Friday, December 20, 2013

Five Things on a Friday: Anniversary Edition

Happy Friday everybody.  And hey!  It's almost Christmas!

1. US Economy Expands at 4.1 Percent Rate (ABC News.Com)
“The U.S. economy grew at a solid 4.1 percent annual rate from July through September, the fastest pace since late 2011 and significantly higher than previously believed. Much of the upward revision came from stronger consumer spending… primarily in the area of health care…

The third quarter rise in the gross domestic product… was the best performance since a 4.9 percent increase in the final three months of 2011.”

The article makes it looks like a temporary spike in output due to businesses adding inventory, presumably in advance of the Christmas season, along with increased spending on health care.  But is increased health care spending really a net positive for the economy?  I grant you that it’s a real adder to the size of GDP and a magnificent employer of people, but it strikes me as a drag on the overall standard of living of society.  Which is to say that health care spending requires time, energy, and resources without actually adding much that’s new in many cases.

Maybe I’m just jaundiced in my thinking about this by the memory of my mother lying in a hospital bed for the last six weeks of her life, a period that was both a misery for her and ruinously expensive for TriCare.  But.  In retrospect, those weeks don’t strike me as a positive for anyone, for all that they added materially to GDP.  If that’s the kind of thing that’s adding to GDP—and it well could be given our nation’s aging demographics—then it seems to me to be a poor metric for our economy’s overall health.

Still, the stock market is almost certainly going to take off today.  I suppose that a smarter guy than me would sell at around 4:00 pm this afternoon.

2. Doggerel Poetry
One of my goals in life has always been to avoid becoming the kind of writer who feels the need to put giant maps and doggerel verse into his fantasy writing.  Tolkien did both—well—but his example has inspired legions of less talented hacks to also have a go at it, and that has unfortunate in the extreme.

With that said, it’s not my process to let ideas go without at least writing them down and trying them out, so when this idea came to me this morning, I stopped what I was doing and wrote it down.  I don’t know that I’m necessarily going to use it, but anyway, here you go. 

On the island by the Bay lies Wanderhaven.
City of ships,
City of sail,
City of trade goods and greed,
Such is the life of Wanderhaven.

At the base of the cliffs lies Wanderhaven.
City of crowns,
City of coins,
City of beggars and urchins,
Such are the people of Wanderhaven.

The great, they say, is Wanderhaven.
City of pride,
City of war,
City of hope and hopelessness,
Such is the spirit of Wanderhaven.
 --From Julius Cato’s Song of the Great City

I’d love for somebody to tell me that this is bunk, so that I can throw it away without feeling bad about it.

3. Anniversary Weekend
This weekend marks Sally’s and my eleventh anniversary.  We got married eleven years ago Sunday and then drove up to Lake Placid, where we were promptly snowed in at a cabin in the woods.  Turned out that this was a delightful way to spend the holidays.

We’re supposed to have nicer weather this weekend, and in celebration, I think we might go running tomorrow in Central Park.  If we do, there may well be pictures.  Look for those.

This was taken in Hoboken back in 2003, about
six months after our honeymoon.

From today’s Wall Street Journal:
“Last month we told you about John Beale, the Environmental Protection Agency employee who bilked taxpayers out of almost $900,000 by pretending to be a secret agent. Telling EPA colleagues that he was a CIA operative, Beale was paid for long absences while on imaginary missions for ‘Langley.’ Now there is a disturbing new question about John Beale that goes to the heart of the EPA's mission. What was he doing when he actually showed up for work?

In September, Beale pleaded guilty to theft of government property and agreed to pay $886,186 in restitution and to forfeit another $507,207. On Wednesday he was sentenced to 32 months in federal prison.”

I saw this yesterday on the Daily Show and couldn’t wrap my mind around it at first.  Beale’s fraud was the most brazen, unbelievable thing I’d ever heard of.  I still cannot believe that he got away with it for more than a decade!

Anyway, if you’re jealous, Slate has you covered.  Unfortunately, their article’s not funny.  They’re serious about teaching you how to shirk your duty.

5.  Chuck Norris Responds
You saw the thing with VanDamme and the trucks, right?  Well, Chuck Norris has gone one better.


  1. I liked the Chuck Norris one better too.
    I didn't know about the 4.1 economy, so thanks for the update.
    Happy Anniversary! :D

  2. Thank you.

    Yeah, everything is better with Chuck Norris.