Thursday, July 31, 2003

the other jeremy freeses

According to, there are two other adult Jeremy Freeses listed in the US white pages:

Freese, Jeremy
RR 2,
Sullivan, IL 61951-9802

Freese, Jeremy
310 Teakwood Ln NE,
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402-1641

I don't know either of these JFs and have never called them for same-name-club chat. Freese is a surprisingly common surname considering how no one who is even modestly well-known has it (except the discoverer of the splendidly-scented Freesia plant). However, as Kathryn just pointed out, what is surprising is that if you google "Jeremy Freese" every entry that comes up is about me. What do these other two guys do that causes them to be completely absent from the Internet aether save for the material traces of their address and telephone number. I'm too chicken to telephone them and find out, would you?

Note that there is no guarantee that they pronounce the name the same that I do. An unrelated friend of mine from college has the same last name as me but pronounced it so that it rhymed with crazy. Plus, I'm only sporadic in my efforts to have people pronounce my last name so that it rhymes with niece rather than knees. This is setting aside the whole matter of whether people say Jeremy with three syllables or with only two (skipping the schwa in the middle).

dispatches from my inbox

I just got an e-mail from __(1)__ telling me not to go and write a post to my weblog about what __(1)__ just told/e-mailed me about __(2)__ because __(2)__ would be furious if s/he knew that __(1)__ had told/e-mailed me. Special weblog contest #1: I offer a prize for the first weblog reader who is neither (1) nor (2) who can correctly fill in the blanks. Send your entries to JEREMY FREESE (all caps), Box 350, Boston MA 02134.

At virtually the same time, Kathryn sends me an excited e-mail that this boy that she had a crush on at Andover has gone on to write for such publications at Salon, the New York Times, and the Boston Globe. She includes a link to his web site with the report that "He's still as dreamy as ever!" Kathryn sometimes marches to a different definition-of-dreamy drummer.

and so a pattern emerges

First, the NYT runs an article. I read the article and comment on it in my supposedly-obscure-and-unvisited weblog. Then, afterward, a more lengthy comment on the same matter appears in the Slate magazine. Today's example is a piece on 861 tax dodgers and people who believe that legal documents in which their name is spelled in all capital letters (e.g., JEREMY FREESE) are not actually referring to their flesh and blood selves (Jeremy Freese).

When you combine this with the yesterday's first-ever instance of someone passing me in the hallway and saying "I read your weblog," I feel already the burdens of expected fame and influence upon me. I promise you, my reading public, that it is my intention that the entries in this weblog serve only the cause of good, not evil.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

disasters continue

Sticking with the 1970s disaster movie theme, I followed up my viewing of the Poseidon Adventure a couple of weeks ago by watching Earthquake tonight. Let me tell ya, Earthquake is no Poseidon Adventure. I could not believe that Earthquake got two bones from VideoHound and Poseidon Adventure only got two and a half. The Poseidon Adventure is at least a bone better than Earthquake.

Also: On the audiobook front, I am listening to The Poisonwood Bible, which is great so far and is making me feel ashamed for having been a little suspicious of Barbara Kingsolver's appeal without having read anything of hers before.

more on prediction markets

The Irish website featuring real-stakes prediction markets that I mentioned yesterday has now opened up a market for whether Adm. Poindexter, the Iran-Contra figure involved in the now-swiftly-abandoned Policy Analysis Market, will be gone from his job by the end of August. There have not yet been any trades in the market so there is no price to report.
Dublin, Jul. 30 (TradeSports) -- Tradesports has opened a new 0-100 proposition contract on Admiral Poindexter remaining on the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency(DARPA) payroll by August 31st 2003.

This contract can be found under Current Events>Pentagon.

The contract will expire at 100 if Admiral Pointexter is still officially on the DARPA payroll by 11:59pm ET on the specific date. The contract will expire at 0 if Admiral Poindexter is not on the DARPA payroll at this time.

Also: The Policy Analysis Market website has already been taken down! Click here for what is at the moment nothing but a blank white screen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

investing in the future

Slate provides an explainer on prediction markets, like my beloved Iowa Electronic Market and the quickly-abandoned Policy Analysis Market that has caused such a stir today (see earlier weblog entries on both). I didn't realize there were so many of them! Indeed, there is an Irish gambling site that uses the market concept to allow you to bet on all sorts of interesting things beyond mere sporting events. I don't gamble for any kind of real stakes, so I won't be participating in that, but I will bookmark it approvingly as a source of all kinds of group-based probability estimates.

As an example, the Irish site is currently offering the opportunity to buy or sell shares for every state for the 2004 US Presidential Race. Right now, the only states that the market estimates that Bush has less than a 50% chance of winning are: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The current spread on Bush winning is 64-67%.

abandoning pam

Wow, the Policy Analysis Market did not even last the day. The NYT is now reporting that the program will be immediately abandoned. The NYT describes it as "a program that was met with astonishment and derision almost from the moment it was disclosed."

Indeed, few things inspire the bipartisan derision that this program has. From the NYT:
"It is totally unauthorized as far as we are concerned," said Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee. "No funds should have been used for it at all. It's really a serious mistake on the part of Darpa."

Democrats said cutting off the money to this specific initiative was not enough. "I think those who thought it up ought not only close down the program, they ought not be on the public payroll any longer," Mr. Dorgan said.

shelley winters

Even in the age of Google, I keep getting e-mails from all over the world asking me for the URL for a good Shelley Winters website. While it's hard to pick just one in terms of quality, the first Shelley Winters site on the web is a link I can provide. An engaging description of Nat, the dashing cyberpioneer responsible for Shelley's first Internet shrine is also available. I will refrain from speculating about why, in all her many years of film, Nat's favorite Shelley Winters photo is apparently this one from her film on Hollywood home schooling with Farley Granger.

regarding pam

BTW: For a government-private enterprise collaboration that has already chewed up the better part of a million dollars of taxpayer money, the policy analysis market that I discussed in my last post has an astonishingly lame and amateurish logo. It looks like it was something that was trying to look futuristic in 1972.

not ready for prime time

NYT reports that there is an outcry in Washington over a plan to use the same kind of online futures market system that I participate in for elections (described earlier in this weblog) in order to provides probability outcomes for various adverse foreign policy events. To me, this sounds like a great idea, in that I think if it attracted enough participants a market system may well provide better estimates of probabilities of events occurring than what you would get from policy experts who often have an incentive to provide biased or spinned estimates. Alas, however, it looks like it will not survive the criticism; it's too easy to portray as gambling-on-assassinations.

Postscript: Here is the link for the Policy Analysis Market, although I'm not sure how long it will last. I would be interested in participating in this market if it did come into existence, but I wonder if doing so is going to get my name on some kind of surveillance list.

Monday, July 28, 2003

an epiphany for emily

Emily stopped by for a and apparently she has become really into reading other people's blogs. She wanted me to be sure to check out this post from someone named Sidekick Sonia, which Emily said described the inner motivations of the blogfully devoted so poignantly that it caused her to weep.
Dear Fellow Bloggers,

I am sorry. Please accept my sincere apologies.

