Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Not a Good Month of Cycling

August totals are way down, mainly because of the crash on August 7. I rode a total of 10 times during the month, half before August 7 and half after, with my last ride being on August 24th. Pretty depressing stuff.

Total distance for the month =  372.5 miles.

Year to date: 3690 miles.

Having finally gotten straightened out (I hope) by my chiropractor, I expect to get in a lot more rides and many more miles in September, but three business trips during the month will limit me to probably no more than 500 miles.

RIP: Laurent Fignon (1960-2010)

Cyclingnews.com is reporting that French cycling legend and two-time Tour de France winner, Laurent Fignon has passed away at the age of 50, after a year-long battle with cancer. Fignon, himself, suggested that his cancer may have been related to performance-enhancing drugs. Whatever the cause, his illness and untimely death are very sad news for cycling fans everywhere.Condolences to his family and friends.

Happy 55th Birthday Edwin Moses

One of the great track athletes of all time, Moses was a specialist in the 400 meter hurdles, and in that discipline set one of the most incredible records in all of sports: between 1977 and 1987, he won every race he entered (122), including  107 consecutive finals. In the process, he also set four world records. He also won two Olympic gold medals.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Long Day of Talking

I'm just back at the Law School in Indy after spending a few hours in Bloomington to (1) have lunch with my favorite freshman; and (2) make a presentation at the Workshop. It was the inaugural presentation in the newly refurbished Tocqueville Room. The space is about the same, but the furnishings, technology, and climate-control have all been upgraded. More than 50 folks came to hear me talk for about 45 minutes on how regulations and other acts of sovereignty create, as well as protect and limit, property rights. The questions after the presentation were, as always, insightful and helpful. Now, the only question is whether my voice will hold out for my 2-hour Law & Econ class this evening.

Happy Birthday Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)

A leading French neoclassical painter who chronicled the French Revolution on canvas. He also served in the National Assembly, because a virtual dictator of the arts of in the new republic, and was a personal friend of Robespierre (but David lived to tell about it). Here are three of his paintings. The first is The Oath of the Tennis Court (1791) depicts an early event of the Revolution in 1789, when all but one member of the Third Estate of the National Assembly signed an oath to continue meeting until a constitution was completed. The second is the Death of Marat (1793), the radical journalist who was among the leaders of the revolution, assassinated in his bath by another revolutionary, Charlotte Corday, who thought Marat was precipitating a civil war and wanted to prevent it. The third canvas is simply a self-portrait David painted in 1784.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Glenn Beck Wants Us to "Return to God," but Which One?

At yesterday's Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C., TV loud-mouth turned evangelist Glenn Beck focused his remarks on the need for our country to "turn back to God" (see here). But he failed to specify which God we should all be turning back to. The god of the Jews (Yahweh)? The Christian trinitarian God? The Christian unitarian God? The Christian God as interpreted by the Book of Mormon (Beck's own professed church)? The God of the Muslims (Allah)? Actually, I'm pretty sure that's not the one Glenn has in mind, but that's exactly who the Taliban have in mind when they call for a "return to God." How about the Gods of the Romans or Greeks or the Egyptian Gods of Isis and Osiris, or Hindu Gods (including Krishna)? And let's not forget Wotan.

So far, all we really know is that Beck doesn't want us to be atheists (like me). C'mon Glenn, we need more details about which God we should all be following in lockstep (or should that be goose-step).

Beck's generic call for a "return to God" reminds me of Sam Harris's suggestion that, every time someone utters the word "God," substitute for it the word "Zeus," and see how sensibly it strikes you. "In Zeus We Trust." The standard response, of course, is that Zeus wasn't the true God. If you can tell me that, then you should be able to explain to me which God is the true one, and why millions or billions of other people are simply deluded in thinking that it is a different one.

Bottom line: we won't really know which God to follow until Glenn Beck tells us.

DISCLAIMER: I do not intend this post to offend  people with sincerely-held religious beliefs, including members of my own family (but, I suspect, not Glenn Beck). I do, however, intend this post to offend those, such as Glenn Beck and the Taliban, who simplify religious belief (or non-belief) and use it facilely as a political prop.

Happy Birthday John Locke (1632-1704)

Among the most important political philosophers of the Enlightenment (or any time period, for that matter), the breadth of Locke's contributions is staggering. Some of his original ideas on social-contract theory can be found virtually unedited in the US Declaration of Independence. His contributions to the theory of mind and property theory are still discussed and debated today. And his contributions to economics, while less appreciated, were in several respects ahead of their time. Roger Woolhouse's 2007 biography of Locke is recommended.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Interview with David Grossman

Here in The Guardian. Grossman is my favorite Israeli author. I just ordered his new book, To the End of the Land (Knopf 2010), which is being hailed as his "masterpiece" - high praise indeed, given previous works like See Under: Love and The Book of Intimate Grammar. Here, for example, is the conclusion of a review recently published in The Independent (here):
Gassy superlatives have been heaped on this novel by writers such as Paul Auster and Nicole Krauss. It is tricky to set out the scale of Grossman's achievement without resorting to reviewers' clich├ęs. He has aimed as high as it is possible to do in a novel which deals with the great questions of love, intimacy, war, memory and fear of personal and national annihilation - and has overwhelmingly achieved everything. To the End of the Land will have to be read and re-read to begin to scratch the surface of its ambitions to scrape raw the human heart.

A Tale of Two Rallies

There were two rallies in Washington, D.C. today that made me very glad to be home in Indianapolis. One was a Tea Party rally led by Beck University President, and self-proclaimed messenger from God, Glenn Beck. His own speech, on this anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, was labeled by one wag (here), "I Have a Nightmare."

Meanwhile, in a different part of DC, the not-so-very Reverend Al Sharpton led a rally in apparent opposition to Beck's rally. Both sought to "reclaim" the civil rights movement of the 1960s. And I didn't even know it had been lost.

Are these really the two best "leaders" politically disaffected (or politically touched in the head) Americans can come up with to organize around? P.T. Barnum is smiling in his grave.

Arsenal 2 - Blackburn 1

Arsenal won a tough fixture on the road. Blackburn's physical play usually causes the Gunners trouble, and today was no different. Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie got their first starts of the season, after extended post-World Cup vacations. Unfortunately, the always-fragile van Persie took a couple of knocks to his ankle and left the game hobbling in the first half. Fabregas slowly rounded into form as the game progressed, looking increasingly dangerous in the second half, before being withdrawn for the last quarter hour of the match.

Despite occasional moments of fluidity - exemplified by the series of one-touch passes resulting in the game's  first goal, scored by Theo Walcott - the hard-working Blackburn defense successfully disrupted the Gunners' offensive movement for much of the match. After Walcott's goal, Blackburn came back to tie the match before the end of the first half. Andrei Arshavin untied it again in the second half, with his second goal of the season, scored on a rebound in the box; and the Gunners held on for a hard-earned victory. They are for the moment on top of the league table, although Chelsea should reclaim that spot after a home game against Stoke City later today.

In Praise of Amazon.com

Yesterday, I went to a local bookstore with a list of three books I wanted, none of which is an obscure academic title. I am a fan of local bookstores and libraries and like to support them whenever possible. Increasingly, however, it seems impossible. The local bookstore I visited had only one of the three books I wanted in stock.

How much easier and more reliable it is to use Amazon.com. I don't have to leave the house. I can simply type in the titles I want (including out-of-print books), often with a nice discount on the price and free shipping, and the books show up in my mailbox within a week or so. Even when Amazon does not have a title I want in stock, the ordering process is much quicker and simpler than that of any local  bookseller.

So, then, what purpose does my local bookstore serve? Well, I can always go there to leaf through some cycling magazines while drinking a cup of coffee. Aside from that, the business model of physical bookstores seems to me as obsolete as the business model of the music industry.

