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Joshua Sharf

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« February 2007 | Main | April 2007 »

March 29, 2007

Baseball Between The Numbers

Just in time for baseball season - a new review.

March 26, 2007


Another month, another business trip, this time to Dallas.

Now I know what you're thinking, and I was surprised, too, but it actually looks like a pretty decent place, at least the bits I've seen so far.

They've got me in the Marriott Fairfield on what might be considered the wrong side of the highway, but it's actually close to one of those mixed-use, industrial-artsy areas where you can get tile and countertops for the new kitchen, and then walk a block and get the art to hang in the new living room. The walk down Dragon street took me by both places, including the now-defunct "House of Kirk." How odd. "House of Picard" I could understand, but "House of Kirk?"

Another closed-on-Sunday art gallery is called, "Art of India, Inc.," which sounds more like a print shop for Peanuts originals. (There was one strip where Schroder tells Lucy that here eyes look like little round dots of India ink.)

Since my objective was the kosher Indian restaurant, I decided to walk the three miles to the train station. "Why?" you might ask? Tradition! Actually, I like these walks. I get to see something of the city, In this case, I also got to walk through the Historic West End, sort of like LoDo, and also the location of Dealy Plaza. And by the Dallas World Aquarium. Because when you think, "Dallas," you think, "fish!"

Then there's the light rail. Almost every city has "invested" in one of these white elephants. Although as a visitor, it's more comfortable to ride than a bus, very few visitors are going to have the same local travel profile that I will: stay downtown for meetings, ride out to the 'burbs for dinner. And while the downtown seems to have some retained some of its local character, once out of the city, the thing runs along the interstate, which looks like any other Interstate, only moreso, as Rick would say.

Although there are always the distractions onboard the train, like the electronic advertising sign for Dallas County Community College: "Love is a canvas pattern furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination." Their motto should be, "DCCC: Sucking the Manhood Out Of Texas One Associate's Degree At A Time."

I suppose it's better than the woman sitting in front of me, who was at least 45, and reading the train behavior admonitions aloud in both English and Spanish, in a voice that indicates that she moonlights on the bingo circuit. I demurred from complimenting her on her command of phonetic alphabets.

Walking from the train station to the restaurant - about 3 miles, I'd guess - I was stopped by a woman in a car who asked if I needed a ride someplace. She said this in a voice that suggested I should check the back seat for chain saws. I need the exercise, in any event.

The restaurant itself is quite good, full of Indians in fact, which is the surest test of any ethnic food joint. I ended up ordering the Thali, which I gather is Hindi for "Poo Poo Platter." Ah ha! There were plenty of leftovers, none of which would have made it past security at DFW, especially since this state of the art airport the size of Manhattan doesn't have any services ground-side. I ended up eating lunch sitting at baggage claim area B29.

DFW was full of soldiers, looking decidedly un-victim-like, except for their having to submit to the same bizarre security requirements as the rest of us. Barring a coordinated effort by an entire military unit to turn Turk, requiring soldiers, in the presence of dozens of other soldiers, to take boots off, borders on the insane. I am beyond confident that if any one soldier were to decide to try something, the several platoons around me could spontaneously organize well enough to deal with him faster than anything TSA could muster.

DFW, as one of the two main airports that soldiers move through to and from Iraq (the other is Atlanta), has a program where civic groups can show up at the airport to welcome troops home. Now Ken "Colorado Surrender Caucus" Gordon claims he "supports the troops," whatever that means. It occurs to me the nobody's ever asked him whether he's given to Soldier's Angels, the USO, or any of the couple of dozen programs that spring up from time to time to get care packages to the troops or their families.

Going through security at Denver, the gal (ethnomusicologists take note) behind me in line asked if I remembered when air travel was fun. I honestly replied, "No." It's been that long.

March 25, 2007

Signs of the Apocalypse

In another quantum leap, allowing the Jews of Denver to eat like everyone else, the King Sooper's bakery near where I live is now completely under the supervision of the Denver Va'ad. Cakes. Cookies. Tortes. Breads! All manner of breads! Since they're open 24 hrs., I can stop in any time I like, even before work, and pick up, say, a loaf of sourdough for the day. Or maybe French bread. Possibly an Italian roll with tomato basil.

I can't begin to tell you how big a deal this is.

Of course, their timing's a little off, given that Passover begins in a week, and we can't eat bread during Passover. But I'm reliably informed that the good folks managing the bakery are aware of this, and aren't going to judge the success of the project by the first month's sales.

March 6, 2007

Reading List

Arrived in the mail from the History Book Club:

A book of essays from the current Greatest Living Civil War Historian, having fought through a lengthy succession battle after the loss of Bruce Catton:

Not the basis of 300, nor the ancient Greek version of the classic board game:

Plus ca change:

A liberal with something good to say about a Republican:

and... Here's a hint: there's mostly good.

Now, if I can just find the time to read them...

Economics By Doctors

Last week, the local propagator of economic illiteracy, the Denver Post, ran an op-ed by a professor over at the University of Colorado Health Sciences center, who specializes in bioethics and the humanitites. It included the usual bromides about obscene profit margins and too much marketing vs. too little R&D. It concluded with a call for the citizenry to demand more R&D spending by drug companies. Or presumably, we'll be taking away those profits to make sure there's no more R&D. (Ironically, a week earlier I had had this debate with a friend of mine who's a doctor there, so maybe it's something in the water. Or a virus.)

In the meantime, Russ Roberts has an extensive podcast with Mr. Law-and-Economics himself, RIchard Epstein, an actual economist, of the Hoover Institution and the University of Chicago. Epstein makes the following points.

  • That studies show that drug companies keep somewhere between 15% and 25% of the economic profit from their discoveries. Which means that you and I get to keep about 80% of the benefit from someone else's work.
  • That the excessively long FDA approval time robs the compnies from many of the benefits of the patent system
  • That taxing away the profits is only going to force the drug companies to focus on the higher-margin projects, which will then lead the same whiners to complain about the even more obscene profit margins
  • That there will always be competition, since it's the molecule not the health benefit that gets patented; this means that your slightly different drug with a slightly different mechanism can compete even while the original is under patent protection

I'd add one other point. Mark Yarborough complains about the ratio of marketing budgets to R&D budgets. But this is always true. I just finished visiting a company, Brush Engineered Materials, which refuses to get pantents on much of its research out of the belief that they'd rather not have their competition reverse engineer their processes. Their competitive advantage and their real asset is their institutional know-how and craftsmanship in the art of making metal alloys. This is a company that knows it needs to be ahead of the curve, always developing new alloys and new uses for those alloys.

They spend less than 1% of gross revenues on R&D.

I never would have know about Epstein's book if not for a series of blog links.

Thus do institutional biases restrict the debate. At least on their pages.

March 1, 2007

Media Alert

Channel 4 caught me in DIA.

Good thing the flight had been delayed.


Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud