We Twa Hae Run About the Braes

… and pu'd the gowans fine:

  • If you feel like working up some outrage at the end of the year, Shikha Dalmia will do the trick; she outlines how our country will be pummelled by the nightmare that is ObamaCare: "It is one huge entrapment scheme that will turn patients and providers into criminals."
    ObamaCare is pushing America down the road to serfdom, but neither its opponents nor advocates seem to have noticed. It is time for civil libertarians in both parties to wake up and strangle it before it strangles what’s left of American freedoms.
    Other than that, though, it's fi—oh, wait a minute, there's plenty of other things wrong with it too.

  • But that's the result of a new government program. How are the old ones doing? Well, according to Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the Associated Press, if you're approaching retirement:
    [An average-wage, two-earner couple] retiring in 2011 will have paid $614,000 in Social Security taxes, and can expect to collect $555,000 in benefits. They will have paid about 10 percent more into the system than they're likely to get back.
    It's a good thing the Federal Government grabbed all that money from those folks. Otherwise they might have done something foolish with it, like invest.

    But it's the opposite with Medicare:

    Upon retiring in 2011, they would have paid $114,000 in Medicare payroll taxes during their careers.

    But they can expect to receive medical services — from prescriptions to hospital care — worth $355,000, or about three times what they put in.

    Ah. So while they're getting screwed on Social Security, they're screwing current taxpayers on Medicare. Good plan! (Via the unamused Power Line.)

  • If you're looking for New Year's Resolutions, James Lileks has shared his. Example:
    I resolve to stop picking up things the demonstrators sell in grocery stores just to make them feel like they did a good job, then putting them back when I'm in another aisle. I will put them back where they really belong.
    Yeah. Sometimes I get the uncomfortable feeling that Lileks is spying on me. Also, Scott Adams.

  • Another annual tradition: predictions for the upcoming year. Relatively few pundits will review their predictions for this year, but Lore Sjöberg bravely tackles the task. Example:
    I predicted: “There will be no oil spills this year. If there is one, it will be minor. If there’s a major spill after all, it’ll be off India or Japan or something, not near the United States. If, for some reason, there’s a major spill in U.S. waters, Kevin Costner will have no ideas about how to contain it. And if Costner does come up with some sort of oil-cleanup plan or device, he will not do so two weeks after getting a sex change.”

    What happened: Kevin Costner is still a man. I nailed this one.

See all you good folks next year.

Last Modified 2011-01-06 6:20 AM EST

The Age of the Infovore: Succeeding in the Information Economy

[Amazon Link]

I'm a reader of Marginal Revolution, where the author, Tyler Cowen, blogs with Alex Tabarrok. (They are both economics professors at George Mason.) So I knew Tyler was likely to write an interesting book. And when I noticed that the library at the University Near Here had a copy, I snapped it up.

UNH had the hardcover version, which, although with the same content, has a totally different title: Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World. Tyler says he likes the title and cover of the paperback better. I think neither title really catches the book's theme though.

Nor does the product description at Amazon:

The Age of the Infovore will show you how to manage the massive daily flow of data better, no matter how adept you may already be at Facebooking, watching television, or studying for that test.
I'm trying to come up with a more diplomatic way of saying this, but … OK, that's just not true. They could equally well have said that you'll lose ten pounds, become a better dancer, and seduce beautiful women. You will not do any of that, nor learn how to manage data better, by reading this book.

Somewhat surprisingly, the main theme of the book is autism. We might think of autism as a disorder, or a handicap; Tyler wants instead to get beyond that, and simply observe that autistics have a different "cognitive profile" than non-autistics, made up of not only cognitive weaknesses but also relative cognitive strengths. For example, autistics have strong skills in "ordering knowledge" and "perceiving small bits of information" in their preferred areas.

Tyler further notes that we're moving to an era where autistic cognitive strengths are likely to become more important. Good for them, also good for us. In a very wide-ranging discussion, he explains how this might play out in politics, economics, art, and other fields. (And, in a final chapter, its effect on the "future of the universe." I shit you not.)

Tyler's style is breezy and casual. Lots of gee-whiz short sentences, in kind of a cross between your typical self-help tome and USA Today. I would have actually preferred a bit more academic tone and content. Bottom line: a very interesting read, just not at all what I expected.

Consumer note: the hardcover is available new (as I type) from Amazon for $3.72, a veritable bargain, even though you have to endure Tyler's less-preferred title.

Last Modified 2012-09-29 6:52 AM EST

Easy A

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Another young-people movie I mostly liked. The "A" in the title stands for the same thing it did in The Scarlet Letter, and very similar ground is covered here, although with many more laughs.

Emma Stone plays Olive, an impressively intelligent young lady attending an Ojai, California high school. It's the usual hotbed of teen hormones, hypocrisy, ostracism, and peer pressure. Constantly hectored by her friend, Olive makes up a story about an intimate weekend with a community college guy from the next town over. Through an unlikely, but very amusing, series of events, she quickly becomes known as the school tramp—all while never actually, y'know, doing anything.

Emma Stone is very good here, and the adult supporting cast is great: Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci as her super-supportive parents, Thomas Haden Church as the best English teacher ever, Lisa Kudrow as the worst guidance counselor ever, and even Malcolm McDowell in a small role as the school principal.

So it's all very clever and zany. One amusing bit is where Olive wishes she were in an 80's John Hughes movie, unaware of the fact that she pretty much is. The only stale part is the movie's handling of the small subset of evangelical Christian students, who are (of course) hypocritical and judgmental prigs. Gosh, never seen that before.

Last Modified 2012-09-29 6:48 AM EST