Did "Big George" Land on His Head?

George Hincapie describes his injury after crashing out of the Tour of Utah (here). "The pain is gone, it's just very sore." 

Happy Birthday Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Trained as a lawyer, Geothe became one of the most important writers in world (not just German) literature. Goethe was an Enlightenment thinker who almost single-handedly set off the Romantic movement with his 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). Later, he published two other masterworks of fiction:  Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship (1795-6) and the two-part drama  Faust (1808-1832). Goethe was a polymath, who made important contributions to natural science with his Theory of Colours (1810) and his Metamorphosis of Plants (1790).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Best News Story I've Read in a While

"Beer's not to blame for weight gain."

So proclaims a headline in today's Telegraph (here).

Champion's League Draw

Here are the groups:

Group A: Inter Milan, Werder Bremen, Tottenham, FC Twente.
Group B: Lyon, Benfica, Schalke, Hapoel Tel-Aviv.
Group C: Manchester United,Valencia, Rangers, Bursaspor.
Group D: Barcelona, Panathinaikos, FC Copenhagen, Rubin Kazan.
Group E: Bayern Munich, Roma, FC Basle, Cluj.
Group F: Chelsea, Marseille, Spartak Moscow, MSK Zilina.
Group G: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Ajax, Auxerre.
Group H: Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, FC Braga, FK Partizan.

On paper at least, Arsenal should have little difficulty getting through Group H to the first knock-out stage, but they will face a couple of relatively long trips to Belgrade and Donetsk (the new home of former Gunner Eduardo). Most of the other top teams in Europe, including Inter, Man U, Barca, Bayern, and Chelsea, look to have reasonably comfortable groups. But AC Milan and Real Madrid in Group G will be worrying not just about each other but also traditional Dutch powerhouse (but not so much these days) Ajax.

Happy 33d Birthday Deco

One of the great midfielders in world football over the past decade,  the Brazilian-born, Portuguese International Deco won UEFA's Best Midfielder award twice and Club Footballer of the Year once. A few years ago, Deco's then-teammate Ronaldinho once deflected a compliment about being the greatest player in the world by denying that he was even the greatest player on his team, giving the nod to Deco. I was fortunate to meet Deco at the Nou Camp stadium a few years ago, while on a visit to Barcelona. Someone, somewhere has a photo of me standing with him and Juliana Balletti.

(Notice that I managed to avoid even mentioning that Deco once played for Chelsea.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mark Kleiman on Less Crime Through Less Punishment

Here is a fabulous video from Reason.tv featuring Mark Kleiman, author of the brilliant book When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton 2009). I can't wait to show it to my Law & Economics class, when we get to the section on crime and punishment towards the end of the semester.

What Is a No-Drop Ride?

Ride-leaders will often call "no-drop rides." The meaning of the phrase appears at first blush to be clear enough, but over the past couple of seasons, I've noticed some ambiguity in the application. On some rides, it seems to mean that the group will stay together for the entire ride. On other rides, it seems to me that the group might be split by attacks, but everyone will regroup at certain junctures or intersections. On yet other other rides, it seems to mean that at least one ride-leader will make sure that no one gets left behind, even if the group is splintered by attacks.

The fact that the phrase "no-drop" seems amenable to various interpretations strikes me as potentially problematic because, if riders are not clear on the ground rules of a particular ride, they might wind up being disappointed with the ride and, potentially, alienated from the group. There are, of course, ways of avoiding such potential problems. For instance, ride leaders might better define what they mean by "no-drop" for any particular ride. Or cycling clubs could adopt default definitions that operate in the absence of contrary or more detailed directions for particular rides.

Before making any such recommendations, however, I thought I would take a nonscientific poll of my own club, Team Nebo Ridge, to see if my hypothesis about the ambiguousness of the term "no-drop" had empirical support. Team Nebo Ridge is a racing team and cycling club with approximately 80 members. I posted a one-question survey instrument on SurveyMonkey.com, and created a link to the survey on the team's Google Group site. Fifty of the approximately 80 members of the team and club responded to the poll.

The Poll

The poll consisted in a single question: "When a ride is referred to as "no drop" you understand that phrase to mean:," followed by six response options:

(A) "the group rides as a group for the entire ride, with no attacks";

(B) "the groups rides as a group at least until one or two miles before the end, when attacks are allowable";

(C) "the group may be split by attacks at any time during the ride, but always regroups at major junctures or intersections";

(D) "the group may be split by attacks at any time, and remain split throughout the remainder of the ride, so long as at least one rider is responsible for ensuring that no one is left behind";

(E) "other."

For those who answered "other," and for anyone else who wanted to add to their response, I provided a box for comments.

Poll Results

A. 4 respondents (8%)
B. 6 respondents (12%)
C. 28 respondents (56%)
D. 6 respondents (12%)
E. 7 respondents (14%)

Eleven respondents (presumably including the 7 who selected answer "E") provided comments. I am reprinting each of the 11 comments in full, including one that was unresponsive to the question (I have corrected a few typos in the comments):

1. "A group no-drop ride can be all of the above, depending on what was decided BEFORE the particular ride. A ride intent should be announced prior to the ride. If an individual wants to get a harder workout in, then they should speak up prior to the ride to share their ride intentions. The group can then decide if they want to stay at their own pace or go with the "attack" and then regroup if that is their intention. I feel each group ride should be able to take on some of the spontaneity of its individual make-up... within the acceptable and agreeable limits set before the ride. If during a no-drop ride someone changes their mind and wants to ride aggressively, then what's wrong with them verbally announcing that they want to change their ride... and then going. That would be the proper way to handle it."

2.  "A no drop ride means that no one finishes alone but they might spend time alone. However, the left riders shouldn't have to chase."

3.  So...if a rider attacks, is he or she part of the same ride? For example, 10 people go on a "no-drop" ride. 1 person attacks and 2 others follow. The ride leader remains with the 6 other people. Does the ride still qualify as a "no-drop" ride?

4. "This is only my 3d year of riding; no drop to me means: (1) a pre-determined pace you should be comfortable maintaining to remain with the group; (2) group remains together primarily for safety; if flat, mechanical problem, or illness occurs, group is there for assistance; (3) if attacks happen, that rider(s) has opted to leave the security of the group; the group would never chase or deviate from its pre-determined pace; (4) the group leader(s) location indicates where the primary group is centered; not the location of the greatest number of riders."

5. "I answered C based on experience, but truly feel that B is the way it should be. I like B better because when a group splits and regroups, the one rider who has dropped off gets no chance to rest and recuperate, while the stronger riders get to rest before going on. This usually results in one rider getting dropped again shortly thereafter. Anyway just my $0.02."

6. "I answered C and can see how people would answer A. Now do I get a prize?"

7. "The group might be split by a rider's inability to maintain the group pace (not from sudden burst of speed). At least one rider will make sure no one is left behind to ride solo."

8. "Nobody gets dropped, left alone, left behind."

9. "Any of the above. Relying on the abstract term "no drop" alone may not be sufficient if it's all that important. Either the ride leader should define it in clear terms (and then hopefully provide any enforcement or support), or those potential participants who are concerned about it should ask the ride leader for clarification and express any concerns they may have about enforcement/support."

10. "No dropping of water bottles, energy goo, names of famous reality-show stars, or F-Bombs ... unless the latter is provoked by a rogue farm dog."

11. "The group rides as a group but may engage in periodic attacks after which the group re-groups."


My operating hypothesis when I decided to conduct this poll was that there is no consensus among riders - even those belonging to a single team or club - about the meaning of the phrase "no-drop ride." The poll results certainly have not falsified that hypothesis, although I was a bit surprised to find a clear majority (56%) agreeing on a single definition (C).