I used to be a blog snob. I used to think: Why must my friends write about their lives on the web, rather than tell me what's going on in their lives in person, or on the phone, by e-mail, or even by that almost extinct form of communication, letter writing? It all seemed so impersonal. I guess I thought that by blogging, my friends would somehow become less close to me, because they might not share their lives with me in person, on the phone, by e-mail, or by snail-mail, now that they can just say: Read my blog! What I didn't realize is that blogging isn't simply a chronology of one's life, it's a way for someone to let people into their lives, their thoughts, their feelings, in a way that sometimes isn't possible with other forms of communication, no matter how close you are to someone.

Blogging is also an outlet for creativity, and I'm all for creativity. There just isn't enough of it in this world. Sure, there's creativity all around it's not necessarily coming from us. Many people nowadays are so caught up with the race against time, to "catch up" when there's always more to, they push that aspect, that creative aspect, of themselves away from them. Blogging, I've seen, is a way to bring that aspect back.

Of course, blogging is many more things to many more people...but I've chosen to write about communication and creativity because those are what this blog will be to me.

Needless to say, I think I am becoming quite attached to my blog.

"Rock," says Emily, "this person is my new [expletive deleted] idol. I finally understand what all this hoopla is about."

While I am not sure this person's motivations for blogging at all match my own, I am pleased to see the understanding, joy, and cybertolerance that she has brought to Emily and who knows how many others in the blogging world.

Emily wants me to go on with something about how many lives/souls she touches/saves with her own weblog, but since she doesn't actually have a weblog, this is merely envy speaking. I worry that Emily is beginning to think of my weblog as somehow also her own.

selling the friedmans

Since it seems like most of my friends have now seen Capturing the Friedmans, I'm putting up a link to an article in the Village Voice by Debbie Nathan, a journalist who was interviewed in the film. The movie has the interesting property of making you feel suspicious and bad about every single person within it; the article adds to the sensation by also making you feel uneasy about the director. The story behind the film is that David Friedman, son and brother of the two persons jailed for a massive number of counts of child molestation, grew up to become Silly Billy, the most well-known birthday clown in NYC. Andrew Jarecki, the director of the film, was originally going to make a documentary about the clown, and only incidentally came into the knowledge of David Friedman's ugly familial past. As Nathan's article presents it, David Friedman--who has never been accused of any crime--was basically coerced into participating in a film that has a good chance of ruining his career:
Jarecki put two and two together and changed the focus of his film. David was distraught, but he and the family had already signed releases for [the Silly Billy documentary].

An obvious defense for this is that Jarecki is the one a journalist might use, that the story is one of public interest and so that overrides the problem where all kinds of parents may no longer be willing to hire Silly Billy as a clown after learning his family's story and seeing him in this film. But, if this were the case, you would think that Jarecki might then feel some responsibility to tell the story as accurately as possible. Nathan's article, however, suggests that Jarecki had additional footage that would lend more support to the idea that the Friedmans were not guilty of the specific molestation crimes for which they were charged:
While the film was in production, Jarecki told the Friedman family he thought the two were innocent of the charges. Polling viewers at Sundance in January, he was struck by how they were split over Arnold and Jesse's guilt. Since then, he's crafted a marketing strategy based on ambiguity, and during Q&As and interviews, he has studiously avoided taking a stand. Teaser ads pitch the film as a Long Island Rashomon: "Who do you believe?" For Jarecki and his PR people, the question is rhetorical.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

more election speculation

Current prices in the Iowa Election Markets (discussed in an earlier weblog entry) have Joe Lieberman trading for only a cent per share higher than Hillary Clinton (.070 vs. .060). This is insane; she's not running, she's not going to run. I just bought 30 shares of Lieberman (that's right, I just spent $2.10!). I also just bought 10 shares of Gephardt at 12.9 cents (another $1.29!). I don't actually think either of them will win, but I do think the prices of both will go up before they are knocked out of the race.

saturday night's all right for honking

Last night I was awakened again at 2AM by the sounds of revelers from the newly-wildly-popular neighborhood bar spilling out onto the street. The noises featured people talking, yelling at one another, and singing, and then also this car that drove by with the bass on its stereo cranked up so high that my bed and nightstand shook. And, all kinds of ritualistic horn-honking.

The mayhem lasted sufficiently long that by the time it was over there was no way I was going to easily get back to sleep, so I started reading one of the dozen or so books on my nightstand, Karaoke Nation, by Steve Fishman. The book is about how Fishman, a magazine writer, decides to give himself a year to try to make a million dollars, where the Million Dollar Idea he ends up fixing upon is an online karaoke site. The book hooked me and I spent a good chunk of last night and today finishing it, where I probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise. Which means that the sudden upswing of the bar on the corner (and my persistence in living here) ended up costing me like another 6-7 hours of my life. That said, KN was a pretty entertaining read.

Just checked and Fishman's brainchild (taken over by others and renamed Karaoke Station) indeed does exist. The idea with the site is that people would really love recording karaoke songs online and sending the recordings to friends (so much that they'd be willing to pay for the service). I'll admit to being glad that this didn't catch on, so I don't have to deal with the guilt of sending "Bravo!" e-mails to friends about renditions of "The Greatest Love of All" and "The Tide is High" that I hadn't actually bothered to listen to. For that matter, I can imagine my mother, with her mad forwarding skillz, sending me country songs sung by second cousins and other relatives that I've met twice and scarcely remember.

The Karaoke Station website has a small library, although I was pleased to see that Matchbox 20's 3AM was one of their selections, since this was the time at night that I had started reading the book.

BTW: While I liked Karaoke Nation, if you want to read a really entertaining book about the Internet boom and crash, check out Leaving Reality Behind, by Adam Wishart and Regula Bochsler. It's the story of the battle over naming rights between this German performance art group, etoy, and about this ambitious Internet toy-store start-up, E-Toys.

Friday, July 25, 2003

freese family cyberpresence

My brother, who is about to turn a creaking 50 years old, just e-mailed me to let me know that my niece--a Baptist missionary in Peru--now has a website of her own. No word yet on whether she will be expanding into the blogosphere.

let's review

Yesterday afternoon I resolved that I would spend the rest of the day polishing off peer reviews of two manuscripts on my desk. I had to come back to campus from the early showing of the feel-bad movie of the summer, the thoroughly unsettling and depressing Capturing the Friedmans, to get the first one done and now I'm taking a blogging break before I embark on the second. I agree to review too many papers. Why do I do it? Why does anyone do it? Why don't academic disciplines just trickle their way to oblivion because editors can't get anyone to review papers?

Not only do I agree to review too many papers, I spend way too much time reviewing any one paper. At least 3/4 of the time I get the set of reviews back and my review is the longest. It took me a long time to figure out how someone could take the time to read an entire paper and then only have a short, vacuous paragraph to say about it, until I realized: they probably didn't actually read the paper, or at least not with any care. Why do I spend so much time reviewing a single article? What kind of wild self-importance must I attach to what I have to say about a paper? Do I think that my comments are going to contribute in any way to saving the lost cause that is most sociology, the same way that a friend of mine was sure she could save Richard Lewis if she spent all her free time writing him encouraging "buck up, you're still funny" fan mail?

