Thursday, September 30, 2010

September Cycling Totals

Hardly worth mentioning. Between injury time off the bike and work-related traveling, I only had 13 rides this month (not counting two indoor spins on the trainer) for a total of 314.7 miles. Pretty dismal.

Year to date: 4004.9 miles.

Principles of Law and Economics

I am pleased to announce the Peter Grossman and I have completed revisions for the 2d Edition of Principles of Law Economics, which will be published Kluwer/Aspen in 2011, hopefully in time for the fall semester. The book is aimed primarily at undergraduates and law students without a strong background in economics (i.e., students who have not taken Intermediate Micro). However, the book's strong conceptual foundation, as well as its "new institutional" approach, should also make it a useful reference tool for grad students,  law professors, and even economists who never received a proper introduction to the seminal ideas of Ronald Coase, who is to the subfield of law and economics as Adam Smith is to all of economics.

Among the most significant of the revisions for the second edition are a new introduction to game theory in Chapter 1, new case excerpts sprinkled throughout  various chapters, and the incorporation of new empirical studies into the chapters on Tort Reform and Crime and Punishment. The main structure of the book remains intact. Here is the Table of Contents:

1. Economics Concepts and Institutions
2. An Introduction to the American Legal System
3. Putting Law and Economics Together: Frameworks, History, and Perspectives
4. "The Problem of Social Cost" and Modern Law and Economics
5. Property I: Acquisition
6. Property II: Protection
7. Property III: Limits
8. Contracts I: Formation and Enforcement
9. Contracts II: Remedies
10. Torts I: Negligence
11. Torts II: Strict Liability
12. Torts III: Reform
13. Crime and Punishment
14. Antitrust and Regulated Industries
15. Environmental Protection

New Rules on Deepwater Drilling

Today, the Interior Department imposed new emergency regulations (bypassing normal Administrative Procedure Act notice and comment requirements) on offshore oil drilling that should help prevent another Deepwater Horizon-style disaster. Among the most important of the new provisions requires the installation of blow-out prevention stacks with remotely operated vehicle intervention capacity. Should automatic blow-out prevention systems fail, the remotely operated vehicle could be used to quickly shut down the well. The vehicle and a crew trained to use it must be continually present at the well site.

Industry not surprisingly opposes the new regulations, which will undoubtedly increase the cost of offshore oil recovery. But those added costs should be minor compared to the costs of another Deepwater Horizon-style spill.

A fact sheet on the new rule is available here.

Cancellara Dominates World Championship Time Trial (Again)

Fabian Cancellara has won the World Championship time trial for a record fourth year in a row. And he did it in his usual dominating fashion, coming in more than one minute in front of the second-place rider, David Millar. Tony Martin came third, 10 seconds slower than Millar.

Bravo Fabian!

Alberto Contador Has Done Something Lance Armstrong Never Did

He has tested positive for a banned substance during the Tour de France (see here). The substance is clenbuterol, an asthma medication that is also a strong stimulant. It is banned in the United States, but used widely in Europe. It remains to be seen whether Contador will be stripped of his title, as Floyd Landis was a few years ago.So far, his defense is food contamination, which is a plausible excuse. Clenbuterol has been known to get into the food supply through livestock. In 2006, more than 300 people in China were sickened by pork contaminated with clenbuterol.  At the very least, however, Contador will have to explain just what it was he ate in the day or two before testing positive that might have been contaminated, which no other tested rider ate.

UPDATE: Cyclingnews is reporting (here) that levels of clenbuterol levels found in Contador's blood were extremely low, which might support his defense.
"The concentration found by the laboratory was estimated at 50 picograms (or 0,000 000 000 05 grams per ml) which is 400 time less than what the antidoping laboratories accredited by WADA must be able to detect,” said the UCI release.

The Cologne, Germany, laboratory that tested Contador’s July 21 sample is known for being one of the worlds’ most advanced for clenbuterol detection. Had Contador’s sample been tested anywhere else the traces are so minute that the substance would likely have been undetected.

Happy Birthday Buddy Rich (1917-1987)

A masterful and flamboyant drummer, Rich also wrote what became the gold standard of books on drum rudiments. I got to see him play a couple of times with his big band. Fabulous.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

John Quiggin, Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us (Princeton University Press 2010). The title and cover art aren't exactly to my taste - they smack too much of publishers' marketing departments, trying too hard to replicate the popular success of Freakonomics. Substantively, the book is interesting, educational, and analytically solid. Quiggin explains how many economists are unable to let go of pet theories that fit well with their ideologies, regardless of the facts. No matter how much evidence piles up against zombie theories like "trickle-down" economics or the "efficient markets" hypothesis, they just won't die.



David Grossman, To the End of the Land (Knopf 2010). A mesmerizing book, which I am pleasantly surprised to say was not over-hyped by the extravagant praise it received in advanced reviews. The beauty of the English-language translation makes me wish all the more that I could read Hebrew (something I contrived not to learn to do as a child). Books like this one, See Under: Love and The Book of Intimate Grammar must put Grossman on the shortlist for a Nobel Prize in Literature.





Vincent Ostrom, The Meaning of American Federalism: Constituting a Self-Governing Society (ICS 1994). This is part of a new project of mine to read or re-read many of Vincent's works, which, though somewhat idiosyncratic, seem to me to have importance far in excess of their influence among political scientists and other social scientists. Hopefully that will change soon, as his complete works are in the process of being republished. And a happy belated birthday to Vincent, who turned 91 this past weekend.

Happy Birthday 68th Birthday Felice Gimondi

Within four years of becoming a professional cyclist, "The Phoenix" had become only the second man (after Jacques Anquetil) to win all three grand tours. Only three others have accomplished won all three since. Gimondi won the Tour de France in his first season (1965), the Giro d'Italia in his third season (1967, and again in 1969 and 1976), and the Vuelta a Espana in his fourth season (1968). He also won several spring classics during his career, including Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix. 


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

George Will on Paul Krugman

"If certainty were oil, he'd be Saudi Arabia."

The quote is from this profile of Krugman in yesterday's Washington Post. If Krugman is Saudi Arabia, what does that make Will, who is no shrinking violet himself, Venezuela?

