Friday, July 31, 2009

Satchel Paige He Ain't

Apple Insider posted a new set of comments from Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer. He seems to be saying that Apple's recent moves are of no concern. Yet as the immortal baseball legend Satchel Paige said "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." The Insider article has the following quotes - "Share versus Apple, you know, we think we may have ticked up a little tick," Ballmer said at the 2009 Financial Analyst Meeting, "but when you get right down to it, it's a rounding error. Apple's share change, plus or minus from ours, they took a little share a couple quarters, we took share back a couple quarters."

"The Microsoft executive said he expects Windows to continue to trade market share with Mac OS X back and forth, though he added he feels taking customers from Apple is a limited resource."

"Apple's share globally cost us nothing," he said. "Now, hopefully, we will take share back from Apple, but you know, Apple still only sells about 10 million PCs, so it is a limited opportunity." Note - according to CNET both in the Windows PC platform and in the Mobile Aps category - Windows based machines are a smaller share of the market than they were a year ago.

Posted above are three comparisons from Wolfram's new Web based utility called Alpha. Alpha has some remarkable capabilities to tie things together. The top chart does some simple market comparisons. Apple's employees produce about $300,000 more per person than Microsoft's. Earnings per share are better by three and a half times. The second chart looks at basic numbers of shareholder return. Even if you add in Microsoft's dividend the return from holding Apple stock over varying periods of time - is significantly greater. The third chart compares volatility of the two companies versus return. As tech companies both experience volatility but the reward for Apple's volatility is twice that of Microsoft's.

Also posted is a recording of Ballmer trying to show negatives on Apple and Linux in the same analyst call. The odd thing about it is he does not seem to get that his market is changing. You can get Linux for free and you can create pretty easily an environment that fits your needs. That is why the clothing retailed the GAP switched to Linux. Perhaps it might be useful to send Mr. Ballmer a copy of Chris Anderson's new book (or maybe not).

One wonders who Mr. Ballmer thinks he works for.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Devil's Postpile

Yesterday we went up to Devil's Postpile. The area, which once was a part of Yosemite but now is in a separate national park, is a formation of basaltic columns. The Mammoth area is a place with lots of volcanic activity. As you drive up to the pick up location (the Park Service requires visitors to take a bus into the trail head) you see a turnoff to see an earthquake fault.

Basalt is an igneous rock. Columns like the postpile happen when the rock is extruded during volcanic activity. The slower the rock cools the larger the columns. (About the only science I was ever really interested in was Geology.) The area is stunning for its beauty.

Around the time of President Taft there was a proposal to blast the formation away to build a hydro-electric dam. Taft and a number of prominent Californians were able to stop the proposal. The river, like a lot of its counterparts in this area of the state is crystal clear. The decision seems to have been a correct one but there are always tradeoffs in these kinds of decisions.

A good part of the Western Sierra is dotted with hydro-electric power facilities that also collect water for urban use. At one point I did a tour of the Southern California Edison system, which was originally surveyed around the same time that the Postpile was being saved, by a guy on a mule. The most interesting thing about that story is that about twenty years ago SCE did a study using satellite mapping and found that his crude methods figured out almost precisely the best place for all of the catch basins. PG&E also has a series of hyrdo-lakes especially near Tahoe.

Devil's Postpile, if you are in the area, is well worth the trip.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Restaurants in the Mammoth Area

We've found three excellent restaurants in the Mammoth area. They are Wo Nelli Deli - the restaurant is in an unlikely place, a Mobil Station on the intersection of Route 120 (the Tioga Pass) and 395. Their fish tacos are outstanding but so is their pork tenderloin. If you like carrot cake - that is also excellent. Where else could you get your car filled up and get you filled up at the same time?

The second one is the Restaurant at Convict Lake, which is south of Mammoth. Again, don't be fooled by the exterior - they do indeed serve pizza. But they also do an outstanding Beef Wellington, Fresh Trout, Rack of Elk and then some daily specials. We had the Bananas Foster for desert but there is also some excellent homemade ice cream.

