Monthly Archives: July 2005

Freakonomics

FreakonomicsThis is the fastest book I’ve finished in at least 5 years. And sadly, the first book I’ve finished in about a year. My ratio of starting to finishing isn’t that great, but I was certainly happy to find this book such an interesting and quick read. For a book about economics and basically what amounts to statistical analysis, the language stayed easy to understand and every new chapter kept my interest. I think part of the reason it was so engrossing, was because each chapter tackles an entirely new subject. This is both a pro and a con. It keeps the material fresh, but it does really limit the depth of analysis that each new topic receives.

This brings me to the one main bone I have to pick with the authors and the book. Numerous times throughout the text they repeat that there is no unifying theme, or that this “new way of thinking” is the theme. I can buy that, and they pick plenty of interesting examples to demonstrate their ideas, but they never take it that next step. A professor of mine often asked a seemingly silly question after long discussions and debates in class, and I’ve come to realize it’s an important question to ask. What’s at stake? The authors tackle some very large issues, such as crime, abortion, and poverty, and numerous smaller issues such as real estate, sumo wrestling, standardized testing and baby names. They gingerly dance around some of the results of the heavy-hitting issues, for fear of offending, or coming across as emotionless. Why not take it that next step? Why not ask what’s at stake? I guess I can respect their attempt to bring this economic thinking down to a common level and get a book out to mass audiences, but is it enough? Or is this just the latest contribution to the fad of pseudo-science, watered-down non-fiction for the bestseller lists?

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it. It has certainly gotten me thinking about things in new ways, but I do wonder how long that will last. In the end, I think a more appropriate title might be Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Shows You A Hidden Side of A Few Things.

2005 Messenger Worlds

The Morning News has got a great article on this year’s Cycle Messenger World Championships in NYC, titled, No Yellow Jerseys Here. The photo gallery is quite good too, and takes me back two years ago to the crazy weekend watching the Messenger Worlds held in Seattle.

The photos I took from that weekend can all be found here. And for anyone who hasn’t seene it, here’s the short CMWC video teaser I threw together.

Lastly, on the topic of bike videos, these helmet-cam videos have been around for a while, but are always fun to watch. Especially the insane NYC Drag Race.

Do Not Fly, Unless You Want To

On Tuesday, I went on my first business trip, which consisted of an exhausting day trip down to LA and back. Upon arriving at the airport early in the morning, I went to the e-ticket check-in kiosk, and started the process. I entered my confirmation number, confirmed my name and flight, and clicked continue… “We’re sorry, we cannot process your ticket, please check-in with an attendant.” OK, I thought, this happens occasionally, I’ll ask this lady to check me in. She gets my info, enters my name, stares at the screen for a moment and then bangs her fist on the counter. “I’m sorry. I can’t check you in. Your flight number is 698, but it says you’re on the Do Not Fly list. The Customer Service line isn’t too long, so go over there and tell them.”

A little confused at being on the notorious Do Not Fly list, I walked over to Customer Service and waited in line for about 30 minutes*. I finally got up to the desk, told the gentleman I was on the Do Not Fly list.
“Who told you that?”
“The woman at the counter there.”
“OK, let me see your ID”
I handed him my driver’s license and he walked off to the check-in counter. I waited another 5-10 minutes and then he returned. He handed me my ID and my boarding pass and said I was good to go. Off I went.

Advice to terrorists: If you find yourself inconveniently placed on the Do Not Fly list, don’t fret. Simply walk over to the Customer Service desk, present them a current form of ID, and you’re all set. No questions asked. Enjoy your flight!

*Note – The Customer Service line is actually one of the worst lines to have to wait in at the airport. There were only a half-dozen people in front of me, but keep in mind that most everyone in the Customer Service line has some sort of complex problem that requires explanations, re-ticketing, negotiations and argument.

Le Bore de Lance

I’m officially calling the Tour de France over, and giving Lance his 7th win. Maybe I’m jumping the gun a bit, especially the day before they hit the Pyrenees, but I don’t see there being much of a contest left. Lance’s major competition is all more than 2 1/2 minutes behind, which may not seem like much, but it’s an eternity at this point in the race. And today brought the news that the young Spaniard, Valverde, whom I thought was looking like a good underdog and may have a chance, has pulled from the race. 5th place, straight to DNF. Sigh. As we hit the mountains again, there’s no way Team Discovery (boy, do they look good!) or Lance will let anyone get ahead in these stages. Barring a major wreck, sabotage, or spontaneous heart explosions, the race is over. My prediction from day 1 was that either Lance wins by a landslide, or completely bombs. We can still hope for the latter, but what we should really hope for is that Discovery at least makes it look closer than it is. See you all next year when we have a real race, and OLN stops inter-cutting reaction shots of Sheryl Crow, or at the very least Bob Roll learns how to pronounce “de”.

Heated Discussion

One of my oldest posts has seen some recent attention, and I never would have thought that The Admiral would be the target of such retaliation. On top of it, they’re insulting my elephant drawings. In defense of the drawings, well… I know they’re not great. I really need to go back to the zoo and do some more sketches to bring that page up to date. Y’know, because apparently some little kids with bad grammar have been looking at it.

Lesser, and More on Video

So here I was just hitting the recent Waxy Links and I checked out the funny, banned marketing virals for the videogame Destroy All Humans. At the end of the third one, I was surprised when I recognized the face of the guy in the Yoda-ear hat. It was none other than the brilliant Frank Lesser (director of the hilarious Danny Bot short film), who I shared a number of classes with in college.

And while I’m reposting Waxy links, I might as well point you to this Andy Dick video about President Bush’s Speechalist.

There’s also a trailer out for a little movie by the name of King Kong, and another movie about the dirtiest joke in all of comedy, The Aristocrats.