Hall pulling it, which is actually out of the loading gauge for the Great Northern Railway (of England, Rocky's Road had power that wouldn't fit anywhere in England or the rest of Europe.)

Now, about that Stratford station being built southeast of London. Jennings is concerned that it will cut into running times, as fast trains lose a lot of time decelerating and accelerating, as well as dwell time at stations. Granted. But consider what's involved in getting to St. Pancras. I don't recall any massive parking lots nearby, or any expressways with an exit marked St. Pancras-King's Cross. Perhaps the Stratford station serves the same purpose as Route 128 southwest of Boston, New Carrollton north of Baltimore, or Glenview north of Chicago (this last would be more effective with a more frequent Wisconsin service.)
BY THEIR FRUITS SHALL YE KNOW THEM. Segregating for diversity is like ...
RULE G. "The use of intoxicants or narcotics while on duty, or while subject to duty, is prohibited." Apparently there has not been any such policy on British rails. I do recall reading some of the Adrian Vaughn memoirs about life in the signal boxes, where crews would retire to the local at a dull moment, and wondering why that wasn't grounds for discipline.
SPONTANEOUS ORDER. Lengthy Kitchen Cabinet post on the usefulness of hardship admissions to universities, with cross references. There's more about the David Brooks article referenced here, and a relatively minor point in Brooks gets the attention it deserves. Namely: the quality of education a student gets at a top university depends to a great extent on the quality of other students. There's not that much difference among the faculties, but a bull session that gets into the finer points of Republic or Wealth of Nations is likely to yield different results from a bull session that determines who are the hotties in the class.
TUITION AND FEES. It's deceptive, at least in Missouri, to advertise "free" tuition then to charge fees.
GOOD MANNERS ARE NOT EQUIVALENT TO POLITICAL CORRECTNESS. On the road yesterday. Talk radio topic: has "political correctness" made writing Christmas cards (or is it seasonal cards) too much of a chore? Here's the distinction: if you know people well enough to distinguish the Christians among your friends, recognizing that in a card is simple good manners. Cards that recognize the Christian origins of Christmas are proper to believers. Cards with a more generic "greetings of the season" make sense for others, the message is, "At this time of the year we take time to remember our friends. We do not take the occasion to proselytize, or to guilt trip." That's just good manners. Political correctness views manners as, well, judgemental, while judging that transgressiveness deserves to be privileged. Got that?

18.12.02

THE LUMP OF LABOR FALLACY. Daniel Drezner spots it in a recent Chicago Tribune series, and applies the proper correctives.

UPDATE: Instapundit simply mentions economics and Paul Krugman. Virginia Postrel appears to be reading too much into that mention. Never mind the quest for hidden meanings and innuendo: read and understand the article. There will be a quiz on the lump of labor fallacy later.
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. Daniel Drezner weighs in on David Brooks's visit to a campus. Here's Drezner: "It's always depressing when my best students ask for letters of reccomendation for admission into law school or B-school -- not that there's anything wrong with those choices, but there are more than two flavors of career in the world. Even as someone in the ideological minority, I love my job. I get paid to sit around, read, and think deep and not-so-deep thoughts all day. On regular occasions I'm asked to impart my thoughts to some students, who actually write down a lot of what I say. I'm something of a specialist in what I write, but I'm certainly not a specialist in what I read. The hours are flexible, the dress code is minimal. It's a good life."

All true, all true, but it takes a certain kind of stubbornness to discipline your own thoughts and get them on paper. Doing what someone else asks you to do is in some ways easier. But Adam Smith's observation about compensating differentials kicks in, because doing what someone else asks you to do means every time the 'phone rings, it's someone with a problem. Your compensation depends on making his problem your problem. I don't know what the equilibrium is, apparently there still is a reserve army of unemployed and underemployed Ph.Ds, as Drezner's closing line notes, despite the higher pay and potentially greater job security in business or the professions.
BY THEIR FRUITS SHALL YE KNOW THEM. Civil Rights CommissionerAbigail Thernstrom: "After an era of liberal leadership, the typical black or Hispanic student graduates from high school today with junior high skills, according to the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress." (Via Volokh out of Andrew Sullivan.)
SPIN. Is "whether telling a series of truths in a way that creates the wrong impression, whether that's a lie or not" misrepresentation or defensible in service of a positive goal? The latest development from St. Cloud State University is a letter from disaffected faculty members to potential students. It's giving the diversity boondoggle fits.
FOURTH TURNING ALERT. From Discriminations: "This is a moment of truth for the Republicans and a serious test of President Bush's leadership, as serious perhaps as the war on terrorism. The problem now is not Lott's defense of segregation; it is that a number of Republicans are defending Lott. If repeated kind words about Thurmond's 1948 Dixiecrat campaign do not disqualify someone from a position of leadership in the Republican Party today, then that party does not deserve to lead.

Lott, like Clinton, has become a test of his party's integrity. I detested what Clinton did, but I never thought it made any more sense to be angry at him than to be angry at a skunk for smelling. Those who richly deserved scorn were his enablers in his party who kept insisting that, if you only inclined your head toward his policies, he really smelled sweet, or, if you couldn't do that, at least he smelled better than the Republicans. Same with Lott. It's a little late to blame him for his past and present views -- that's who he is. The real question is who the rest of the Republicans in the Senate, and the White House, are
."

Put another way: integrity and honesty must trump hype and spin.
FREEDOM IS PRESERVED BY FREE PEOPLE. Great abstract here, full elaboration here.
OCCAM'S RAZOR. Best of the Web notes that wing icing, rather than mechanical failure, or the Vast Right Wing Icing Conspiracy, is the likely cause of Senator Wellstone's plane crashing. That's exactly as my brother the commercial pilot suggested and then alerted me (the last link is a bit squirrelly.)
CLASS SIGNALS. The recently-relocated Letter from Gotham also challenges the validity of the name discrimination experiment.

Try this experiment: two cover letters accompany otherwise identical resumes. One comes from Avner Jochum. The other comes from Abner Yoakum. Which gets the more favorable follow-ups?
BILLIONS FOR REMFS, BUT NOT ONE CENT FOR RESEARCH. Joanne Jacobs notes that despite a budget problem in the state government, and increases in student fees, the California public universities are adding more diversity facilitators and assessors of the obvious. "Many of the non-teaching jobs involve counseling students, which seems to be a major growth industry on campus." Naturally. In order to keep enough money flowing to pay for the revenue bonds, the universities used to have a reason to admit marginal students, and make efforts to keep them eligible. Although the population of potential students is much larger today, (with provision of new classroom facilities coming in somewhere behind arenas, administrative offices, and indoor practice fields) the keep-em-eligible mindset still exercises its hold. Furthermore, as the continuing St. Cloud State debacles illustrate, (follow all the links provided) it helps keep the diversity facilitators employed if the students have exaggerated sensibilities about their own identities and identify grievances for the diversity boondoggle to assuage. Worst thing that could ever happen to the diversity boondoggle is for people to just get along: they'd have to do some real work.

17.12.02

IF HE'S SO SMART, WHY ISN'T HE RICH. Cal Pundit has discovered the latest attempt to time the arrival of the next bull market. "I don't know whether Sornette's algorithms really work or not — most models of this nature work great right up until the next recession — and I can't help but be suspicious since he claims not to have invested any of his very own money using his system." Perhaps someday, more accurate economic forecasting will be possible, but complex adaptive systems tend to do what they d**n well please. "The scientific status of economics has always been shaky, despite the fact that for the past century it has been heavily mathematical in nature." Depends on what you're trying to do. Much economic theory involves existence proofs (demonstration that a particular problem has a solution.) Sometimes the existence proofs are sufficient (supply curves slope up, demand curves slope down, markets clear, participants cheat on collusive agreements.) Some of the problems are a bit more difficult but amenable to solution (valuing an option, selling more seats than are on the airplane.) The equation that predicts the location of the next $100 bill to fall on a sidewalk would be worth producing, however, widespread use of that equation would change the incidence of dropped $100 bills.

There is more about the stock-market prognostication research here and here
TAX INCIDENCE. Social Security taxes are taxes. More here, here, and here. You may have seen it here or here or here first.
BALANCE SHEET. Israel, asset or liability to the U.S?
WE OWE IT TO OURSELVES. Stephen W. Stanton explains why the little tin box is empty, even if the little tin key hasn't been used to unlock it.
CONDESCENSION, in this case, "Liberals have won, yet they still aren’t happy."
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. Professor DeLong notes, "However, it is a true crisis when your child forgets her Hot Lunch ticket, and winds up at school in the middle of the day with no ability to get her Hot Lunch--and no cold lunch to eat in its place either. The value to having an institutional backstop to provide Hot Lunch tickets to the feckless is quite a high proportion of the value of the lunch. Yet it appears that we are failing to maintain an effective social institution to provide this service." Sounds like an inducement to fecklessness, I say. I bet the kid that has a hungry afternoon account leaving a lunch ticket at home (leaving it at home? what ever happened to bringing lunch money and buying the ticket at the school?) never, ever, forgets that lunch ticket again. At least one comment at the Semi-Daily sees it that way.
SHOWING CHEEK? Just because you can, it doesn't follow that you should.
LET HIM COME TO ROCHELLE. Tech Central Station's automotive correspondent, Brock Yates, deviates from his latest defense of the sport-utility vehicle to resurrect the wreck of the Penn Central.

"The railroads, once the major arteries for freight movement in this nation, are running on rotting roadbeds and on trackage that is tens of thousands of miles shorter than when the system was in its pre-World War II prime. Amtrak, the bureaucrat's version of the Toonerville Trolley, remains bankrupt with no solution in sight, save for more Federal bail-outs." Let's start by getting a few facts straight. Yes, there are problems with Amtrak, and this site has noted them, most recently here. The freight railroads are another matter. I invite Mr. Yates to stand trackside at North Platte, Nebraska (there is a secure viewing area, you want to be careful these days about where you do your train-spotting) or watch the stack trains doing 70 miles an hour through Ashton, Illinois (watch from the town square), or spend an evening on the Colorado Plateau. The one true statement about the freight railroads in Mr Yates's column is that the railroads well might have abandoned too much traffic. The CSX Corporation recently doubled the old Baltimore and Ohio line through Ohio and Indiana to keep the goods moving. (They also kept Amtrak's Three Rivers moving this summer, imagine sleeping on a roller-coaster.)

Mr Yates sees policy failures. Indeed. Perhaps the place to start is with incentives to provide additional airway and highway capacity. (Via Common Sense & Wonder.)
FIRST FLIGHT. Ninety-nine years ago today, thanks for the reminder.
LIBERTARIAN COUP? Clayton Cramer suggests the possibility. Time, though, for a bit more research: concluding on the basis of a Libertarian Party gathering in Silicon Valley that there are precious few libertarian Republicans is, well, like concluding on the basis of a list of names not tested for confounding factors, that there is racial discrimination in inviting job applicants for interviews.
WHAT WENT WRONG? Plenty, according to Ben Stein. InstaPundit is less concerned. Volokh Conspiracy offers a lengthy evaluation of Stein's second point. I'm not persuaded that U.S. immigration policy is suicidal. The next paper in the amnesty series is about done.
EMERGENT CREATION. Vernon Smith's toast at the Nobel Awards (via Volokh.)
WHAT WENT WRONG? Tony Palmeri argues Strom Thurmond got his way.
CLASS SIGNALS. "I've always suspected that middle-class whites think 'black' names -- and redneck names -- are low class. But the results for women in this study seem to indicate discrimination against job-seekers named 'Anne' and 'Emily'," notes Joanne Jacobs. That's a spot-on observation about a recent news story purporting to find racial discrimination using randomly shuffled names and credentials. The set of female first names appeared Monday on Best of the Web. My sense is that there's something more in that list of names than meets the eye, as there are two kinds of exotic names, those chosen by well-off people, and those chosen by poor people. Try a list with Christina or Tiffany or Michael or Louis or Aaron or Brett (names from recent class rolls, I won't tell you anything further about their parents) on it and see what happens.

UPDATE: Armed Liberal is doing some significance testing on the numbers provided, and intends to follow up. He raises a good point: how would a Dweezil or a Moon Unit (or a Sadie?) fare in such a study?

16.12.02

OVERSCHEDULED, UNDERCOMMITTED. Life at the elite colleges, as viewed by David Brooks, and somewhat more skeptically by Giants and Dwarfs.

UPDATE. Cal Pundit views Brooks's observations more optimistically.
LUMINOUS DIAL COMPANY. Has Garry Trudeau ever been to Ottawa, Illinois?
SUGGESTED LEGAL READING. Harvard Law's Federalist Society offer their weblog. Fine white on boxcar red design, too.
COMMERCIAL CHRISTMAS PRO AND CON. "And what kind of Christmas, exactly, is profitable? Many Americans crave that quaint Norman Rockwell holiday. Thanks to commercialization, amid the Tonka trucks, plastic toys and battery-powered gadgets with an inordinate number of flashing little lights, we can still get model trains, old-fashioned toy soldiers and Red Ryder BB guns--the commercialized gifts of their day," according to Brendan Miniter.

"God rest ye merry merchants,
May ye make the Yuletide pay.
Angels we have heard on high,
Tell us to go out and buy!
"
per Tom Lehrer.
YOUR CLASS LISTS will look like this in twenty years.
BELLICOSE WOMEN. How does the U.S. Army credibly demonstrate that female soldiers are searching women in burqas? The soldiers use the Brandi Chastain solution. What will they do during the harsh Afghan winter?
CORPORATE WELFARE. The narcotic effects of subsidized water in the West (recommended by Virginia Postrel.) Perhaps one of these days we'll figure it out. Twenty years ago, there was a trade imbroglio with Japan. Japan's Customs denied entry to a U.S. trade exhibit that included U.S. rice. Pundits in the States howled: how dare Japan dump cars into the United States and deny our farmers access to Japan's rice eaters? Only part they missed was how the rice was grown in California, using the subsidized water.
OPPORTUNITY COSTS. Spanking is an inferior good? (Via Atlantic Blog, be grateful exams are over.)
INSTITUTIONS EVOLVE TO REDUCE TRANSACTIONS COSTS. Lengthy Jane Galt post on the efficiencies of arranged marriages where the institutions of government are corrupt or nonexistent. Read it in tandem with this article about the importance of getting the institutions right (reference nailed to Newmark's Door.) And don't lose sight of Atlantic Blog's observations about the usefulness of economics. Sex, death, and why the lines are longest at the rollercoaster, is the way I put it.

Why does this good stuff come out at the end of the semester? Ah, but there will be another semester coming ...
FOURTH TURNING ALERT. Mindles Dreck notes the aging of the current generation of conservative thinkers. Those who do not remember the past and all that ...
WHAT'S UP WITH MINNESOTA ANYWAY? Incompetent pizzerias (via Mean Mr. Mustard) and professors who misconstrue the flag code are in the news.

Reminds me of a joke: How do you get the Viking fan off your front porch?

Pay for the pizza.
REVELATION. Milwaukee talk-show host Charlie Sykes just noted that de jure segregation is contrary to libertarian-conservative principles. About time, too! For too long the Left has couched the civil rights debate as using the national government to trump illegitimate states rights, by expanding the power of the national government. What has been missing all this time has been this: why not use the power of the national government to limit the power of the states without expanding the powers of the national government. That would be completely consistent with the Constitution as written and as amended by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, as far as I can tell. Equal protection under the laws means that no law shall impinge on people's freedom to associate, which is precisely what de jure segregation did.
LET KIDS BE KIDS. Lengthy discussion of overstressed kids at Highered Intelligence, and a news report on another dimension of the phenomenon. There's a reason I announce my last check of email the night before an exam is at 10 pm.

This post about positional arms races among parents is another dimension of the same problem.
DRESS FOR SUCCESS. Are hooded sweatshirts suitable school attire? And I'd be in big trouble at Milwaukee's South Division High School: Northern Illinois University sells red-and-black hooded sweatshirts, and my car plates used to have a 13 in the number. You'd think there would be a way to socialize the students to look like respectable members of society, but that would no doubt be privileging respectability. Can't do that.
DRESS FOR SUCCESS. A commendable development. But you'd think, in Wisconsin, that the kids would have the sense to leave the sandals at home in December.
RAILWAY PRESERVATION. Depot becomes museum, with toy display.
CHRISTMAS REBELLION. Cold Fury suggests that such a strategy is even less effective than Give War Bonds, Not Toys.
REPUTATION EFFECTS? The New York Times has correctly identified the nominator of Arthur C. Clarke for the Nobel Peace Prize. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, I suppose.
GOOD NEWS FOR DEMOCRATS. That's Virginia Postrel's reaction to Vice President Gore's decision not to run. Preachy and sanctimonious doesn't cut it, even for ministers and saints.
FILTHY LURES FROM THE WEST. Charles Paul Freund praises the role of popular culture as a lubricant for freedom.

15.12.02

INELIGIBLE RECEIVER UPFIELD. Quarterback Jeff Garcia of the 49ers bounced two passes off of his blockers today. The first bounced into the hands of a defender, who lateraled to teammate, whose run set up a touchdown. The second hit the ground, setting up a fourth-and-seven near the goal line with seconds remaining after the penalty was declined. The fourth-down pass also went wild. Packers 20, Niners 14.
GRADES ARE DONE. I may be able to pick up the slack for those academic webloggers now heading into final exams, on the other hand a big can of Foster's sounds like a plan. It's been kind of a stressful semester, but if the kids are keeping me busy with good questions, that's good stress. The introductory economics class lived up to the encouraging note on which they began, and the policy class made progress from where they began.

New academics: savor such semesters. There will be variations in classes. Enjoy the good ones, and keep working the challenging ones.

It helps that the fall sports teams acquitted themselves well and no administrators or faculty members made national spectacles of themselves.
HE'S OUT. Vice President Gore will not be running in 2004. That is likely a positive development for the Democrats, as they now have an opportunity to find someone who can more credibly appeal to the median voter in the campaign.
PLAY VALUE. Tonight's CBS Christmas special, "The Man who Saved Christmas," might just be a Christmas heart-tugger, or it might be a shameless ploy for paid family leave, day-care at the office, and saying no to the overtime treadmill, or it might be Franklin Roosevelt's first opportunity to say happy days are here again, but it is based on a real person. There was an A. C. Gilbert, and his company did make Erector sets, and later the American Flyer line of S gauge toy trains (they did make some three-rail O Gauge as well). Gilbert's inspiration for the Erector sets is the latticed metalwork installed as part of the New Haven Railroad electrification, according to this source, and American Flyer might be the only toy manufacturer to have named a series of railway coaches. The lightweight coaches manufactured for the New Haven and assorted other railroads by Osgood-Bradley were simply intended as full-length streamlined coaches. Because many of these coaches ran through New Haven, the Gilbert Company built models of them for their American Flyer line and offered them for sale. Enthusiasts often refer to the full-size coaches as "American Flyer cars," although as far as I know no railroad ever referred to them in those terms.

Endorsement: there are six of the new Weaver coaches as well as four from other sources now running on the railroad. The Weaver coaches are a good buy for the money although some might want to modify a few things to achieve full prototype fidelity. I will allocate time to building the diners and parlor cars to go with them.

14.12.02

ONE DIAGRAMMATIC PROBLEM left to score. Should be able, insh'allah, to work out the grades and leave the grade rolls in the department office and post same to the secure server before the Packers kick off the late game.
I RESEMBLE THAT REMARK. "German professors are mean," complains Rachel Lucas. Perhaps so. Hers evidently never distinguished measuring inputs from measuring outputs. The last instruction I'd give is to fill at least five pages of a bluebook. Perhaps if I were teaching history, my attitude would be different, on the other hand if one of my students made an assertion, and correctly supported it with the right five sentences, and went on to the next problem, I'd be well pleased. My own students sometimes get confused about this, when I am able to explain what is to them a strange concept in two or three well-chosen sentences (hey, if I couldn't, what business have I teaching it?) or when I say that a term paper has to be long enough to make its point. OK, that last sentence was Germanic enough, nicht wahr? Now, to put it in train dispatcher form: if your term paper is four paragraphs, that's almost certainly superficial, but if it runs 40 pages, you haven't edited it well enough. Long bluebook answers for their own sake are a misallocation of everybody's resources, especially the time it takes to read them.
CLEVER MATH TRICKS from Professor DeLong.
INTERSERVICE RIVALRIES. Misha reports that the Atlantic article referenced here is now available online. Still no word of agreement among the services on whether to use seconds, or thousandths of a minute, as the standard for coordinates.
THESE ARE THE GOOD OLD DAYS. $300 for a bag of flour, less nutritious than the bag Virginia Postrel bought at 69 cents for five pounds, reports Brad DeLong. Heck, you probably couldn't buy a bag of flour for any price at Plimoth Plantation.
ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT? Juan Non-Volokh observes, "I have no reason to believe that academics, as a class, are substantially less prone to sloppiness or deception than people at large. I do not mean to suggest that most academics are scoundrels. Rather, given the number of academic researchers, even a relatively small proportion of incompetent, lazy, or dishonest researchers would produce a large corpus of bad research. Thus, I find it hard to believe that for every Bellesiles that is uncovered, there may be dozens who remain undetected." Quite possible, given how unimportant replication of results is compared to the production of new results. Also quite possible, given that referees almost never ask for the research notes or computer output. That's all up to the honesty of the writer. And an editor who is familiar enough with the data base, as this one is (an economics editor at that), is an exceedingly diligent editor. It would be easier to simply say, "I don't believe it," and reject the paper.

There is a great deal of useful information about academic publishing, particularly involving the law reviews, at Volokh Conspiracy today.
PILGRIMS' PROGRESS. Jeff Jacoby found this Judd Patton exegesis of Governor Bradford's History of Plimoth Plantation.
BACK TO WORK. The stack of exams has a lot more red marks on it. Just a few more hours ...
IT'S NOT A CORRIDOR. Tim Cavanaugh is not pleased with the alternatives Amtrak offers to flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Dissecting Leftism (scroll up) picks up the story, and comments, "[T]rain travel in the USA is still slower and more expensive than air travel or road travel. It is much the same in Australia. When will people accept that government subsidy is no long-term solution to ANYTHING?" The ball comes out of the scrum, and Transport Blog runs with "Amtrak's ludicrous San Francisco to Los Angeles run. It is almost as if Victorian governments had chosen to subsidise the horse and cart."

Please be advised that, although Amtrak has not done as effective a job with its corridors as it might have (see this evaluation of the Chicago-Milwaukee service) it is a faster service than driving in most of the Northeast most of the day, and a faster way from the Loop to Milwaukee on many days, and it's faster than flying from Capitol Hill at least to Philadelphia, or Providence to Manhattan, and don't even think about flying from Chicago to Milwaukee.

Please also be advised that the San Francisco-Los Angeles is not the West Coast Main Line. A train headed from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara has to climb the Chatsworth Hills, and there's another nasty hill just beyond San Luis Obispo. The other service ends at Bakersfield rather than go through Tehachapi Pass, it's spectacular railroading but darned slow.

Perhaps there is a reason not to subsidize passenger railroading Amtrak style, but wouldn't it make as much sense to further question the subsidized provision of roads and airways? Perhaps some private-sector version of the Chicago-New York Electric Air Line or the North Shore Line would be a more attractive investment then. And such a railroad (consider a Japanese Tokaido Line with trains that meet North American crashworthiness standards) would move people through California more quickly. However, the Los Angeles-San Diego is a more promising location for such a project.
ONLY LOCAL LANGUAGES. The a-building Hiawatha Corridor light rail line in the Twin Cities will have multi-lingual ticket vending machines. "Somali will be added to the English, Spanish and Hmong options on ticket machines for the Hiawatha corridor light rail. The Metropolitan Council agreed yesterday to spend an extra 117-thousand dollars to add Somali to the ticket vending machines," reports KNSI radio's online service. It's thoughtful to take local immigrant populations into account in providing vending machines, why not take into account tourists as well? I appreciate the convenience of being able to choose English or German on cash machines in Taiwan or the UK, are the only tourists in the Twin Cities frustrated cheeseheads?
SUPPORT ISRAEL, BUT NOT IF YOU'RE NOT JEWISH. I'm only embellishing things slightly. Two poor excuses for professors at St. Cloud State University objected to the content of an information kiosk set up by the local College Republicans.

"The kiosk displayed a 39-page list of the names of all of those killed by terrorists from Jan 2002 through Oct 2002. It also included a display, which profiled some of the terrorist groups operating in and around Israel and Palestine and some literature that symbolized Israel’s right to defense and self-preservation. Above the kiosk flew a replica of the Israeli national colors."