As the poll results suggest, and one or two of the comments express, the phrase "no-drop ride" remains ambiguous. It does not provide riders with all the information they might want to have about a particular group ride. In the absence of more detailed information from ride leaders, the default expectations of some riders may not be met, resulting in disappointment with the ride and possible alienation from the team and club.

How can this problem be avoided? Perhaps the team should adopt a default definition of "no-drop ride" that prevails in the absence of more detailed information. For example, Team Nebo Ridge might adopt the following default norm: "The phrase 'no-drop ride,' in the absence of additional details, means that the group generally rides together but may be split by attacks at any time during the ride. If attacks occur, the riders will regroup at the next major juncture or intersection." Such a norm would conform to the understanding of a clear majority of the membership, and would put the onus on ride leaders to provide more information, if they prefer a different flavor of "no-drop" ride. Of course, monitoring and enforcement problems might arise, but a general statement of team policy would at least ameliorate some of the inherent ambiguity that currently exists.

If the team does not consider it appropriate to develop a team policy with respect to "no-drop" rides, then, at the very least, ride leaders (and potential ride leaders) might learn from this poll that they need to be more specific in issuing calls for rides. It is not good enough merely to specify that a ride is "no-drop."

DISCLAIMER: Just in case anyone from IU's IRB comes across this post, please note that I conducted the survey in my personal and private capacity as a member of Team Nebo Ridge cycling club, not as a faculty member of Indiana University.

Happy Birthday Jack Hirshleifer (1925-2005)

Very  influential in information economics, Hirshleifer also made significant contributions to evolutionary economics and conflict resolution.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Democracy in Pakistan

We Americans are preconditioned to believe that democracy is an unconditional good. Whatever the problem, less democracy is never an appropriate answer.The Pakistani columnist and media commentator Fasi Zaka appears (here) to disagree:
The fact is, if we had real democracy, there would be no internet in Pakistan, women would not be allowed out of their homes, education would come to a standstill and we would begin a programme of killing off every minority. Thank you corrupt generals and politicians, you keep this at bay with some sense of being answerable to a world that still has some humanity in it, even if you don’t.
We might hope that Zaka is wrong (or at least hyperbolic) about Pakistan, but the larger issue remains. Political theory, including theories of democracy, are still vexed by unresolved (and possibly insoluble) conundrums.

Hat tip: Browser.com

Happy Birthday Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

One of the most accomplished musicians in American history, Bernstein was a world-renowned and flamboyant  conductor and a charismatic teacher. Among the American public, he is probably best remembered for his various television series on music and for composing the score to West Side Story. He is somewhat less well known for his other musical compositions, which are world class. The selection below from his First Symphony "Jeremiah" is one of my favorite pieces of twentieth-century music in any genre. Unfortunately, the video does not show him actually conducting it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Off to College

Today promises to be a very emotional one for the Cyclingprof household. We are moving our daughter to Bloomington later this morning, where she will begin undergraduate studies at IU next week. We are making a complete family event of it, even taking son Stefan out of school for the day so that he can participate. I don't think he really comprehends yet how much he's going to miss his big sister. Mrs. Cylcingprof, on the other hand, has been anticipating and dreading this day for months already.

The hardened father in me says, "It's about time." Indeed, Marysia's been ready for college for more than a year in my estimation. And yet, this is one of life's milestones that, for parents at least, is so very difficult to grasp and accept: How did that delightful and tender little girl grew up so fast and so well - became so smart and capable - in what seems the blink of an eye? Scenes of good times and bad (but mostly good) intrude  without warning, so real that I can almost touch my baby, my 3-year-old, my 7-year-old girl.

As much as I try to remain the emotionally remote, rational "Dad," it is inevitably a very sad day for me, though I am so very happy for my girl. And I could not be more proud of her.

Happy 53d Birthday Roger De Vlaeminck

I am torn because it is also the birthday of Stephen Fry, whom I consider to be among the most admirable humans now living, but De Vlaeminck's palmares are simply overwhelming. The Belgian is one of the greatest ever classics racers, having won virtually every major one-day event available, aside from the World Championship (although he did win the World Championship of cyclocross in 1975). De Vlaeminck won Paris-Roubaix 4 times, Tirreno-Adriatico 6 times, Milan-San Remo 3 times, Omloop Het Volk twice, Kurne-Brussels-Kurne twice, and the Ronde de Vlaanderen, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and Flech-Wallone once each. He also did well in stage races, winning the the GC at the Giro di Lombardia and the Tour de Suisse, winning the points competition three times in the Giro d'Italia, and winning one stage each in the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dorfman on the Numerus Clausus

An intriguing paper (available here) about a contested  feature of the common law of property that (supposedly) restricts estates in land to a few judicially recognized forms. Dorfman argues, contrary to (among others) Merrill and Smith (see, e.g., here), that functional accounts of the numerus clausus are insufficient to explain the principle. In place of a functional approach, he offers a novel explanation of the numerus clausus based on a conception of legitimate political authority over social institutions.

Here is the abstract:
Property rights are subject to the principle of numerus clausus, which is a restriction that means that it cannot be up to the contracting parties - or private persons, more generally - to create new forms of property right, but only to trade rights that take existing forms. What can explain this peculiar limitation? All the answers offered so far by property theorists have marshaled functional explanations either in favor of or against the numerus clausus principle (hereinafter: NC). In this paper I shall set out to articulate a novel explanation of this principle. My argument develops two general claims. Negatively, explanations that emphasize the desirable effects - the functions - associated with this sort of limitation on the creation of new forms of property right cannot explain the principle in question. As I shall seek to show, this shortcoming is no mere explanatory gap. The NC principle, I argue, remains flatly indifferent to the functions advanced through property rights. Affirmatively, I shall seek to show that the principle of NC reflects a concern about legitimate political authority - that is, it gives a doctrinal expression to the question of how political authority is possible. The authority in question pertains to the normative power of legislating new property rights and their correlative obligations. The principle of NC, I argue, is a limitation on private legislation of new forms of property right. Most importantly, I shall argue that the underlying idea of political legitimation that grounds this principle is none other than democratic self-governance.

Recovery Ride and First Day of Classes

Today is the first day of the fall semester at the law school. I'm teaching Law & Economics this semester on Monday and Wednesday evenings, which leaves my days free for making progress on writing and book chapter revisions.

I plan to get in a recovery ride this afternoon before heading into school. After yesterday's 65-mile jaunt, my left hip became quite stiff and sore, and I hope to work that out a bit during an easy ride in the park. Now that school is starting, I'll probably be riding more on my own on weekday afternoons, when the park is quiet and I can think through work-related problems as I pedal.

Happy Birthday Keith Moon (1946-1978)

With regrets to Kenneth Arrow and Robert Solow, two of the most important economists of the twentieth century, both of whom I'm happy to say are still with us, as an ex-drummer myself, I simply could not overlook the birthday of the greatest drummer in rock and roll history, and one of the most influential drummers in any genre during the twentieth century. Tony Williams, one of the world's greatest jazz drummers, reportedly said that Moon was his favorite drummer. The accolade from a jazz drummer was appropriate because Moon was the first drummer in rock to use jazz techniques such as playing across the bar.

The 1971 album Who's Next captures what might be the single greatest performance of rock drumming across a series of songs in music history. Other drummers laugh with joy hearing Moon's playing on tracks like "Bargain" and "Going Mobile."