Do I have a wild sense of self-importance more generally? Erin said I must to be doing this weblog, but then again that's the kind of thing she always says. Then again then again, perhaps the reason Erin always says that kind of thing is that she's had me pegged for a long time.

i want to live forever. i want to learn how to fly.

An update from my friend elaborating his idea to make us both (more) famous:
as for the "i'm with freese" talk show, i think it would be a smash hit. think of it as an audio/visual supplement to your weblog. it could even be a semi-talk show where i interview you. we could have different segments. one would be us going over the day's headlines in the nytimes (or some other daily) where i would report various news items and you would provide your reactions. another segment would be updates on your professional/personal life. and another segment could be you critiquing various studies in various disciplines. and you could also read your weblogs aloud and/or a segment could feature you typing in your weblog. or you provide unique weblogs that are only available on this show. finally, there could be a call-in segment, where various people chat with jfreese. now what do you think?


Today's Internet distraction: An extensively annotated collection of different pained exclamations by comic book characters (the site says gutteral moans, but the actual entries are neither all gutteral nor all moans).

Thursday, July 24, 2003

adopt my mother!

A couple of years ago, I went back to Iowa and gave my parents my old computer and Internet access for Christmas. Soon afterward, my mother learned how to forward messages, and she has been an enthusiastic passer-along of all kinds of forwarded messages since. On a few occasions, I have suggested to her that she should perhaps exclude me from the To: field of the political messages she sends out, especially those suggesting the American withdrawal from the UN and the renaming of all things French. Recently, however, my mother forwarded me this angry anti-Bush e-mail; turns out, which I didn't really know since I generally avoid talking to her about these things, that whatever other political opinions she may hold, she hates Bush. Which means that she's looking for someone else to vote for in 2004. Which means that she's one of those precious potential Iowa caucus voters who could be deciding who should get the presidential nomination. So, if you are organizing one of those adopt-an-Iowa letter-writing campaigns for your candidate of choice, you should really include my mother. Her address:

Ruth Freese
2980 200th Street
Manson, IA 50563

She really likes the idea of anyone who is going to stand up for the little guy and Stick It To The Man, so be sure to play that angle up on behalf of your candidate in your letter. For that matter, feel free to adopt my father (Eldon) as well. I'm sure a well-written letter can get them all excited and ready to Rock The Vote at the caucuses.

the madison restaurant death watch is on!

Shelly B (bicentennial photo from 1976) points out the The Isthmus Daily Page includes a list of recently opened restaurants in Madison, which can be used to start a prospective evaluation of the oft-repeated claim that 80% of restaurants fail in their first year (about which I have expressed skepticism in this weblog).

Here are the restaurants listed in the article (in order of appearance), along with comments about either their predecessor and whether they should be counted toward the tally.

Scott's Pastry Shoppe [do pastry shoppes count?]
Frida Mexican Grill [replacing Spices, which was open more than a year before it closed]
Le Chardonnay
Potbelly Sandwich Works [chain, should it count? replaces Bialy Brown's, which did not last a year]
Public House
Luna Caffé [a Food Fight restaurant, should it count? (Food Fight is a local conglomerate that owns upwards of 10 Madison restaurants.) Replaces Pasta Per Tutti, which was open more than a year before it closed]
Griglia Tuscany
Barriques Coffee Trader [has a café, should it count?]
Macaroni Grill [chain, should it count?]
Cold Stone Creamery
RodeSide Grill
Taj Indian

Let the ruthless games of the free market begin! Check back with this weblog in a year.

opportunity knocks?

Meanwhile, a friend sends me an e-mail suggesting the following venture:
i've decided that i have no career path, which stems from two things: (1) i don't want to have a career path because i'm lazy and i don't want to do anything with my life except goof off, and (2) i'm not talented enough to have a career path. (it's possible that 1 and 2 could be related, such that i don't want to do anything because i'm not good at anything). so what i'm left with is to become a professional gambler, whereby i would rely on [employed significant other] to give me money to take the colts +3 every week. and while this would be perfectly fine for me, i know she would use her 2/3 veto power on this proposal. so what i'm left with is this: a show inspired by the comedy channel's "i'm with busey," where some shmoe follows gary busey around. my show would be "i'm with freese," where i follow you around and interview you.

This would be the most stultifying and least telegenic half-hour in the history of television. America sits riveted to its chairs while I (a) play Scrabble, (b) spend hours on end doing e-mail and Stata analyses, and (c) attend meetings for the WLS. The chief suspense, I imagine, would be people wondering if (a) my recent precipitous weight gain will continue over the course of the show, (b) exactly how much weight I will put on, and (c) whether, as a result, I will eventually come crashing through my office floor and crush the woman in the office below me.

emily and ivory

Emily (on left in this photo) is here in my office and encouraging me to look at some of the other blogs that are on blogspot. We are currently looking at this one, which has an eerie-ly Emily-ish cast to it. On the person's extensive list of things she hates, she includes the following:
janice wickerson. note this is not one of those crazy "hit list"s or whatever because I don't think I could ever actually kill anybody, I don't eat animals okay so even if you think I want to murder these things and people i'm still a better person than you, unless of course you don't eat animals either but this is, and I repeat, not a hit list or anything of the sort. janice is just an example, I despise this girl, she is a symbol of everything that is wrong with our world today, and her friends and those who look and act like her and everyone slightly like her, I hate them all, theyre all little annoying avril lavingne lookalikes who take pleasure in making you suffer, oh they don't care, you'll walk home instead of taking the bus after you meet these girls even if it is negative 800 000 degrees outisde, because they are ruthless evil rich little fucks who deserve to be thrown into icey cold pools filled with scott stapp [note: the lead singer from Creed --jf] and sharks and before they die they should be fetched out of the pool and be beaten with chains and thrown out of windows 50 stories high and then they deserve to be injected with chemicals that will keep them alive for a little longer so they can be tortured more because they fucking deserve it.

Says Emily, "Rock. This person is my [expletive deleted] idol."

Postscript: Adds Emily, "Emily and Ivory, that's soooo dumb."

in the news

A study that I co-authored made the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal yesterday, below the fold. Article reproduced below. My name not mentioned, which is just fine by me, shy attention-averse author of this weblog. I have enough trouble with the paparazzi as it is.

It was especially handy because yesterday I went to Spring Green to attend an UW honors program event that featured Sarah and Sonya, mighty WLS interns. One of the honors students there asked about the policy influence of WLS studies, and I was able to say, "Well, we were on the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal today, for a study about..." As for the study itself, I'm looking forward to when the new round of the WLS is done and we can see whether the same results hold when the respondents are 10-12 years older and we have better measurement of cognitive functioning.

Experts Throw Cold Water On Studies Touting Light Drinking
Wisconsin State Journal :: FRONT :: A1 ::Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Patricia Simms Health reporter

Middle-aged people who drink in moderation shouldn't expect enlightenment, UW-Madison researchers say.
Though a plethora of published research studies report that moderate drinkers perform better on tests than people who do not drink at all or who drink excessively, don't believe it, said UW-Madison sociology professor Robert Hauser.

"The research is deeply flawed," said Hauser, co-author of a new study that examined the relationship of drinking and cognition on people in their mid-50s. "Middle-aged people who drink in moderation should not expect any cognitive benefit from their drinking."