Hat tip: The Browser

Tom Schelling's New Game Theory Article

Tom Schelling has published a terrific primer on game theory in the journal Economics and Philosophy (here). The article is entitled, "Game Theory: A Practitioner's Approach." Here is the abstract:
To a practitioner in the social sciences, game theory primarily helps to identify situations in which interdependent decisions are somehow problematic; solutions often require venturing into the social sciences. Game theory is usually about anticipating each other's choices; it can also cope with influencing other's choices. To a social scientist the great contribution of game theory is probably the payoff matrix, an accounting device comparable to the equals sign in algebra.
It's a fabulous, concise introduction to game theory. I've already made it available to my Law & Econ students and urged them to read it.

Want to Learn About Religion?

Ask an atheist or agnostic. That is the implication of a survey reported on (here) in today's Los Angeles Times. Aside from the expected finding that atheists and agnostics tend to be better educated than those of religious faith, the survey revealed that they tend to know more about religious teachings and practices than adherents.

Happy Birthday Thomas Crapper (1836-1910)

An English inventor who did not invent the flush toilet, but played an important role in perfecting it. His products bore this proud stamp:

















And here is the man himself:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Happy 78th Birthday Oliver Williamson

Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics last year (with Elinor Ostrom) for his groundbreaking work on the institutional structures of hierarchies, including both firms and governments, and his transaction cost analysis of different kinds of contracts, particularly the distinction between standard contracts and asset-specific contracts (which are contracts that require the deployment of special goods that could not easily be put to other uses should the contract fail).


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bill Bryson on Science

From an article in today's Telegraph (here):
"Think of a single problem confronting the world today," says Bill Bryson, in full rhetorical flow. "Disease, poverty, global warming… If the problem is going to be solved, it is science that is going to solve it. Scientists tend to be unappreciated in the world at large, but you can hardly overstate the importance of the work they do. If anyone ever cures cancer, it will be a guy with a science degree." There is a fractional pause, then a sheepish smile. "Or a woman with a science degree."
At this point, of course, cable news would offer equal time to some religious nut who, having flown into town for the interview on an airplane, while reading a Kindle, listening to an I-Pod or catching up on unread e-mails on an I-Phone, will argue that scientists are self-serving, humanistic heathens, who make up data to further their own, secular political agenda.

The Best Sentence I Read Yesterday

"[H]istory teaches us that we rarely learn from history."
                           - John Quiggin, Zombie Economics (2010), p. 12.

A Good Weekend of Riding - Finally

September has not been a good month for cycling. Between my continuing recovery from injuries suffered in my August crash, and work-related travel, I had totaled only 175 miles for the month heading into this weekend. And I had not ridden on consecutive days since the first week of the month.

This weekend, not only did I manage to ride both days but I increased my monthly mileage totals by 50%, with more than 90 miles (38 yesterday and 54 today). I'll be interested to see how my body responds to the sudden up tick in miles. Most likely, I'll be limping a bit later today and tomorrow.

Thaler on Income Inequality and the Bush Tax Cuts

Richard Thaler, Professor of Economics and Behavior Science at the University of Chicago, has an excellent column in this morning's New York Times (here) explaining why it makes sense to let the Bush tax cuts expire for wealthier Americans. The one issue he neglects is the anti-stimulus effect of that policy. I've seen arguments on both sides of that one. Some argue that tax cuts for the wealthy have the least stimulative effect (see here and here). Others argue that they have the most stimulative effect because they lead to job creation (see here). My own sense is that extending the tax cuts for the wealthy would not lead to as much additional spending, dollar for dollar, as tax cuts for the middle class and the working poor.

Theodore Gericault (1791-1824)

A pioneer of the romantic movement in painting, who inspired legions of French painters after him. Here is his self-portrait.


























And here is his most famous painting, the monumental The Raft of the Medusa (1818-19) (click on the photo to enlarge):

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dedicated Bike Lanes Can Make Cycling More Dangerous

Recently, the City of Indianapolis and Marion County completed much-needed road and bridge repairs along Lafayette Rd on the far northwest side of town, near where I live. As part of the road repairs, the city/county installed bike lanes on either side of the road from 71st Street north to the Marion-Boone county line. The laudable purpose was to improve safety for cyclists, many of whom use Lafayette Road to get to and from Eagle Creek Park (the fourth largest city-owned park in the country). Unfortunately, the cycling lanes may end up making life more, rather than less, dangerous for cyclists for several reasons.

First, the cycling lanes are made wide enough for only one bike. State law allows two-abreast cycling, but the cycle lanes make side-by-side riding more difficult and dangerous.

Second, within the cycling lanes, instead of painting symbols the city/county applied plastic appliques, which become very slick when wet but are so large that they are difficult for cyclists to avoid. For that reason, many cyclists continue to ride outside of the cycling lanes.

Third, the cycle lanes have already become cluttered with everything from small twigs, large branches, and rocks, to discarded paint brushes and soda cans. The more cluttered they become, the more hazardous they become for cyclists, who therefore often end up riding outside the cycling lanes. This problem could be averted, of course, if the city/county would regularly sweep the cycling lanes to make sure they are safe for cyclists, but I have never, ever seen that happen on any cycling lanes within the city limits of Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, riding outside the dedicated cycling lanes has become more dangerous than it was before the cycling lanes were installed. Automobile drivers who used to move to the left lane to avoid cyclists now expect cyclists to remain in the cycling lanes regardless of the conditions.

The bottom line is that the installation of cycling lanes is not enough, by itself, to make cycling safer. The city/county needs to (a) make the lanes wide enough for cyclists to ride two-abreast, as state law allows, (b) avoid installing types of signage in cycling lanes that makes cycling more dangerous, and (c) keep cycling lanes free of dangerous obstructions. In addition, drivers need to be reminded that cyclists cannot be expected to remain in cycling lanes if and when riding in those lanes is dangerous.

Arsenal Embarrass Themselves at Home

A sleepwalking Arsenal side were down 3-0 to West Brom at home in the second half (after West Brom missed a first-half penalty kick) before they seem to realize that they were not playing a training game. They managed to close the score to 3-2, but West Brom hung on for a well-deserved win.