The flag antagonized the two abusers of their tenured status, because as Jews, they objected to an Israeli flag being displayed by Gentiles. So far, so identity politics. One of the two role models further took exception to one of the students taking pictures of another student who was responding to their objection, going so far as to attempt to grab the camera. The St. Cloud Times has the story. According to the tenure-abuser, "Yes, I immaturely went for the camera, but I didn't harm him. I didn't grab his neck ...It looked a lot worse than it was. I did not try to hurt the man. Am I sorry? Yes. Do I regret it? Yes. Did I assault him? No."

Excuse me, that's a pretty good description of a mugging, by Milwaukee, Detroit, or Chicago standards. Does this role model deserve sensitivity training? No. Ten days plus a year of community service would be about right for an attempted mugging.

The students are taking the university administration to court Monday. Developing ...

12.12.02

ENOUGH PROCRASTINATION. The second stack of exams beckons.
STUPID FRATERNITY TRICKS. The television is running, and an early story on the CNBC nine o'clock news reports a Time article on Senator Trent Lott active in keeping his fraternity (the national, not his chapter) segregated. Say what you will about the power of the blogosphere, Big Media's effect is nontrivial. That story has yet to load on my computer. Perhaps tomorrow.
JANUARY MADE ME SHIVER. January of 1963 is infamous in railroading circles as the month the North Shore Line went out of business. It was particularly cold and snowy in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, and there are plenty of pictures of the last days of the North Shore with the snows and those very blue winter skies. That was also a rather brutal January in the British Isles, reports The Railway Magazine (old news to my UK readers, but that issue just arrived these shores today, as if I had enough distractions from the exams) with temperatures below freezing (below zero for long stretches, in fact, and deep snow, and probably not a single rotary snowplow on the island.
TRUNCATION BIAS. Discourage the weaker students from writing the SATs, and, presto!, your district's College Board standings improve. Number 2 Pencil is not happy with the idea, she'd prefer that students take the test, and discover for themselves whether or not they're college material.

There is a research project in here: to what extent did tracking, years ago (when I was in high school, judge how long ago that was by a picture posted below ...) discourage many students from writing the College Boards, and does that make some of the much-ballyhooed decline in test scores an artifact of truncation bias? If I'm stating the obvious, please let me know where it's published.
HOKEY SMOKES. The Cranky Professor reports the death of animator William Henson, who brought Rocky, Bullwinkle, Boris and Natasha to life.
CELEBRATE DIVERSITY, NOT CHRISTMAS. So appears to be the intent of a memorandum from Human Resources at St. Cloud State. I wonder, if somebody displays a red-and-black Korean monad, is that insensitive to Great Northern or Burlington veterans?
THE FIRST LIONEL is a knock-off of The First Noel. It's also something instrumental in the development of model railroaders.


Stainless steel models, indeed!
EMERGENCE: "Basically, blogging's main value as a networking tool is that it enables emerging talent to get organized more quickly than it would offline, and not as a mysterious, credentialized club, but in a merit-driven environment in which new members are initiated all the time," writes Patrick Ruffini. Yes, but will Pareto's Law manifest itself in time, as it has with emergent radio, railroads, newspapers, Protestant religions, and dairy cattle?
TAKE THIS QUIZ. "Cultural and political disorientation, violent resistance to the intruder and attempts to recapture a lost golden age are natural reactions to this. We see all of this today." We are watching
a. National Socialists
b. Dixiecrats
c. Islamists
d. Zhirinovsky Communists
e. University administrators.

Answer here.

11.12.02

HUDSON TERMINAL REDEVELOPMENT plans expedited.
BIG NEWS a year ago.
SLEEPLESS NIGHTS. Woman Holding Baby Killed by Train. The baby will live. She's six months old. The engineer will be having nightmares for a long time.
RAIL BARONS. Thom Hartmann sounds the alarm: those rail barons responsible for modifying the legal status of corporations are back in Government. But is Secretary of the Treasury nominee John Snow heir to Jay Gould or to James J. Hill? The Superintendent has not been too impressed with CSX's dispatching, based on some recent train rides on their lines. Is forgetting that a train will be arriving on the territory at 8 pm symptomatic of sloppiness at the corporate level?
ENOUGH PROCRASTINATION. Time to add up the scores and get the grades on the secure server.
REPUTATION EFFECTS? How closely does any business pay attention to the fallout of PC follies at universities? The SCSU Scholars conjure up the before-and-after job interview small talk, with gruesome possibilities. To what extent is "who knows you" still more of a key to getting the interview than the reputation of a school, sight unseen? Is there any evidence that fewer recruiters call at universities where the administrators have done something three or four standard deviations above the mean level of mendacity?
WORKING TOO LONG? I was just typing up brief answers to a final exam (yup, in addition to returning papers and exams in a timely manner, I compose new exams each term, and post answers someplace, and let students keep the question sheets and retrieve the answer sheets and bluebooks after grades are done) and typed the line "allowed the sail of commercials." That's been corrected for the public version but clearly my mind is on something else. You sail the knocked tack, and I'll sail the lifted tack, and I'll cross the finish before ye, And when you look up, to find the weather mark, where the ocean meets the sky I'll be sailing.
PRICELESS. I'm grading some economics of public policy exams, and one of the questions is, "Briefly explain why the creation of a collusive agreement creates an incentive to cheat." Here's an answer. "Collusive agreement creates an incentive to cheat according to the Coarse theorem, it's better to cheat when to firms come to an agreement and the other person see's an incentive to gain a higher profit, he will take that extra step."

9.12.02

ENOUGH PROCRASTINATION. The first stack of bluebooks beckons.
HIT AND RUN. No, that's not an Operation Lifesaver topic, it's Reason's new web log, likely to be recognized as a Common Carrier.
PROGRESSIVE INTOLERANCE. Mean Mr. Mustard diagnoses it properly.
REUTERS, IMPLODING? For reaons other than putting scare quotes on terrorists.
EDUCATION OPPORTUNITY. No Notre Dame, no Brigham Young, no Yeshiva, no Maranatha.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH, at least at Kansas State.
CURIOUS INTERNET TRICKS. No. 2 Pencil has been up and posting for the past week. The new posts finally got onto my machine today. Neither Internet Explorer nor Netscape updated the content from just before Thanksgiving. Explanations or suggestions welcome.
DECK US ALL WITH BOSTON CHARLIE. Robert Musil has the rest, and copious links to erroneous variations thereof.
LOWERING THE BAR is, well, lowering the bar, reports Gene Expression.
CLOSED-MINDED HUBRIS. Yup, some professors have thin skins when it comes to having their prejudices questioned. Today it's Tightly Wound's catch, snared in an English department not far from here.
FISHING OFF THE COMPANY PIER. Former Dean Dwyer (California, Berkeley, Law) is the compleat angler.
THE DIVERSITY BOONDOGGLE covered at length by Joanne Jacobs, with lots of links.
SHAKING YOUR FAMILY TREE. Those of you visiting me because of hits on William Brewster or Stephen Hopkins might want to look at Cal Pundit's list of family history resources online. Many of you know of these already. For those who do not, take the time to read them and understand them. Also, understand this fundamental rule of research: start where you are and work backwards. It does no good to start with someone legend gives as your ancestor, you might waste lots of time pursuing a line that isn't there. Although it is true that everyone is a descendant of Mohammed, or of Charlemagne, or possibly of Silas Slytherin, your challenge is to demonstrate how.

8.12.02

EXAM WEEK. Postings are likely to be light.
ALMOST AS GOOD AS A POMO-GENERATOR. Where Worlds Collide provides a link to
Rob's Amazing Poem Generator
. It takes your weblog text and creates a poem. Or something, namely

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Expanding access to passengers,
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Maryland connection to your assistance
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DIMINISHING RETURNS. Daniel Drezner has some comments, germane to the tenure tradeoffs noted in the preceding post, about Paul Krugman's ventures into commentary on policy. Put another way: Good, Fast, Cheap. Which two do you want?
TENURE TRADEOFFS. Would John Rawls have gotten tenure today? Kieran Healy suggests not: "Rawls published three papers in his first 10 years out of graduate school. In the current academic climate, he'd have been out on his ear after his sixth year, denied tenure and looking for a job in the toughest spot in the academic job market." That's a classic debate in the academy: what is the optimal production rate of quality? Given the proliferation of journals, and not much in the way of a market test for academic research, the incentives that exist are on the side of chunking out a lot of workmanlike stuff, never mind the profundity. The publication lags David Levine identifies certainly encourage erring on the side of workmanlike rather than profound publishing. Then, once one has tenure, the committee assignments will ensnare you if you're not careful (and if you are careful, the dumb decisions the committees make will get you anyway), and late bloomers like Rawls, or Kant, or Brahms simply vanish.
WHAT WILL THE MULTI-CULTIS SAY? "Etiquette for nerds," teases Joanne Jacobs, linking to a business etiquette course offered by the University of Cincinnati. I suppose that's progress, attempting to undo some of the transgressiveness "celebrated" elsewhere around that university.
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. Cal Pundit is not impressed with the 12,000 pages or so of documents that Iraq has submitted, and relates tales of businesses involved in lawsuits providing much more mass. That's where the scanning equipment comes in handy. It helps to have the right kind of metal detector if you know there's a needle in a haystack.
CARDIAC PACK. The cold-weather winning streak on the Frozen Tundra continues. Despite a valiant effort by the Vikings and numerous first-half mistakes, Packers 26, Vikings 22.
PARK AND RIDE. Transport Blog uses my paid parking post as a springboard to a new topic: suburban stations for through trains. It's a new topic, as the Bay Area Rapid Transit (motto: we're not as long as the Union Pacific, but we're wider) and Chicago's Metra are suburban operations with commuters who drive to the station and ride the train to the city. (Given daily parking charges in Chicago, and the permanent congestion on the expressways, Metra is cheaper and often no slower than driving.)

Turning to the "parkway" stations ... Transport Blog asks, "If you have both a parkway station and a town/city centre station that means making two stops rather than the normal one. Hey, if you have a second parkway station on the other side of town that means 3 stops." In the Northeast Corridor, that doesn't pose any problems. Through trains from Richmond, Virginia, to Boston, Massachusetts often make Alexandria, Virginia (connection to the Washington D.C. Metro L line), Washington, D.C. (also a connection, walking distance to Capitol Hill), and New Carrollton, Maryland (connection to the same Metro line that serves Union Station); further north they make Metro Park, New Jersey (imagine a parkway station with a multi-level parking deck and a ramp to the nearby turnpike), Newark, New York Penn Station, and Rye, New York. Some trains also make Route 128 (this would be like naming Didcot Parkway for the nearest motorway) outside Boston. The Wisconsin service would make more sense if the trains originated in Oconomowoc or Brookfield and made a stop near General Mitchell Airport as well as in downtown Milwaukee. The point of providing stops is to serve passengers, schedule keeping is simply a matter of providing the power for the job. The folks who brought us the Acela Express are now demonstrating a 150 mph capable turbine-electric locomotive that resembles an Acela power car. I have my own ideas what a 150 mph power car ought to look like, but that's for another day.

5.12.02

PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. Commuters frequently drive to the train station, park all day, and ride the train. San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit (motto: we're not as long as the Union Pacific, but we're wider) recently provided some reserved, by-permit-only, paid on a long-term basis parking spaces at stations. Shark Blog is not impressed with the results. "The highways in the Bay Area are overcrowded, and BART has excess capacity that could be used. But people will only opt for BART if it is convenient and time-efficient. The sanest solution would simply be to build more parking spots, and charge by the hour for all of them. But transit agencies tend to be run by a combination of people who hate cars altogether ('let them take the bus or ride a bike to the BART station!'), redistributionists ('BART should be free!') and the economically illiterate. So the half-assed solution of reserving a portion of the parking spots means that a few people will pay for reserved spots but probably won't use their spot all the time, meaning there will always be some unused parking capacity. At the same time, more of the occasional riders will fail to find parking, and will probably avoid BART altogether, and just drive all the way to their destination. Where they may have to pay for parking anyway."

His post does not spell out whether the remaining parking spots are free, which only aggravates the problem of people claiming all the free spots, compelling the later riders either to leave earlier themselves and complain, or leave later, complain, and then drive into town. And if the remaining spots are free, there is little incentive for the extremely regular early rider to buy a permit space, as he's only got to beat the rest of the traffic for the first few trains.