Tommy was the first record album I ever bought (in 1969). Keith Moon quickly became my favorite drummer, and still is 40 years later. I got to see him play live with the Who three times before he died. When I was in college in LA, I would sometimes see him at public functions in and around Hollywood. Once, he showed up driving a WWII-era tank for the premier of the rockumentary "All this and World War II." Moon played the drums like no one else before or since. Often imitated, never duplicated, he was a one-of-a-kind, mad genius. Noel Gallagher from Oasis called Moon the "Jimmy Hendrix of the drum kit." That pretty much hit the nail on the head.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mokyr's "Enlightened Economy"

I just finished reading Joel Mokyr's magisterial treatment of the various intellectual and economic forces that gave rise to the industrial revolution in England, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain, 1700-1850. It is certainly the most comprehensive treatment of the subject I have ever read. I learned something on every page.

I hesitate to recommend Mokyr's book to a general (i.e., nonacademic)  readership only because of its academic/analytical tone. This is not a popular history book of the Barbara Tuchman or David McCullough variety. That said, Mokyr writes with sufficient clarity that I think nonacademic readers could get a lot out of the book.

Cycling Unrecommendation: iBike power meters

I've been using iBike products for a couple of years, starting with the  iAero II. For the last year or so, I've been using an iBike Pro III. More accurately, I've used two different iBike Pro III head units with the same sensors. They replaced the first head unit because I was getting cadence surges that couldn't be fixed by moving the sensors, which they had me do several times. (A more or less constant trope of iBike's approach to customer service is to blame the positioning of the sensors if the unit is malfunctioning. They've even blamed my bike material - titanium - for problems in the past.)

The replacement head unit they sent me was working okay, until today, when I got some kind of weird "speed spike" (iBike's expression, not mine) that  corrupted the entire file, so that it indicated that I rode 147 miles at an average speed of 45 mph. In reality, I rode about 66 miles at 18-19 mph. I'm trying to work through the problem right now with Aaron Timmer (who is head of technical support at iBike). So far, he has had me move the sensors again, and suggested that it's "just one" speed spike, which I could simply remove from the file after the ride. Now, he's asking me about whether it might have something to do with my wheel set, and even whether I back-pedal a lot. Complete and utter nonsense. But it's easier (though not necessarily good business practice) to blame the customer than to concede actual problems with the hardware and/or software.

The one advantage of the iBike against other power meters out there is its relatively low price. The price is  lower because, unlike SRM and similar units, it doesn't  measure power directly but indirectly from various factors including tilt, wind speed, wheel speed, etc. That is not to say, however, that the iBike is inexpensive. I have spent several hundred, maybe a thousand, dollars with them over the past few years, and I feel that most of that money has been wasted; at least, the value I've received is way below the price I paid. The system is, in my experience, simply too finicky and unreliable at any price. So, the bottom line is that I will not be spending any more money on iBikes, and I will be looking to upgrade to a more reliable, less finicky bike computer by a different manufacturer as soon as I can afford to. I would not recommend the iBike to anyone.

The Ultimate Team Treachery and Deceit Ride

1.  Call a "no-drop, moderate" ride.
2.  Lead the group north into the wind at 22 mph.
3.  After turning south with the wind, use traffic to gain a gap on the field, then drop everyone.

Congratulations to Bob, Tommy and Frank for "winning" a race against their friends who were not racing. They must be very proud.

Rate this ride: *** (I actually enjoyed the ride a lot, but as a group ride, it sucked.)

RETRACTION: I clearly have the wrong idea about no-drop group rides. I thought that, aside from occasional forays off the front, folks would generally stay together and enjoy the ride as a group. Apparently, all group rides, including no-drop rides, are really more in the nature of mini-races, where the goal is to beat your friends, rather than ride with them. My apologies to Bob, Tommy, Frank and anyone else my original message offended.

Happy Birthday Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Debussy was among the greatest impressionistic composers of the 19th century (along with Maurice Ravel). Best known for his orchestral works, such as La Mer and Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune, and piano works such as the Preludes and Clair de Lune, Debussy's chamber music pieces are not quite so well know. Among those works, I particular like his one and only string quartet, the first movement of which gets an enthusiastic performance from the Dahlkvist Quartet in the video below.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Arsenal 6 - Blackpool 0

It was always going to be a long day for newly promoted Blackpool, but after one of their defenders was sent off for a foul in the box (resulting in a penalty score by Andrei Arshavin) before the end of the first half, the rest of the game was a failed exercise in damage control. Arsenal ran rampant, with a particularly impressive performance by Theo Walcott, who scored a hat-trick. It was good to see Walcott looking so hungry, and making consistently good decisions with his shots and passes. Among other Gunners who impressed, I thought both Jack Wilshire and Abu Diaby had better games than last week against Liverpool. Chamakh used his head to score his first goal as a Gunner. Alex Song, normally a defensive midfielder, deputized effectively in the central defense alongside Vermaelen.

The only real disappointment for Arsenal was the continued sketchy play of Andrei Arshavin, who, despite, his goal, still seemed not quite up to match speed, and made several bad passes.

Happy 40th Birthday Erik Dekker

Dutch classics specialist, who retired in 2006, and now serves as a directeur sportif  at Rabobank. During his career, Dekker won the Ronde van Nederland twice, Amstel Gold, Paris-Tours, and four stages of the Tour de France (3 of them in 2000).

Friday, August 20, 2010

AEA Elections

As a member in good standing of the American Economics Association (AEA), I recently received a ballot to vote 2011 officers of the association. Included along with the ballot was the following announcement: "AEA voting rates were once better than other social science associations but have declined in recent years...." What is surprising, given the strong influence of Public Choice Theory in economics, is that AEA voting rates were once better than in other social science associations. Public Choice Theory maintains, generally, that voting is an economically irrational activity because (a) it is costly to vote, but (b) the chance of any particular voter's vote affecting the outcome is approximately zero. Declining voting rates among members of the AEA simply indicate that they are paying attention to their own theories, right? An economist voting in an AEA election would be like an economist gambling at a casino (without a formula for beating the odds).

One other interesting thing about the AEA ballot: All of the candidates are from the elite-of-elite universities: 2 from Princeton; 2 from Stanford; and 1 each from Chicago, Yale, Harvard, MIT, and Columbia. I am aware that some economists (among other academics)  believe that academia is basically a meritocracy, in which the cream always rises to the top. But I am not among them (and not only for self-serving reasons). I would be much happier to see a ballot that included the names of really smart economists, and there are plenty, from a wider variety of colleges and universities.Perhaps that would reduce some of the clubbishness that the AEA exhibits (like so many other academic organizations).

Just in case you're wondering, my ballot is in the wastebasket.

Happy Birthday the late Doug Feiger (1951-2010)

Best known as frontman of The Knack, whose first album, Get the Knack, held (and maybe still holds) the distinction of being the fastest selling record album in history. Everyone knows "My Sharona," but the album is chock full of great songs. I got to see the band play live a couple of times during the heyday of the Power Pop movement in the late 1970s, when I was in college in L.A. (along with other great local bands like 20/20 and the Plimsouls). Great fun. As you can see, Doug died way too young from cancer.

Here's The Knack playing a couple of great, if slightly lesser-known, songs from Get the Knack:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Good for the Bull

ESPN has a video (here) of a bull that charged into the stands during a bull fight and injured about 40 spectators. Although I'm sorry about their injuries, I'm glad the bull turned the tables and exposed the spectators to a substantial risk in what is, normally, a stacked game. Bullfighting is a cruel sport, which should have no place in the modern world. It wouldn't be so despicable if the risks were more fairly distributed between the bull and blood-lusting spectators (a la the running of the bulls at Pamplona).

Now, if we can only figure out a way to weaponize game animals hunted purely for sport (I have no quarrel with those who hunt for meat or as an occupation to support their families).

