## A Christmas Carol

I've been looking for this version of "A Christmas Carol" for years. I remember seeing it as a kid on our old black and white TV. It seemed scary at back then; perhaps that's one of the reasons I remember it. According to IMDB, it won an Oscar for "Best Short Subject, Animated Films." It has been unavailable for quite some time, but now anyone can watch it on Google Video. Enjoy!

## Incentive vs. Penalty

Greg Mankiw posts a little something on the equivalence of the government fining someone $1000 and the government giving a$1000 tax rebate to everyone except that one person. What he doesn't mention is something I have thought for a long time, i.e. that the Federal government can and does use a similar technique to overstep the limits of its authority under the Constitution. If, for example, the Feds want the drinking age raised to 24, they run into constitutional trouble with legislation that simply fines states that don't comply. But if they threaten to withhold highway funds for non-compliance, then somehow this is perfectly fine. Isn't taxing everyone, but then funding only to those in compliance effectively the same thing as a fine?

## Religion in the Presidential Campaign

The right-wing blogosphere is abuzz today with talk of the damage that the focus on religion is doing to the Republican presidential campaign. I've even seen the term "political suicide" come up. I couldn't agree more with Charles Krauthammer, in his piece "Redundance on Religion."

I find the way these candidates are wearing their religion on their sleeves distasteful. Now they seem to be in a fight to "out-Christian" each other. I think that religious faith is a positive aspect of a candidate, but religious tolerance is a "litmus test" issue to me. Further, I think that if a presidential candidate believes that the Earth is a few thousand years old, or does not believe that natural forces have in some way shaped life on Earth, then his scientific ignorance makes him unqualified for the office. That means you, Mr. Huckabee.

Huckabee's surge has the potential to be every bit as damaging to the GOP as Dean's was to the Dems last time around. I originally liked Romney. Now I find the campaign focus on religion driving me more and more into the Guiliani camp.

## Mortgage Bailout

I agree completely with Michelle Malkin about the idea of a mortgage bailout. Boston home prices are sky high, and I attribute much of that to banks lending out too much money. It has fueled the speculative bubble. Banks even announced, to much fanfare, that they would begin granting mortgages to "undocumented workers." How can you justify the risk of granting a 30 year mortgage to someone who is not even in the country legally if not as speculation? Now it looks like the bubble is about to burst, and I and the rest of us renters are going to be "asked" to bail out those who acted irresponsibly and borrowed beyond their means. It's not enough to give folks a tax deduction on mortgage interest? They want to do away with the alternative minimum tax too, so they can get even more. Adding insult to injury, all this means that I'll be paying a higher than free market price for a house if I can ever afford one. How about we bail these people out, then tax their "windfall profits?"

## Turkey Day

There was a commotion outside the other day. Several neighbors were standing around looking at something. When I went outside, I was amazed to see a flock of turkeys surrounding our house. No, not the neighbors. Real wild turkeys! There are many around the Brookline area, and they are becoming a nuisance. When Turkeys Attack: Bostonians Battle Wild Birds. I like them though. Better than those damn Canada geese. Here are a few pics I took.

## Creative Destruction: Should a professor require students to attend a teach-in?

My Old Chum C.W. answers a question I sent him anonymously:
Creative Destruction: Should a professor require students to attend a teach-in?
I agree with him for the most part. What put this situation beyond what I think is reasonable was the requirement that students either pay the cost of attending or "earn" their attendance by working for the organizing group. It seemed just barely reasonable to me without that bit; I have doubts that this particular teach-in would provide a balance of views.

On another note, as I recall from earlier posts, C.W. has expressed his belief that as a professor, one of his roles is to provide views that his students would otherwise not hear. I agree with that, although my impression is that very few students will be willing to engage in a lively honest discussion with a decided professor on matters political. There is little incentive to do so, and in the mind of the student there is always the possibility that it will affect his or her grade. So in general, the idea that a professor who appears non-neutral on an issue can foster classroom debate seems a bit naive.

I don't read novels. Indeed, I almost never read a book cover to cover. This is not to say I don't read, of course. I read all the time; a substantial part of my day is spent reading. For pleasure I mostly read articles on the web, but also some magazines and the occasional newspaper. For work I read journals and text books. But the fact is that I rarely enjoy reading book fiction. Every once in a while I try to read a novel, because it's one of those things I'm "supposed to do." I lose interest after 100 pages or so. Give me a good movie instead. A novel to me is like a 24-hour long movie. No story is that good. I don't think that political persuasion has anything to do with it though:
http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8R5J3RG0&show_article=1

Pat Schroeder never seemed too bright to me. I once saw her lose terribly on Jeopardy, playing against Al Franken and another guy. Al tried to give Pat an opportunity to answer a question, under the category "Congress," pausing before finally giving his answer: "What is cloture?" He then paused and said "you know... one of us was actually in Congress..." Burnnnnn!

## Climate Cryptography

Here's an intentionally provocative post. Suppose you have temperature data T(x,t) over space x and time t, and the slope of your regression line indicates an average rate of increase of 0.6 degrees per 100 years. Suppose you need to allow others to verify that 0.6 number, but for whatever reason, you would not like to give out the raw data T. What to do? Choose a "private key" g(x), a function of space alone, which you keep secret. Publish and release to the public only "temperature anomaly" data T1(x,t) = T(x,t)-g(x).
http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/anomalies/anomalies.html http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature
You can claim that T1 is a normalization of the data, accounting for local climate variations, or some such. It's clear that T can not be recovered from T1 without g. So your data is safe. However, it's also clear mathematically that the regression line through T1 will yield that same 0.6 number you obtained. Cryptography has allowed you to keep your data private, while permitting others to "verify" your results!

Update 9/8/2008 : more detail.

## Atmospheric "Saturation"

There was a debate recently between the RealClimate folks:
http://motls.blogspot.com/2007/06/realclimate-saturated-confusion.html
and Lubos Motl, on his "Reference Frame" blog:
http://motls.blogspot.com/2007/06/realclimate-saturated-confusion.html
regarding whether or not the marginal increase in global warming should lessen as more and more greenhouse gasses are added to the atmosphere. I made a few calculations on the subject for myself, eventually coming to agree with RealClimate that it need not. And yes, it pains me to say so. A slightly mathy write-up, in pdf format with spiffy imbedded links, is here:
http://home.comcast.net/~stevehaker001/GreenHouse
Check it out if you are interested. It's intended to be self-contained for the most part.

## Hello World!

I think I'll try this blogging thing... I don't know how long the urge will last, but it's best to get it out of my system. Welcome to my blog!