Chicago's Metra lots use a combination of permit and paid parking. The availability of pay-by-the-day spaces is a benefit for the occasional rider, provided a space is available (DeKalb readers: Elgin Big Timber is a bit longer drive, but less of a lottery than Geneva or Aurora. The railroading is more impressive than the Union Pacific although less so than the Burlington.) As an aside, I wonder if Metra overbooks? If on any day some percentage of the permit holders don't ride the train, there exists a number of permits in excess of the spaces at which the permit part of the lot is full every day.

I suppose that if the wider-than-the-Union Pacific BART went the Metra route, Acura-driving egalitarians would have even more to whine about.
HEGEMONIC BIASES? Regions of Mind discovers rednecks and whiggers. Critique of Pure Tolerance, anyone?
DIE FAHNE HOCH, die Reihe marschiert nach San Francisco. Oder vielleicht nicht?
REVERSING THE NIGERIAN SCAM. I have been reading a Yahoo newsgroup that reports unusual train movements in the Southwest of England. A poster provided the following material. "Yesterday in 'The Guardian' an article - Nigeria's big ideal for the trains: Call in Virgin." Must have been the Guardian On Dead Tree, otherwise I'd provide a link. But the story has a great deal of potential.

"Dear sir,
Please I am Ms DAISY STANIER, the only daughter of late chief mechanical engineer WIILIAM STANIER from Crewe. My sources of your contact gave me the courage and confidence to rely on you. I am writing you in absolute confidence primarily to seek your assistance to transfer our stash of twenty Voyager Trains now in the custody of a RIP TRACK here in Crewe to your railways pending our arrival to your country.
SOURCE OF THE TRAINS
My late father, chief mechanical engineer SIR WILLIAM STANIER, a native of Swindon district in the southern counties of England, died under Lord Beeching's axe ...
"
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. Lowering the bar produces hoppers rather than jumpers, notes Asymmetrical Information.
THOSE WHO PREACH RESPECT FOR DIFFERING POINTS OF VIEW frequently surprised to discover one. Discriminations is the latest to discover this truth.
PROTEST COMMITTEE. Amidst talk of war, and continued administrative follies on campus, and the continuing early winter, the Louis Vuitton Cup competition continues, to determine this year's challenger for the America's Cup, which remained in New Zealand after the 2000 match. Unfortunately, most of the action is in the courtroom. One World Challenge, a Seattle syndicate, is being sued by Team Dennis Conner and Prada, the Italian challenger, for espionage and possession of weapons of mass destruction. One World is supposed to race against Prada beginning December 9, pending the outcome of the hearings to be held December 7 and 8. There are good reasons to sail a Laser. The scantlings and foils are in plain sight, the latter particularly on windy days.
DIVERSITY TRAINING=OPPRESSION notes Highered Intelligence. No big surprise, just read the Critique of Pure Tolerance. Perhaps that screed ultimately will be recognized as the diversity boondoggle's version of Mein Kampf.
DISSERTATION TOPICS. Thank you, Professor DeLong.
INFORMATION SPILLOVERS. Virginia Postrel (!) notes, "The argument that tax dollars shouldn't undercut market efforts is reasonable, but in this case most of the articles come out of tax-funded research to begin with. That research is funded because of the belief that the knowledge it generates makes everyone better off, a claim that's more likely to be true if the knowledge is widely shared." It's her 5 December entry, with multiple links to other sources.
NO TRADEOFF HERE. Transport Blog looks at on-time performance on the UK railways and observes that, to passengers, "Isn't it interesting that passengers always say that punctuality is the issue but when it comes to the things that really matter ie their money actually the big issue is frequency." But there's no tradeoff, any Long Island Rail Road employee or Milwaukee Road veteran can tell you how to do both.
FILTHY LURES FROM THE WEST. Daniel Drezner notes that the al Qaeda attacks on the Bali and Kenya resorts (and the 'splodeydopes blowing up a Sbarro, and the food poisoning on cruise ships?) are consistent with an anti-pleasure worldview. He suggests that people show their defiance by taking ostentatious holidays. Once the grades are in ... and I will be armed with blowtorches, soldering irons, and other dangerous weapons if anyone objects.
SAND ON A CONICAL PILE? I received a hit from a Yahoo search on "calculus examples related rates of change conical sand." I made fun of such problems here, which probably didn't give the reader much help, but the Yahoo search does turn up sites that provide hints for such problems.
KICK ASS AND TAKE NAMES. The fallout from the St. Cloud State University anti-Semitism case continues. The SCSU Scholars describe the situation. First, the University (as is the case with many regional-based state universities) has an image problem and REMFs galore: "Over the past dozen years, past administrators at SCSU have stood by and allowed our university to be characterized in the press as an enclave for drunkenness, sexism, homophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism."

Second, there's no consensus on the mission of the University: "Yes, I understand that if you took the job of President of SCSU, you would find it a thankless one. On the one hand you would have to stand up to the minions at MnSCU who continue to try to “dumb down” your university to the level occupied by Cass County Community College. And those folks in St. Paul are backed by an Attorney General’s office that is headed by an individual with higher political aspirations and a vested interest in settling every suit. At the same time you would have to deal with the micromanagers of the Faculty Senate who seem all too eager to second-guess your every move."

Meanwhile, rather than admit selectively, charge accordingly, and steer resources to the academic programs (which would give the faculty incentives to skip the Faculty Senate meetings), the administration has been feathering its own nest.

Unfortunately, anyone who would apply for a university presidency and give as objectives (1) serious admission standards (2) applied on a consistent basis among populations (3) enforced by a faculty (4) on the tenure-track (5) with time for research and manageable class sizes (6) and limited assessment and committee duties (7) in order that tuitions reflect the benefits students receive yet (8) do not subsidize bureaucracies charged with special education, diversity boondoggles, big-time sports and lying to the alumni would likely not make the short list of candidates.
SND THM 2 DS SCHL. Quare compares her wordcount to that on some widely read weblogs.
KILLING THE MESSENGER. Showing up might be 50 percent of life, but pointing out that the other 50 percent takes some work is a way to get yourself in trouble, at least for Pasadena schoolteachers.
APPRENTICESHIPS. There's a weblog for aspiring Ph.D.s. (Via Joanne Jacobs.)
HE'S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS. Or something like that.