Squirrelier and Squirrelier

Is it just me, or do all the Nebo rides seem to be getting more dangerous as they become more crowded? It used to be that the "A" group was fast; the "Killer Bs" were slightly less fast and squirrely; and the "Honey Bs" were careful and mild-mannered. Now, it seems, the "As" are very fast and squirrely, the "Killer Bs" nearly as fast and even more squirrely; and the "Honey Bs" have gotten faster and pretty darn squirrely.

I could just be that I'm still a bit skittish, coming off my recent crash, but my sense is that all the Nebo rides have become too crowded, too fast, and, consequently, too dangerous. Maybe it's time for me to find a different, smaller and tamer ride on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Rate this ride: **

Just What the Doctor Ordered: Another Defender for the Gunners

Various news outlets are reporting that Arsenal have made an offer for French international and Sevilla defender Sebastien Squillace, and that Sevilla have pulled him from their Champion's League squad so that he will not be cup-tied if he joins the Gunners. Contrary to Wenger's usual preference for young players to develop, Squillace is 30 years old and is very experienced. The timing could not be better given the injuries to Djourou and Koscielny.

Now, if Wenger can only sign a top-flight keeper, like Shay Given or Mark Schwarzer.

Calling All Social Psychologists

According to this harticle in today's NY Daily News, 20% or more (depending on the poll) of Americans "wrongly believe" that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, and the number has grown since Obama asserted (correctly) that the Islamic Community Center has the right to locate near "Ground Zero" in southern Manhattan. Even before he was elected president, fringe elements on the right were alleging that he was a "secret Muslim" (see, e.g., here), but 20% is too big to be called a "fringe."

I actually hope the people who claim to "believe" Obama is Muslim are purposely lying about their own beliefs for political purposes because if they actually believe what they say they believe, contrary to all the evidence, the implications would be very troubling. Is it really so easy for us to pull the wool over their own eyes and convince ourselves of established untruths?  What else are individuals willfully deluding themselves about, contrary to the facts, in their daily lives? Can the rationality assumption of economics and positive political theory stand, if self-delusion is a fundamental part of our make-up?

Perhaps I am overreacting about the implications. This is a comparatively easy case for self-delusion because, after all, one's religious commitments are always privately held, whatever one might say about them in public. However well-established is Obama's Christianity in the public record, questions can always be raised about his, or anyone else's, private beliefs. For example, if we believed that Pat Robertson is a secret Satan worshiper, we could explain away his apparent commitment to Christianity as nothing more than subterfuge.

The early 20th century writer and social reformer Upton Sinclair famously and sagely wrote, "It is difficult to get a man to understanding something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Perhaps it is also difficult to get someone to understand something when her political commitments depend on her not understanding it. Either way, I'd still like to believe that facts matter.

Avent on Mulligan

Last week, I posted (here) on economist Casey Mulligan's theory that summer employment of teenagers, even during a recession, disproves key elements of Keynesianism. Ryan Avent, of The Economist, does a much better job dismantling Mulligan's argument (here).

Happy Birthday Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976)

A very influential 20th century philosopher, who coined the famous phrase "ghost in the machine" to describe Cartesian dualism, which he adamantly (and rightly) opposed. Ryle also came up with the concept of "category mistake" to describe attributions of properties to things, entities, or ideas that they could not possibly possess. For instance, it would be a category mistake to speak of the chemical composition of "minds" or memes. Ryle's concept is perpetually useful for disentangling conceptual and logical confusions.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back on the Bike II

Dr. Wilkes and I had an excellent 35-mile ride this evening. The weather was outstanding, and I was just happy to be on the bike again.We worked fairly hard heading north on Lafayette to Lebanon (wattage between 200 and 400), then mostly took things easy (Dr. Wilkes did a few fast cadence drills, while I watched) heading over to Whitestown, down to Zionsville, and back home. Felt stronger than on Monday. Hopefully, I'll be a little less sore tomorrow than I was after my first ride back.

Rate this ride: *****

Recent Books on Ethics

Justice (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 2009) by Political Philosopher Michael Sandel is based on his famous undergraduate course of the same title at Harvard. The book is, in essence, an introduction to basic issues in and approaches to justice, aimed at an undergraduate (or otherwise inexpert) audience. It includes discussions of utilitarianism, libertarianism, Aristotelian and Kantian ethics, often in the context of interesting ethical dilemmas. I plan to give the book to my daughter, just as soon as I've finished with it. So far, my sense is that Sandel underrates consequentialist theories (including utilitarianism) and overrates the practical utility of motive-based theories such as Kant's. It is a delightful read nonetheless.

The Idea of Justice (Harvard/Belknap 2009) by Nobel Laureate ('98) Amartya Sen, is a far more ambitious work, which rejects ideal theories of justice, which he finds ultimately untenable, in favor of more workable ideas of comparative justice (and injustice). Recognizing that perfect justice is probably unattainable, Sen is concerned with how public reason can be exercised to reduce injustice. Moreover, as an economist, Sen appreciates that practical ethics often requires choices and trade-offs. Although not as simple in its approach or presentation as Sandel's book, Sen's book is, like all his works, clear and eminently readable. It expects more of, and gives more to, the reader.

For a simple proxy by which to distinguish the relative seriousness of these two books, just look at the blurbs on their back covers. Sandel's book has recommendations from two prominent and very intelligent newspaper columnists, E.J. Dionne, Jr. and George F. Will. Sen's book has recommendations from the likes of Harvard Philosopher Hilary Putnam, the late Oxford Political Philosopher G.A. Cohen, and fellow Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow.

Better Late Than Never

Now that I've completed my summer writing projects, I am starting to revise chapters of my (and Peter Grossman's) Principles of Law & Economics for a new edition forthcoming next year from Kluwer/Aspen. I've begun the revisions with Chapter 12 on Tort Reform because that's the chapter that requires the most updating based on studies published since the first edition of our book.

The first source I looked at in preparing to update the chapter is University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Tom Baker's excellent book The Medical Malpractice Myth (Chicago 2005).  It's a fabulous read, and chock full of useful information. Wish I had read it years ago. Highly recommended.

Nasri Our for a Month After Knee Surgery

The Gunners suffer yet another early season set-back as midfielder Samir Nasri will be out for at least a month after undergoing knee surgery (which may explain the fall off in his performance during the second half of the Liverpool match last Sunday). Fortunately, midfield is the one position where Arsenal have some depth. Thomas Rosicky will be a more than adequate replacement for Nasri, assuming (and it's a big assumption) he can stay healthy.

Happy Birthday Romain Maes (1913-1983)

Winner of the 1935 Tour de France, Maes led the race from start to finish. The next year, the Belgian was denied a win in Paris-Roubaix by judge's decision declaring (incorrectly) that another rider crossed the finish line first.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Worst Kind of Politics: Vote-seeking by Promoting Constitutional and Statutory Violations

It's an election year, which more than anything else means that politicians are even more mendacious and unprincipled than usual. In any other year, I imagine the fight over the proposed Islamic community center a couple of blocks from "Ground Zero" would be minor, if not non-existent. However, because it is an election year, we can expect some politicians seeking re-election to use it as a wedge issue. According to a story in today's New York Times (here) that is exactly what many Republican candidates (and potential 2012 presidential contenders, such as Newt Gingrich) are trying to do. As a matter of campaign strategy, playing on the xenophobic fears of the Ignorami (a.k.a., the median voter) might well be successful. But it's potential instrumental value does not make it the right thing to do.