The third restaurant is Mexican and called Gomez's. It is an interesting menu with excellent homemade chips and salsa. I tried their Machaca - they also serve the same dish called La Ropa Vieja - which is without the eggs. Good Machaca starts with pulled beef - and Gomez's takes that extra step. Finally, they have great soups - Albondigas and Tortilla soup. The restaurant is off main street behind the 76 station. It is a fun place to eat - and I am very picky about Mexican food.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jules Herbuveaux and Innovation

My wife's grandfather was an innovator in the early days of TV. Before that he was band leader in the Chicago area. But when you heard "Tony" talk about it, he had some very interesting thoughts about how TV developed. One quality that Tony had was a willingness to listen. He told lots of stories about thinking about this or that idea for a program (from Dave Garraway, to Zoo Parade, to Ding Dong School) and then implementing. Driving to work he saw the Chicago Zoo and thought about how to develop a program with one of Chicago's experts on animals (Marlin Perkins). (The photo is of Studio A at NBC.)

I thought about his innovations today when I was listening to a set of presentations on how to use social networking with Associations. The technology of things like Facebook and Twitter and YouTube is evolving like TV did when Tony was developing what was later called the Chicago School of Television.

When you talked to Tony about his role in all of these innovations he was quite modest, he said he was simply there at the right time. But as you listened to him talk about his work - that quality of listening and being unafraid to fail (I am sure there were a lot of innovations that he tried which did not work). The possibilities of new technologies will only be realized with experimentation.

I'm in Italy and did not even realize it!

One of the great new features of the iPhone is Find My Phone - which uses technology to geo-locate your phone. This morning in Mammoth (California, USA) I did it to see whether it could find my phone. It did! And low and behold I found that I am actually in Italy. What is most amazing is that I do not even feel jet-lagged.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Microsoft has announced that it too will go into the retail business. From what has been leaked so far about the venture it looks like it will be every bit as successful as the Zune, Microsoft's pathetic attempt at putting together an iPod. The press about the idea says they will have a "Guru Bar" which sounds a lot like the Genius Bar in the Apple stores. But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery is this idea likely to be as successful as the Apple stores?

I say no. The Apple store has been successful, in my view, for a couple of reasons which cannot be replicated by Microsoft. First, the stores have allowed Apple to sell their line of products in an integrated way. The Microsoft store will have to make a larger number of choices. For example, the peripherals sold in an Apple store all link to Apple products. But in a Microsoft store choices will have to be made about which computers and laptops will be offered in addition to which peripherals to offer. At the same time the Apple stores sell a lot of non-Apple related software (including some Microsoft products like Office). Microsoft is unlikely to sell many titles which are not Microsoft.

Second, the Apple store was built around a large group of fanatics who found that they could not get the products they wanted through normal stores. If Microsoft is successful they are likely to cut into retail channels like Frys or Best Buy. That could lead to one of two results - a division of the market into smaller bites or having the mega retailers leave the selling of computers altogether. Either way Microsoft is a net loser. PCs are now mostly commodity products so margins are small. In the end the introduction of the Apple stores caused some of the other electronic retailers to introduce Apple products. In that sense the effect of these new retail outlets could be the exact opposite of what happened when Apple got into the retail business.

Microsoft has spent a good deal of its corporate energy trying to emulate Apple in the last few years with the Zune, with the big bucks advertising campaign and now with the stores. Apple keeps trying to simply innovate. Any first year MBA could tell you which strategy is likely to be more successful.

The Majesty of the Eastern Sierra

I am attending a meeting in Mammoth for the next couple of days. So yesterday we drove down 395. Most north south traffic in the state takes place in the central valley. 99 and 5 are quick but not especially interesting. With the problems the state is having in water right now much of the land on the west side of the valley looks a lot like it did when I lived in Bakersfield in the late 1950s.

But the trip up 50 and then down through 89 to 395 is awe inspiring. You go through a couple of major mountain passes (I like monument pass), then down 395 through Bridgeport which looks a lot like it did when my family would camp in the area in the 1950s. RIght out of Bridgeport you have a chance to see Bodie - which was a mining town through the 1930s that took out a lot of gold and silver. It is in "arrested disrepair." Bodie is worth the visit although not in the winter - the winds can be quite fierce there in the winter and it can get to 30 below. (All three pictures are from Bodie.)

The town is dominated by a stamp mill - which was the device used to extract precious metals from the quartz. The manager of the mill around the turn of the 20th century was Herbert Hoover's brother.

Below Bodie is Mono Lake - which is an alkaline lake. There are lots of stories about Mono - mostly revolving around the water wars in Los Angeles. Twain wrote about it in Roughing it. (Two chapters - the quote is from Chapter 38.)

