The Smart People Test
January 30, 2012, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Charles Murray’s idea of a class ‘bubble’ seemed better in theory than in the execution. For what it’s worth, I got a 5/20 (but that includes the cheapo Half-Sigma point for riding the SWPL-beloved NY-DC bus) on that test, adapted from a (slightly better) test in Murray’s book, both indicating that I’m pretty far into, but not in the top tier of, the ‘bubbled’/sheltered class that is culturally-isolated from mainstream America.

I think the problem is one of design. You have a test designed to answer ‘how mainstream are you’ and you’re giving it to a bunch of yuppies, mostly. Shouldn’t it go the other way? Shouldn’t we design the test for how isolated a person is? Positive answers will be outliers (not mainstream), and higher scores will indicate more isolation (not less).

But more importantly, isn’t Murray’s notion of ‘culturally isolated’ a bit…muddled? Let’s face it. We all know what we’re really talking about here. We’re talking about Smart People.

The how Smart are you test

Answer all questions to the best of your ability. Some answers are worth points. Any answers or answer combos not mentioned (including ‘huh?’) are worth 0 points. Count up your points.

  1. Ivy league? Went to one (or Stanford): 2 points. Didn’t, but work with >=3 people who went to one: 1 point.
  2. # of Malcolm Gladwell books read?: 2 or more: 2 points. 1: 1 point.
  3. Best TV show in history? The Wire: 2 points. The Sopranos: 1 point.
  4. Complete the sentence: “The science is ____.” Settled: 2 points. In: 1 point.
  5. (a) People drive too much (b) I live in a big city where a car would be superfluous: Both: 2 points. (a) only: 1 point.
  6. What’s there to do in K-Town? Karaoke and Korean food: 2 points. Korean food: 1 point.
  7. Name a sport that’s on the decline. Baseball: 2 points. Other, besides basketball or soccer: 1 point.
  8. Zagat? Have it: 2 points. Know what it is: 1 point.
  9. I helped recommend my college friend for a job he/she got/got a job from a college friend’s recommendation. Both: 2 points. One: 1 point.
  10. Worse grades in college, Bush or Kerry? Bush: 2 points. I see what you’re doing there, but the premise of that question is flawed: 1 point.
  11. What’s the matter with: Kansas: 2 points. That’s a sentence fragment: 1 point.
  12. Good reason for private elementary school for your kids? I believe class size/personalized attention is very important, like [insert boring anecdote about your own kid]: 2 points. I researched a lot of average testing statistics that followed cohorts and there seems to be an X% effect with an R^2 of [bla bla]: 1 point.
  13. Bush’s Brain: Yes I saw that documentary, what about it?: 2 points. Um, is dumb/damaged? (duh): 1 point.
  14. (a) Approve of Obamacare (b) haven’t read it/pretty much don’t know the details at all: Both: 2 points. (a) only: 1 point.
  15. Sarah Palin would be a terrible President because she’s: Dumb and crazy: 2 points. Crazy: 1 point.
  16. Name two Nobel Prize winners. Barack Obama and Paul Krugman: 2 points. Barack Obama and (someone else): 1 point.
  17. After she graduates from grad school you’d be most pleased for your daughter to get a job at a: Nonprofit: 2 points. Hedge fund: 1 point.
  18. (a) Believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming (b) know nothing about climate modeling and have never studied let alone engaged in anything of the sort: Both: 2 points. (a) only: 1 point.
  19. Podcast: This American Life: 2 points. Other NPR-related: 1 point.
  20. Fill in the blank: ____ Diplomacy. Smart: 2 points. Cowboy (as in “Bush’s Cowboy diplomacy”): 1 point.
  21. Constitution and Obamacare: I don’t see how Obamacare can be unconstitutional: 2 points. I recognize the tension but I pretend not to and instead insist on arguing that Obamacare fits inside the Commerce Clause: 1 point.
  22. Alexander Payne movie: Sideways: 2 points. Citizen Ruth: 1 point.
  23. (a) Cities are great because of all the cultural opportunities, like the symphony/museums/etc. (b) Don’t really go to the symphony/museums/etc. Both: 2 points. (a) only: 1 point.
  24. A kind of tax we need more of: Pigouvian: 2 points. Value-added (or financial-transaction): 1 point.
  25. Who’s dumber, a PhD or an MBA? MBA: 2 points. PhD: 1 point.

25 questions. Max score = 50. To establish a baseline for you, if I answer these questions as generously (=max points) as possible, I get an 8. This scientifically means I am 16% Smart. How Smart are you?