The other studies don't take into account how smart you were when you were young, he said. "What we found was that the seeming advantage of moderate drinking disappeared when we controlled statistically for test performance in high school," Hauser said.

"The explanation would appear to be that people who did well on tests in high school are more likely to drink in moderation as mature adults than are people who performed poorly on tests while in high school."

On the other hand, the study reported no evidence that moderate alcohol intake damages cognitive ability in middle age.

The study, published in the July issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, was led by Dean Krahn of the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison.

Researchers used data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), which has tracked the lives and social histories of nearly 10,000 people who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957.

In 1992, at age 53, study participants were given an abstract reasoning test and alcohol intake was measured.

Researchers found that men and women who drank a little did better on the abstract reasoning task than either non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.

But after adjusting for teenage intellectual performance, the apparent benefits of moderate drinking on cognition disappear, the study said.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

twinkle, twinkle

Rob e-mailed me today to ask if I knew that "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and the alphabet song have the same tune. I didn't know this and indeed wasn't sure that it was true (I'm not tone deaf, but it wouldn't surprise me if I was tone hearing-impaired). However, Rob said that he sang it together with his wife, Amy and confirmed that it was true:

twinkle, twinkle, little star

how i wonder what you are

up above the world so high

like a diamond in the sky

twinkle, twinkle, little star
now i know my A-B-Cs

how i wonder what you are
next time won't you sing with me?

get me out of here! (continued)

Downstairs from the unfortunate apartment where I presently live is a take-out restaurant that I patronize often enough that the guys there know me, know that I live upstairs and know my usual order. Today one of them asked me if I was "a professional student." I replied that I was actually a professor. The guy gestured toward the ceiling and replied, "Oh, I wouldn't have thought that a professor would be living in one of those apartments." To which I could only say, "Yes, I've wondered about that myself."

jeremy freese is not JEREMY FREESE

Today's NYT has a story on the government bringing suit against three employers who refuse to withhold taxes; the employers are part of a movement that believe in an interpretation of American legal history that leads to the conclusion that the government cannot tax wages.

Indeed, they believe things a good deal more farfetched than this, as the Times article reveals: [One of the defendants] "is part of a movement that contends that court actions in which names are typed in all capital letters, as the case filed yesterday was, are not valid."

I have some familiarity with this movement as the result of a relative getting mixed up with it, but I didn't know what their argument was here. Anyway, Google to the rescue. From an interview in Tax Truth News, a publication of this movement:
In his book, Mr. McLeod talks about how the Social Security Administration (SSA) is a sub-part of the private corporate U.S. Government. He says when we applied for a social security number (SSN) the government set us up as a trust in the SSA. The issuance of an SSN by the SSA created this "trust" for us and made an account number for that "trust" in the SSA's General Trust Fund. The SSA made the applicant (you) the trustee for this "trust". Then they named this "trust" entity with a title that sounds like your name, but it is your name spelled in all capital letters. This entity name in all capital letters is being referred to today as your "strawman". This "strawman" is the name that you will always see others use in all your commercial affairs, such as on your licenses, bank accounts, property deeds, etc.

So, JEREMY FREESE is the "strawman" for the flesh-and-blood Jeremy Freese. The "private corporate U.S. Government" issues decrees over JEREMY FREESE but does not have the same authority over flesh-and-blood Jeremy Freese. So the defendent in the NYT story is quoted as saying: ""They can take a hike," Mr. Molen said. "I do not intend to abide by any command of me, flesh and blood, to do anything."

The movement believes that the sinister web of p.c.u.s.g. legal maneuvering to gain authority that they don't have goes far deeper than this. The Tax Truth newsletter contains many stories of the persecution of those who have challenged the right of the government to collect taxes:
"Our other featured person this week is Dave Hinkson who said he discovered how the IRS has been turning people into political prisoners. To give an example, Mr. Hinkson made reference to a man that this happened to when appealing an adverse court decision. At some point during the trial, the judge shouted, 'Shut up! If you mention Jesus, God or the Constitution again, then you are in contempt of court.' The hapless man stood there unable to defend himself and in the end the government threw him in prison for six or seven years. The disturbing thing about this case is that the government never charged him with a crime.

"For the longest time, Mr. Hinkson said he couldn't figure out why the judge would say such a crazy thing like that until he learned about the motion of alimni. A motion of alimni is an instrument that the government uses to bar, cancel or eliminate common law from being heard in a court case. Evidently, few people have ever heard of this thing although if they have, they don't understand what it's all about.

Anyway, when the man appealed his case the attorneys for the government and the IRS attached a copy of a motion of alimni to his appeal. Due to the man's ignorance of what had been done, he never objected to it, which meant that he couldn't challenge it on appeal. Well, all Constitutional arguments are based upon common law. That means once the government had their motion of alimni in place, the man on trial couldn't mention Jesus, God or the Constitution. "

There are many interesting things about this story that your humble blogger could comment on, but, alas, time is short. Note the equivalence drawn between invoking Jesus and God in a legal argument and invoking the Constitution. Note also the idea that there is a stealthful mechanisms that keeps the judicial system from being able to raise constitutional issues in their defense.

(BTW, the "motion of alimni" is apparently so secret that nothing about it can be found anywhere on Google, except in the Tax Truth newsletter.)

speaking of 666...

...There have been some stories in the news lately about how a new means of embedding chips in product may come to replace the UPC as the means by which goods are scanned at checkout counters, etc.. Even if this doesn't come to pass, it does call to mind the fact that probably before too long Some New Thing will come along that will consign the UPC to the ubiquitous dustbin of the technological past. If this happens, and the apocalypse has not yet begun, it makes me wonder what will be the new technological symbol that certain millenial Christians will consider as the likely candidate for being The Mark of the Beast.

The UPC [it feels weird to say UPC Code because the C in UPC is Code] made a good candidate for the Mark because it already marks everything in stores, so you can just imagine some shadowy new world order coming up with the idea of putting it on people as a way of faster processing them, especially when we all get our UN World ID codes. Besides its easy applicability to wrist and forehead and it's potential technopostrapture image of it being implemented as a means of tracking people, the UPC also meets the necessary (from the book of Revelation) condition of containing the number 666. Every UPC has the number 666 embedded within it.

This is where it would really help if I had the upgrade to my blog*spot account yet that would allow me to include images, but grab something that has a full UPC on it. At the beginning, middle, and end of the code, as a means of orienting the scanner, there are two thin vertical lines. In the number language of UPC, two thin vertical lines stand for--you guessed it--six. So, right there, on every product, you have a six, six, and six.

I heard about this regularly way back when I was in sixth grade and my parents spent a year attending an evangelical church that was convinced the end of the world was coming soon. I remember once when the pastor was giving the morning sermon he expressed excitement for the evening sermon he had planned, and then announced that he was so excited that would be disappointed if the rapture happened in the next eight hours and he never got the chance to give that sermon. He had the parishoners raise their hands if they too would be disappointed.

