December 30, 2014

Nothing became his NFL career like the leaving of it

Finally, I have something good to say about Kyle Orton: well played sir.

And, let the record show...Rex Grossman this fall turned down the opportunity to unleash the dragon one last time.

December 29, 2014

After further review: this is the greatest defensive play of all time

Super men make super-human feats look routine. See above: Earl Thomas does the near impossible, striking the runner's forearm on with the ball three inches from the goal line while running at full speed, dislodging the ball, and casually backhands the ball towards the end zone to assure a touchback.

Watching the game on TV at full speed, with the main camera on the other side of the field, it was impossible for me to perceive what happened. A sure touchdown for the Rams becomes Seattle's ball on the 20 as if by magic.

December 28, 2014

This is a shocker

Cleveland apparently is re-thinking its policy of drafting quarterbacks on the say-so of random homeless people. Crazy, I know.

December 27, 2014

Employees get replaced all the time, Brian

December 26, 2014

Blofeld is my cowbell

December 25, 2014

Phil Simms on the beast that was Reggie White

Phil Simms waxes nostalgic about one of the worst experiences of his life:
I get the ball, drop back, and I can't even hardly set up. I throw it out of bounds as fast as I can, and I say something to our tackle. I said, "Is this going to go on all day long?" And Reggie White stood over me and talked like Muhammad Ali and went, "That's right, this is going to go on all day!" And I said something smart to him, and his eyes got real wide—you know, that look he used to have—and man did he beat me. He beat me like no lineman has ever beaten a quarterback over the years.

Fans of a certain age will remember that Simms is not the only quarterback with a Reggie White fixation:


December 24, 2014


Our annual Christmas Garland, from Max Beerbohm

From "Of Christmas, by H*ll**re B*ll*c"

[T]here is nothing like verse to clear the mind, heat the blood, and make very humble the heart. Rouse thee, Muse!

One Christmas Night in Pontgibaud
(Pom-pom, rub-a-dub-dub)
A man with a drum went to and fro
(Two merry eyes, two cheeks chub)
Nor not a citril within, without,
But heard the racket and heard the rout
And marvelled what it was all about
(And who shall shrive Beelzebub?)
He whacked so hard the drum was split
(Pom-pom, rub-a-dub-dum)
Out lept Saint Gabriel from it
(Praeclarissimus Omnium) 1
Who spread his wings and up he went
Nor ever paused in his ascent
Till he had reached the firmament
(Benedicamus Dominum). 2

That's what I shall sing (please God) at dawn to-morrow, standing on the high, green barrow at Storrington, where the bones of Athelstan's men are. Yea,

At dawn to-morrow
On Storrington Barrow
I'll beg or borrow
A bow and arrow
And shoot sleek sorrow
Through the marrow.
The floods are out and the ford is narrow,
The stars hang dead and my limbs are lead,
But ale is gold
And there's good foot-hold
On the Cuckfield side of Storrington Barrow.

This too I shall sing, and other songs that are yet to write. In Pagham I shall sing them again, and again in Little Dewstead. In Hornside I shall rewrite them, and at the Scythe and Turtle in Liphook (if I have patience) annotate them. At Selsey they will be very damnably in the way, and I don't at all know what I shall do with them at Selsey.

Such then, as I see it, is the whole pith, mystery, outer form, common acceptation, purpose, usage usual, meaning and inner meaning, beauty intrinsic and extrinsic, and right character of Christmas Feast. Habent urbs atque orbis revelationem. Pray for my soul.

Notes cribbed from this source:
1 - The most excellent of all
2 - Let us praise the Lord

Past garlands are here...

December 21, 2014

Figured it out with pen and paper, btw

[R]emember, e and π are infinitely long decimals with seemingly nothing in common; they’re the ultimate jigsaw puzzle pieces. Yet they fit together perfectly—not to a few places, or a hundred, or a million, but all the way to forever. 


