Monthly Archives: February 2008

50 million people do it every week

That’s the tag line for a documentary about the New York Times crossword puzzle, that I just watched. Wordplay is truly an entertaining film. The people who are reallyreally good at crosswords are, to say the least, characters (check out the bios in the “players” section of the film site). The people who write them are very talented. I’ve never been very good at them but Ricardo has some impressive talent when it comes to solving the cryptics.

And if you think you’re good at the crossword, try your luck here.

Ricardo’s 123 has me stumped. But, in my defense, I didn’t cheat by googling. How about:

‘You’re out of the dyslexia, your father says.’

‘I think so.’


This is from a book I’ve been reading for some time. A book that Ricardo read some time ago.  


Meme, via:

1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

I’ll bend the rules a bit. I have 5 books on my bedside table at the moment, all started. This is not my normal style, at least not since I was about 7 years old and vaguely hyperlexic. Anyway, here are the extracts from each; perhaps either of this blog’s readers can identify the books.

“Sometimes I see flashes of Rick’s temper in him or hear him say something sexist that I know comes right out of Rick’s mouth, and I get scared. I don’t want him looking at Rick and thinking that this is what a man is supposed to act like. I wish I could protect him from ending up like his father.”

If the fact that he himself had assured the scholar of the same thing several months ago was irritating to Apollo, his expression gave no hint of it. “Yes,” he said. “They’re quite authentic, I’m told.”

That left the hive in a near-comatose condition. It was a harsh and imprecise process. Sometimes, the skep had to be ripped open in order to collect the product.

Cohen testified that there was no “direct relationship” linking heart disease to dietary fats, and that he had been able to induce the same blood-vessel complications seen in heart disease merely by feeding sugar to his laboratory rats. Peter Cleave testified to his belief that the problem extended to all refined carbohydrates. “I don’t hold the cholesterol view for a moment,” Cleave said, noting that mankind had been eating saturated fats for hundreds of thousands of years.

Blair’s EU initiatives in this period, all of which were to evolve later in his premiership, came at four successive European Councils. By late 2001, Blair was in his fith year as a regular attendee of these two-day meetings for EU leaders. They occurred four times a year (June and December councils at the end of presidencies were more important) and he had grown weary of them.

I guess the last one’s a bit easy.

unfortunately, he also inherited their thirst

I was saddened when I first heard Wesley Snipes was being done for tax evasion. I liked Wesley. He’s been in some excellent films. I love the Blade trinity. I was disappointed. I thought he was better than that. I tried to ignore the story.

And then I find out that he wasn’t evading taxes – he was denying them.

Wesley, I should never have doubted you.

a forced savings glut

The piece in the Atlantic by James Fallows caught my eye. It reminds us of the role the Chinese government has played in ensuring that Americans borrow from Chinese and not vice versa. The oddness of China-US goods flows is something I’ve been trying to drum into students recently. I like the way he puts it:

Through the quarter-century in which China has been opening to world trade, Chinese leaders have deliberately held down living standards for their own people and propped them up in the United States. This is the real meaning of the vast trade surplus—$1.4 trillion and counting, going up by about $1 billion per day—that the Chinese government has mostly parked in U.S. Treasury notes. In effect, every person in the (rich) United States has over the past 10 years or so borrowed about $4,000 from someone in the (poor) People’s Republic of China.

Fallows goes on to make some nice points on the sustainability of this arrangement, but they’re mostly focused on the international sphere, for example on the prospect of a dollar crisis. One thing I haven’t seen addressed is the internal political sustainability of China’s currency management and export focus. [Note: I know that just because I haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it’s not out there.]

Any faithful reader of this blog knows that mass-group-incidents, or MGIs, are on the up in China. Regional inequalities are large and the cause of significant internal migration. China is still poor, even poorer than we thought. And if the Beijingologists are right, Hu Jintao is worried:

Danwei gave an award to the China Media Project (based at the University of Hong Kong), which had an analysis of Hu Jintao’s big speech to the congress. Since China may well be approaching a moment of economic, environmental and political crisis, this has a claim to being the most important political speech anywhere in the world this year. The trouble is that these speeches are in code. Also, since Mao, China’s leaders have tended to adopt a technocratic, deliberately anti-charismatic public manner. Hu takes that about as far as it can go; he makes Jiang Zemin look like Iggy Pop. To decode the speech, therefore, one must count it. This the China Media Project has done:

And the results are in! ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’ logged the most number of uses, appearing 52 times in Hu Jintao’s political report to the 17th National Congress. A distant second, ‘scientific development’ racked up 38 appearances. Used a total of 34 times, ‘opening and reform’ finished third, just edging out ‘harmony’ at 33.

‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’, a phrase patented by Deng, which in practice means ‘capitalism with Party control’, is the official policy of China, and the surge in mentions – up from 30 at the 16th Party Congress – is a strong, perhaps even a protesting-too-much, signal of continuity. ‘Harmonisation’, a new word, is more interesting. According to the excellent political blog Blood and Treasure, ‘the near tie between opening & reform and harmony means that Hu regards the maintenance of social stability as a discrete policy objective, rather than an inherent consequence of economic growth, as was the general line during the Jiang years.’ In other words Jiang thought growth would magically resolve questions of rising inequality, but Hu disagrees. This is a huge, huge deal …

An obvious question must be: how long does Hu let this go on? Will ‘harmonisation’ entail straying from the path of `export-led growth’ that so many developing countries seem to want to follow? [An even more basic question, to which we may find out the answer, is: in a country the size of China, is it sensible to say that export markets are needed for growth?]

The classroom view on free trade is that you can always compensate the losers, with some left over. The Chinese government is in a position to do just this, with its immense claims on foreign assets. It’s merely choosing to defer the compensation until a bit later, thank you very much. Just how much later it can afford to wait to call in these claims is the big unknown.

roissy and the wolfman …

…and the stevewoman should write a paper together. The way I read it, Roissy is providing some testable predictions that flow from the latters’ hedonic marriage hypothesis.

[Unrelated: when Varnson and I were grad students, Wolfers had almost cult status. Not a week seemed to go by without another interesting paper of his surfacing, or an insightful op-ed he’d written appearing. Then we’d go to his home page at Stanford GSB and see this picture of an Australian surfer dude. Slowly we cultivated the myth of Wolfers, until he was a Olympian figure who could bench press 300lbs with his left pinkie while writing AER papers and gargling Castlemaine XXXX.

By the time we left grad school we’d developed a shorthand. We’d see our ‘contemporary’ (different university, same time) mentioned in yet another article in The Economist, narrow our eyes and mutter “Wolfers..”, just as Seinfeld did with Newman.]

mixed grill podcast

One of the great things about having the mixed grill is being able to go to all the lectures, seminars and other public events featuring a really eclectic and impressive lineup of speakers. While I was there I went to talks by people ranging from academics like Paul Krugman and Richard Dawkins to politicians such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to nonclassifiables such as Chris Eubank and  Judge Jules.

I’ve now discovered that a huge number of LSE events are available as podcasts. I just listed to to Danny Quah talking about thinking like a social scientist. You can even hear the famous lecture on “Science and Pseudoscience” by Imre Lakatos.