Another time, they had a guest speaker came in and he gave this persuasive case that the Soviet-ish alignment of Ethiopa, Iran, and Libya (I think) all were consistent with biblical prophecies about the signs of the end time. The only holdout, in his scenario, was Turkey--if Turkey came under the thrall of the USSR, you might as well pack your bags and wait for the first of the Left Behind books to begin. Near the end of his talk, I remember him pausing for effect and then saying ominously, "I don't know what's going to happen, but I tell you, something's gonna happen before 1985."

Monday, July 21, 2003

get your kicks on route 666

Salon story about how hooligans are stealing all of the US Hwy. 666 signs before this highway, as the result of constituents afraid the numbering system makes it the road to Armageddon, changes its name to #491. The curious thing to me is that the signs lasted this long.

screenplay idea #249

The documentary Lost in La Mancha chronicles the failed effort of directory Terry Gillam to film his $30+ million dream-project adaptation of Don Quixote. Actually, being a Terry Gillam film, it was supposed to involve time travel, where Johnny Depp played an ad executive who was transported back in time and then was mistaken by Don Quixote for Sancho Panza. The documentary is likely more entertaining than the movie would have been had it been made, although it did have these awesome giants and puppets. Anyway, apparently Gillam is trying to secure funding for another try at making the movie. The better idea, I think, would be for him to make a movie about a director who travels back a few years in time to try to prevent the disasters that kept his film about Don Quixote from being made.

g thing

My friend Johnny G (scroll down for photo) just e-mailed to say he has run the recent "Nadir" entry from my weblog through the Snoop Dogg Shizzolator. The result:

For me, da most disheartening moments as a sociologist are when I read a paper 'n think, "Perhaps that shiznit's a gravy thing that sociology is not taken mo' seriously by da public, because if that shiznit wuz I would has worry 'bout da considerable potential fo' this paper kill muthas if its ill-reasoned claims or recommendations wuz acted upon n' shit."

Which is better put than my own rendition of the point. All this makes me nostalgic for the days when I was endeavoring to be Freaktoastt J, the first rapper to come straight out of the Heartland. Instead of 8 Mile, my memoir-movie could have been Rural Route 2 or County Road N65. To be sure, many of the buildings back home are every bit as dilapidated as the scenes from Detroit in 8 Mile.

box 350, boston, mass 02134

Yesterday, inter alia: Meeting about the WLS spouse interview, re-viewing of the best parts of The Poseidon Adventure, 8 Mile, and hours spent replicating and refining the "I'm Bernadette" arm trick from the early seasons of "Zoom."

Sunday, July 20, 2003

upside-down, you're turning me

The Poseidon Adventure just ended. The acting was as bad as I had remembered, everybody a stock character like a special-super-disaster episode of The Love Boat. If you've never seen it (it's from 1972), an aging passenger ship is turned upside down by a tidal wave and 10 or so people try to make it to the bottom (now top) of the boat to survive. Some of the more famous cast members get good death scenes, and you get to see Red Buttons use the disaster to try to find a mate and end his lonely single life as a haberdasher. Spoiler: Fate spares Ernest Borgnine, despite an abject job of acting throughout the movie. Actually, the odds of surviving in the film bear this perverse inverse relationship to how well the actor/actress is doing in their role.

get me out of here!

Once again, I get a 2AM wake up call as the bar on the corner closes and there is some kind of yelling and fisticuffs outside my window. Tonight's round featured some guy yelling "Did you or did you not [something unintelligible]?" about four times before pandemonium ensured. And now, I can't go to sleep, and am contemplating watching the DVD of The Poseidon Adventure that I bought earlier today. Ugh, less than a month I will be out of here.

Friday, July 18, 2003

trumping up my weblog

Meanwhile, Emily asserts that my weblog would be more exciting if I took up bridge and posted updates about that instead of Scrabble: "yes, that's right. i love bridge. the sound of shuffling cards, the occassional paper cut, the drawing and dealing... ah! never have i felt such excitement as when the cards hit the table."

blogged if i do, blogged if i don't

My friend Jan (scroll down for photo) has offered this verdict on my nascent weblog: "Wow, it's like a little dose of Jeremy every day. Crazy. I suspect you will get bored with that eventually; in fact, I think I would be disappointed if you didn't. Might make for a good betting pool."

So now the Jeremy Freese weblog Dead Pool begins... If I knew how to add the comment feature, I would have it so you could send in your entries for when you think will be the time when I either (1) delete the entire blog in a fit of web-remorse or (2) display my complete boredom/harriedness by going two weeks without posting anything.

news from the shelter

Two nights ago, i was reading newspapers from 1964 that were retrieved out of a bomb shelter. One story included a poll where Senators rated among them was "least effective" at their job, and the winner was Strom Thurmond, then a Democrat. I wonder what switching parties and almost four decades of spiraling incoherence did for him.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

misunderstood by strangers

The WLS has 24 complete interviews and is taking a short respite from the field while data is delivered and the search is made for any preliminary indications of problems that have slipped through the first two pretests (or, have been introduced by any of the changes that we've made since the second pretest). Looking at the codebook reminded me of what I think wins the award for the most philosophically intriguing question on the telephone survey. Imagine that you are in the middle of a phone survey and the interviewer asks you:

"During the past four weeks, have people who do NOT know you understood you completely when you speak?"

My answer to this when I was a mock respondent was "Um, you tell me." I'm not sure what we would do if somebody did say "no" to this, given that the interviewer taking their "no" for an answer would be presuming that the interviewer was indeed able to understand what the respondent was saying. It's like a self-answering question, or at least answering "no" is a self-negating denial. Or maybe there should be an option for the interviewer to indicate that the respondent had given an unintelligible response, which would be the real way of answering the question in the negative. But, then, you would still have to wonder how the interviewer and respondent had made it this far in the phone interview with the respondent being unable to be understood by the interviewer.

The question is from the Health Utilities Index, a general health measure which otherwise has a variety of virtues (and is designed to be also administered in contexts other than the telephone), and so it's not something we are free to modify. So far all the actual WLS respondents have answered "yes" to the question. Looking back, though, I see that there was a case in the first pretest who did answer "no." I wonder if it was someone caught up in the epistemic angst of feeling like one can never be completely understood. Or maybe they just feel like they are chronically, hopelessly misunderstood, although that would be perhaps more likely if this was a survey of thirtysomething brooders rather than people in their sixties. I wish I could go back to the pretest 1 cases and look for clues to explain that one respondent's "no" response, but I don't even have the time to be making these blog entries!

the susan lucci of the scrabble b's

This week, I again come close to fulfilling my humble goal of just once going undefeated at Scrabble club, only to be denied. I win the first three games and making the bingoes ROUNDED, SPINNERS, BOXCARS, and SUNNIEST. BOXCARS (95 points) won the prize for that round for the highest play with the letter "O". Corrie also wins the first three of her games, and we are paired against each other in the final round. Not only will the winner be the evening's B division champion, but will also take the overall lead in the B division with like six weeks left to go in the Scrabble season. I'm down by 40 points on the last play of the game, with I-L-O-T-T and two blanks on my rack. If I use all seven tiles to make a bingo, I win. The only place a bingo will play is through an F that is three spaces in, meaning that the word has to have F as one of its first three letters. I use up all of the remaining time on my clock, but can't see anything, and lose. In the parking lot, Corrie notes that LOFTIEST would have worked, making plain that she did indeed deserve to win. Alas.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

glass houses of complete ignorance

A moment of reflection would always seem helpful before declaring someone else to be completely ignorant. Case in point would be Sports Illustrated columnist Tom Verducci, talking about baseball's new All-Star game format: " Some players on Monday argued that the team with the better record should have the advantage, completely ignorant of the fact that it's logistically impossible for baseball to wait until the League Championship Series are over to find out where the World Series will begin . "