If successful, the political campaign to block the Islamic community center in lower Manhattan would probably violate the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause, as well as the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institiutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) (42 USC sec. 2000cc-1) , which provides (in relevant part):

      (1) GENERAL RULE- No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person, assembly, or institution--
         (A) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
         (B) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
      (2) SCOPE OF APPLICATION- This subsection applies in any case in which--
         (A) the substantial burden is imposed in a program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability;
         (B) the substantial burden affects, or removal of that substantial burden would affect, commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, or with Indian tribes, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability; or
         (C) the substantial burden is imposed in the implementation of a land use regulation or system of land use regulations, under which a government makes, or has in place formal or informal procedures or practices that permit the government to make, individualized assessments of the proposed uses for the property involved.
      (1) EQUAL TERMS- No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that treats a religious assembly or institution on less than equal terms with a nonreligious assembly or institution.
      (2) NONDISCRIMINATION- No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation that discriminates against any assembly or institution on the basis of religion or religious denomination.
      (3) EXCLUSIONS AND LIMITS- No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation that--
         (A) totally excludes religious assemblies from a jurisdiction; or
         (B) unreasonably limits religious assemblies, institutions, or structures within a jurisdiction.

This law was passed by unanimous consent of both houses of a Republican-dominated Congress. Some of those who supported the law are now seeking to subvert it for short-term political gain. I have never been a particular fan of the RLUIPA statute, which favors religious land uses over others in the regulatory process. In my view, religious institutions already receive too much preferential treatment from the government. But if they are going to get special treatment, they should all get it, as required by both the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and section (2)(b)(1) of RLUIPA.

In the New York Times article, James Renacci, a Republic congressional candidate in Ohio, claims that many Americans are "furious" about the possibility that a mosque might be located near the hallowed ground of the World Trade Center. He finds it "very troubling to see President Obama again turning a deaf ear to the thoughts and concerns of a majority of Americans." But on this issue, the Constitution is quite clear that the "thoughts and concerns of a majority of Americans" just don't matter. That's the whole point of having constitutionally protected rights. We don't protect freedom of speech or religion only when its convenient, or only when "most Americans" approve. If that's all the Bill of Rights meant, then it never was worth the paper it was printed on.

But, of course, candidate Renacci knows that standing up for fundamental constitutional principles will not win him nearly as many votes as fomenting religious intolerance. The same is true of Newt Gingrich, who believes that because Saudi Arabia doesn't have any Christian churches or Jewish synagogues, we shouldn't allow any more mosques in this country (see here). I find it remarkable that anyone in this country would be willing to rescind our own cherished constitutional liberties and traditions simply because the Saudis do not abide by them in their country.

If a politician doesn't want an Islamic community center near Ground Zero, the first thing she or he should do is call for repeal of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, and the RLUIPA. That is the only constitutionally appropriate approach to the "problem." It is similar to the constitutional issue confronting politicians who want to deny citizenship to the American-born children of foreign nationals. To their credit, they are not calling on Congress to ignore the 14th Amendment's citizenship provision but are calling for its repeal through the normal amendment process. Although I do not agree with their politics, I can appreciate that they are treating the Constitution with due respect. The same cannot be said of candidates who would block the Islamic community center from lower Manhattan.

I expect politicians to say and do pretty much anything to get elected. That doesn't mean I have to like it. Much of what they say and do (on both sides), I find deplorable. But the dispute over the Islamic center crosses a very important boundary between "normal" political mendacity and a completely unprincipled willingness to throw the Constitution and laws of the United States under the bus just to scavenge votes from the Ignorami, who only care about the Constitution when it supports their views. Politicians who show such little respect for the laws do not deserve to be elected or re-elected as law-makers.

Happy 33d Birthday Arsenal Legend Thierry Henry

The second greatest Gunner of all time (after D. Bergkamp, of course).

Another New Paper, Hot Off the Printer

I've just finished a draft my second conference paper. It's entitled, "Property Creation by Regulation: Rights to Clean Air and Rights to Pollute." You can download it from the Social Science Research Network (here).

Here's the abstract:
This paper, prepared for a Lincoln Institute conference on "Evolution of Property Rights Related to Land and Natural Resources," argues that, contrary to both the suppositions of some legal scholars and the theoretical underpinnings of Regulatory Takings doctrine, government regulations do not only impose on existing private property rights but also vindicate, and sometimes even create, public, private, and/or common property rights.

After examining conflicting common law and Roman law rules relating to property rights in the atmosphere, the paper focuses on how assertions of state sovereignty and regulations combine to create Hohfeldian rights and duties respecting the atmosphere, where none previously existed or were unclear. An explicit (but hardly novel) claim is advanced that acts of sovereignty themselves amount to assertions of public property. The claim is supported by evidence from both civil aviation regulation and air pollution control. The paper also addresses how regulations have created private property rights to pollute in emissions trading programs (regardless of congressional assertions to the contrary). In some cases, assertions of public property via acts of sovereignty are a prerequisite to the allocation of private property rights, and not just in the atmosphere but in other natural resources, such as marine fisheries.

The paper concludes with a discussion of normative implications for property theory generally and Regulatory Takings doctrine in particular. A more dignified treatment of public regulations that are designed to protect public rights would raise a serious question about which set of property rights should prevail in the several Regulatory Takings cases where privately-owned lands meet publicly-owned waters. That question cannot, however, be answered reasonably until a theory (or multiple theories) of public property are better developed to complement existing theories of private and common property. So, the paper ends with a call for more research into the theory and empirics of res publica (beyond equally naive public interest and public choice models).
As always, comments, suggestions and criticisms are welcome.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back on the Bike

A little over a week after the wreck, and after two decent spins on the trainer in the basement this weekend, I was back on the bike this evening for the traditional Monday recovery ride with the group. Although I'm not yet fully recovered from my injuries, it felt great to be back on the bike and riding with the gang, especially Stefan. It was particularly nice to see Larry, who had just (and I mean just) returned from the Leadville 100 in Colorado, and Tim W., whom we haven't seen much of lately because he's been traveling for work - in fact, the only reason he made the ride this evening is his trip to D.C. today was postponed until tomorrow. Now, we'll see how my back and hips respond overnight to the exertion.

Rate this ride: *****

UPDATE:  I can definitely feel last night's right in my lower back this morning, even more than I had anticipated. Clearly, I've got a ways to go before I'm completely recovered. I'm not really certain at this point what is my best recovery plan. Should I take short and easy rides each day? Should I be taking days off between rides? Or just stay on my trainer until the bruises are more completely healed?

St. Luke Catholic School in Indianapolis: A Cautionary Recommendation

Both of my children have attended St. Luke Catholic School in Indianapolis, and received a decent education there for a pretty reasonable price. My daughter started there about 12 years ago. My son will start his final year there this week. So we have a long association with the school.

Nearly all of St. Luke's teachers are excellent; and that, of course, is the most important feature of any school. The administration, on the other hand, has long concerned me. With the singular exception of former Vice Principal Ms. Russo, who was always very helpful, the attitude of St. Luke's administrators has always struck me as more than a little sanctimonious and condescending (perhaps reflecting the larger institutional edifice of which they are a part). 

More specifically, school administrators seem either oblivious to or uncaring about the sometimes ridiculous amount of homework piled on younger students - by the fourth grade, my kids were drowning under several hours of homework each day - and classroom assignments that completely ignored the social concerns of students.

When our daughter started exhibiting physical symptoms from stresses related to school, we consulted Dr. Morris Green, a pioneer in the field of pediatric neurodevelopment, a founder of the Child Development Center at Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, and one of the most remarkable humans I've ever met - a unique blend of intelligence and empathy (see a brief profile of him here). After many hours of  observation, discussions, and examination of our daughter's regular homework assignments, Dr. Green reached the following conclusion: our daughter was perfectly fine, but the school had a problem. The stress she felt, and the accompanying physical symptoms, were, in his view, a rational response to an overloading of work that, in Dr. Green's opinion, was simply too much for elementary school students. He send a detailed letter to the school saying as much. In response, Ms. Russo worked hard to accommodate our daughter's needs, but otherwise the school continued business as usual. In other words, believing they knew better than Dr. Green, they continued to identify the problem in our daughter, rather than in the school. 

