Thursday, June 25, 2009


With this bit of hoosoofroo Diamonds & Emeralds celebrates its 100th post in the six months since its noble birth. OK, it's not the most blistering blogging pace imaginable, but such quality takes time to craft (HA!). A milestone of which I'm a bit proud nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This is Totally Cool

New York Times rolls a piece on the hyper-secretive, security-obsessed culture at Apple. My guess is that it's unlikely to change after Jobs leaves.

Money graph:
Secrecy at Apple is not just the prevailing communications strategy; it is baked into the corporate culture. Employees working on top-secret projects must pass through a maze of security doors, swiping their badges again and again and finally entering a numeric code to reach their offices, according to one former employee who worked in such areas.

Work spaces are typically monitored by security cameras, this employee said. Some Apple workers in the most critical product-testing rooms must cover up devices with black cloaks when they are working on them, and turn on a red warning light when devices are unmasked so that everyone knows to be extra-careful, he said.

To me, this by itself is almost reason to avoid Apple's stock -- I'm not a fan of the black-box approach -- but cool nonetheless, no?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Brink Lindsey riffs with David Frum on today's

And yes, I do have an intellectual man-crush on Brink.

Bob Wright Kicks All Manner of Ass, Or, I Read Books so You Don't Have To

Philosopher, historian, commentator, grand poo-bah of the mighty site Bob Wright has a new book out, modestly entitled The Evolution of God. I would have preferred something a bit more grandiose, like The Almighty: A Memoir or Me 'n' the Lord: Bob Wright and God Through History, but this is good enough. Cato Unbound has an adapted excerpt from Wright here.

Gist: The more groups think in terms of zero-sum (the number of resources available to all groups is fixed, so every dollar/job/widget/worshipper/soul/whatever Group A gets is a dollar/job/widget/worshipper/soul that Group B can't get) the less tolerance groups will tend to show about their differences (Group B will often find itself at war, both metaphorically and literally, with Group A), while the more groups think in terms of non-zero-sum (occasionally called "enlightened self-interest") the more likely they are to be tolerant and interact, since the focus shifts from fighting over who gets which piece of the pie to growing the overall size of the pie. This is an argument Wright has put forth in other books, most notably Nonzero, and articles and here he uses it to describe the interplay (or, all too often, lack of same) among religions.

There. To paraphrase Peter Griffin, I just saved you seventeen bucks and a number of likely boring, boobless hours. Possibly boring and likely boobless though it might be, The Evolution of God will be making its way to my reading list. This is a smart guy who writes smart stuff and in today's world more than ever, such stuff should not be ignored.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Oh Boo Fucking Hoo

The Atlantic magazine has a piece ("And the Recession Came for Hipsters") on how the decline in the investor class's net worth is impacting their do-nothing spawn, and the neighborhoods they infest.

Here at the Atlantic, we have considered the impact of the recession on Americans responsible for making investments, and making cars, and making students. But how about the impact on Americans responsible for making, well, nothing at all? Now the recession has hit New York hipsterdom and Williamsburg wallets are feeling skinner than a pair of Levi's 511s.

According to the New York Times, the trust-fund kids who have helped gentrify Williamsburg, Brooklyn, are feeling the pinch of recession as their parents' withering savings accounts can no longer afford to cover their zero-income lifestyle:

Famed for its concentration of heavily subsidized 20-something residents -- also nicknamed trust-funders or trustafarians -- Williamsburg is showing signs of trouble. Parents whose money helped fuel one of the city's most radical gentrifications in recent years have stopped buying their children new luxury condos, subsidizing rents and providing cash to spend at Bedford Avenue's boutiques and coffee houses.

The upside and downside of this development is pretty clear. Williamsburg real estate prices have skyrocketed in the last few years -- partially on account of incomes that weren't earned in Williamsburg -- so this should help the little 'burg move toward the rest of Brooklyn in terms of affordability. It is, it must be said, unfortunate for anybody to have their lives shaken dramatically by the recession, but much as the downturn has fostered a culture of responsibility and savings, so too should the demise of trustafarianism make the sons and daughters of the affluent more cognizant of basic human things like bottom lines and debt. The ability to pursue your life dreams in your early twenties on the back of your parents' earnings is a kind of awesome gig, but in the long term it insulates you from an understanding of what life costs. A society predicated on incurring costs that it doesn't have to acknowledge is doomed too...oh wait. Nevermind that.

Tough times all around indeed.

Friday, June 5, 2009

More on the Joy of Gambling

Before the season started I posited that betting against the Yankees' winning 96 or more games ( soon after dropped the over/under from 95.5 to 94.5) was a good deal. A recent hot streak after a very mediocre start, though, has them on a pace to threaten that 96-win barrier. Their 31-21 record (through June 2) puts them on a 97-win pace. Baseball Prospectus's proprietary "PECOTA" projections currently have them looking at 97 wins as well.

So how are they doing it?