But, wait: unless baseball is completely rigged and Tom has been let in on the secret, no one ever knows where the World Series will begin before the League Championship Series is over. If the American League has home field advantage, one still has to wait until the ALCS is over before you know which of the two cities the first game will be played. So, as things stand now, when the League Championship Series begins there are two different cities that have to prepare for the "logistical possibility" that they will be hosting World Series Game 1. If you went to a format where the team with the best record had home-field advantage, when the League Championship Series began you would have either two or three different cities that would have to prepare for this possibility.

do not call

Salon is running an article that might as well have been written by flunkies for the telemarketing industry. It gives the last word to approvingly paraphrasing a lawyer who fights against telemarketing laws saying, "But unless the government gives us the opportunity to opt out of all of life's annoyances, why single out telemarketing?" The obvious retort being (1) telemarketing is a pretty huge and predatory annoyance, diminishing the utility of a vital communications medium, and (2) what kind of argument is it to say that if we can't legislate out all annoyances in life we are unfairly picking on any that we do--others might think that ridding the world of some annoyance is still progress.

Also, toward making the argument that keeping the telemarketing industry from calling people on do-not-call lists will damage the economy, the article uncritically recites the following stat: "In the United States in 2001, telemarketing companies employed 4 million people and generated $274 billion in sales, according to the WEFA Group, an economic research firm." This works out to almost exactly $1000 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. What on earth do they have to be counting as telemarketing sales in order to reach this figure? I wonder if they are counting the revenue generated from interest from credit cards hawked over the phone. If so, do they really believe that these credit card companies wouldn't be making these kind of profits off consumer debt if they didn't have the telephone with which to market their cards? And if that were the case, would it really be a great argument against restrictions on telemarketing?


I've earlier mentioned my snobbish insistence on only buying unabridged audiobooks. Currently I'm listening to Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, a novel. I was surprised that there were only six tapes, given that I have a borrowed copy of Cryptonomicon (that I've never gotten around to reading) and it looks much longer than that. Then I was confused by the intriguing pacing of the novel, where there are these long pieces of narrative followed by sections that read like quick soap opera summaries that careen the story forward. As it turns out, another look at the tape case reveals that what I have purchased is not the "Unabridged" version, but the "Unabridged Excerpts" version. In other words, they abridged the book the lazy way, by chopping out whole large sections, and then they market it like you are getting something better. It reminds me of when mattress companies took the padding off one side of the mattress and sold it for a higher price as a "flip-free" mattress.

Ugh! It's bad enough that I'm so weak-willed when it comes to books, but to be so gullible as well!

election speculating

I've recently ventured back to the the Iowa Electronic Markets. The IEM is currently offering a market for the '04 Democratic Convention (among other markets). If you send them the money to open an account, the site lets you buy or sell "shares" in individual candidates with real money for whatever are the prevailing market prices being offered by other IEM participants. Shares for the candidate that wins will return $1 per share; shares in everyone else return nothing. So this means that the IEM prices can be thought of as market-estimated probabilities of a particular candidate winning the election.

(Pretend you are perfectly rational. If you believe a candidate has a 50% chance of winning the election, then shares should seem like a bargain if they are less than 50 cents and should seem overpriced if they are greater than 50 cents.)

Polls tell you whose ahead or behind, but that's not the same as "what's the probability that X is going to be the Democratic nominee?" I presume the way it is able to circumvent legislation regarding gambling is that everything is small-stakes and the market is used for research purposes.

Anyway, currently shares are being offered for Kerry, Gephardt, Lieberman, Hillary Clinton, and Rest-of-Field. Call me crazy, but I suspect that Clinton, even though she's trading for only 4 cents a share, is still overvalued, given that she's not running. Gephardt, although he actually is running, seemed overvalued to me at his current price of 20 cents; I suspect the overvaluation may be the result of the market being run out of Iowa, where Gephardt may be stronger than anywhere else outside of Missouri. Lieberman was running around 10 cents a share, which still seems too high for winning the Democratic nomination,
unless he decides to become more of an actual Democrat. So, since probabilities have to sum to one, I bought shares in Kerry (~31) and Rest-of-Field (~35). I'm expecting that Rest-of-Field will split into Dean, Edwards, and maybe some others as the election approaches--whatever, if Warren Beatty or Michael Dukakis enters the field, may ROF shares cover them too.

In 2000, I won money in the Presidential Election market by buying up shares of Gore. I bought these with the belief that he was actually going to win the election (or, at least, had a higher probability of winning than what the market was giving him). I presumed the day after the election that my shares were worthless. Instead, as it turned out, the original market prospectus indicated that the winner, for IEM purposes, was whoever won the popular vote, so my shares were all worth $1 and the people who bought Bush shares got nothing. Ca-ching!

Monday, July 14, 2003


For me, the most disheartening moments as a sociologist are when I read a paper and think, "Perhaps it's a good thing that sociology is not taken more seriously by the public, because if it was I would have to worry about the considerable potential for this paper to kill people if its ill-reasoned claims or recommendations were acted upon."

the ninth circle of scrabble hell

Can't sleep, again. I'm playing online Scrabble because I can't sleep, again. It's ambiguous whether playing this helps me get drowsy or actually makes me more awake. I play five minute Scrabble online, meaning each player gets five minutes to make all their moves. It's good for me because it's helped cure me of my problem of otherwise being a slow player. Still, I usually have trouble making all my moves in five minutes. The ninth circle of Scrabble hell is reserved for people who play nonsense words at the end of a game when the other person is up against the time limit and unable to challenge them off the board. One of the great things about online play, however, is that such people can be banished to your "noplay" list where they will never be on the other side of a virtual board from you again.

I suppose I shouldn't say "reserved," as no doubt there are other offenses that will also get you banished there. People who cheat and use anagram programs while they play, for example. Indeed, they are such miscreants that perhaps the folks who play nonsense words should get bumped up a circle.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

learned prevarication

From the NYT:
In his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, Mr. Bush contended that Saddam Hussein was trying to develop a nuclear bomb. Among elements he cited to make his case was a statement that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Ms. Rice, in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," said that "the statement that he made was indeed accurate. The British government did say that."
And Mr. Rumsfeld said on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" that "it turns out that it's technically correct what the president said, that the U.K. does -- did say that -- and still says that. They haven't changed their mind, the United Kingdom intelligence people."