If Arsene Wenger cannot fire up his players and get a more consistent team effort (especially at home), then Arsenal don't deserve to win any hardware this season, and all of Wenger's supposed genius in picking out young talent is so much hot air. Talent, alone, doesn't win championships. Maybe it's time for new leadership at Ashburton Grove to put some fire in the bellies of the players.

UPDATE: Fortunately, Arsenal did not lose much ground to their chief rivals as Chelsea suffered its first lost of the season at Man City, and Man U drew at Bolton. Man U is now a point in front of Arsenal, and Man City have tied the Gunners on points, with Chelsea still clear in first. I can't help but feel concern, however, that an early-season loss at home to an admittedly good West Brom side will come back to haunt the Gunners in the end.

James Cracknell on Recovering from His Serious Bike Crash

A very thoughtful piece (here), in which the UK Olympian discusses the long-run effects and recovery effort from a serious brain injury he suffered after being hit in the back of his helmet by the wing-mirror of a passing truck.

Happy Birthday Glenn Gould (1932-1982)

The great Canadian pianist, who taught everyone how Bach should be played on the modern piano.I still prefer Alfred Brendel's interpretation of the Italian Concerto (my all-time favorite recording by any artist of any composer), but for the Well-tempered Klavier and other works, Gould reigns supreme.



And just to prove Gould could do more than Bach, here he is playing Schoenberg's Fantasie Op. 47 with Yehudi Menuhin.

Friday, September 24, 2010

RIP: Jure Robic (1965-2010)

Cyclingnews.com is reporting (here) that 45-year-old Slovenian cyclist Jure Robic has been killed in an accident with an automobile during a ride. Robic won the solo men's division of the Race Across America (RAAM) a record 5 times. He was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, ultra-endurance athlete in history.

Stephen Colbert Testifies Before Congress on Immigration



They clearly didn't get most of the jokes.

Happy Birthday John Marshall (1755-1835)

The fourth Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, and the longest serving Chief Justice in history (35 years), Marshall had greater effect, for better and for worse, on Court practice and institutions than any other jurist in American history.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Birthday John Coltrane (1926-1967)

A jazz legend, who received a posthumous citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board in 2007 for his "supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz." Here is a video from 1965 of Trane playing his beautiful composition Naima.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Maintaining a Stable Climate for Resource Conservation Isn't Easy, Even at a Small Scale

The current issue of Scientific American (here) reports on various problems scientists from France and elsewhere have had in their efforts to protect the Lascaux Cave, which contains the world's richest collection of prehistoric cave paintings (see photo below), from deteriorating as a result of changing environmental conditions in and around the cave, some of which are human-caused. It reflects, in miniature, the problem of climate stabilization to protect valuable (and invaluable) resources.

Happy Birthday Michael Faraday (1791-1867)

An important English physicist and chemist, who laid the foundation for the electromagnetic field concept in physics by discovering (among other things) electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism, and the laws of electrolysis.As a chemist, Faraday discovered benzene and invented a precursor to the Bunsen burner.He is still revered today for the quality of his experimental methods, even though he had little formal training and new little mathematics.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 2 of Lincoln Institute of Land Policy Conference on Property Rights in Natural Resources

The second day of the conference was every bit as good as the first, with presentations and comments from the likes of Bill Fischel, Bob Ellickson, Richard Epstein, Henry Smith, Gary Libecap, Kerry Smith, and Katrina Wyman. Really, I should be mentioning everyone who participated both today and yesterday. After more than a year of planning with Greg Ingram and Yu-Hung Hong of the Lincoln Institute, the conference came off even better than Lin and I had hoped. We have every reason to think that the book, which will be the end result of the conference, will help close the wide gap between property theory and the empirical data.

Doug North on "Culture"

Economists generally don't like dealing with culture; it's messy, difficult to analyze, and difficult to model. Mostly, they deal with it by ignoring it, which hardly contributes to the social fit of their models. Unlike many of his fellow economists, Doug North does not shy away from dealing with culture. At the pre-conference dinner Sunday evening, Doug provided a potentially useful definition of "culture" (which I hope I am quoting accurately here): culture is a set of (presumably shared) "beliefs from the past that constrain the present choice set."  I'm not sure how much this eases the problem of modeling culture; and I'm pretty sure that I would want to replace "constrain" with "affect" in order to provide for the possibility that some cultures (e.g., a "culture of entrepreneurship" or a "culture of scientific inquiry") could actually enhance or expand the choice set. However, Doug's definition seems to me a definite step in the right direction for social scientists thinking about culture.

Happy Birthday Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

A fine English composer, best known for his orchestral suite, The Planets. From that work, here is Jupiter:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day One of Lincoln Institute Conference

Day 1 of the Lincoln Institute Conference on the Evolution of Property Rights in Land and Natural Resources" has finally come to an end. It was long and it was good. I presented a paper and a half (with Lin Ostrom presenting the other half of our joint paper), and both presentations went reasonably well. I enjoyed a bit of back-and-forth with Richard Epstein, who made some thoughtful comments and criticisms during the discussion, which will definitely help me improve both papers for the book.

All the panels today were really, really good. The papers were pretty uniformly excellent, and the discussants were truly outstanding. The conference is turning out even better than I had expected, and I expected a lot given the very high quality of the participants. Greg, Hong and the other folks at the Lincoln Institute have done their usual great job of putting on a great event. Just as good as (if not better than) the conference, was dinner this evening with several of my favorite social scientists (not including Lin, who was unable to make it).

With my own presentations out of the way today, I'm very much looking forward to Day 2 of the conference tomorrow, when I'll be able to sit quietly, listening and learning a lot from the other presenters and discussants.

Happy Birthday Upton Sinclair (1878-1968)

Muckraking author and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, whose most famous work of fiction, The Jungle (1920), led to federal legislation to regulate the meat-packing industry. Sinclair also proved to be a pretty-good economist when he uttered one of my favorite quotes: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his income depends on his not understanding it."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Climate Policy Is Stalled, but Climate Change Continues

The polar bears already know this, but just in case the humans have forgotten, sea ice is melting. This year, the melting is reaching 2007 levels, which is more than two standard deviations greater than the 1979-2000 average.



