4.12.02

CLASSIC OLIGOPOLY. Thus does Glenn Reynolds describe the three-network era. "Those who didn't like it could shout back at the television, but that was their only outlet. This suited politicians like Gore - whose mainstream Democratic liberalism fits well with the traditional network-news mindset - well enough, but left a lot of viewers unsatisfied.

"But technology changed all that, as broadcast networks were augmented by cable and satellite. Now viewers have a choice, and Fox's share is growing while its competitors' shares are shrinking. The same is true in other areas: talk radio, where liberal hosts have failed to get the kind of audiences enjoyed by conservative and libertarian hosts, and the Internet, where conservative/libertarian voices predominate to the great frustration of, well, guys like Al Gore. In fact, it seems that the greater the competition in a medium, the more that medium leans away from traditional establishment liberalism
."

Do I hear an echo?

Joanne Jacobs recommends a Michael Wolff column pointing out a further failing of liberal commentators: they're boring. Put more precisely, many confuse earnestness (anybody remember gravitas?) with seriousness. Same failing the assessors of the obvious and the teddy-bear pushers have: they dread the possibility that someone, somewhere, might be laughing at them. Add to that their failure to recognize that important doesn't have to be boring, and visualize the channel being changed. Or visualize the television being turned off, and the model railroad being worked on.

Professor Reynolds concludes with "Gore, on the other hand, seems to have moved to the left, introducing new policy proposals like national health insurance that seem tailor-made for old-style establishment-liberal media. It remains to be seen whether his views will be rewarded by the political market." He has a better chance of succeeding in his own party with that strategy, than with the public. It's the median voter theorem, again. If the Democrats seek to attract voters to the "left" (although there's more than one dimension to left) and Republicans to the "right" (same caveat) the successful strategy for winning the Democratic nomination is to run to the left (what Vice President Gore is doing) and then position yourself more as a centrist for the general election. Mr. Gore learned the first part of this lesson the hard way in 1988, positioning himself for the primary between Governor Dukakis and Vice President Bush. All he achieved by that was to provide Republicans with a Willie Horton stick to beat Democrats with. We will see if he learned the second part of the lesson in 2000, when he offered continuity with the Clinton administration in the primaries, then sounded like Walter Mondale with personality from his acceptance speech until the election.

3.12.02

SELF LOATHING: "Some so-called progressives, it seems, would rather whitewash theocratic fascism than acknowledge that the West holds the moral high ground in any conflict. Ironically, this repugnant attitude only helps those conservatives who would demonize all dissent on war-related issues. It certainly makes their job easier." And much more, from Cathy Young.
MULTICULTURALISM IS PATRONIZING. (Via InstaPundit.) The writer may substitute Ian Buruma for Spoons Experience in this independent study problem.
THEORY AND PRACTICE. Daniel Drezner on John DiIulio's difficulties, and Condoleezza Rice's successes, with links to several other commentaries. Sometimes I suspect that President Bush's changing statements vis-a-vis Iraq are something he learned as Governor, dealing with university administrators, who are prone to ask "how deeply" when the State House says "bend over." Perhaps he is seeking to elicit similar, chicken-with-its-head-cut-off reactions from Saddam Hussein, who will then issue his military orders, followed by counter-orders, followed by disorder, perhaps followed by the generals showing a little more spine than university administrators ...
COVENTRY REDUX UPDATE. Midwest Conservative Journal also notes, via an Australian (!) source, that Israel's Mossad has been given leave to open cans of whup-ass as necessary.
MUSCULAR CHRISTIANITY. Midwest Conservative Journal discovers that it's evangelical Christianity, not evangelical Islam, on the march in the developing countries. Somewhere in the clutter in the Superintendent's office is an Atlantic issue with an article on that point, and hard by the computer is a copy of Economics Nobel laureate Robert Fogel's The Fourth Great Awakening & the Future of Egalitarianism. Although Professor Fogel focuses on the United States, he notes the growing influence of evangelical Protestantism in Latin America and elsewhere.
INVINCIBLE. The Boston and Maine Railroad had a locomotive so named. In the late 1930s the Railroad sponsored a contest among New England schoolchildren to name locomotives. Among the winning names were East Wind, Ye Salem Witch, Little John, and Invincible. Today, the running gear for a kit arrived from Locomotive Workshop. This one I'm going to name Invincible. It will look something like Little John.



With exams soon to be upon us, and winter weather moving in, web logging is likely to give way to locomotive building.
BLOGGER PUBLICATION PROBLEMS noted at 6:30 PM, God's time. More postings later.
KRUGMAN TRUTH SQUAD. That's a regular feature at Random Jottings.
NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED. "Former NIU student sues for alleged harassment, discrimination," reports the Northern Star. "In the civil suit, Carl Qualls, an African American, states that NIU 'permitted a racially hostile educational environment that existed throughout Plaintiff’s matriculation at NIU'." Litigation is pending, with a status hearing scheduled for December 18 in Rockford. Among the university officials named in the suit are President John G. Peters, whose interview visit to the Faculty Senate included mention of the diverse student population at the University as an advantage for workforce participation, Provost J. Ivan Legg, who still brags on the progressiveness shown by his Oberlin College senior class in electing an integrated slate of class officers, sometime before I was born, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Support Services Admasu Zike, acronymer extrordinaire, with extensive experience in area studies, Associate Vice President for Administration and Human Resources and Director of Affirmative Action Steve Cunningham (res ipsa loquitur.)

Update to be provided after December 18.
TEETHING TROUBLES. More on the difficulties with the Virgin Voyager trains at Where Worlds Collide. I liked this: "The trains (basically sprinters with pointy noses) just aren't designed for the long-distance market; the lack of luggage space and inadequate catering are example of this. As for the serious overcrowding problems, this is a consequence of attempting an all-day regular-interval service with short trains when the demand varies considerably by time of day. While Virgin claim there are as many seats available over the course of the day, I'm sure there are far fewer at busy times." There's nothing wrong with putting a shovel nose on a railcar (note to my readers: 'doodlebug' has a very different meaning on US rails than it does in England, where it refers to a German cruise missile) but the Boston and Maine provided full-size trains at busy hours.

This train will show up the Acela Express.

Here's something ironic from the Flying Yankee history page: "The train was designed as a sprinter, covering intermediate distances quickly."