Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Block Party

My boss threw a Halloween party yesterday. I thought it would be mainly people from the office but it turned out that it was a block party for his neighborhood. He got a permit to block off a street and rented an inflatable bouncy castle for the neighborhood kids. It was a big event.

Part of the party was a 'chili cook-off'. I brought a crock pot full of vegetarian chili, knowing it would not win, but I wanted to give people some good solid hot vegan food. Almost all of it was eaten and several people thanked me for bringing it. The instructions on the chili judging sheet were written up so that only red chili with meat would win. I thought the best one was a white chili with chicken.

My costume was the Benedictine monk's robe and belt book that my friend made for me, along with a very nice curved walking stick I found on a hike. Lots of people complimented me on it. It is a nice robe, with the perfect black fabric.

After a little child with her mom asked me what I was, she then asked me what a monk was. I said, "During the middle ages, the time of knights and castles, the monks were the only people who knew how to read and write. They kept knowledge alive." Of course this is not a proper, complete, or and accurate explanation for anyone over the age of six, but at least it explained the basics of a vocabulary word. The mother seemed to like my explanation. I seem to have a talent for explaining things like that to children.

I killed 21 yellowjackets with my hands. When they have landed in a cup or on a plate and are eating or drinking, it is easy to crush them with a finger or thumb, and I am not going to get stung if I do it right. Of course, I probably never would have tried, or succeeded, at that stunt without martial arts training.

Nobody else called them yellowjackets. Some people called them 'wasps' which is acceptable and some called them 'bees' which is not.

Halloween costumes have changed from when I was a child. When I was young, lots of people still dressed up as ghosts or skeletons or monsters or other spooky things. Aside from the three adults dressed as mad scientists, I probably had the spookiest costume there. (Witches do not count as spooky anymore after Harry Potter.)  Every single child was dressed up as something heroic or pretty. The only remotely monster-ish one was the two-year-old girl her parents had dressed as a bee. Almost every boy, and several girls, was was a superhero. There were a couple Disney princesses, three cat girls, and a few other animals, but most of the girls were in costumes like musketeer or pirate or hero. There was a supergirl, two wonder women, and a spider-girl, and that was without any movies in recent times. If comic book companies have any sense they will start focusing more on female superheroes, for the merchandising opportunities if nothing else. 

The boy dressed as Thor had a foam Thor's hammer, but he soon discovered that a croquet mallet was a far superior weapon and started carrying that around.

Most of the adults were dressed as a kind of pop culture reference, most from shows that I had never even heard of. The winner of the adult costume contest was dressed as Romney's binder of women.

Friday, October 26, 2012

90-year-old Future Predictions

I always think it is fun to read predictions of the future made in the past. This is a good one:
It is full of good or interesting quotes:
"at any case within the next century sugar and starch will be about as cheap as sawdust"
"The biological invention then tends to begin as a perversion and end as a ritual supported by unquestioned beliefs and prejudices."
"for we are at present almost completely ignorant of biology, a fact which often escapes the notice of biologists"
"The conservative has but little to fear from the man whose reason is the servant of his passions, but let him beware of him in whom reason has become the greatest and most terrible of the passions."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Eat your Veggies

"Happiness and mental health rise in an approximately dose-response way with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables. The pattern is remarkably robust to adjustment for a large number of other demographic, social and economic variables. Well-being peaks at approximately 7 portions per day."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fixing the Economy

Late last Sunday night, my cousin asked me what should be done to fix the economy. I was too tired to answer the question then, and never got around to it the next day. So:
The best way to fix the economy would be to substantially increase high-skilled immigration.
There are no downsides to this policy. It is the closest thing you will ever find in Economics to free money for everyone. There are millions of people who want to come to our country to start companies, invent things, buy houses, raise families, and do scientific research.
The benefits would be both immediate and enduring. People moving in will start buying things, which will boost the economy and provide employment in the short run. It is a powerful fiscal stimulus that costs the government nothing. Then over the years, the things they create, improve, or invent will provide more economic growth, more jobs, and better products for everyone.
There is no economic debate about this. Every economist, no matter what their training, beliefs, and ideology, agrees. There is some evidence that low-skilled immigration lowers wages for low-skilled Americans, and therefore some opposition to that, but nobody opposes high-skilled immigration. Even low-skilled immigration is good for the economy overall.
Perversely enough, the fact that there is no argument means that the issue does not get the attention it deserves. It also makes it hard for me to write an interesting post about the issue. I cannot think of any serious arguments against high-skilled immigration, so there is really nothing to explain.