Ok looking at these it sort of turned into a hybrid SWPL/Smart/Murray-bubble test. But so be it. Anyway post your scores in comments so I can collect some DATA. It would be Smart to have DATA.

I Love
January 30, 2012, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

by Ken Yokoyama from Hi-Standard

In Defense Of Spielberg
January 30, 2012, 10:30 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

This piece by (not the Rolling-Stone, I assume) Bill Wyman on Steven Spielberg is a strange one. Not that I am the biggest Spielberg fan as such in the world, and it’s not like I have any intent to ever see War Horse, but it just seems stubborn and weird to deny that he has made several great movies, which is more great movies than almost all movie directors have made. In that light Wyman’s criticisms just seem to be trying too hard; is the idea to make a name for himself by cornering the market in ‘brave’ Spielberg contrarianism?

For example there is an extended riff on certain tropes that appear in more than one Spielberg movie: sudden crowd scenes, clotheslines with sheets blowing in the wind, lens flares, faces looking up agape. Well okay to all that, but is this not mostly a function of Spielberg just having made a heck of a lot of movies? You can’t so easily identify the ‘tropes’ of someone who’s made like 2 movies. A bad director doesn’t stick around long enough to generate identifiable ‘tropes’. And the razor isn’t even applied consistently: elsewhere Wyman appears to praise – as if by contrast – Kubrick, Scorsese, David Lynch. Not to take away anything from any of those guys, but you’d be hard pressed to think of three directors as prolific and whose visual and directorial style and themes repeat themselves more or vary less, from film to film – i.e. is full of and relies on ‘tropes’ – than those three. (The only worse ‘offender’ that comes to mind is Wes Anderson, but he’s really only made about 5 movies.) But they get a pass, because they’re ‘great directors’.

Wyman points out that Spielberg had some misfires (1941, Always), so of course he sucks. Those other directors apparently had no misfires or interesting failures, which I guess means I need to re-watch classics like Shutter Island and Inland Empire. Similarly, much as I kinda admired Baz Lurhmann’s cheesy, all-over-the-place new-age Western Australia, to praise how it ‘wove the threads of Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz’ at the same time as trashing Empire Of The Sun for being ‘schlock’ just demonstrates no sense of proportion. Wyman’s complaint that some of Spielberg’s movies don’t have big stars is just weird. Or was Griffin Dunne [sic], the lead in Scorsese’s (great, non-misfire?) After Hours like one of the biggest stars of the ’80s without me realizing it?

Ultimately maybe the problem here is just that Wyman was tired:

But that noble and humanist worldview starts to feel thin when you watch all those movies in a row.

Note to self: never sit down and try to watch every single movie made by a director who’s made like 30+ movies “in a row”. It might make me grumpy, petty, and dumb.

Grabbing Hands
January 30, 2012, 12:45 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Great version of “Everything Counts”, which is simultaneously one of my favorite Depeche Mode songs and a song that ticks me off every time I hear it (because some of the harmony lines sound written ‘wrongly’ to my ears, and I always find myself wishing I could ‘fix’ the song).

By a dad and his two kids, via here

Why I Hate The Post-Album Era
January 29, 2012, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For example, I have the album Icky Thump by the White Stripes, only I don’t, I downloaded that collection of songs to my iTunes, and they went into the shuffle like all my other songs.

As a result, only just now did I hear “Catch Hell Blues”. I’ve been missing out on “Catch Hell Blues” all this time.

That would have never happened in the Album Era. Back in the Album Era, you’d take your paper route money every weekend, hope on your bike to Tower Records, peruse the “tapes” they had there, maybe 5-10 would catch your eye but you’d have to narrow it down to 1-2 (keeping the others in mind for next week), then after buying them from the pale-skinned girl with the The Cure “The Head On The Door” T-shirt, you’d put the yellow-orange bag on your handlebars and pedal back home as fast as you could.

Once home, you’d run up the stairs to your room, struggle with the ridiculously-hermetically-sealed cellophane, shake off the bits that were sticking to your hand due to static electricity, pop the tape in your “dual” “tape deck” (which was handy for “dubbing”), lie on your elbows on your bed, unfold the 7-page cassette sleeve, squint, and read the lyrics and liner notes all the way through, letting the album play all the way from start to finish, including the filler songs.

And then you’d do it a second time. Because it was unfair to judge a whole album after just one listen. Besides, you needed that second listen to truly appreciate the flow of the song order – the closing song on side 1, the change of mood for side 2, etc.

As a result, having an album without also knowing all the songs just would not have happened. You might not like all the songs, or even most of them, but you’d at least know them.

It’s harder to know music nowadays.

The Solution To Being Broke
January 29, 2012, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Make it illegal to say you’re broke, and (borrow money to) sponsor a group of people whose jobs it will be to publish stuff saying you’re not broke.

At least, that’s the solution, if you’re a Euroweenie.

Dear Economists: Please Check Your Assumption That There Is Such A Thing As “Prop Trading”
January 29, 2012, 6:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s always disorienting and a little scary to observe Big Important Economist People opining on banking while suffering from delusions one knows to be factually incorrect. I speak of the delusion that there is a distinct and separate form of trading known as ‘proprietary (“prop”) trading’. (See here for example)

I know this to be false. But I also always see B.I.E.P.’s regularly writing and speaking as if it is obviously true. So, I have no choice but to conclude that they don’t know what they are talking about, in a literal sense. They do know a lot of Economics, I am sure. But they don’t know a lot about the thing they purport to weigh in on, opine on, offering their regulatory advice for – i.e., trading. Something or someone, perhaps some textbook, has put the idea into their heads that there are two kinds of trading: “prop trading”, and the other kind. They took this at face value and have proceeded to formulate all sorts of theories based on this premise. There is one problem. The premise is false.

People who disagree with me will write back with non sequiturs such as ‘well howcome we had to bail out banks then?’ or ‘are you saying banks don’t take huge levered risk?’ Of course they do. Of course banks take risk. And of course they got underwater and were bailed out. None of that, however, speaks to the basic point about “prop trading”. None of that establishes that you can cleanly and neatly somehow separate “prop trading” from the other kind.

As I have said before, the main thing that got banks underwater was exposure to mortgages. Mortgages are not “prop trades”. Mortgages are bread-and-butter, your-grandpa’s-banking. Maybe you say “aha! so the prop trade was that they got too levered to mortgages”. Okay, but what is “too”? Where is the line?

You can make up a line, in your head, draw it, and call everything above it a “prop trade”. That’s what the government is effectively doing with its “Volcker Rule”. But I don’t know what you are accomplishing, other than setting up yet another arbitrary boundary that will need to be defined, evolved, monitored. What is the boundary for? To separate out the “prop trades” from the other kind?

But there are no “prop trades”. Like I said. There are just trades. Risk. Some riskier than others. Some more levered than others. Some more “exotic” (i.e. hard to understand/explain, I guess) than others. Where do you cross the line from an intelligent “macro hedge” into a “prop trade”? I guess that it’s when you lose money on it instead of make money on it.

This is not a real definition. It is not a real distinction. It is not a real concept. There are no “prop trades”. Or, to put it another way, all of banking is a “prop trade”. The essence of banking is to borrow short, and lend long. To sell 1-day rollable money and use it as collateral against which to buy, e.g., 5-year money. People seem to get confused into thinking that it is a non-risky activity because it is called by the dry term, ‘intermediation’. “That’s not risky! It’s just plain old intermediation!” Oh, okay, genius. But news flash: that is a BET. It could go in your favor, or against you. So by the (dumb) ‘definition’ most people seem to be have in mind, it’s a “prop trade”.

There are no “prop trades” unless all of banking is a “prop trade”.

Will someone please inform the Economics profession?

I Don’t Know Where Matthew Yglesias Is
January 29, 2012, 4:53 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For the past few months something has been missing from my life, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. You have probably noticed it in my writing, though, as it changed perceptibly from ‘blah’ to ‘bleah’. (Or vice versa.)

I just figured out the reason. I don’t know where Matthew Yglesias is.

He used to blog at, like, one place. (It was a relatively new place compared to the old place he used to blog at.) But I think what happened is, he moved on to blog at a whole new place. Cuz I haven’t seen any Matthew Yglesiases show up in my Google Reader feed from the old place lately.

And the new place? I haven’t found that place. Which has clearly deprived me of my daily Yglesias.

The reason this is bad is not obvious, you point out. How can the removal of an Yglesias from one’s life be anything but a positive. Well how shall I put this. It’s like how your immune system needs fermented foods to build up antibodies or immune-fighting prowess. Or how you’d put your kid in a day care with a bunch of other kids’ snot to play around with, so they’d get less colds. Like that.

Where oh where can Matthew Yglesias be?

Editor’s note: For those unfamiliar with the term, Matthew Yglesias is a professional ‘blogger’ of note. He, like, ‘blogs’ and that’s his actual job. His main qualification is that he is very Smart.

January 27, 2012, 7:31 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I am very pleased to join in with the boycott of Elsevier academic journals. It’s about time! My pledge: I shall not be submitting to or refereeing any Elsevier journals, until they change their ways.