Do I have a completely idiosyncratic notion of the meaning of the word "learned"? To me, when X says that Y learned Z, X is not just asserting that Y said Z or that Y believes Z, but that X is also asserting that what Y is saying regarding Z is true. I don't get what is "accurate" or "technically accurate" about Bush's 16 words if Z (the uranium purchase attempt) is indeed not true. Instead, their claims would only be correct if Bush had said something like "the British government is saying that...."

there goes the neighborhood

Ugh, my bicycle was vandalized. I had it locked one of the poles to my apartment. It appears like some bad of miscreants knocking it town and jumped on the wheels a couple of times. And, strangely, took one of my grips as a trophy. There was a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon next to it. Anyway, I'm looking at just under $200 in repairs.

Two obvious lessons: (1) I should have been more diligent in bringing my bicycle into my apartment every time I was done riding it. Except, in my defense, the narrow staircase here makes it a more-than-average annoyance to haul the bike up here. (2) It's a good thing that I'm getting out of this apartment at long last. The neighborhood here by Camp Randall has declined precisely as the fortunes of the bar on the corner, The Grid Iron, have improved. The first 1 1/2 years I lived here they did abysmal business except on football Saturdays. They would have posters up for performers that would be playing and then I would walk by on the night of the performance and it would just be a guy up there playing his heart out for the waitstaff and no one else. In the past few months they've suddenly become much more popular--someone told me they have mud or jello or canola oil wrestling downstairs, but I have no confirmation of this. Anyway, the noise outside my window has been getting worse and worse at night-- college guys pounding the sides of their SUVs and shouting profanities at one another. And I'm sick of walking to the back door of my building and seeing someone urinate in the alley. And now my brave blue trek is vandalized. I've had it; I can't wait to get out of here!!!

Also, I don't understand the recent renascence of Pabst Blue Ribbon, but I'm too annoyed right now for my inquisitive spirit on that subject to be roused.

going postal online

Today is not a great day for my TV-less existence. Instead, I am following one of the decisive stages of the tour live via text updates on the web. The medium predictably loses much of the drama of the message.

As long as I'm following bicycle racing online, I should Google-around and try to figure out what the angle is for the United States Postal Service to be sponsoring one of the leading bicycle teams. Do they have some important European revenue stream that I don't know about? Does sponsoring Lance Armstrong give them visibility for some niche American revenue stream? Why bicycle racing? Or is there a USPS NASCAR team that I'm unaware of just because it hasn't been so successful?

Friday, July 11, 2003

psychotherapy: pros and cons--addendum

Incidentally, if you are disinclined to start therapy but then finally do, the odds are that your mental health will improve. The problem is that, if things need to be pretty bad for you to start therapy, then the odds are they would get better even without therapy. In general, unusually bad states are more likely to improve than get worse. It's a regression to the mean thing.

psychotherapy: pros and cons

A friend just e-mailed me and said they were thinking about psychotherapy and wanted to know what I thought the pros and cons were. My response:

Cons: (1) A bad therapist can screw you up if you are highly suggestible. Convincing you that your parents are horrible people, etc.; (2) The expense, if you don't have insurance that covers it; (3) If it doesn't help, you have can no longer say, "Things are so bad, maybe I should try therapy."

Pros: (1) It may help. It does give you the opportunity to foreground introspection once in a while. Therapists can also provide a grounded point to assess the extent to which experienced problems are internal to oneself as opposed to being in a depressing situation; (2) Even if it doesn't help, it gives you a sense of being proactive about your internal tumult; (3) When you want to tell others about how bad things are going, you can tell them that they are so bad that you have been driven into therapy by them.

Virtually identical things can be said about medication, I suppose, except for the part about bad therapists convincing you that your parents are horrible people. Bad medications instead just make you crazy or infirm in one way or another. An acquaintance went manic after starting on Celexa and made plans to quit school, move to Cleveland to be with a girlfriend who herself didn't yet know she was his girlfriend, and change his name to "Animal" (true story).

cooking cod on audiotape

Walking this morning to Parman's Garage to pick up my just-repaired car, I finished the audiobook version of Cod: The Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. Actually, I didn't really finish it, but instead I gave up in the middle of the first side of the last tape when it seemed like the rest of the book was just going to be an annotated recitation of different cod recipes (if it ends differently, somebody let me know). Serves me right, perhaps, for insisting on only listening to unabridged versions of books. The narrative parts of the book on the history of the cod-fishing is actually quite interesting and thought-provoking on environmental issues more generally. Great examples toward the end of the book of the amazing capacity for denial by fishermen and politicians as cod in various places were being fished to the point of virtually complete depletion.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

"banned CD!", a poem by []

I just received a piece of spam (the e-mail kind) so beautiful I thought that I must immediately dispatch it to my blog, and therefore the world. Long after spam has finally been successfully strangled by one regulatory/technological means or another, there will be ethnoemailologists looking to assemble exhibits of some of its finer moments, and they will lament in their accompanying notes how so much has been lost by our tendency to treat spam (again, the e-mail kind) as something to be disposed of quickly rather than preserved. I wish I had my microphone on my computer hooked up so I could do it as an example of "found-art spoken word." Or that my voicemail allowed longer outgoing messages so I could record it there. Here, then, with no further delays:

banned CD!

I have been receiving emails saying that I'm contributing to the "moral decay of society" by selling the Banned CD. That may be, but I feel Strongly that you have a right to benefit from this hard-to-find information. So I am giving you ONE LAST CHANCE to order the Banned CD! With this powerful CD, you will be able to investigate your friends, enemies and lovers in just minutes using the Internet. You can track down old flames from college, or you can dig up some dirt on your boss to make sure you get that next promotion! Or maybe you want a fake diploma to hang on your bedroom wall. You'll find addresses for companies that make these diplomas on the Banned CD. Need to disappear fast and never look back? No problem! Using the Banned CD, you will learn how to build a completely new identity. Obviously, the Powers That Be don't want you to have the Banned CD. They have threatened me with lawsuits, fines, and even imprisonment unless I stop selling it immediately. But I feel that YOU have a Constitutional right to access this type of information, and I can't be intimidated. Uncle Sam and your creditors are horrified that I am still selling this product! There must be a price on my head! Why are they so upset? Because this CD gives you freedom. And you can't buy freedom at your local Walmart. You will have the freedom to avoid creditors, judgments, lawsuits, IRS tax collectors, criminal indictments, your greedy ex-wife or ex-husband, and MUCH more!

pop-up slayer

Okay, so in addition to making it easy to add links to your blog, the new Google toolbar (link to the download URL listed on this site) has a really effective pop-up ad blocker that has the particularly gratifying feature of making a little click and keeping a tally in the toolbar of how many pop-ups you've been spared.

quote of the morning

This week's Justify Your Existence in the Onion features the band Memento, whom I have no reason to think I would enjoy listening to, and it straddles the line between amusing and creepy. It gets props in this humble blog, however, for the splendid promotional quote: "If you bathe daily in the skanky waters of denial, then this album will not help you."

never letter perfect

Wednesday night, at least when I can manage it, is Scrabble night. I have been playing in the Madison Scrabble Club (B Level) since the beginning of the year. Although my winning percentage is just over 60%, I have never managed to win all my games in the same night. My friend Corrie, who was the one who got my started on Scrabble, has done this multiple times.