"Mono Lake lies in a lifeless, treeless, hideous desert, eight thousand feet above the level of the sea, and is guarded by mountains two thousand feet higher, whose summits are always clothed in clouds. This solemn, silent, sailless sea—this lonely tenant of the loneliest spot on earth—is little graced with the picturesque. It is an unpretending expanse of grayish water, about a hundred miles in circumference, with two islands in its centre, mere upheavals of rent and scorched and blistered lava, snowed over with gray banks and drifts of pumice stone and ashes, the winding sheet of the dead volcano, whose vast crater the lake has seized upon and occupied.

The lake is two hundred feet deep, and its sluggish waters are so strong with alkali that if you only dip the most hopelessly soiled garment into them once or twice, and wring it out, it will be found as clean as if it had been through the ablest of washerwomen's hands. While we camped there our laundry work was easy. We tied the week's washing astern of our boat, and sailed a quarter of a mile, and the job was complete, all to the wringing out. If we threw the water on our heads and gave them a rub or so, the white lather would pile up three inches high. This water is not good for bruised places and abrasions of the skin. We had a valuable dog. He had raw places on him. He had more raw places on him than sound ones. He was the rawest dog I almost ever saw. He jumped overboard one day to get away from the flies. But it was bad judgment. In his condition, it would have been just as comfortable to jump into the fire. The alkali water nipped him in all the raw places simultaneously, and he struck out for the shore with considerable interest. He yelped and barked and howled as he went—and by the time he got to the shore there was no bark to him—for he had barked the bark all out of his inside, and the alkali water had cleaned the bark all off his outside, and he probably wished he had never embarked in any such enterprise. He ran round and round in a circle, and pawed the earth and clawed the air, and threw double summersets, sometimes backward and sometimes forward, in the most extraordinary manner. He was not a demonstrative dog, as a general thing, but rather of a grave and serious turn of mind, and I never saw him take so much interest in anything before. He finally struck out over the mountains, at a gait which we estimated at about two hundred and fifty miles an hour, and he is going yet. This was about nine years ago. We look for what is left of him along here every day."

Below Mono is Lee Vining which has a Mobil station unlike any other. Inside the Tioga gas mart is the Whoa Nellie Deli. The food is exceptional. The options range from fish tacos, to pork medallions with cherry sauce, to lobster taquitos.

All through the area is some of the best fishing in the country with the East Walker river, June lake, and Hot Creek. Mammoth has grown a lot in the last several years. Below Mammoth is Manzanar which was one of the Japanese internment camps during WWII.

Most of the drive is in high desert (7000-8000 feet) but the variety of scenery is amazing. Last night when several of my colleagues from across the country came in they all remarked on how beautiful the drive from Reno or the Central Valley had been.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fraser Institute Student Video Contest

The Fraser Institute in Canada has created a student contest for videos on the appropriate role of government in the economy. The contest has a high school and college division. Details are on this video and the deadline is November 30.

Frank Disclosure

The House Committee on Franking rejected the attached representation of the Obama health plan. Some GOP members had wanted to send it to their constituents. There are two questions here in my mind. First, should this kind of document be sent under the free mailing privileges offered to members of congress? In my opinion this is certainly as relevant as the government documents that members routinely send out. I believe that most newsletter mailings are inappropriate use of the franking privilege. But second, should members who are opposed to the President's plan use this kind of document? My response is absolutely. I am putting it up on the site because I think it represents what the president is proposing. If we wanted Rube Goldberg to run the health system we should at least have offered him some medical training first.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Impressions on Selling the Health Bill

Last night the President did a press conference to push his health care plan where his most effective answer was unrelated to his topic. At times he was extremely defensive. At others he was downright incoherent. I watched it on CSPAN. If the only input I had on this issue were the press conference - I would be sure that the President would lose on this issue.

I thought his answer on Henry Louis Gates, although I know nothing on the case in question, was on point.

Right after the press conference CSPAN covered a short press conference of the minority leaders of the house and senate. You can tell who is in the minority - no mikes for the reporters - but their comments were actually pretty good. Both Senator McConnel and Minority Leader Boehner think they are on the offensive. And even without being able to hear the reporter's questions they were pretty good at getting their points out. So the second impression was that the President is on the defensive.

Finally, there were two short press availabilities by the Chair of the Finance Committee (Max Baucus) and Kent Conrad. The Senate has appointed a six member committee to work on the health care issue. Baucus came out of meetings and said that they were working hard on the issues involved and that while the President was not going to get a bill in August, the working group was thinking through the issues. He was gracious toward the President's exuberance but also respectful of using the process to craft legislation. Conrad, who is not one of my favorite members, was also pretty good. From those snippets I got the distinct impression that the Senate might come up with a bill that makes sense.

In the end from my perspective the President's plan is in trouble and at least as it was proposed by the administration it should be. One of the best parts of the policy process, when it works however, is that sometimes it works because of the efforts of people like Baucus and Conrad.

In 1986 the Tax Reform Act was made possible because of the the inside work of a couple of senators like Packwood and staffers like Bill Diefendorfer. President Reagan's contribution to the process was to understand that the president is best in setting large goals and then letting the process work. From my perspective, Obama's role at this point is now too involved in the details. That could make the whole thing fail. Is it 1991 or 1986. If the President wants to win on this he should go back and look at how Reagan did it with the TRA.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More News for the President

Polling in the WP-ABC poll brought some bad news for the President over the weekend. Since February, his positive ratings have significantly, not to the level of Bush II but still going in the wrong direction. In February 43% of Americans strongly supported the president, while 17% strongly disapproved of his handling of his then new job. The numbers five months later have moved down by 5 points in the strongly approve category but have increased by 11 points in the strongly disapprove category.
About the only good news for the President in this poll is the Congressional ratings. The disapproval rating for Democrats in Congress (48%) exceeds Republicans (58%) by 10 points.

One other point seems clear. If the opponents of the President’s health care plan want to be successful, to the extent that the issues are framed as increasing the deficit, they are likely to be more successful.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite died this week and there have been a lot of comments about this icon of the 1960s and 1970s. The President said "he was someone we could trust to guide us through the most important issues of the day." I think a lot of people thought of Cronkite in that way. From my perspective, the role that the President described is dated, but more fundamentally is the wrong role for a newsman. There are two ways to think of the role of guide - one is informational the other more directive. I think Cronkite thought of himself in the more directional role.

Anyone of my generation can think of key stories where Cronkite was important in our memories. Obviously, for someone interested in politics his role as the first voice on the assassination of President Kennedy and also at many political conventions and election nights was important. He was also the image I most clearly remember from the landing on the moon.

When I was very young he was the voice of You Are There which was a series of historical reconstructions where he was essentially a reporter explaining the event in real time. I remember most the one for Lee's surrender.

But two other stories are more important from my perspective. And in both cases he took his role as a guide - that directive pursuit described above. In 1968 Cronkite did a long statement on his then recent visit to Vietnam. His characterization of our setting in the war helped to turn the tide. His report on Vietnam so changed the war that when LBJ saw it, he said "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." Yet, had Cronkite reported the result of the Tet offensive in the way that most observers see it today, the course of the war could well have been different.

Before the 1972 election, Cronkite took half of his nightly newscast to go through what many people knew about Watergate. Like the statement after his visit to VIetnam, the Watergate may have changed the perceptions about the Nixon era. In that case Cronkite's reporting took the role of trying to guide our thoughts. Was Watergate a big story? Absolutely. But the import of the story may not have been served by Cronkite's editorial response.

There is something else missing from the coverage is Cronkite's setting compared to the other news team of the day - Huntley and Brinkley. Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were the NBC anchors when Cronkite was the CBS one. They were less guiding in their coverage. Cronkite may have increased his market share when he began to guide - but in my opinion that over-stepping of the role of a journalist had several consequences. First, I think the role of guide helped to reduce the level of trust that Americans had in their institutions. Second, as the mainstream media began to try to aggressively guide, we created a British like press - with points of view. That is both positive and negative and may well have come about with the advance of technology.

There is one other conclusion from all the commentary. The President seems to want to serve the role as a guide - his critics call this the Messiah role. Indeed every president wants to play this role. But this president seems especially compelled to do it. In a free society we could do with a lot fewer guides, with the assumption that individuals can and should make their own decisions.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Trouble in Mind

Facebook has a poll up.
If the 2008 Presidential Election were held today, would you vote the same way?
- I voted for Obama and I stand by that vote.
- I voted for Obama and regret it. I would change my vote today.
- I did not vote for Obama and I stand by that vote.
- I did not vote for Obama, but now I like him and would vote for him today.
- I didn't vote. But given the chance I would support Obama today.
- I didn't vote and I really should have. I would vote agaisnt Obama today.