Hat tip: Climate Progress

Happy 47th Birthday "Safe Hands"

David Seaman, former Arsenal and England goalkeeper, who won 3 league championships, four FA Cups, the League Cup, and the European Cup Winners Cup, during his long and distinguished career as a Gunner (1990-2003). He also was the number one keeper in two World Cups and two European Cups for England. However, Seaman may be best known for the unfashionable ponytail he wore for more than a decade.





















Here's a video of an amazing save Seaman made in the 2003 FA Cup final to secure victory for the Gunners:

Evolution of Property Rights Related to Land and Natural Resources

I'm heading to Cambridge, Mass. today for the conference Elinor Ostrom and I have spent much of the last year co-organizing with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. The final conference agenda is below with active links to all the papers. I doubt I'll have time to do any live blogging from the conference, but I will if I get the chance.

Final Program_paper Links

Here's a press release about the conference from the Lincoln Institute.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sunderland 1 - Arsenal 1

The Gunners took the lead in the first half on a fluke goal by Cesc Fabregas, who deflected an attempted clearance by a Sunderland defender high into the air, over the head of the Sunderland keeper, and into the back of the net. Unfortunately, Fabregas tweaked a hammy on the goal, and had to be substituted. A dogged and determined Sunderland side played the Gunners pretty even for the rest of the half.

In the second half, Arsenal were the dominant side, but after Alex Song was sent off for a second yellow card (the first one he picked up in the first half was dubious), the Gunners were somewhat on the defensive. Nevertheless, the game should have been done and dusted after Arsenal earned a penalty kick, but Tomas Rosicky sent a rocket over the crossbar and into the stands. Sunderland ultimately tied the game on nearly its last kick deep into (or, more accurately, beyond) injury time, as Darren Bent scored from a long cross at close range.

It was a disappointing performance from an Arsenal side that dominated Portugese side Braga 6-0 in a Champion's League match earlier in the week. Andrei Arshavin once again squandered a number of good chances, and after Fabregas was substituted the Gunners lost their cutting edge. Samir Nasri worked hard to fill in for Arsenal's talisman, and Marouane Chamakh provided a good target up front, but the incisive pass always seemed to be missing.

The bottom line: Two precious points dropped at the death.

Klein on Obama's "Pipe Dreams"

Ezra Klein has a terrific piece in today's Washington Post (here) on the Obama Administration's record of achievement. As Klein notes, Obama has actually accomplished much of what he said he was going to do - more than most presidents, and more than most pundits and even some members of Congress thought he could possibly get through Congress. Unfortunately for the Demos, much of what Obama has accomplished is currently unpopular with voters.

Happy 39th Birthday Lance Armstrong

He is undeniably the greatest Tour de France champion ever, having won seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005 (after surviving testicular cancer that had spread to his brain). Rumors about performance-enhancing drug use continue to swirl around him, but he has never tested positive. Even if he was using drugs, so were most (if not all) of the guys he was beating. People say that he's not a nice person, but he has probably done more than any single person to assist cancer survivors. His foundations (first the Lance Armstrong Foundation, then Livestrong) have raised more than $325 million (see here). When he came back to cycling in 2009, he even took time to visit cancer clinics during races.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Freedom - A Mini-review

I've been enjoying reading Jonathan Frantzen's new novel, Freedom (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2010), but it has not lived up to expectations. Having not read any of Frantzen's earlier works (including the much-lauded The Corrections), I felt compelled to read Freedom because of the extraordinary hype it received from very respectable sources, including a review in the New York Times (here), which referred to it as a "masterpiece of American fiction." Oprah (admittedly a less reputable judge of literature) has just issued a similar proclamation (here) in choosing Freedom as the first selection of her new book club.

With all due respect to Oprah and the New York Times, I'm inclined to agree with this new review of Freedom in the October issue of The Atlantic Monthly, which describes the book as a minor work of "juvenile prose," featuring minor characters to whom nothing important can happen. Having said that, it's a fun read, which is more than I can say about a lot of modern American fiction. Had the book, and its author, not been so over-hyped, I might even be inclined to write a modestly positive review. Frantzen is a good, not a great, writer (certainly nowhere near as good as, say, Richard Powers). And Freedom is an entertaining, if somewhat pedestrian, work of modern-American fiction.

The Rally to Restore Sanity

Finally, a political rally I can get behind.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

My favorite of the signs for the event is the one that reads: "I Disagree with You, But I'm Pretty Sure You're Not Hitler."

Happy Birthday Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1994)

A French mathematician and philosopher most famous for developing a voting system to avoid majority cycling problems in cases involving choices among more than two options. In a three-way contest, a majority could prefer A over B, a different majority could prefer B over C, and still a different majority could prefer C over A. Condorcet's method, which is still used in some places, is to have voters rank-order candidates on a single ballot. The candidate with the highest average ranking across all ballots prevails. If that candidate would have defeated all others in head-to-head voting, then he or she is a clear Condorcet winner. For the most part, however, the Condorcet method leads to the selection of compromise candidates - candidates who may be ranked second on a large number of ballots, but not ranked first on any. Thus, the Condorcet method does not guarantee that anyone's preferred candidate will win. The method is also susceptible to strategic down-ranking of a candidate a certain group of voters does not prefer but perceives as a formidable challenger to their preferred candidate.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Arsenal 6 - Braga 0

The Gunners handily won the first match of this year's Champion's League at the Emirates this evening, with Cesc Fabregas and his second-half replacement, Carlos Vela each scoring twice. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to watch or follow the match in real time because it started just before my panel on "Regulation in a Hyper-partisan Era" at the IPI workshop at NYU, and ended prior to the completion of the Advisory Board meeting, which took place immediately after my panel. Anyway, it's great to see that Arsenal got off to a strong start in the Champion's League against a team that, frankly, they should have handled as easily as they did.

By the way, the entire IPI Workshop (previously addressed here) was excellent.

The Nadir of Anti-Science(?)

In an earlier post today on the embarrassment that is Ireland's science minister (here), I thought I had gotten to the very bottom of the deep barrel of anti-scientism. I was wrong. John Quiggen, over at Crooked Timber  (here), links to a CD-Rom available at Amazon.com (here), called "Galileo Was Wrong, The Church Was Right." Here is the product description:
Galileo Was Wrong is a detailed and comprehensive treatise that demonstrates from the scientific evidence that heliocentrism (the concept that the Earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun) is an unproven scientific theory; and that geocentrism (the view that the Earth is in the center of the universe and does not move by either rotation or revolution) is not only supported by the scientific evidence but is admitted to be a logical and viable cosmology by many of the world's top scientists, including Albert Einstein, Ernst Mach, Edwin Hubble, Fred Hoyle and many more.
I suppose that means the presumably infallible Pope John Paul II made an (impossible) error, when he pardoned Galileo several years ago.

