Friday, September 04, 2009


Is anyone following what's going on in Iceland? Iceland, faced with the banking disaster of 2008, let its banks go belly up rather than bail them out. Who knows? Maybe they'll be in better shape for it in the end, but right now, things are grim there.
Iceland's gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 2.0 percent in the second quarter from the preceding three-month period for an annual contraction of 6.5 percent, preliminary data from the statistics office showed on Friday.


'Contrary to other countries in the region, quarterly growth in Iceland is probably going to remain negative for the rest of this year,' he added.


Although the central bank sees the economy of the island of only 320,000 inhabitants contracting around nine percent this year and shrinking still further next year, there is little scope for reducing interest rates, currently at 12 percent.

There are a lot of fascinating things about the Iceland situation. I'm just beginning to follow it. Maybe others here know more and could write about it. Letting the banks fail is clearly not the end of the story when vast sums of money are owed to other countries or citizens thereof, regardless of what the Icelanders may want. The Iceland situation makes one ponder the meaning of national boundaries and sovereignty.

Update: Here's a link to a Vanity Fair article from April 2009 about Iceland's banking collapse and its response to it.

Sometimes 140 characters is plenty

Update: Well, a few more characters sharpens the point:

Update II: OK, I take it back. 140 characters are not enough to adequately skewer ridiculous ideas with sarcasm:

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Wondering if this is how Scooter cleaned the pool.

The internet IS the real world - Part II: Pro Tennis and Twitter

First a few background facts for you:
1) Andy Roddick and Serena Williams are big Twitter users.

2) People bet on tennis.

3) There have been some stories about players allegedly being involved in throwing matches or otherwise being involved in betting shenanigans. The highest profile case involved Nikolay Davydenko. He was ultimately cleared of throwing a match in 2007. (Interesting story. This was a first round match. Davydenko was ranked 4th; his opponent was ranked 87th. Davydenko won the first set 6-2. THEN, a big chunk of $7 million was bet against him winning. He lost the second set and then retired with a foot injury in the third set. BetFair voided all wagers. The ATP launched an investigation, but cleared him of wrongdoing.) In July, another player, Mathieu Montcourt, was found dead after he was banned from tennis for betting on matches. He was found dead in a stairwell. The cause of death has not been determined. Make up your own story. There are lots of other stories about betting problems in tennis. I was going to catalog them, but it turns out that's a fairly big job, better left for a snow day.

4) Of course, there's a rule that precludes players from passing on insider information.

5) The U.S. Open is going on right now through Labor Day. (Watch on ESPN2; both McEnroe brothers are announcing together!)

6) Professional tennis is constantly struggling to generate public interest in tennis, particularly now when there's a dearth of U.S. players.

U.S. Open officials have banned on-court tweeting. (As far as I know, no one has tweeted from the court before, but they're anticipating it, I guess.) They've also posted warnings in the player locker rooms reminding players not to tweet "insider information" and encouraging them to tweet minimally.

Andy wasn't too pleased about the insider info warnings. Andy seems to be thinking that all tweets are public, so that sending info by tweet would be stupid because a) there'd be a public record of your rule violation and b) the info, divulged to the world, wouldn't be helpful to the bettor you were trying to feed. I suspect Andy doesn't realize that one can have more than one account, that an account can be anonymous and that one can "lock" one's tweets so that only approved followers can read them. But still, Twitter doesn't give any ability to communicate info that didn't already exist with text messaging via cell phone, except that it allows broadcasting (which is not a useful tool for betting manipulation) so I think he's right that the U.S. Open officials are being silly.

Frankly, I think the officials are missing an opportunity. I think they should instead REQUIRE players to tweet on change-overs. And require them to think of something amusing and entertaining. Tennis needs more fans.

Personal note: I follow Andy Roddick on Twitter. As a tennis lover, I'm probably inordinately interested in things like what time he gets up, and what time he practices and how many hours he works out and what he's eating, so even his boring tweets are fun for me. Also, he has a bulldog that he tweets pictures of fairly often and bulldog pictures are always fun. He lives in Austin, btw.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Ezra Klein is only 24 years old.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

It's not been a great week - update

Had doctor appointment #1 this morning. A typical "good news/bad news" scenario in which the good news is that this doctor says that they DO know what I DON'T have - the bad news is that they DON'T know what I DO have. I'm not presenting the typical and/or normal symptoms to fit me into the 2 or 3 usual suspected conditions. So....I go back to see this doctor in a month for additional tests.

In the meantime, they suggested that I keep doctor appointment #2 on Thursday, if just to rule out other possibilities and for my peace of mind.

It still sucks getting old....

Attitudes about capital punishment

K always tells me that as soon as there's a case where it is proved that we've executed an innocent person, people who support the death penalty will change their minds. But I don't think he has that right. I presume that folks who support the death penalty recognize that we execute an innocent person now and then, but they feel that is an acceptable cost for what they perceive the benefits to be.

So in this case, I think they're comfortable saying this:
Here's what you get for a life: you'll watch your kids die in a fire, then we'll wrongly accuse you of killing them (by burning them up in a fire, no less) and then we'll execute you. Sorry about your life, bud. Cost/benefit analysis, don't you know.
Here's a link to The Innocence Project. They can use donations.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Get unlucky

I'm just going to offer some silliness for a distraction for a minute.

There's a website that allows you to execute an internet search, ala Google, but it returns purposefully bad search results.

I searched for "secondhand smoking jacks" and got this:

Update: another attempt yields:

It's not been a great week and an event put on hold

As I talked about in late June, I had a big July planned. A trip to Telluride, CO over July 4th; getting my concealed handgun license and taking a motorcycle riding course. 2 of the 3 were accomplished - well, while I've passed the CHL test, I haven't received it. Supposedly because of the deluge of applications, the state of Texas is running behind in issuing them. The one that hasn't happened yet is the motorcycle course. Between days of rain and 100+ temps, I put it off until I could try to get days with no rain, not a lot of wind and below 95 temps.

However, the wait has been extended indefinitely due to some medical issues. I'm not so much of an ego-manic to believe that anyone other than a very few even care what it is, but I thought I had to mention a bit more of an explanation about why I haven't taken the course yet (in case anyone recalled that I had mentioned that I was going to do it).

I don't want to go into much detail for a couple of reasons - (1) not exactly sure what is causing the problem right now and (2) want some degree of privacy. That being said, I'm torn about talking about what is going on once the cause has been determined. I will say that the symptoms are such that I do not feel safe being on a motorcycle unless and until it's all figured out and straightened out.

I first became aware of a potential problem with taking the course in late July and was in the process of trying to work the course in during Sept between Arkansas football game trips when that had to be rethought due to the events of the past week. I can't recall too many weeks in my life (that being said, my memory isn't the greatest to begin with) that were as bad as last Tuesday thru Saturday (not counting a week long stay in the hospital with an appendix problem in the late 80's). Hopefully, by the end of this week, I'll know more about what is going on (since I have a couple of doctor's appointments) and I'll post, in more detail, about the events of last week and what happened back in late July.

As I've said to C repeatedly during the last week, it sucks getting old.