This clears up a lot of confusions and makes us appreciate the correctness of their actions

Special Interview with the head of Saudi Arabia's religious police - Al Arabiya News

December 20, 2014

Best President of my lifetime


It has been, in short, a very busy and extremely consequential lame-duck session. One whose significance is made all the more striking by the fact that it follows an electoral catastrophe for Obama's party. And that is the Obama era in a microcosm. Democrats' overwhelming electoral win in 2008 did not prove to be a "realigning" election that handed the party enduring political dominance. Quite the opposite. But it did touch off a wave of domestic policymaking whose scale makes Obama a major historical figure in the way his two predecessors won't be.



Nazi Sans?

December 18, 2014

The Anti-Happy

Also, the best pop song of the year, in my opinion.

December 14, 2014

Got some impeachment ideas of my own

December 13, 2014

John Wesley on inheritance

If you have good reason to believe that they would waste what is now in your possession in gratifying and thereby increasing the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life at the peril of theirs and your own soul, do not set these traps in their way. Do not offer your sons or your daughters unto Belial, any more than unto Moloch. Have pity upon them, and remove out of their way what you may easily foresee would increase their sins, and consequently plunge them deeper into everlasting perdition! How amazing then is the infatuation of those parents who think they can never leave their children enough! What! cannot you leave them enough of arrows, firebrands, and death? Not enough of foolish and hurtful desires? Not enough of pride, lust, ambition vanity? not enough of everlasting burnings? Poor wretch! thou fearest where no fear is. Surely both thou and they, when ye are lifting up your eyes in hell, will have enough both of the "worm that never dieth," and of "the fire that never shall be quenched!" 


He had a huge income from his books, but gave most of it away:

[H]e rarely let his expenses rise above 30 pounds. He said that he seldom had more than 100 pounds in his possession at a time.

This so baffled the English Tax Commissioners that they investigated him in 1776 insisting that for a man of his income he must have silver dishes that he was not paying excise tax on. He wrote them,
I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.


"I failed to raise her properly," said no American billionaire ever

[H]er father, the chairman of the airline, Korean Air Lines, stripped his 40-year-old daughter, Cho Hyun-ah, of the titles she still had in the family-run conglomerate. He apologized on live television Friday for her “foolish” behavior, when she forced her plane back to the gate and then kicked off the head steward after being served macadamia nuts in their bag, rather than on a plate.


December 12, 2014

I had no idea

He is credited with saving more lives than any other medical scientist of the 20th century.


Photo history of my favorite plane

SR-71s logged a combined total of 53,490 hours of flight time, of which 11,675 had been spent at Mach 3 plus. They flew 3,551 operational sorties for a total of 17,294 hours, during which more than a thousand surface-to-air missiles had been fired at them. All missed.


December 11, 2014

Good Cop / Bad Cop as an organizing principle

Interview with man who designed CIA torture approach explains how he made torture work.
Mitchell is largely responsive to Larsen's questions, and perhaps the most striking moment is when he reacts to the intelligence committee's findings that torture had not yielded actionable intelligence. It wasn't supposed to, he says. It was supposed to make detainees more responsive to other questioning. 
"It's almost like a good cop, bad cop kind of set-up," he says, "with a really bad cop." 
The point, he says, "was to facilitate getting actionable intelligence by making a bad cop that was bad enough that the person would engage with the good cop," Mitchell continues. "I would be stunned if they found any kind of evidence that EITs, as they were being applied, yielded actionable intelligence."

This makes a ton of sense.  It is possible to resist even severe torture - e.g., this guy is a hero in Singapore for holding out against the Japanese, who of course had great institutional cruelty skills.  But they also had trouble convincing anyone that they had good cops.

What I find most interesting about the good cop / bad cop thing is that the underlying principle has become pervasive in American society.