This is after six months of the Obama presidency. There is always a low spot about now in the first term of a president. And the President has had a couple of very rough weeks. His administration's response to Honduras was laughable - supporting the return of a "pre-totalitarian" who was ouster by constitutional means was a horrible choice. Support for the administration's fiscal policy including the range of bailouts and impositions of controls on the economy is losing support quickly. There is uncertainty about his health care plan (there should be - the post office running health care is simply not a good image). And unsurprisingly his poll ratings are falling.

On the other side the President's first nominee for the Supreme Court acquitted herself well this week. I would not make her my first choice as a nominee, but I do believe that she is well qualified to be a justice. I also believe she will elevate the level of discussion on the court based on her circuit court experience compared to her predecessor. I also think for the most part the President's appointments have been sound. That is really all you can expect from the range of appointments that any administration makes.

The real test will come when people begin to understand how expansive this administration proposes to be in health care, in the management of the economy and in other areas. The preliminary data suggests that as those proposals become evident
the American public will become less enchanted with the notion of Change. That seems to be reflected in a story by Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn in the NYT which suggests that democrats are growing wary of the President's health care plan. (They should.) The NYT describe the feeling among democrats as apprehensive, nervous and defensive. The Times comments that dems have begun to recognize that the proposal will not meet the goals proposed by the president either in terms of who would be covered or when it will be passed. At the same time there is concern that the costs of the program are beginning to be examined.

As the chart attached shows, every president suffers ups and downs of popularity. But this president is beginning to enter the realm of real poll numbers and a test will be whether he can handle the rough and tumble when he comes off the mountaintop.

Technology and Health Care

About a week ago I had a friend visiting who had a health emergency (described in an earlier post). After we got him in the CCU, I wondered how to keep his extended family informed. He has real family in Ireland. He has lots of extended family in Mexico. He has one former assistant who is traveling the world and currently is in China.

So here is what I figured out. #1 - Email - for the time that he was in the cardiac care unit I did a daily email update. But then I figured that they would like pictures and videos. #2 - So I began to include a picture of the read out of the telemetry that he had in his hospital room. After all one of his nieces is in health care in Ireland. #3 - The videos got large - even from an iPhone - and because his former assistant and some of his Irish relatives may not have lots of bandwidth, I set up a MobileMe gallery with all of the videos in one place. People who are interested can subscribe.

Nothing was revolutionary here. But I was amazed at how truly simple the whole process was.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A vision

There are a number of sites tied together that point out the foibles of human life - that I have begun to enjoy. The chart is from graph jam which creates great statements of our condition from data or supposed data. The graphs come from Graph Jam - also on the site is one about the relative ability of your airline seat to recline and the person's in front of you.

Linked are a set of curious translations (ENGRISH) andFailblog which documents visually, missteps - the Teletubbies video is very funny.


In this morning's post Don Bodreaux at Cafe Hayek came up with a new term to describe the tendency of politicians to think they can actually control behavior - Capitolism.

Hayek in his Nobel Lecture - described the folly - "The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men's fatal striving to control society -- a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization."

Hayek's lecture also raises questions that are most timely about whether the basic ideas of fiscal policy - "the very measures which the dominant "macro-economic" theory has recommended as a remedy for unemployment, namely the increase of aggregate demand, have become a cause of a very extensive misallocation of resources which is likely to make later large-scale unemployment inevitable. The continuous injection of additional amounts of money at points of the economic system where it creates a temporary demand which must cease when the increase of the quantity of money stops or slows down, together with the expectation of a continuing rise of prices, draws labour and other resources into employments which can last only so long as the increase of the quantity of money continues at the same rate - or perhaps even only so long as it continues to accelerate at a given rate. What this policy has produced is not so much a level of employment that could not have been brought about in other ways, as a distribution of employment which cannot be indefinitely maintained and which after some time can be maintained only by a rate of inflation which would rapidly lead to a disorganisation of all economic activity. The fact is that by a mistaken theoretical view we have been led into a precarious position in which we cannot prevent substantial unemployment from re-appearing; not because, as this view is sometimes misrepresented, this unemployment is deliberately brought about as a means to combat inflation, but because it is now bound to occur as a deeply regrettable but inescapable consequence of the mistaken policies of the past as soon as inflation ceases to accelerate." That still sounds like a great caution.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Visiting the Emergency Room

Last night I had occasion to visit a local hospital emergency room. It is a slice of life that I was not really cognizant of. A friend was admitted to the Cardiac Care Unit through the ER. I was there from about 9:30 PM to almost 2 AM.