Actually, come to think of it, I’m going to boycott ALL academic journals. Screw you journals! Journals suck. Besides, I’ve got a blog.

Sonic Charmer For President-Guy
January 26, 2012, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Frustrated with the current slate of options faced by our country, and after zero lengthy discussions with my family or soul-searching, I have decided to do the right and responsible thing by my country and throw my hat into the ring to be the evil (R) party’s nominee for President of the United States. Please vote for me, like by writing in “Sonic Charmer”, or (if you’re a broker at the convention) please broker the convention for me. Or however you call it, I’m not sure how that part works.

Key facts about me, Sonic Charmer, and why I am qualified to be the next President of the United States:

  • Spent a great deal of time in academics, thereby safely insulated from the real world.
  • I have never worked for or been associated a private equity fund. I barely even know what they do.
  • Wife count: < 2 (strict inequality).
  • Would be cool with Warren Buffet’s secretary’s tax rate being lowered by special Act of Congress. (I’d overhaul the tax code to be flatter for the rest of us, but Warren Buffet’s secretary, she’s a special case, we’re all very concerned about her)
  • Visionary. I think we should build a giant space station next to a wormhole. An AMERICAN space station.
  • Can read aloud printed words placed in my field of vision into an amplifying device (aka speech-giving). I also bet I’d be adept at rotating my head left and right and back again in a creepily-robotic and regular-periodic manner to simulate looking at individual audience members, while doing so.
  • Tall. (VERY important)
  • Will pledge to close Guantanamo Bay, just like my predecessor pledged, if that’ll help.
  • I believe the children are the future. (I really do.)
  • Have implemented zero (0) state-level Obamacares so would lack Mitt Romney’s baggage vs. Obama in the general election.
  • Willing to pretend to have a pet cat and/or dog who is very important in my life, and then have a ghost-writer write a “book” on his/her/its behalf, once in the White House.
  • Have not participated in any debates, so the Obama campaign will have no clips of me saying something silly/reckless/’scary’ for their negative campaigning
  • Finally: I am a natural-born citizen of the United States, which you will know solely on my say-so. (It would be racist to ask me to prove it)

There’s more where that came from, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. You have to vote me into the Presidency to find out what I’ll do there.

But that’s why they call it DECISION ’12!

Major Newt To Moonbase Alpha, Do You Read Me Major Newt
January 25, 2012, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Over to you, Newt:

“Does that mean I’m visionary? You betcha,” he said.

I think it’s terrific that he has finally admitted how visionary he (Newt) is. Must have been difficult. But hey, facts are facts. Good on him for acknowledging his visionaryness.

In this case, his visionary vision reveals itself in the form of saying he’ll make there be a ‘permanent base on the moon’ within 8 years (but only if we make him be the President. I bet he could still do it without being the President though, like if we gave him some grants).

So that would be around 2020, which hey, you know, only 21 years later than I had been anticipating…

After that, Newt wants to go to Mars, back where the red-cold sun is sinking to the Channels of A’DAAR.

Yikes, sorry, my references are all over the place here.

Walking Contradiction
January 25, 2012, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Nicely summarizes many of the idiocies and internal contradictions of Obamonomics in one handy place:

Thoughts On The SOTU from Clark Judge

I’d Be So Pleased
January 25, 2012, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

by the Hi-Fives

P.S. RIP Lookout! Records

2011 In Movies (That I Have Seen)
January 25, 2012, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

By annual tradition – per IMDB, looks like these are the 2011 movies I’ve seen in rough order from best to worst. Interestingly, I don’t see a truly great movie there. A lot of interchangeably-very-goods.

Only the last 1-2 would really get a thumbs-down.

Side note: At this rate, I have to assume that by the year 2017 or so, the only movies I’ll ever watch will all be connected or derived from Marvel Comics in some way.

  1. Super 8
  2. Midnight In Paris
  3. Moneyball
  4. Harry Potter the last
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger
  6. Unknown
  7. Source Code
  8. Thor
  9. X-Men First Class
  10. The Lincoln Lawyer
  11. Cars 2
  12. Battle Los Angeles
  13. Bad Teacher
  14. Limitless
  15. Rio
  16. The Adjustment Bureau
  17. Kung Fu Panda 2
  18. Margin Call
  19. Sucker Punch

January 25, 2012, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

How many times and in how many ways are we going to have to prove definitively that Mitt Romney is unfit for the Presidency?