This year, our son is feeling single-out by being assigned to a different homeroom from every single one of his friends. In response to our inquiries about this, the administration line is that they are "trying something different this year," and that he will have plenty of time with his friends in other classes during the day. I'm confident this is all true, but it does little to assuage the concerns of a 13-year-old who wonders why he's the only one to have no friends in his homeroom. Whether or not the school's strategy is a good one, they have failed to take into account and take action to ameliorate, how students might respond to it.

These are not the only issues we've had over the years with the St. Luke administration, but they are emblematic. I cannot speak for the experiences of other families. 

Bottom line: the generally high quality of teaching at St. Luke probably makes up for what is, in my opinion, a lack of responsiveness among administrators to the needs of students and parents, borne out of an over-confident sense  that they (the administrators) always know best. St. Luke will prepare your kids reasonably well for high school (and beyond). If, however, you are like me, and fairly intolerant of sanctimony and condescension, then you might want to look elsewhere. Indeed, were it up to me (though, in my house, I've never had much of a say in the matter) neither of my kids would have started, let alone finished, their primary educations at St. Luke. 

Happy Birthday Bill Evans (1928-1980)

Wow, what a few days for jazz piano fans. First, George Shearing's birthday last Friday. Then, Oscar Peterson yseterday. And today Bill Evans. Not as technically brilliant as Oscar Peterson (but who is), but more intimate and quiet. If anything, Evans has been more influential among younger pianists than Oscar, but that may only be because no one can do what Oscar did. Evans, at least, is capable of being copied. But he's not less great for that.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Liverpool 1 - Arsenal 1

The Premier League season started in earnest today for the Gunners, who were away at Liverpool. I didn't watch the game live because I was at the bike races at West Clay, but I recorded it and watched it while I pedaled on the trainer in the basement. I'm happy to say I survived the full 90 minutes on the bike without too much strain to my back, hips or legs.

Arsenal were the better team throughout the first half, which ended scoreless, but with Arsenal up a man, as Liverpool's new man Joe Cole was sent off for a bad tackle (maybe deserving of a yellow card more than red) on Arsenal's new man Laurent Koscielny. Obviously, this was good news for the Gunners heading into the second half.

However, the Gunners came out after half time acting as if they had already won the match; they were not nearly as sharp as in the first half, and much less aggressive than the fired-up Liverpool side. Liverpool quickly too the lead after bad giveaway young England hopeful Jack Wilshire. Liverpool's Ngog punished Wilshire for the error by firing a shot in, high and hard, at Aluminia's near post (maybe Alumunia should have done better, but it was hit with real venom). For most of the rest of the second half, the Arsenal players wandered about as if in a daze. Samir Nasri, who shined in the first half, seemed to lose energy and inspiration. The same cannot be said of Andrei Arshavin, only because he never seemed to be in the game in the first place. The Gunnre started playing with a bit more fire in their bellies after Wenger inserted Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie. Still, as the game wore on, it looked increasingly like the Gunners were going to done in by a self-inflicted wound.

Fortunately, another self-inflicted wound, this time from Liverpool goalie Pepe Reina, saved Gunners' blushes. Reina was surprised on a soft cross into the box, when new Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh suddenly cut in front of him. The ball came off Chamakh, rebounded off the post, and Reina quite literally carried it in the net. Arsenal defender Koscielny was subsequently sent off for a second yellow card, but the game ended 1-1.

Final Analysis: A strange opening game for the Gunners, who looked quite good in the first half, and pretty abysmal for most of the second. They were fortunate to salvage a tie score from what should have been a victory, after playing half the game with 11 men to Liverpool's 10. I'm a bit concerned about Arshavin who seemed slow and sloppy with the ball, and defensive midfielder Abu Diaby who, somewhat typically, seemed to want to play the game in slow motion. One thing I particularly liked about Chamakh's Arsenal debut was his willingness to come back to help out on defense. On several occasions during the match he back-pressured the Liverpool midfield to help the Gunners regain possession.

Arsenal's next match is home to Sunderland next Saturday.

Photos from 2010 Indiana State Championship Masters Race at West Clay Criterium

Below are some photos from today's race. By clicking on them, you can increase the size.

Here's one of the group coming through the first corner:

Here comes Coach Bob:

And here comes Jason Pope:

Bob finished sixth in the Cat 3 40+ Masters. Jason finished just off the bunch in the Cat 3 30+ Masters.

Maybe I'd Be Better Off Racing

My teammate Jerry Lee took a tumble during today's Mass. Ave Criterium in Indianapolis. It's a tough course, with one 90 degree turn and two 130 degree turns. Those sharp turns mean lots of slowing down and speeding up during the course of a race. Apparently (I was not there to see it), Jerry slid out coming around one of the corners, scraping up the right side of his body. His injuries were not severe, but I bet he'll be plenty sore tomorrow.

What's interesting to me about Jerry's incident is that, according to his own report, he was going about 10 mph slower when he went down in the race than I was going when I crashed on a small group ride last weekend. I find this comparison a bit perplexing. First of all, what the hell are we doing going so damn fast when we're not racing? Second, if we want to go so damn fast, shouldn't we just enter races, where crashing is a more or less accepted part of the sport?

I don't want to commit a fallacy of composition here, so I'm not going to assert that group riding is as or more dangerous than racing, based simply on my own recent experience. I'm sure a thorough quantitative, comparative risk assessment would show that racing remains substantially more dangerous. What I do wonder, though, is why those of us who choose not to race in order to reduce our risks of serious crashes, don't object to riding upwards of 30 mph in small groups, which can be very dangerous. I'm not sure the Tuesday Eve World Championships at Nebo Ridge are all that much safer than a Cat 4 or 5 race. We can call it a "group ride" or "training ride," instead of a race, if we want to, but  "a rose by any other name" still has plenty of thorns.

Happy Birthday Oscar Peterson (1925-2004)

Duke Ellington called him the "Maharaja of the piano." I was fortunate enough to see him play a few times with Joe Pass and Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson. An amazing trio.

Here's one brief clip illustrative of Peterson's amazing technical mastery:

Here's another in which he combines that technical mastery with his equally amazing sense of musianship:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Leadville 100

Today, my friend and teammate Dr. Larry Stevens is competing in the brutally difficult Leadville 100 mountain bike race. The race starts at over 10,000 feet of elevation and goes up from there. You can see a video overview of the race course here. Velonews has live coverage from the race here.

The cut off time for the race is 12 hours. I've given Larry as much motivation as I can by promising him a beer for each minute he finishes within the 12-hour limit. Mostly, however, I just hope he stays safe and enjoys the race (as much as one can enjoy a complete sufferfest).

UPDATE: Levi Leipheimer has won the race at 6 hours, 16 minutes, 37.2 seconds, breaking the record Lance Armstrong set last year. I expect another 5-and-a-half hours or so before my friend Larry finishes. I'm keeping fingers crossed for him.

2d UPDATE: I just received notification that Larry has just finished the climb up Columbine well within time to finish the race under the 12-hour limit.

3d UPDATE: Larry missed the final cut-off, and will not be allowed to finish the race. I'm sure he's very disappointed, but he shouldn't be. It was a hell of an effort, and he's earned all the beer I'm going to give him regardless of not finishing.