I feel like the Aflac duck in the commercial listening to Yogi Berra.

The Republican Party-line Against Climate Science

Dan Farber (here) directs our attention to a study by Brad Johnson at The Wonk Room (here), which examines where all Republican candidates for the House and Senate stand on climate science and policy. All but one of the dozens of Republic candidates in the current election cycle believe that climate science is insufficient to support the adoption of any national policy to deal with climate change. That number includes some, such as John McCain, who used to believe climate science and favor a national climate policy, but have been virtually forced to recant for fear of losing primary elections. The one outlier, incumbent congressman Republican Mike Castle of Delaware, was just defeated in the Delaware primary by a "Tea Party" candidate endorsed by Sarah Palin.

Just to be clear about this: virtually all (that is, way over 90% of) climate scientists and economists agree that the science unambiguously points to the need for some immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for instance by raising prices of fossil fuels (either through taxes or quantity-based regulations). But the hyper-partisan politics that currently reigns in the US has led 100% of (surviving) Republican candidates to deny the need for sensible climate policies and, either expressly or by implication, climate science.

Upton Sinclair was surely right when he wrote, “It’s hard to get a man to understand something when his income depends on him not understanding it.” In the case of Republican candidates, it's clear that their political futures depend on not understanding the clear implications of climate science.

When Does the Path of Government Intervention Become a "Road to Serfdom"?

The usually thoughtful David Brooks, who seems to be on a quixotic mission to restore "moderate Republicanism," has a fine column in this morning's New York Times (here), in which he attempts to find some middle ground between the "all-government-is-bad" rhetoric of current leaders of the Republic Party and the more sensible (but still contestable) argument that small government is likely to be better (e.g., more effective) than big government. To that end, Brooks recounts the effective use of government policies to improve the national economy by Presidents from Washington to Lincoln. Assuming he is correct about examples he chooses, Brooks fails to answer the crucial, and perhaps unanswerable, question: How big should government be? Put differently, where does worthwhile government policy end and the "road to serfdom" begin?  

When he was asked that very question several years ago, the Nobel laureate Ronald Coase reputedly provided the following ambiguous answer that rightly highlights the complex nature of the problem: It's like asking how much a 500 pound man should weigh; the answer is certainly not zero, but less.

Even though he does not - and could not really be expected to  - tell us how and where to draw the line between too little and too much government, Brooks makes a very important point about the drawbacks of vilifying all government as evil. Instead of focusing on the size of government, policy makers would be better served to restrict their fights to the qualities of alternative government policies (always including the do-nothing policy).

Science Minister Supports Book Denouncing Science

CORRECTION: My reading of the Daily Mail was inaccurate. Ireland's Science Minister, Conor Lenihan, did not author the anti-evolution book, but was to participate in an event to help launch the book. He ultimately pulled out of that event. Thanks to the commenter who pointed out the error.

John May, who is a friend of Ireland's science minister, is publishing a book denouncing evolution as a hoax. He is even offering a large award to anyone who can prove evolution scientifically exists. Of course, such an award, by itself, completely misconstrues the nature of scientific theories. He might as well offer an equivalent award to anyone who can prove that gravity "scientifically exists." (Actually, the Newtonian theory of gravity was falsified, at least at very high speeds, and displaced by Einstein's theory of relativity.)

For the record, Mr. May claims that he is not anti-science, only anti-evolution. In other words, he is only anti-some-science, i.e., science he doesn't like.

One more interesting tidbit about Mr. May: He is a former evangelical Christian teacher and marriage counselor, who also owned Ireland's first sex magazine. The perfect resume for a crackpot anti-scientist.

Hat tip: The Daily Mail

Happy Birthday "Il Campionissimo" Fausto Coppi (1919-1960)

Coppi dominated cycling in the years before and after World War II. He won the Giro d'Italia 5 times, the Tour de France twice, Milan-San Remo 3 times, the Giro di Lombardia 5 times, and had 1 win each at Paris-Roubaix, La Fleche Wallone, and the World Championships. Had his career not be interrupted by World War II, Coppi might have challenged Eddy Merckx as the greatest cyclist of all time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Institute for Policy Integrity Fall 2010 Workshop

I'm on my way to New York City this morning for a workshop and board meeting of the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU Law School. The workshop is designed to help practitioners and issue advocates use cost-benefit and economic analysis in policy areas including the environment, public health, technology and criminal justice. More than 75 advocacy groups have signed up to participate in this year's workshop, which runs all day tomorrow. Below is the complete agenda.

2010 Policy Integrity Workshop Agenda

Happy Birthday Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)

The great Russian psychologist and physician, who developed the classic theory of conditioned behavior. His most famous experiments involved dogs that, Pavlov noticed, began salivating before eating. He called it a "psychic secretion." He set out to see how behavior might be conditioned by altering stimuli.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)

One of the most important composers of the 20th century, who early in his career wrote some of the most beautiful music of the late-Romantic period before inventing the serial (a.k.a. 12-tone) technique of composition, which turned out to be something of a fad, but not before Schoenberg and his students (particularly Alban Berg and Anton von Webern) composed some extraordinary - and sometimes surprisingly beautiful - music using it (or variations on it). It is, for the most part, music designed to work the brain more than music designed to appeal to the heart.





Sunday, September 12, 2010

Anthony Gottlieb on "The Limits of Science"

The former Economist executive editor has an interesting column at More Intelligent Life.com about the basic problem of scientific knowledge, i.e., that the scientific knowledge of today might be falsified by future science. In contrast, to the trendy anti-scientism of some conservative thinkers (see the recent editorial on this issue in Nature, here), however, Gottlieb expressly appreciates that the problem of scientific knowledge is not a warrant to accept non-scientific (i.e., inherently non-falsifiable) theories.
Happily, there is another way out of the impasse between fallible science and even-more-fallible non-science. The contest is not a zero-sum game: the shortcomings of science do not make it rational to believe cranks instead. It’s a fair bet that many of today’s scientific beliefs are wrong, but only your grandchildren will know which ones, and in the meantime, science is the only game in town. 

