Sunday, September 17, 2006


I knew it would be a decent day when our New York Times was actually delivered to us. The Bears trouncing the Lions was good, and L and I went to City Newstand this afternoon. As always, I tried to get things I was unfamiliar with. We'll see if I have any finds. Anyway, today's paper was pretty interesting. In no particular order . . .

In South Africa there is apparently a shooting war taking place over the right to provide taxi services. In the Cape Town area there are two groups that run minibuses that transport both commuters, and intracity travelers. In order to control certain routes, as well as to try to steal routes from each other, people in, or acting on behalf of, the groups have taken to shooting the drivers and passengers of the other services. Amazingly, the South African government is unable to end this conflict. Keep in mind that the taxis represent a legal enterprise. This is not a situation with illicit activity like bootlegging or drug running. This is a shooting war in a competitive, legal industry. Here's a modest proposal: taxis without licenses may not transport people or goods. Criminals may not have licenses. Violence will lead to revocations. People who ride in illegal taxis are subject to a $50 fine. Now the police don't have to deal with the gun-wielding drivers, but the market for their services will be undercut.

In the New York/Region section, which I always enjoy there is a story about Willets Point in Queens. Apaprently Willets Point has one resident in the voting precinct, and lacks either working sewers or storm drains. What it is full of is secondary heavy industry. The estimate is that there are 225 auto parts and/or repair shops, as well as scrap yards, and iron works in the area. The businesses are apparently largely immigrant owned, and employ about 1,200 people. New York is apparently thinking about trying to use eminant domain to seize the area and build a mixed use, residential/retail area. I have never been to Willets Point, but it sounds like the kind of area it is necessary for cities to have to maintain diverse populations. 225 small businesses employing 1,200 people are not always easy to replace.

Moving across the country, the Times also ran a story on graffiti in San Francisco. Apparently San Francisco is declaring war on graffiti. They are also seeking out a person sticking stickers with "BNE" on them all over the place. The part about fighting graffiti is stupid. If you are a city and don't want graffiti, you (a) remove graffiti from private property for free, (b) track the little bastards down and arrest them. Done and done. What is more interesting to me is that the BNE deal is now worldwide. Apprently it has appeared in New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Prague at least. It reminds me of the whole Obey deal with Andre the Giant stickers. They were all over Chicago. They were all over everywhere. The 1995 version was particularly common in the East Loop. Nobody knew what they were for. Ultimately, although this web page claims they were an experiment in Phenomenology ("the first aim . . . is to reawaken a sense of wonder about one's environment . . . the medium is the message"), it is also noteworthy that both the posters and things like Obey watches are for sale at the same page. Presumably the medium is also an advertisement, and "buy this stuff" is the ultimate message. We'll see if BNE turns out to be the same crap.

For all of you aspiring slackers (is it possible to be an "aspiring" slacker?) the Times ran an advice piece about turning down promotions. First, they say that "you have to be diplomatic. It’s O.K. to say, ‘No thanks,’ but you need to couch it in a way that convinces your boss the decision is the right one for both you and the company." Funny thing. If I try to give you a promotion and you say you don't want it, I am already thinking that the company may have dodged a bullet. Later the advice is to make your rejection of the position firm saying, "in anthropological terms, you don’t want to give off prey behavior. Don’t hem and haw — your goal is to say, ‘No’ to the new assignment while keeping the image of yourself as a strong and capable person in the boss’s mind." Well, that's an interesting time to get concerned about your career. Look, if your "promotion" means you have to move your family to another city or state, that's fine. Have a discussion at work about the fact that you do not want to do this. Otherwise, it is hard to see how you have not just torpedoed your career. Slacker.

The travel section contained a cover story about Ethiopia. They hinted at some things about the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Apparently Ethiopia was a combination of pagan and Jewish before the Christian era. Christianity reached Ethiopia in about 330 A.D. First, apparently there are churches in Ethiopia that are literally carved into limestone. These look absolutely amazing. There are other sacred sites, including a field of obelisks, and much to the surprise of Indiana Jones, the Ark of the Covenant. There is an Ethiopian myth that the Ark of the Covenant was stolen from Jerusalem and brought to Ethiopia in about 1,000 B.C. Seems like the Jews would have noticed this. Anyway, apparently the Ethiopians have several unusual aspects of their Christianity. For instance, the Ethiopian Bible has 81 books (the Catholic bible has 77 books, the Protestant bible 66). Menstruating women are not allowed into church. Ethiopians pray pointing toward Jerusalem. Now I want to go to Ethiopia. And Staten Island. And St. Peterburg, Russia. And a lot of other places.

Finally, Keeping Score has a study of batting statistics for various counts. They conclude that the pitch when the count is two balls and one strike is the most significant in an at bat measured by the spread in statistics for 2-2 at bats as opposed to 3-1 at bats. 3-1 hitters get much, much better, with an OPS of 1.089. At 2-2 they get much worse, with an OPS of .637. This is not what I expected. I thought 1-1 is the crucial pitch. 2-1 versus 1-2 seems such an important difference. However, the stats don't back me up. who knew?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry to miss everyone @ SuVans. by sheer coincidence i had ran to City Newstand @ around 9:30am. picked up 9 mags.


7:50 PM  

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