Here are the people I saw -

1) An elderly Black gentleman who sat within about four feet of the admitting nurse in a wheelchair for almost all the time I was there. He had a very bloody right foot. He had a young woman with him. At about 12:30 AM I stepped out for ten minutes and by the time I got back he was no longer there. But during the time he was there no one in the staff acknowledged he was there or inquired about how to deal with the very bloody sock on the foot.

2) An hugely obese woman with her equally obese husband. She had a hacking dry cough which she often covered up. Every time she coughed a couple of times I would move away to another seat, away from her. Within a few minutes she would move closer to me after getting up and walking around. Wonder what that meant.

3) The boy scout who had a huge gash in his left ankle - down to the bone. He was a bit pale but seemed to be in good shape. We talked, with his mom and dad, about scouting - I was an Eagle. Evidently he had been in scout camp and was playing tag at night and ran into a rain bird with such force that it cut him down to the bone. When I was about his age I was in my backyard with a bunch of kids around the Fourth of July and ran into a rain bird with such force that two friends had to pry me lose. My right foot still has the scar. It is that déjá vu all over again thing.

4) A woman who came in about midnight and demanded to see her son. The polite admitting nurse said, I am sorry, you cannot your son was admitted with a serious stab wound and we need to stabilize him before anyone can see him. She kept repeating the demand - he kept repeating the rule. Evidently she could have benefitted from taking my course on negotiations. Her only changes in tactics included - "I demand to see your supervisor" and raising her voice one pitch at a time. Eventually the admitting nurse asked a chaplain to come out and speak with the woman and that only infuriated her. Her son was 25. She was unsuccessful in getting through the doors.

As we had gone out that night (he wanted to get an EKG at doc in the box because he had not been feeling up to snuff) I had argued with my friend about whether I should bring my Kindle - he said, we'll only be a couple of minutes - no need to. My friend has had atrial fibrillation but he has lived with it for several years. The night before we had had a few friends at dinner and he felt pretty poorly. I told him we should go to the doc in the box but he said no, not necessary. I am glad I disregarded his advice about the Kindle. I finished one book by Sir Ken Richardson and started another about Hackers. (the Cathedral and the Bazaar - very interesting). My friend was finally operated on (they gave him two stints) and then admitted to the CCU. He continues to progress; not so sure about the ER.

Friday, July 10, 2009


The Chart above - from Senator George Runner says it all.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Basics of Counting

Robert McNamara died over the weekend. He came into government from Ford, where he supposedly used the new theories of management to make the company more zippy. Regardless of the verity of that, his career in the government was considerably more problematic. He grew up in a generation that thought that numbers became real - so a lot of what he did in his role in the Department of Defense was to initiate ways to count things. He also tried to standardize - so one of his biggest fights was whether there could be a standard procurement for certain weapons systems.

In a book written several years ago - In Retrospect - the Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam - he tried to write an apologia for his six years as Secretary of Defense. Early in the book he says "To this day I see quantification as a language to add precision to reasoning about the world." It is clear that Mr. McNamara, for all his supposed intellect, never bothered to think about the odd things that quantification can do. Numbers are constructs, Hayek recognized that in the Counter Revolution of Science. McNamara created a culture where numbers became real. So if we counted the number of enemy killed in a particular skirmish we could figure out how well we were doing. The problem with that logic is that it takes no account of how important the mission was to the people we were fighting.

In the book McNamara portrayed himself as a developing dove on Vietnam. I did not find his explanation credible. His career in government is a good testament to cautions about hubris.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Amador Wine Tour - wine without pretension

About two years ago we had some good friends from New York who wanted to go on a wine tour. We suggested they go into the foothills because the wineries there had two characteristics that the ones in Napa and Sonoma did not. First, they did not charge to taste. Second, many of the wineries made excellent wines which probably would not be available outside of California. Unfortunately, our friends decided that they wanted to go to Napa and we went to some of the bigger wineries there.

This weekend we had a friend from Mexico who also wanted to go on a wine tour but understood the possibilities of getting a bit off the beaten track. So we went to Amador county. We visited Youngs, Monteviña and Bella Piazza. All three offered hospitality and great wines. The best wines up there are reds. D'Agostini and Monteviña were the first two I knew about. In recent years the area has blossomed. We found great wines at each place we stopped. We also went to Villa Toscano which had a wonderful sandwich and grounds to have a light lunch. The pictures are from Young's and Bella Piazza.

