A sound banker

"A sound banker, alas! is not one who foresees danger and avoids it, but one who, when he is ruined, is ruined in a conventional and orthodox way along with his fellows, so that no one can really blame him." -- John Maynard Keynes

I've been in or on the edges of Wall Street for many years, and Keynes nailed this one: the typical high-level, million-dollar-plus a year employee of an investment bank does not care at all if he walks straight into a financial disaster: what he cares about is that he not stand out from the rest of the crowd who did so as being especially culpable. So long as he doesn't, even if he is fired, he will be employed again at a high salary quite soon.


Let's see how they respond:

Dear Cosmo / Wanda,

I'm a little confused about your name and role, since line one of your note (below) seems to state that this note is from Cosmo, who is the editor of REM, but the signature says this note is from Wanda, who is the editor of REM. Was your day a little topsy-turvy, perhaps?

But hey, let's set aside that minor confusion: which parts of my paper did you like best? Was it the endorsement of the collective ownership of the means of production that really struck you? Or was it the strong position I took against female circumcision?

Gene Callahan

On Mar 29, 2017, at 10:56 PM, Wanda Petty wrote:

Dear Gene Callahan,
I’m Cosmo Johnson, the editor of Research in Economics and Management (REM) ISSN 2470-4407(Print) ISSN 2470-4393(Online). I have had an opportunity to read your paper “Morgan, Mary S. 2012., The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. 2012. xvii + 421 Pages. $44.99” which is published in Austrian Economics, The Review of, and can tell from your work that you are an expert in this field.
We are calling for submission of papers. Please find the journal’s profile at: http://www.scholink.org/ojs/index.php/rem and submit your manuscripts online, you can also submit your manuscripts to rem@scholink.org. If you have any questions, please contact with the editor at: rem@scholink.org.
It is appreciated if you could share this information with your colleagues and associates. Thank you.
Best Regards,
Wanda Petty 
Research in Economics and Management 

Debugging: don't just fix the bug!

Fix the design problem that caused the bug in the first place.

Of course, sometimes, it is merely a typo: you wrote "X" when you meant "Y". But more often, the bug is just a symptom: some part of your code is badly designed or too hard to understand, and that is why the bug occurred. Every bug should be looked upon as an opportunity for improving your design.

Rationalist, maxims and rules

A person engaged in practical action who recognizes that what is required for success is practical wisdom (phronesis) will recognize that the "guidelines" for such action are maxims, and not rigid rules. Thus, when in the space of a few lines in Romans, he finds Paul saying both:

"the just shall live by faith";


"But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good..."

He will recognize these as maxims, one stressing the importance of faith, the other of doing good.

But if one is of a rationalist bent, these will look like rules, and for Paul to "make sense" one of them is going to have to essentially blot out the other.

And thus folks, we give you the Protestant Reformation.

"The true maxims of golfing or of poetry increase our insight into golfing or poetry and may even give valuable guidance to golfers and poets; but these maxims would instantly condemn themselves to absurdity if they tried to replace the golfer's skill or the poets art. Maxims cannot be understood, still less applied by anyone not already possessing a good practical knowledge of the art. They derive their interest from our appreciation of the art and cannot themselves either replace or establish that appreciation." -- Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, p. 31

The progressive left's multi-culturalism

The government of Malaysia apparently asked Disney to cut a few minutes from Beauty and the Beast, minutes that the government deemed to be promoting homosexuality.

So, of course, Disney, promoters of "multi-culturalism," respected the local culture of Malaysia -- after all, they weren't asking for Disney to insert a segment condemning homosexual behavior! -- and cut those few minutes, right? We have to respect the values of other cultures, and never "imperialistically" assume that our culture is right, and the culture of the other is wrong, hey?

Of course they didn't cut that segment! They flat out refused. The "multi-culturalism" of the progressive left is entirely a weapon to wield against traditional Western culture. Whenever some other culture's values differ from progressive ideology, that other culture must be chastised, boycotted, re-educated, or even, if they won't submit, bombed.

Genghis Khan was way more "multi-cultural" than leftist progressives.

Getting your pseudo-code straight

Having just graded 109 two-page pseudo-code answers, I am keenly aware that students have real problems keeping straight what variables hold what type of data. The problem was to augment a red-black tree keyed on date with an energy total, and then to walk the tree to determine an energy usage between two dates. I saw lots of code doing things like:

node.left += energy
node.key = energy
T.root = total

All three of those lines of code would destroy the red-black tree by wiping out one of its structural components with auxilliary data.

It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to have students begin their work by listing each variable they will be dealing with, and what sort of thing it will hold. Then, whenever they are about to assign to it, they can check back to the "pseudo-declarations."

But I haven't seen this taught. Is anyone familiar with a place where this is recommended?

More AWKwardness

For Emu86, we had documentation in two places: the source code, and a help file. We needed to get this DRY, and fast!

So, we needed a documentation extraction and web page generating system. First I added tags to the source code documentation, like this. See lines 23-36.

Then I wrote this program to pull out the tags and everything in between. A single line of code!

Then we read the "tagged-text-only" files and turn those into HTML with this program. The last two items could have been a single program, but why clutter up that elegant first program with HTML tagging specific to this project? The program to extract tagged text could be useful in many, many projects: Best to make it standalone, and combine it in a pipeline with other programs.

Finally, we use our existing include facility to pull the HTML descriptions of the instructions into our help file.

How "We" Gain from Free Trade

Don Boudreaux recently wrote, about our persistent trade deficits::

"And being a net recipient of capital is not only not necessarily a bad thing for Americans, but is likely a good thing."

What Don means is that for every 100 factory workers who lose their $50,000 / year jobs, one CEO will get a $10 million bonus: net gain!

And when was the last time stinkin’ factory workers funded an all-expenses-paid trip to a libertarian convention at a tropical resort?!

Warning of the dangers of K2

There are now ads up all around NYC proclaiming:

K2: 0% marijuana, 100% dangerous.

Certainly, the dangers of K2 should not be underestimated! See, for instance:

"K2 is known as the Savage Mountain due to the extreme difficulty of ascent. It has the second-highest fatality rate among the eight thousanders. With around 300 successful summits and 77 fatalities, about one person dies on the mountain for every four who summit."

That for sure counts as 100% dangerous! But was there really anyone out there who thought that it was made of marijuana?! Does that thing look like it is made of marijuana?

Moronic scammers

I received an email rom some Internet scammers today telling me, "You Apple account has been de-activated."

Of course, they wanted me to "login" to their fake Apple website to re-activate the account.

BUT... they sent the email telling me my Apple account has been de-activated...

To my Apple account!

Thank God so many of these fraudsters are so stupid, or even more people would be victimized by them.

Nature documentaries can't be trusted

I have been watching "India: natures wonderland."

In today's segment, some annoying mountain dude has been banging on about the Himalayas. Well, at least the mountain scenery has been pleasant.

But then he brought me to a halt: the Himalayas are growing, he noted. (True.) "It's only a few inches a year, but it has been going on for millions of years."

This made my inner engineer get out my calculator. How many is "a few"? Let's say three. And how many "millions of years"? He had mentioned that the Himalayas or 40 million years old a bit earlier… Let's say half that time, just to see where we get.

3 * 20,000,000 = 60,000,000 inches of growth

60,000,000 / 12 inches per foot = 5,000,000 feet of growth

So, the average mountain in the Himalayas is around 5 million feet tall. No wonder people need to carry oxygen when going up Everest!

Apparently the Himalayas are currently growing at a rate of 2 to 3 inches per year. But obviously, that rate hasn't been kept up for even 1 million years, let alone "millions."