In a nutshell, offense. While New York's pitching staff is only 12th out of fourteen in earned-run average (all numbers per ESPN's Web site), it is tied for the AL in runs scored with 300, 46 total runs above the league average. They are second in batting average, second in home runs, and fourth in bases on balls, all leading to a number-one ranking in on-base average, that most important of batting stats, and a second-to-Texas rank in slugging average. Driving the train are Derek Jeter, who three weeks shy of his 35th birthday has arrested a two-year slide and is now hitting .319 with power; Johnny Damon (.301 with 10 home runs and a .536 SLG); and Hideki Matsui, whose .500 SLG is tied for third among DHs. For the most part, the Yankees' run production has been driven more by balance than anything else. The only position at which they to date have received below-average production has been third base, where they now have Hall of Famer Alex Rodriguez returning from injury.

I'm still pretty comfortable in picking them to fall below the standard. Jeter and Damon in particular are playing over their heads considering their advancing ages and the pitching staff has shown nothing to inspire real confidence. Plus the age- and durability-related injury risks remain.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Joy of Gambling puts the price on the Lakers' winning the NBA Finals against the Orlando at -260, meaning that 260 dollars need to be put at risk to win 100. The break-even point for this bet is 61.5 per cent, so Sportsbook's customers collectively see LA as having a 60 or so per cent chance of winning. That seems a tick high to me -- the Magic are playing beautifully right now, but so is Los Angeles, which after an inconsistent start to these playoffs simply dismantled a good Denver team in the last two games of the West final. The Lakers at their best are unbeatable by any team in the NBA.

Thought for the Day

From commenter Talisman on a Slashdot thread regarding the usefulness of expert opinion:

"The most productive problem solving I've ever done, and still do, is when I'm surrounded by smart people who don't believe their personal ego should factor into any decision made."


Monday, June 1, 2009

It's the Gators' World, and the Rest of Us are Just Living in It

The inimitable, awesome, and all-around god-like Matt "Dr. Saturday" Hinton has been running a series on the likeliest contenders for college football's 2009 national championship. As his last in the series, he comes to the likeliest of the likely, the stackedest of the stacked, the defending champion Florida Gators. It is not hard to see why he labels the Orange and Blue as the team with the best shot at ascending to the throne (or, in UF's case, retaining it): The Mighty Gators return their perennial Heisman Trophy-contender quarterback in Tim Tebow, pretty much every important player from a defense that was ninth in the country in fewest yards against and fourth in fewest points, and a stable of explosive athletes, all coached by Urban Meyer, who has as good an argument as anyone for being the best coach in college football.

If there is one chink in the armor, however, it's Florida's propensity to lose games it should not lose (a trait shared by two of college football's other reigning monoliths, LSU and Southern California): to Mississippi in 2008, to lower/unranked-ranked teams Auburn, Georgia, and Michigan, plus a loss to LSU in a game UF had controlled for most of the night in 2007, and to Auburn in their national-title season of 2006. The Gators overcame the '06 loss in part because they played such an impressively-difficult schedule. The '09 slate, which misses Alabama and Ole Miss, two of the SEC West's three power teams, might lack such opportunities to wow voters, meaning Florida will probably have to run the table to play for the crystal football (valued at $30,000). Fortunately, no team in the country, not even mighty USC, which has to replace its star quarterback and much of its defense, is better suited for such a run.

In response, by the way, to Hinton's column is this one luscious, to-be-savored comment from poster Erik, who tells the world that he "wouldn't piss on the gayturds if they where on fire."

You stay classy, Internet message-board denizens.

The Inevitable is Inevitable for a Reason

General Motors files for bankruptcy.

Will this work?

From the Wall Street Journal's piece: "Long hampered by laws, union strife and management practices that kept it from fast action to fix problems, GM plans to eliminate almost all of its debt, halve its U.S. brands, shutter 2,600 dealers and rewrite labor contracts almost overnight."

But just how is all of that, particularly the last, going to happen? Consider the following:

  • The United States national government owns GM.
  • The United States national government is run by the Democratic Party, which controls both houses of Congress (and has a filibuster-proof proof majority in the Senate) and the Presidency.
  • One of the party's most loyal and vociferous supporters is the United Auto Workers union.
  • If the government succeeds in redoing the costly labor deals, then then the UAW would likely take the heaviest hit.
  • Damned few political parties in history have deliberately taken action that materially hurts a large and powerful constituency.

If we assume that all of the above are true, then how is the government going to "rewrite labor contracts almost overnight", or allow anyone else to do so? And can a post-bankruptcy, clean-slate GM really be competitive if it is still saddled with the burdens of pre-bankruptcy UAW labor commitments? The UAW has supposedly signed off on concessions, but will it be enough, given that the U.S. car market is little more than half what it was a few years ago and increasing numbers of people who are buying are shunning the large, gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks which have long been the company's (and industry's) most profitable vehicles?

An even better question than will this work ... why should we care? Other than that about thirty billion of our dollars are at stake?