We're very free, as long as we don't cross certain lines.  But if those lines are crossed, you are in a world of hurt.  American prisons are terrifying.  No person with free will in the matter would risk being incarcerated if they had reasonable alternatives.  You could easily run a society with fewer incarcerations, less prison rape, less prison violence overall - every country in Europe does.

But that's not a priority.  The current approach must be working really well for someone.  Law enforcement and the prisons have become the "the really bad cop" in an America that guarantees your rights, but also conspicuously and violently redacts them for those who get too uppity.  Police confiscation of property, extralegal and judicial murder and torture by intelligence agencies are now common.

Kudos to the President for saying "enhanced interrogation" was torture, and that it was wrong.  But, sadly, this is who we are.  We made our choices.  I wish they could be undone easily, but in my lifetime we have voluntarily given up one of the keystones of American exceptionalism, and the hour is very late.  Once you get into this deep, dark forest, it's not easy to get out.  We've been in it for a long time.

December 10, 2014

The Battle of the Century

Come for Namor vs. The Human Torch, stay for Machine Man vs. Ten-For (and many others).


December 09, 2014

I relish the last years in which this sort of thing is still funny

December 07, 2014

We've got figure out how to shut this guy up

I think I’m like the majority of people in not having any fixed ideological position about whether the state should be large or small. The state is clearly good at doing some things, and bad at doing others. In between there is a large and diverse set of activities which may or may not be better achieved through state direction or control, and they really need to be looked at item by item on their merits.


December 06, 2014

China Will Invent New Economic Justice Robot

George Mason U Economist: No worries, some sort of tech thing might help inequality maybe sometime. I note this with mouth slightly agape.

December 05, 2014

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce won't read this because some of the words have more than one syllable

The map confirms that California has the highest median RQ (103.6) and no fewer than 28 out of the top 50 firms in terms of RQ score. (Note that the RQ scale for firms is like the IQ scale for individuals — the average is 100, and 67% of firms fall between 85 and 115). What’s nice about this is that California also has (by far) the highest number of publicly-traded firms doing R&D (235), so the total effect is large. The other state that stands out is Minnesota. Like California, it has an above-average RQ (101.5), and also a large number of firms doing R&D (38).

But what sets these two states apart from the other states? It’s clearly not geography — it’s hard to imagine two states being more different in climate (sun versus snow), location (coastal versus mid-western) or culture. Its not industry specific; the firms in both states span a wide set of industries and no single industry comprises more that 15% of firms in either state, so the explanation is unlikely to come from Porter’s four-diamond framework of regional advantage.

But there is one important institutional feature shared by California and Minnesota that is consistent with the Klepper story: both states have legislation restricting the enforcement of non-compete agreements.

Papers by Matt Marx and other researchers show that employees in states that restrict the enforcement of non-competes have more freedom to pursue new ventures in the same industry and location as their prior employer. In other words, California and Minnesota have created environments that are favorable to the spawning of entrepreneurial ventures around a successful large innovator. Meanwhile in other states, although companies that enforce non-compete rules may be able to keep some employees from leaving, the entrepreneurial ones will leave anyway, and when they do, they’ll have to leave the state as well.

So although many firms may believe the institutional frameworks of California and Minnesota are unfriendly to and expensive for business, these states’ friendliness to entrepreneurial employees make them better locations in the long term.


(The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's 2010 press release describing its ideological and economically illiterate critique of California is here.  The actual report is no longer available at the original links.)

Behold, the Beast of Turin


December 04, 2014

Computers and Capitalism

Educated, uneducated, the young are getting screwed. I shudder to think of adding in housing costs in space for hours worked, or the lost value of stability.