Sunday Coffee Ride

I woke up a bit stiff and sore from yesterday's ride. Fortunately, the Wilkes/Raynor group called for a short & easy ride today. First, we had a leisurely ride up to the coffee shop in Zionsville, and stopped there for about a half-hour. When everyone was well-caffeinated, we had a somewhat less leisurely ride out of town to the north, then back around the west side of Zionsville and home. About 25 total miles. Just what I needed to get the kinks out after yesterday's harder (at least for me) ride.

Happy 58th Birthday Neil Peart

I'm not a huge Rush fan, but Neil Peart is a tremendously gifted percussionist.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In Search of Miles

Having ridden just under 100 miles so far this month, I am sorely in need of miles on the bike, especially after two busy days of meetings in Bloomington. After the rains ended this afternoon, I got out for a nice, moderate 40-mile ride with the guys (David, Karl, Frank, Mark, and Ken), all of whom were intent on keeping the ride at tempo pace. We averaged 18.5 mph for the ride, keeping it mostly under 25, with the exception of a couple of wind-aided segments. It was my longest ride in about 3 weeks, and my second longest ride since the crash on August 7th. My lower back and hips are just a bit stiff now; we'll see how they feel tomorrow morning.  Hopefully they'll be good enough for another moderate ride tomorrow. My goal is to gradually ramp up the miles as my slowly healing injuries allow.

Lessig on Citizens United

Earlier this week, the Boston Review posted a forum on the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which overturned campaign finance restrictions some of which dated back more than a century in order to protect the political speech of corporations. Each of the contributions to the forum is interesting, but I find myself in strong agreement with Harvard Law Professor's Lawrence Lessig's perspective (here), in which he accuses Justice Kennedy in particular of conflating voters with campaign contributors. In one passage of his opinion for the majority, Kennedy writes as follows:
Favoritism and influence are not . . . avoidable in representative politics. It is in the nature of an elected representative to favor certain policies, and, by necessary corollary, to favor the voters and contributors who support those policies.
Lessig rightly argues that Kennedy was just plain wrong to imply that the framers intended representatives in Congress to represent the interests of anyone other than voters, including campaign contributors.

As a practical matter, I don't believe Citizens United changes much. There were always other avenues by which corporate money could influence electoral contests. As a matter of constitutional law, however, I think it both a bad ruling and an unwise one.

Happy Birthday 65th "Der Kaiser"

Franz Beckenbauer, one of the all-time great soccer players, who virtually invented the position of sweeper. On the pitch, he combined grace with great intelligence and vision. Beckenbauer remains the only person to lead his country to the World Cup as a captain (of the 1974 German team) and manage (of the 1990 team). He remains a major presence in German and international football today.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002)

A leading paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, who pioneered the idea of "punctuated equilibria" in evolution (which has since taken on the status of a cross-disciplinary meme), Gould was also a great writer and popularizer of science. His many popular books on biology and evolution, mostly based on his regular column in Natural History magazine, were very educational and a joy to read. He is greatly missed as a warrior in the fight against anti-scientism.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Elvin Jones (1927-2004)

One of the greatest of the great jazz drummers. The first video is from 1961 with the John Coltrane Quintet, featuring, in addition to Jones and Trane, Eric Dolphy (alto sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), and Reggie Workman (bass).



And here is Elvin playing a pretty incredible solo 30 years later.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mitch Daniels and the Environment

In an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal (behind a pay wall), Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels makes several suggestions for jump starting the economy, including some that are currently on the agenda of the Obama Administration (see here). One that certainly is not on the Obama Administration's agenda is Daniels' suggestion of a regulatory holiday for polluters:
A "freedom window." Might we try some sort of regulatory forbearance period in which the job-killing practice of agonizingly slow environmental permitting is suspended, perhaps in favor of a self-certification safe harbor process? Businesses could proceed with new job creation immediately based on plans that meet current pollution or safety standards, or use best current technology, subject only to fines and remediation if a subsequent look-back shows that the promised standards were not met.
This paragraph pretty much encapsulates Daniels' environmental philosophy: environmental regulations should be avoided to help the economy, based on fact-free assertions that environmental permitting processes "kill" jobs and, rhetorically at least, impede "freedom." That philosophy has animated his approach to environmental protection as governor of the State of Indiana, where the state's Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has been rendered virtually toothless (Daniels abolished IDEM's enforcement division shortly after his re-election in 2008, see here), and back-room deals are made with polluters, such as BP (see, e.g., here and here). By almost any measure, the environmental performance of the Daniels Administration in Indiana has been poor.

No doubt, Daniels' call for a regulatory holiday will be popular with electric utilities and other polluters, large and small, helping him to raise funds for an exploratory presidential campaign. His use of buzzwords, such as "freedom window" and "job-killing," are also designed to appeal to his party's political base. But Daniels' obvious pandering to corporate interests should seriously concern the large cohort of voters who quite rightly believe that environmental quality should not be casually sacrificed for short-term economic gain and, in Daniels' case, political gain. At the very least, voters should demand that Daniels provide some factual support for his assertion that regulatory permitting processes "kills" jobs. For some evidence to the contrary, see Eban Goodstein's book, The trade-off myth: Fact and fiction about jobs and the Environment (Island Press 1999).

Krugman's Influence

As the effects of the recession linger, long after economic growth has resume, and prospects for a "double-dip" appear to be increasing, I am increasingly convinced that Paul Krugman was right all along to call for a much larger stimulus; and I believe he is right now about the need for additional stimulus. I am not surprised to find myself in agreement with him on these issues. After all, Krugman is a leading economist and a very smart man.

I can't help wondering, however, whether the power of Krugman's arguments and authority might have had more influence on government anti-recession policies, had he had not written so much stuff, basically as a shill for the Democratic Party, on issues well beyond his economic expertise. It would be ironic, indeed, if his heightened participation in politics, as a columnist for the New York Times, has reduced his political influence and credibility on policy issues he knows best.

