Monthly Archives: November 2007

Common sense isn't so common

I’ve written previously about Bryan Caplan’s work. I’m very much in agreement with one of his latest posts, in part on meeting and talking with people about his ideas. Here’s the good stuff from Bryan:

Since the publication of my book, I’ve been meeting a much wider range of people. I’ve talked to an elite Republican book club, a room full of vaguely Marxist academics at the New School, retirees, Cato, Heritage, a conference of largely leftist philosophers, the State Department (!), the Yale law school, DC economists, and UVA social scientists. I’ve also spoken on a wide range of radio shows and podcasts, left and right.

What have I learned? Primarily, I’m more convinced than ever that virtually everyone is sincere. The legions of people who imagine that their opponents secretly agree with them are utterly deluded. Even when you’ve got undeniable facts on your side, your opponents probably think that those facts don’t matter; you’re missing the deeper picture.

The lesson I draw: Sincerity is greatly overrated. It’s an easy and widely distributed virtue. So what is in short supply? Common-sense. Literalism. Staying calm. Listening. Sticking to the point. Accepting and working through hypotheticals.

Addendum:  I pulled this out of the comments section of the above blog entry, written by a fellow named Chris, and I think it makes a couple more important and useful points:

 … a useful test when debating someone. Ask your opponent what statements, if true, would convince him to change his position. If no such statements exist, then the debate is over.

Similarly, I frequently ask myself the same question: what type of data and/or reasoning would convince me that my position is wrong. If I can’t think of any, then I need to take a deep breath and evaluate how I reached my opinion in the first place.

"I'm Not There" now out

I'm Not There

The movie with 6 faux Dylans has hit the screens. Good review from A.O. Scott in the NY Times, I’m eager to see it when I can… The 2-CD soundtrack is quite good – all Dylan covers but for the debut of the title track, as done by Dylan and the Band back in ’67 (covered by Sonic Youth as well).

Scott writes:

Among its many achievements, Mr. Haynes’s film hurls a Molotov cocktail through the facade of the Hollywood biopic factory, exploding the literal-minded, anti-intellectual assumptions that guide even the most admiring cinematic explorations of artists’ lives. Rather than turn out yet another dutiful, linear chronicle of childhood trauma and grown-up substance abuse, Mr. Haynes has produced a dizzying palimpsest of images and styles, in which his subject appears in the form of six different people.

So I guess if you’re in the mood for a “dizzying palimpsest” (something having usually diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface) then check it out!

Here’s another review from Seattle Weekly that throws in a DeLillo/Great Jones Street comparison.

Track back to some earlier Mediated posts on the film with more links.

House of Cards?

There is some pretty disturbing news coming out these days about the risks facing our financial institutions… and all of us.

I read today that Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf said: “We have not seen a nationwide decline in housing like this since the Great Depression.”

And this summary of financial news from the Oil Drum strikes me as likely alarmist, but I think there’s little question that a lot more “paper money” is going to go up in smoke before things settle down. The two big issues: guarantors of bonds may not be able to deliver, and accounting rules are going to change to force re-valuation of shaky assets. Buckle up!

Sinterklaas Arrives!

Sinterklass ship 17-Nov-2007

Today Sinterklaas and a boat full of helpers, known as Zwarte Pieten (Black Peters), arrived in the Netherlands by boat today from Spain, and it is a big event! I took a few shots of the live TV broadcast. Above is the ship coming into the town of Kampen. Once the ship pulled in, Sinterklaas disembarked, and then toured around the town greeting children.


Sinterklaas Greetings


Read a bit about the traditions here in the Netherlands.

A popular part of the celebrations, which will go on for the next three weeks until December 5th, is chocolate letters. As you can see, I got my “G” already – and they’re pretty good-sized – about 4 inches tall and half an inch thick.

Chocolate G

Bike Friendly Cities?

Bike lane

Found a link to a listing purporting to name the eleven most bicycle friendly cities in the world. Amsterdam is not so surprisingly listed at number one. But I was pretty shocked to find no less than four U.S. cities on the list, headed by Portland in number two, along with Davis, Boulder and San Francisco. I’d just have to say that it’s crap. Most every city here in the Netherlands that I’ve visited is more bike friendly than any city in the US – dedicated bike lanes, with dedicated bike traffic signals are a norm here, it seems. Don’t believe the hype! The U.S. has a long way to go – but I am proud that Portland is making strides.

The picture comes from another American city that is trying: Spartanburg, SC.

Reid/Tacuma/Weston @ Bimhuis, 11-Nov-2007


Yesterday I went into Amsterdam to catch the afternoon show by the trio of Vernon Reid, Jamaladeen Tacuma and Calvin Weston at Bimhuis (housed in the black section of the Muziekgebouw shown sticking out on the right side). This band, billing itself as ‘free form funky freaks’ did indeed get very funky and pretty free too, improvising a great set. Reid had all kinds of effects going on, with tons of gadgets on the floor and nearby, while Tacuma just had his bass (and his cool shiny silver shoes), and Weston had a big drum set. When Tacuma gets a good groove going, he really leans into it! Good stuff.



Handmade Bicycle

I just saw something about this event that was held yesterday back home in Portland – the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show. Wish I could have gone! (Plus the picture looks a lot like my last post!). Event sponsored by the OBCA – Oregon Bicycle Constructors Association.

Celebrating the Swiss Tool!

When I went to my cousin’s wedding last month, I was happy to receive a Victorinox all-in-one tool as a gift, and I promised I would get in in the blog.  Only today did I see that it even has a monograph!  And here it is (had to get the light off to get some new batteries in it):

Maastricht for a day

Maastricht walls

Today we did a day excursion down to Maastricht, an old city at the far southern tip of the Netherlands, about 2 hours by train from Utrecht. Some of the old town walls are still around, dating back as far as 1229 they say. As with Utrecht, the Romans were here back some 2000 years ago.

We missed a big celebration by a day – tomorrow at 11:11 am (on Nov. 11) they will celebrate the change of seasons. As you can see, the leaves are falling fast.

Maastricht leaves

On the east side of the Maas river, there’s quite a few newer buildings, and we went to see the World Press Photo exhibition at Centre Céramique, which had a good selection of news photos from the past year.

I liked this building for the fanciful font and windows.

Maastricht Bury's

All about bricks!

Utrecht bricks

Wandering around Utrecht, one can’t help but notice all the streets and sidewalks in the old part of town are made up of bricks and stones. As simple geometric patterns they are often quite lovely, so I’ve taken a few shots.

Utrecht bricks 2

What I’ve discovered however is another angle on this subject. Like in many places, there is often work that involves digging up the street. Here that often means pulling up all the bricks and stones. What’s nice though is that when they’re done, they put the bricks back in place, and within a few days you can hardly tell that any work was done at all.

One more shot, this time the old Canal, Oudegracht.

Utrecht Oudegracht