The Amador vintners offer some interesting reds. Monteviña has a large enough production so that it can be purchased almost anywhere. They claim that their estate label (Terra d'Oro) is much better - I am not so sure, although some of the TDO wines are special.

I have done wine tasting since the early 1970s. I had the opportunity to taste with August Sebastiani, Joe Heitz and Louis Martini and Jim Nichelini. This was a different experience but was still a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Annotating (and correcting Xenophobia)

A friend sent me the following email - which seems to appeal to a lot of people. I've annotated it quickly to give you an idea of what this nonsense misses. We live in a global economy and benefit from all the kinds of trade that we benefit from. So here is the post (With the annotations)


John Smith started the day early having set his alarm clock (MADE IN JAPAN ) for 6 am. Actually the alarm clock's new features, like the variable alarm and multiple tones, were designed in the US. The assembly may have been done in Japan - more likely in Vietnam or some other place where costs are lower.

While his coffeepot (MADE IN CHINA ) was perking, he shaved with his electric razor (MADE IN HONG KONG ) Ditto for both those products. The items in production which produced value were probably made in the US. The US brand that the Chinese or Hong Kong people drank was probably Starbucks.

He put on a dress shirt (MADE IN SRI LANKA ),designer jeans (MADE IN SINGAPORE ) and tennis shoes (MADE IN KOREA) If John lived in South Carolina his former textile job which paid slightly above minimum wage has been replaced with jobs like the ones in the BMW factory or the high tech jobs - which pay as much as three times more than the old ones. But again, if he was a Californian his textile job switched from mill work to designing new clothes for the rest of the world.

After cooking his breakfast in his new electric skillet (MADE IN INDIA )he sat down with his calculator (MADE(ASSEMBLED) IN MEXICO ) to see how much he could spend today. After setting his watch
(MADE IN TAIWAN )to the radio (MADE IN INDIA ) Actually the content on his radio even in India - certainly the content of the movies people watch in Mexico, Taiwan and even India probably were made or financed in the US. he got in his car (MADE IN GERMANY ) Which was designed in LA. Every major car company in the world has a design studio in the LA area to take advantage of the graduates of the Art Center College of Design - which is world renowned. filled it with GAS (from Saudi Arabia ) In part because he needed the Saudi oil - to make the gas because we have artificially restricted where we can search for oil in the US. and continued his search for a good paying AMERICAN JOB. He could have looked in all of those areas above - if he had the education necessary to compete. But even if he moved to any one of those countries, the relative value of physical labor has been declining.

At the end of yet another discouraging and fruitless day checking his Computer (made in MALAYSIA ), Undoubtedly designed in the US, including the operating system which makes the thing useful.
John decided to relax for a while. He put on his sandals (MADE IN BRAZIL ), poured himself a glass of wine (MADE IN FRANCE ) If he had any taste he probably would have poured a California wine which consistently wins medals over the French ones. and turned on his TV (MADE IN INDONESIA ), To watch TV content in all of these countries and the US that originated in US studios.and then wondered why he can't
find a good paying job in AMERICA


Y'all gotta Keep this one circulating, please!

Had I longer I could have annotated more but you get the idea.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Jimmy Simmons - Complete Game

The Cats played the second of a three game series against the Grizzlies tonight. Two homers. A six hit complete came for Jimmy Simmons. 20 games over .500. It was a wonderful night. They seem to have a way to win games by playing together.

Herb Klein

Herb Klein died in LaJolla today. He was Nixon's first director of communications. And that is where I first met him. But he was also a very loyal Trojan (He graduated from SC in 1940.) Herb had two qualities that I admired. First, he seemed unfazed by power. Perhaps it was who he worked with. Perhaps it was his nature, but in the time that I worked with him (I worked with him after both of us had left the White House) he was ready with careful advice and counsel. His second quality was even more important. I think I first met him when I was in my mid-twenties. He was ready to offer advice to young professionals in a way that was timely and useful. He did not offer his suggestions with ego. He also had a pretty good sense of humor.

He served on a voluntary board of advisors for independent colleges and helped us get into see key politicians but also was ready with ideas about how to get the attention of various political figures. He served in a number of political positions starting with the Eisenhower administration but it was with President Nixon where he gained visibility. But when he left the White House in 1973 he went on to a series of positions in the news business. He ultimately was the Editor in Chief of the Copley Papers for about 20 years.