First, we all realized that he used to work for a private-equity firm (gasp). Private-equity firms, as everyone knows or at least figured out a couple weeks ago, are not ok. Not ok at all. Yes, technically it’s legal to work for one. They’re allowed to exist. I suppose. Grudgingly. But they’re just not ok things. And anyone associated with one at any time is henceforth disqualified from any role in society. (Unless they have a (D) after their name, then it’s ok)

But to add insult to injury, we have just recently learned that Mitt Romney paid the amount of taxes he was lawfully required to pay. That is just too much to bear. I was assuming, conservatively, that his tax return would show him to have paid 3x the amount, at least. Imagine my shock and horror to discover that he paid only 1x what he legally owed! Who does this guy think he is.

Just not Presidential material, that’s for sure. We Smart People have standards, and we apply them uniformly. (To (R)s)

I Feel Really Sorry For Warren Buffett’s Secretary
January 25, 2012, 8:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

She must be really scraping by. If only she knew a wealthy benefactor of some sort who could help to alleviate her extreme poverty. But, no. You see, she’s a lowly secretary.

Shoulda Watched Justified
January 25, 2012, 2:40 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Seriously, though, I’m learning that some people actually watched the State of the Union address voluntarily, ‘for fun’ (?) or leisure, not out of any professional obligation (i.e. not journalists/commentators/pundits, not even bloggers who decided to “live-blog” it). Some people on Facebook for example seem to have done this, and are advertising it.

Not that I can fully explain why, but I’m kinda embarrassed for them all. It’s like being at the Homecoming Dance and actually actively wanting to hear the Homecoming King’s acceptance speech, and then cheering wildly for it. Like those extras you see at the periphery of various school-dance or lunchtime-table scenes out of Sixteen Candles or Can’t Buy Me Love. Just why would you want to voluntarily make yourself into That Person? Does not the center of your life lie elsewhere? Even if not, isn’t there like a ton of better stuff to watch on TV than the yearly President Show? It’s not like you can’t read (later) what the guy said if you really care and think these prepared speeches actually mean anything. Do something at least more entertaining with that time. You all have cable and on-demand up the wazoo. Justified, Episode 2 should have been tonight. Temple Run on your iPad. Something, anything besides the annual laundry-list-of-reality-proof-applause-lines-and-oh-yeah-here’s-why-I’m-so-great from the President.

The Eigenstate Of The Union
January 24, 2012, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I did not watch, listen to, read or otherwise observe the State of the Union (and, in my memory, never have). As you’ll recall from your undergrad quantum mechanics, this means that the Union remains in a quantum superposition of eigenstates.

In one of those eigenstates, presumably – i.e., with nonzero quantum probability – the Union is actually a constitutional republic whose government abides by its founding document in accordance with the social compact between her and her citizenry, whose enumerated and unenumerated rights and liberties it respects. Perhaps the reason I refrain from observing the State of the Union is that I don’t want to risk collapsing the State Vector of the Union into some other eigenstate.

The Romney-Bain Matrix
January 24, 2012, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I present a Table (click to enlarge).

Fig. 1: Humantiy

This Table helpfully partitions humanity into four (4) quadrants, represented as a 2 x 2 distribution matrix. It is easily observed that this matrix is strongly anti-diagonal, meaning that most of humanity can be found in either quadrants II or III (we have denoted these using green highlighting).

It is an active area of research to identify diagonal humans. The author (Quadrant IV) is a rare known example. The existence of others, however, is largely speculative.

Link Flush
January 24, 2012, 8:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Special multi-Youtube-embed edition

  • Sh*t People in DC Say:

  • “Sustainable” is Unsustainable
  • Seeing an LP for the first time:

  • I really enjoyed David Wooderson’s new video:

  • Dear Internet, you can download a16-song mid-90s Mr. T Experience on KZSU at the link in comments here
  • “You’re not allowed to say that homosexuality is a choice, you bigot!” yells the homosexual-activist communist community (sorry for typo) at a well-known lesbian
  • Paper saying that economists need to be more humble (PDF). I disagree, I think it’s perfectly right and proper for Paul Krugman to boast that he has fully modeled the economy of human civilization and knows in detail as a factual matter which political-economic policies are good (answer: the ones put forth by (D)s) and which are bad (answer: (R)s) based on having done a thought experiment about yuppies who need babysitters some 35 years ago.
  • Tim Price, making another appearance in my link-purge: “this is not a crisis of capitalism, but of state-controlled capital”. RTWT

HTs: lots of people who have more traffic than me anyway

BONUS LINK: Some great sociopolitical analysis on who is ‘electable’ by Rusty Shackleford. Well worth the read.


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