Tonight, I started off winning my first three games, defeating my nemeses Corrie and Bert and making the bingos CHEETAHS, CLINGERS, SYRINGE, SOBERED, and SNAILED along the way. CLINGERS (93 points) even won the prize that round for the highest play with an "I" by anyone in the club--the prize letter rotates from round to round, week to week. Finally, I thought, I could not be denied a 4-0 evening. But, then, in the final game, my opponent Barb drew both blanks in her first two turns and used them to make DUMBEST and BRIEFEST, and the rout was on. She also made AERIEST before it was over, and challenged off my late desperation play of UNDRIES (not legal) after blocking the S on the board that I could have used to play SUNDRIES (legal). Ugh!

Scrabble terminological note: A bingo is when you use all seven of your tiles in a single play, which earns you a 50 point bonus in addition to whatever you score on the board for the turn. The best A level players in the club average almost exactly two bingoes a game. Corrie is the best bingo-er among the B level players, averaging about one bingo per game. I average about one bingo every two games, so five in my first three games is unusually good for me.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

at long last, we begin...

Update from the academy: The new round of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which I have been involved with in one way or another since my first month on the job here at Wisconsin (that is, since January 2000), finally entered the field last night, completing three interviews of the projected 24,000 or so. Halleluia! Bob and Tess Hauser, the leaders of The Project, have shown a perseverence in keeping this all going that inspires awe.

the new restaurant opening downtown: should they use black ribbon at the ribbon-cutting?

Look, I can blog from home as well. I'm unstoppable, at least until I get bored.

I've been reading Colin Camerer's Behavioral Game Theory, a book about which much could be said (and much of that much would be positive). In the middle, he writes, parenthetically: "(For example, about 80% of new restaurants fail within a year.)" Page 368, no citation, a fact that has just fallen out of the sky. It seems like I've seen variations on this statistic ever since I was a child. Camerer is a business economist, so maybe this does eminate out of a series of regular studies that are done and reported by restaurant-focused economists.

Still, I wonder if this number is really legit, or if it is like the idea that we only use 10% of our brains, a numerical urban legend. It is certainly not in line with my mental subjective probability when I see a new restaurant opening--I don't think, "4-1 odds it won't be hear in a year," or, at least, not unless I think the restaurant is based on some spectacularly doomed premise. Or, at the end of the year, I don't look back and review the wasteland of failed restaurants for that year and toast the lucky survivors.

If this fact really does have a basis in, well, fact, are restaurants that are part of franchises supposed to count toward this total? I would think that they must not, because I'm sure that franchises don't open with the idea that there is only a one in five chance they'll still be going in a year.

But, anyway, where does this number come from? How old is it? What is it based on? Is this too much to ask in a humble and nascent weblog?

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

more on naming your daughter madison

Okay, so the last sentence of my last post got me thinking--I wonder if having the capital of your state be Madison discourages Wisconsinites from naming their baby Madison. And, lo, here--check out the top 5 girls' names of other upper midwestern states:

Iowa: Emma 317 Madison 290 Emily 247 Hannah 229 Abigail 213
North Dakota: Madison 69 Hannah 68 Emily 55 Grace 48 Emma 47
Nebraska: Emma 174 Madison 174 Emily 170 Hannah 148 Grace 126
Michigan: Madison 881 Emily 779 Emma 698 Hannah 697 Olivia 667
Illinois: Emily 1062 Emma 810 Olivia 761 Madison 751 Hannah 736

and yet, as predicted:

Wisconsin: Emily 498 Emma 440 Olivia 376 Abigail 374 Hannah 372

The only thing messing up my theory is that Minnesota doesn't have Madison in its Top 5 either:

Minnesota: Emma 504 Grace 485 Emily 439 Olivia 396 Abigail 391

Perhaps the Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry is so strong that the name is poisoned there as well. Or maybe it's just sampling variability. But wait--we can test that. Let's look at Wisconsin and Minnesota for 2001:

Minnesota: Emily 481 Grace 443 Emma 413 Madison 408 Abigail 398
Wisconsin: Emily 540 Hannah 433 Emma 361 Olivia 353 Megan 344

Aha! So Madison has been on Minnesota's top 5 list, and it has never been on Wisconsin's list. More evidence for a particular Madison-aversion for inhabitants of the Badger state.

website for popular baby names

Okay, so I've got the "Blog It!" button on my Google toolbar all ready to go. Here is the URL for the Social Security popular baby names site. You can check my figures regarding the 1998-Emily-vs.-Kaitlyn affair.

The site also lets you see how a name has fared since 1991, or, if you look back on the lists, since the 1920s. My mom seems to have been fairly early in catching the Jeremy wave. The name was 368th among boys in the 1960's, but was 24th in the decade I was born and 28th in the 1980's. Then the Decline of Jeremy began, sliding to 47th in the 1990's. From 1991 to 2002 there is an almost perfect year-by-year decline, to where it was 91st in 2002. If anything, I'm surprised by its ranking, as it doesn't seem like I run in to enough Jeremys to warrant this place.

I started typing in names of friends of mine also in their thirties, and they are virtually all in decline, some steeper than other. Which, of course, is what you would expect, as somethings got to give to make way for the rise of the Dylans and Destinys.

It's still hard to believe that Madison is now the #2 most common girls' name. I still know more pets named Madison than people, although I suppose part of that might be due to my living in Madison.

second post, first names

I suppose I should blog away some more now. I presume that this Blogger interface will seem less clunky with time.

This weekend the NYT ran an article titled "Where Have All the Lisas Gone?" on first names (I would link to it if I knew how to do that yet). I've been interested in first names even before I read Stanley Lieberson's A Matter of Taste. Among its other virtues, Lieberson opens with a long disquisition on why first names should be interesting to a sociologist. Anyway, much of the NYT article is based on an interview of the authors of the Beyond Jennifer and Jason books. From this interview, I think, the author of the article makes the following improbable assertion: "In 1998, for instance, Kaitlyn was way down at 36. But if you totted up the Katelyns, Caitlins, Caitlyns, Kaitlins, Katelynns, Katlyns, Kaitlynns, Katelins, Caitlynns, Katlins, Katlynns and Kaytlyns, that name would have easily bested the No. 1-ranked Emily." Could it really be that even though the most popular alternate spelling is only ranked #36, summing up all the alternate spellings vaults you over the #1 name? First names are become increasingly evenly distributed, and girls' first names have always been more so than boys', but still... this seemed fishy, and the data are right there...

So I had a look at the Social Security first name site. Turns out that in the Social Security sample, there were 21221 Emilys in 1998. Meanwhile, there were 6416 Kaitlyns, 4297 Katelyns, 3475 Caitlins, 2371 Caitlyns, 1187 Katelynns, 960 Katlyns, 655 Kaitlynns, 327 Katelins, 246 Caitlynns, 240 Katlins, and 210 Katlynns (Kaytlyn was not listed, meaning at most 161 girls in the sample were named this). Add them up, and, however you spell it, you are still 800-900 Kaitlyns short. Score another one for intuitions of media-statistical-fishiness.

Given that I know that the Times is especially interested in the accuracy of its reporting these days, I sent off a correction. We'll see what happens.

entry-level entry

There are some who attempt to begin their blogs with a rousing first posts. Since I have no idea if this system for doing blogging will actually work, or for that matter how inclined to blog I actually I am, this is all there is to my first foray into blog-world.