December 03, 2014

The Brow is now

He has been the best player in the NBA over the first five weeks of the season. If you look at his per game stats, he's scoring like Stephen Curry, rebounding like Tyson Chandler, and defending like Serge Ibaka. He leads the league in blocks and he's second in steals. He's ranked No. 1 in player efficiency rating (PER) — the advanced stat that measures a player's total contribution to the game. The difference between him and the 2nd-ranked player in PER is the same as the difference between the 2nd-ranked player and the 20th-ranked player. (link)

As they always say in the NFL: it's not just about winning

December 02, 2014


So I found some useful statistics to help in the development of a points-based quarterback assessment metric - call it Interception-Adjusted Points per Attempt, or IAPPA.

It's easy enough to see how many point a quarterback helped the team score - Aaron Rogers has thrown for 32 touchdowns this season.  Since the extra point is automatic nowadays, that gives us 32x7=224 points.

Now, what should we subtract for each interception?  Well, according to these tables compiled by Football Outsiders, the average NFL drive (2014 ytd) yields about two points - so when you throw an interception to the other team, you are giving them an incremental +2 to their normal expected scoring.

So: Aaron has thrown three interceptions this year, so we would (counts on fingers) subtract six points, giving him a IAP of 218...dividing by attempts (380) gives him an IAPPA of 0.57.  All clear?

Looking at the other end of the reality spectrum, Gino Smith of the New York Jets has thrown seven touchdowns, for 49 points, in 258 attempts.  His 11 interceptions, however, would get him a penalty of 22, leaving him with a IAPPA of (49-22)/258 = 0.10.  I'm pretty sure that's not good.

Here's the League (minimum 100 attempts):

Player Team IAPPG
Aaron Rodgers GB  0.57
Peyton Manning DEN  0.49
Andrew Luck IND  0.44
Tony Romo DAL  0.43
Tom Brady NE  0.41
Philip Rivers SD  0.38
Ryan Fitzpatrick HOU  0.36
Ben Roethlisberger PIT  0.35
Drew Brees NO  0.34
Carson Palmer ARI  0.32
Jay Cutler CHI  0.31
Joe Flacco BAL  0.31
Eli Manning NYG  0.30
Ryan Tannehill MIA  0.29
Mike Glennon TB  0.29
Russell Wilson SEA  0.28
Kyle Orton BUF  0.28
Matt Ryan ATL  0.27
Alex Smith KC  0.27
Kirk Cousins WAS  0.25
Mark Sanchez PHI  0.25
Colin Kaepernick SF  0.24
Austin Davis STL  0.23
Nick Foles PHI  0.23
Cam Newton CAR  0.19
Matthew Stafford DET  0.18
Andy Dalton CIN  0.18
Derek Carr OAK  0.17
Drew Stanton ARI  0.17
Teddy Bridgewater MIN  0.15
Josh McCown TB  0.15
Brian Hoyer CLE  0.14
Geno Smith NYJ  0.10
Blake Bortles JAC  0.10

To some degree we are rounding up the usual suspects - Rodgers and Manning look great of course, Smith and Bortles are in the basement again.  Wilson and Kaepernick look like twins, as they do on IAYPA.

But there are also some interesting differences.  Some players - like Hoyer - look good on IAYPA, but terrible here.  Tony Romo, who has never looked good on IAYPA, looks like a superstar in this system.  Andrew Luck usually looks middle-of-the-pack on IAYPA, but is elite here.

So, since points and yards are theoretically equivalent, and since the two systems yield somewhat different results, you can get a more robust take on quarterback efficiency by looking at both.  I suppose the next step is an IAYPA/IAPPA scattegram or cross table.  More on that story as it develops.

December 01, 2014

DeLong even more amok

[Questions for the Cato growth panel contributors]

[A] look back at the history of ideas about a proper “neutral” monetary policy–Newton’s fixed price of gold, Hayek’s fixed nominal GDP level, Fisher’s fixed price-level commodity basket, Friedman’s stable M2 growth rate, the NAIRU targeting of the 1970s, Bernanke’s inflation-targeting—leads immediately to the conclusion that anybody who claims to have uncovered the Philosopher’s Stone here is a madman. How can you reassure me that I (and you) are not mad?