FINAL UPDATE: Larry suffered an edema during the climb up Columbine Mine, which meant he was coughing up some blood, and he basically hit a wall after that point. He was pulled from the race after completing 75 miles, when race officials determined that he could not have made the 12-hour time limit. Larry was understandably very disappointed, and he apparently felt that he had let down his family and friends who had come out to support him. I can appreciate his disappointment, though even that should be tempered by the knowledge that he gave it everything he had. More importantly, he owes apologies to no one. The attempt itself was heroic. My admiration for him could not be higher if he had finished in the top 10.

Neil Pryde Diablo: A New Object of Bike Lust

Neil Pryde, maker of wind-surfing equipment, is entering the bike market. I really like the look of the new Diablo model in basic black. You can pick up a frameset from the Neil Pryde website (here) for $2500, minus a 10% discount plus free shipping, if you order by Sept. 30th. Wish I had the extra cash lying around.

To Ride or Not to Ride?

I had a reasonably successful spin on the trainer yesterday evening. Interestingly, the parts of the back, hips, and legs that normally hurt did not bother me so much on the trainer, but I felt other areas of pain of tightness. Fortunately, the act of light spinning eventually loosen everything up a bit, at least until I got off the bike. The question for today is whether to take my act on the road, and spin easily around the park, or play it conservative and have another spin on the trainer in the basement. The attractions of outdoor riding are obvious, but I'm not sure I'm ready for the small bumps and jolts, or to climb even short and easy hills, not to mention the very hot and humid weather. Ah, decisions, decisions.

Happy 69th Birthday David Crosby

Here's what we learn from the following video: The man can really still belt out a vocal (and Graham Nash can still sing great harmony, and Steven Stills can still play a mean guitar).

Friday, August 13, 2010

New Helmet

My new Giro Ionos helmet arrived today (pictured right) to replace the one that cracked in last week's bike crash. It's nice to get new bike stuff, but it's not so nice when you need the stuff because of a crash. Between doctor's co-pays, therapy, and problems with the bike, I'm going to be out of pocket at least $600 to $700. I am, however, hoping to recover some if not all that amount from the owners of the dog, who were cited by the county sheriff for not controlling their pets.

Happy 91st Birthday George Shearing

A great, classically trained jazz pianist, who, despite being blind since birth, developed a distinctive style that is admired by everyone who loves good music.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wishful Thinking?

I just set up my #2 bike on the trainer in the basement, hoping that I'll feel up to some light spinning this weekend. Normally, I'm allergic to the idea of riding on the trainer in the basement during the summer. But now I'm positively giddy about the possibility.

Democratic v. Republic Tax Cut Plans in One Easy to Understand Chart

Courtesy of Ezra Klein of the Washington Post (here).

It seems to me that the Republic plan would only appear superior (a) to those in the very highest income brackets and/or (b) those who have an extreme (but empirically unwarranted) belief in "trickle-down" economics.

Mankiw and Mulligan on Seasonal Employment as a Challenge to Keynesians

University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan attempts to disprove the main argument of Keynesians - that the chief macroeconomic problem remains lack of aggregate demand - but pointing to seasonal employment figures for (out-of-school) teens, which confirms that even during recessions the labor supply impacts overall employment theories (see here). He takes this as a fundamental challenge to Keynesianism. Greg Mankiw suggests (here) that it only challenges more extreme versions of Keynesianism.

There are some problems with this challenge to Keynesianism, some (but not all) of which have been pointed out in comments following Mulligan's article. First, while seasonal employment clearly continues to affect the labor supply, overall levels of seasonal employment have been dropping since the onset of the recession, and continue to drop this year compared to last year (according to Mulligan's own charts). Second, I doubt whether Mulligan or Mankiw can identify any Keynsian, "extreme" or otherwise, would who not concede the point that seasonal workers affect the labor supply even during a recession. To concede the point is simply to concede a truism. Finally, to the extent Mulligan is primarily concerned to repudiate Keynesian arguments about the fall in aggregate demand, his data provide no basis for drawing any conclusions about the overall level of aggregate demand. It is possible (and perhaps likely), for example, that a sectoral analysis of seasonal employment would show that most of those teenagers are going into jobs in counter-cyclical industries such as fast-food, Walmart, etc. The rise in seasonal labor demand in those industries could be offset or more than offset by declining demand in other industries, e.g., construction. Thus, seasonal employment might rise even as aggregate demand falls.

UPDATE: My economics guru, Peter Grossman, explains to me that I have missed the gist of Mulligan's argument, which is of course entirely possible. Peter's explanation, which I won't go into here, seems sensible to me, and far more explanatory (for non-economists) than what Mulligan wrote in the NY Times. However, even after Peter's explanation of Mulligan's arguments, I still don't see how it leads to the conclusion that calls for additional stimulus to fuel aggregate demand are misguided.

FURTHER UPDATE: For an economist's critique of Mulligan's "silly" op-ed, see here.

Most Pessimistic and Hyperbolic News Report I've Read Today

A story in today's The Guardian (here) reports on a gut gene that is multiplying antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. The article proclaims a "post-antibiotic apocalypse," bur argues that this is not hyperbole because an article published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases itself raises the question as to whether the NDM 1 gene "is the end of antibiotics." The issue, of course, is that there is a major move from a serious scientific study that raises a question, and a newspaper article that presumes we know with certainty the awful answer to that question. Anyway, if you want to scare yourself, go ahead and read the article.

I might add that I would not be at at all surprised if a major pandemic occurred during the remaining decades of my life. Science hasn't conquered nature yet, and is never likely to do so completely. However, I would expect such a pandemic to arise from a more or less sudden outbreak of some previously undetected pathogen along multiple vectors, not from a single genetic source, subject potentially to genetic manipulation during a 10-year (or longer) window of opportunity.

Happy 50th Birthday 50th to "The Professor," Laurent Fignon

Two-time winner of the Tour de France (1983 and 1984), winner of the Giro d'Italia (1989), and twice winner of Milan-San Remo. Fignon is now fighting advanced intestinal cancer, which according to his doctors (see here), is probably not connected with doping, to which he has admitted, during his cycling career.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who Reads This Odd Blog? (A Bit of Navel Gazing)

On average, this blog is read by around 45 people every day. For a couple of months, readership nearly doubled, but is has since fallen off again. I know several of my regular readers personally. Some are academic colleagues; others are cycling teammates. But I confess to have no clue about the majority of those who peruse my posts; I don't know if it's the same people every day or different folks. Frankly, it's difficult for me to understand why anyone, who is not a friend or acquaintance (or perhaps someone I used to know as a friend, colleague, or student, who just wants to check up on me occasionally, though this is probably wishful thinking on my part), would be interested in the strange combination of stuff I post here. 

Virtually all of the posts on this blog fall into one of six categories: (1) cycling; (2) birthdays; (3) climate policy; (4) stuff I'm reading and/or writing about; (5) occasional reactions to stuff other people are posting on law, economics, and/or the environment; and (6) rarely (but not rarely enough) obituaries for people I have known and/or admired. I can't imagine many people would such a combination of blog topics of sufficient interest to visit this site regularly. Goodness knows, most of my academic friends and colleagues would find my numerous cycling posts irrelevant and/or uninteresting. And I can't imagine my cycling friends care very much about what I might say about climate policy or any other topic at the intersection of law, economics, and the environment. Simply put, this is an intentionally idiosyncratic blog that really is designed to appeal to myself, first and foremost, plus the few like-minded nuts who share my eclectic collection of interests. That there might be 45 such people astounds me.

I don't know for how long I'll continue this blog, but for now I'm still mostly enjoying it (although I sometimes long for a bit more feedback, hint, hint). I'm much happier doing this than I was posting stuff on Facebook, or would be contributing to a more serious, narrowly focused, professional blog, even if it meant a larger readership. I don't expect to get rich and famous from blogging anymore than from publishing academic books and articles. I'm interested in the generation and exchange of ideas, not marketing.