Happy Birthday Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)

One of my favorite composers. Think Brahms, but with Slavic soul.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603)

Perhaps the most famous monarch in history (with the possible exception of her own father), the subject of so many books and films - yet Elizabeth remains in many respects a mysterious figure. What we know with certainty is that she reigned for 44 years in the 16th century without losing her head, either literally or figuratively. She was, according to most accounts, quite cautious both personally and in her policies.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Words, Letters, Spaces and Meaning

Here are a few interesting (to me) but trite observations about how single words, letters and even spaces can radically alter meaning in language. I began thinking about them during the night after Mrs. Cyclingprof and I  watched an episode of "Inspector Lewis" on PBS. At one point in the program, an Oxford professor says to Inspector Lewis: "You're smarter than you look," which Inspector Lewis quite correctly takes as a backhanded compliment. But imagine if the professor had said: "You're even smarter than you look." That would have conveyed a clear, not-at-all-backhanded compliment. Who would have thought such a simple adverb could so profoundly affect meaning, as understood by both parties?

A still more powerful word - perhaps the most powerful in the entire English language - is "not," which changes the very sign of a sentence from positive to negative, altering meaning by 180 degrees. The simple word "not" may not only change the meaning of a sentence but its political significance as well. Consider the implications of (1) "Life does begin at inception" versus, (2) "Life does not begin at inception."

Even changing a single letter of a single word can dramatically alter meaning. "He broke a law" means something very different from "He broke a jaw," or "He broke a claw."

Finally, even changing the location of empty spaces between letters can dramatically affect meaning. For a simple example, consider the difference between "I am used" and "I amused." Recently, I read a book (I think it was a work of fiction) containing several more interesting and complex examples of changing sentence meanings by moving spaces; unfortunately, I cannot recall which book.

UPDATE: The book I was trying to think of was Richard Russo's latest (and wonderful) novel, That Old Cape Magic (Knopf 2009), in which Russo describes a baffling sign above a bar, which reads:
heresto pands pen d
asoci al hourin har
mles smirt hand funl
etfri ends hipre ign
bej usta ndkin dan
Devil spe akof no ne.
 It looks like nonsense or some inscrutable Middle English quotation, until the spaces are reordered and punctuation marks are added:
Here stop and spend a social hour in harmless mirth and fun. Let friendship reign. Be just and kind and evil speak of none.

Happy Birthday John Dalton (1766-1844)

A major enlightenment scientist, who proposed the atomic theory of chemistry in 1803, according to which all matter is comprised of small particles called atoms; different elements possess unique combinations of atoms, which unique characteristics and weights. Dalton also studied color-blindness (a.k.a., Daltonism), from which he himself suffered.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Jack Daniel (1846-1911)

Yes, that Jack Daniel, whose product makes it possible for me to grade dozens or more exams each semester without losing my mind.*



*Just kidding, of course. For one thing, I never drink Jack Daniels. For another, I never drink any alcohol while grading exams, which could not in any case threaten my mental health - I lost my mind years ago.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Ugliest Sentence I've Read in Some Time

"Not the modern-day Italians fighting and cajoling outside, boys trying to stick it inside girls, mopeds humming beneath hairy legs, multi-generational families bursting with pimply life."

       - Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story (Random House 2010), p. 6.

The book has gotten rave reviews, and I very much enjoyed his last book, Absurdistan: A Novel. Too many more ugly sentences like that one, however, and I won't be finishing the new book, no matter how super sad and true it is.

UPDATE: Despite a few additional ugly sentences - more than compensated for by a number of beautiful sentences - the new Shteyngart book is a phenomenal read. I read fully half of it yesterday, and will probably finish it today. The dystopian future he presents is pretty scary, only because it seems somehow plausible. Despite the political overtones, it is a very human (and sometimes humane) book about personal hopes, frailties, and failures.

Some Entries for a Lexicon of Cycling

"Race" = A group ride, characterized by many crashes, that includes both people you know and people you don't know all trying to get past a designated finish line first. Races are usually categorized to keep the most dangerous riders segregated from the riders who actually know what they're doing.

"Group Ride" or "Group Training Ride" = A race mainly among people you do know, all trying to be first past an imaginary finish line. The pace of these "group rides" is usually imperceptibly slower than that of "races," but the rate of crashing may be lower, the same, or higher.

"Cycling Team" = A collection of disparate sociopaths sharing a dangerous obsession and pretending to enjoy one another's company while secretly plotting to destroy one another. All members will, during the course of a season, put their own individual interests ahead of the team.

"Group Endurance ride" = An extended form of the "Group Ride" or "Group Training Ride" where the greater distances traveled are not allowed to translate into slower average speeds. As with all other "group rides," endurance rides must be ridden at the highest possible sustainable speed. Anyone riding at below his or her maximum speed is presumed to be a "slow rider" (see entry on "Slow rider") or is preparing for an imminent attack.

"Attack" = Where one member of the group sprints ahead of the group for as long as possible (usually, not very long). Most attacks come from riders who announce before the ride/race that they "will not attack today" or their "legs are toast." All attackers are guaranteed to win the segments of rides/races where they attack because they get to draw the imaginary finish line, which always comes just before they are recaptured and passed by the group. Another very common attack comes from a rider for whom the group has been sitting up waiting for 5+ minutes. As soon as he or she catches back on to the group, he or she attacks, so that the group can later sit up and wait for him or her again for 5+ minutes.

"Interval Ride" = A ride that starts out with a race to the interval site, followed by several "sets" of  bursts of high cadence or power or both, with each set lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to 8 minutes, designed to empty the contents of one's stomach, before a final race home. Intervals are required several times a week for riders over 50 years old who are in training for ... err, ... something or other.

"No-drop ride" = A race where the ride-leader specifies before the fact that no one will be left behind. Has no bearing on the pace of the ride or whether any one gets dropped behind.

"Re-group ride" =  A series of races during which the winners of one segment may or may not wait for losers to catch up.

"Recovery ride" = what most people would consider a normal, friendly (even fast) bike ride. Note: The slow pace of a "recovery ride" (16-17 mph) is not considered manly unless the ride is specifically referred to as "recovery." On "recovery rides," riders must always appear as if they could ride away from the group on a nanosecond's notice. Anyone seen riding at "recovery ride" pace on a non-recovery ride must have their team kit confiscated.

"Core training" = what most cyclists do occasionally in the off-season, but never when the weather is good enough for a ride.

"Improvement" = Occasionally refers to a rider/racer's performance, but mostly refers to bike and other equipment upgrades.

"Solo ride" = Where riders pretend they are Jens Voigt, regardless of rate of speed. Rules for solo-riding include: (a) appearing nonchalant (e.g., no hard breathing) while passing other riders traveling in the same direction; (b) looking impressive (i.e., like a pro) when passing other riders traveling in the opposite direction; and, most importantly, (c) making clear to any rider who passes you in the same direction that you are on a "recovery ride," and if you were not so diligent about your recovery, you would kick his or her ass all the way to Kansas.

"Slow rider" = a rider who does not ride as fast as they possibly can at all "group rides" other than specifically designated "recovery rides."

"Success" = Variously defined as winning a race, winning a "group ride" (or any imaginary part thereof), not crashing at all or, at least, being able to ride home from a wreck, and, most often, getting a new bike.

Other suggested entries are welcome.

Happy Birthday Daniel Burnham (1846-1912)

Wow, back-to-back birthdays for great, Chicago-based, modernist architects. Yesterday it was Louis Sullivan. Today, Daniel Burnham, who is equally famous as an early urban planner. As Director of Works for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, Burnham oversaw all building projects at the site, including the Court of Honor (below).















Burnham also designed (among many others) the famous "Flatiron" building in New York:

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Sentence I Wish I Had Written

"A theory of justice must have something to say about the choices that are actually on offer, and not just keep us engrossed in an imagined but implausible world of unbeatable magnificence."

        - Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice 106 (Belknap Press 2009).

One Thing Adam Smith Got Wrong (All Modern Economists Would Agree)

This past week in my Law & Economics course, I used the example of credit-rate ceilings to explain why it is important for legislators and other policy-makers to have a basic understanding of economic concepts. If they do not, they run the risk of enacting policies that have bad unintended consequences. Indeed, in the case of credit-rate ceilings, the effect is to hurt the very people such limits are intended to help.

Virtually all modern economists believe that government-imposed limitations on the interest rates charged by lenders are not only inefficient but actually harm high-risk debtors by reducing the availability of credit or driving (illicit) interest rates even higher. In the absence of red-lining or other forms of unlawful discrimination, which are much better dealt with through legal mechanisms other than credit-rate ceilings, the main effect of credit-rate ceilings is to drive creditors from the market, decreasing the supply of available credit. Loan sharks may fill some of the excess demand but because they operate, by definition, outside of the law, the interest rates they charge will be even higher than those previously charged by law-abiding creditors - reflecting the increased risk of violating the law - and the penalties for non-repayment will be greater. The graph below, taken from my Principles of Law & Economics book (with Peter Z. Grossman), describes the basic problem with credit-rate ceilings.



















Given the virtually unanimous agreement of modern economists about the unwisdom of credit-rate ceilings, I was very surprised to learn from reading Amartya Sen's great book, Development as Freedom (Anchor 2000), that the father of economics, Adam Smith, supported credit-rate ceilings (though he opposed prohibitions on lending with credit) in The Wealth of Nations, Vol. I, Book II, Ch. 4 (1776).

It cannot be argued in Smith's defense that everyone in those days thought credit-rate ceilings were a good thing. Although that may have been the conventional wisdom, some were wise enough to understand the perverse effects. Among them was Jeremy Bentham, the father of utilitarianism. Bentham sent Smith a private letter rebuking him and arguing that that the market should be left alone. In the letter, which can be read here, Bentham recognizes the irony (or at least the presumptuousness) of teaching Smith an economics lesson. More ironic still is the fact that it was Bentham who was giving the lesson. As Sen notes, "the principle utilitarian interventionist" was "lecturing the pioneering guru of market economics on the virtues of market allocation." (Development as Freedom, p. 125). It was, as Sen concludes, "a rather remarkable episode in the history of economic thought."

Happy Birthday Louis Sullivan

A great American architect who pioneered the "sky-scraper," and served as a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright. Here is a photo of one of his greatest masterpieces, the Prudential (or Guarantee) Building in Buffalo, with a second photo showing some of the beautiful detail work below.






















Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fall Travel Plans

I've pretty much filled out my conference and colloquium schedule for this fall, aside from weekly (on average) visits to the Workshop in Bloomington. This month, I have two trips planned. One is to New York for a conference and Advisory Board meeting of the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU Law School. The other is for the conference on the evolution of property systems in natural resources at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Mass., which I have co-organized with Elinor Ostrom. In October, I also have two trips, one to Washington, D.C. for the annual meeting of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis and a related set of meetings sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation. Then I go to Denver to make a presentation at the kind invitation of the University of Denver College of Law. Finally, in November I travel to St. Louis to participate in a special conference commemorating the life and work of Douglass C. North (Nobel laureate in Economics, 1993). That's a pretty full travel schedule for one semester (for me at least). I'm not sure I could fit in any more presentations or conferences, even if I wanted to. Fortunately, all of the trips are direct, non-stop flights, none longer than 2-3 hours.

Happy Birthday Billy Preston (1946-2006)

A great talent who moved easily between the worlds of gospel, R&B, and Pop music. He was a musician's musician, the kind others love playing with. Billy was probably best known for playing keyboards on several late Beatles tracks (see him playing on "Get Back" here), but by then, although still young, he was a show-business veteran. Billy was performing on TV shows by the age of 11 (see him here with Nat King Cole, and in his later teens here with Ray Charles).

Here is Billy playing one of his own songs, "That's the Way God Planned It" at George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh in 1971.



And here he is 30 years later singing a heartfelt rendition of "My Sweet Lord" at the Concert for George.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

Early Baroque composer from Nuremberg, best known for his still widely performed Canon in D. Twice, he served as tutor to members of the Bach family (including J.S. Bach's elder brother J.C. Bach, but apparently never  J.S. himself), and godfather of J.S. Bach's sister Johanna Jaditha Bach.

Here is the famous Canon, conducted (beautifully as always) by Sir Neville Marriner, leading the Academy of St. Martin's in the Fields.



Pachelbel should be better known for his other works as well, especially his wonderful pieces for organ, including this short Fantasia (which Bach studied):