Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Hunting for something on television, my wife found a TLC show on outragrously obese people. The doctor asked a 700 pound woman, "Have you always been this big?"

I nearly died.

I wanted her to reply, "Yes, I have. My mother died in child birth--all that was left of her was a husk."

Thursday, January 15, 2009


When I first heard of her, she was the unstable wife of the mayor of a backward southern town. Then her husband was killed in a bar fight. She was convinced that he was killed as a result of a conspiracy, so she ran for mayor and won.

For a while after that I saw her on television every week, raging at the town council, accusing them of all manner of chicanery. She was entertaining. The town regressed. She did not win reelection.

The next time I saw her she had a following. She was a princess of the Dugdemona tribe of Native Americans, which she had founded. She claimed five counties of a state that had been sold in the Louisiana Purchase. She based her claims on language in the treaty which referred to the Indians. She had followers. She had opened the tribe's membership to anyone who paid the membership fee.

I looked around for her on the web today, but did not find her. She may be lost to time.

Monday, January 12, 2009

WSJ Caught Up With Me

Stephen Moore, who writes for the Wall Street Journal, caught up to me on January 9th. My post was this one.

I like my example of "life imitates Ayn Rand" better than Moore's. I duely noted the same example that Moore noted in the January 9th piece, but did not link it to Ayn Rand. Moore said this, combining my two posts.

In one chapter of the book, an entrepreneur invents a new miracle metal -- stronger but lighter than steel. The government immediately appropriates the invention in "the public good." The politicians demand that the metal inventor come to Washington and sign over ownership of his invention or lose everything.

The scene is eerily similar to an event late last year when six bank presidents were summoned by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to Washington, and then shuttled into a conference room and told, in effect, that they could not leave until they collectively signed a document handing over percentages of their future profits to the government. The Treasury folks insisted that this shakedown, too, was all in "the public interest."

I'm laughing.

I'm crying.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sad Reality

When reality television began to take hold, I told my students, "Civilization has been excellent. It is a shame to see it end."

Reality television's continual digging for the lowest common denominator is wholly depressing. But up to now, I have not been depressed because I ignore RTV, except for a few minutes here or there. I did write a story that shredded a RTV show.

Today I had a terribly sad thought. I was clicking around the dial and saw a clip of a guy at a gas station that caught his vehicle and himself on fire. He ran a few steps, then stopped, dropped, and rolled, which helped a little. Two other guys helped extinguish his flaming legs. He sustained minor injuries.

RTV displays extremes of human behavior. Video cameras are everywhere, planted for security reasons, planted to make RTV shows, and everyone seems to have a camera on their phone. Writers have the opportunity to see humanity's extremes in ways that were unthinkable fifty years ago. RTV is a gold mine for writers.

I feel like crawling in a hole and crying.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I have whined about my lousy schedule. I just found out that it is even worse. Here's whine.

At the end of my last class meeting today, the first day of classes, a student asked about the nature of a Monday/Wednesday class, indicating that I was teaching one. I answered his question then said, "This is a Monday/Wednesday class?"

It is.

I groaned. Now my day lasts thirty minutes longer. But, most terribly, my two sections of the course will not match up well. I can usually end each section on the same material and give the quizzes on the same day in each section. Not anymore.

So now, in my MWF class I will end up saying on a Friday, "We have finished the chapter. But I can't open the web quiz today because we have not finished the material in the MW section. So I will open the quiz on Monday, and will close it a week from today." People will come to me and say, "I did not find the quiz online," and I will have to continually explain that it opens on Monday. People will say, "I could have taken the quiz on Friday, but I missed it since it was on Monday, so can I take it over?"

This will open a thousand cans of worms. Issues will crop up at every turn in some ways that I can foresee and in many ways that I cannot. The class day is like a machine. When the parts work together, everything can go right if I take care. But when the parts do not work together, lots of bad stuff happens.

Yeah, there are plenty of people that have it worse--99% of the world has it worse. But even my Iraqi veteran students have their gripes when the little things go wrong.

So, there.

Monday, January 5, 2009


In one of my crazy dreams last night I was underdressed at work. I remedied the situation only to have it repeat. I have the worst schedule in my twenty years of teaching, as well as a huge service burden next semester, so I dread it and worry that I will not get any research done.

Then I dreamed about a ditch behind my house being populated with huge lobsters and crabs. I showed people and tried to figure out how to keep the population healthy, so that I could harvest this stuff and eat crab and lobster every night.


Perhaps I am the only one who does not get it. Should multi-millionaires ask for contributions when they lose a few million, though they have millions left? My answer is "no." No. No. No.


Get out there and earn it, but stop the begging. Such massive public greed is unseemly.

As an economist, I understand that we are never satisfied. The Somali woman with one meager meal per day and one tattered garment knows she is needy, but feels that she would have everything she needed if she just had three meals per day and three new garments.

The U. S. household with three people who work for minimum wage and one car feels needy, but knows that if they just had two cars and double the minimum wage, they could not want for anything.

The two-doctor household who earns half a million per year knows that if they could afford to hire their part-time servants full-time, they would not want for anything.

And the woman with $25 million knows that if she could recoup the $10 million debt she incurred, she would be doing well. So she tries to raise the $10 million by begging.

Hillary Clinton.

Write another lousy book, Ms. Clinton. Leave the freaking begging to the poor Somalis.