Saturday, November 18, 2017

But far more numerous was the herd of such

Absalom and Achitophel, 1681 by John Dryden.
But far more numerous was the herd of such,
Who think too little, and who talk too much.
Sounds like he was anticipating media pundits and social media posters.

Rockport Roofline, 2004 by T. Allen Lawson

Rockport Roofline, 2004 by T. Allen Lawson(American, b.1963,)

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Era of reduced expectations

From The New Yorker

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The battle of Poitiers was a referendum of looters versus soldiers

From Carnage and Culture by Victor Davis Hanson. Page 143.
For much of the seventh century the Muslims, with relatively small mounted forces, had swept aside a variety of weak enemies—the Sassanid Persians and overextended Byzantines in Asia, and Visigoths in North Africa and Spain. When Abd ar-Rahman crossed the Pyrenees, however, he encountered an entirely new force in the Franks. French scholars of the battle were largely correct when they pointed out that the Arabs had been successful against similarly nomadic interlopers like the Visigoths and Vandals, who had themselves migrated into North Africa and Spain, but hit a wall against the Frankish rustics who were indigenous to Europe. In their eyes, the battle of Poitiers was a referendum of looters versus soldiers “sédentarisés,” who stayed in one place, owned property, and considered battle more than a raid.

The Franks, descendants of the Germani described by Tacitus in the first century A.D., originally lived in what is now Holland and in eastern Germany around the lower Rhine. They seemed to have migrated in large numbers into nearby Gaul by the fifth century. Scholars do not agree on the origin of the word “Franks”; most associate it with either their famed throwing ax, the francisca, or the old Germanic word freh/frec, meaning “brave” or “wild.” In any case, under Clovis (A.D. 481–511) the Frankish tribes united in the old Roman province of Gaul in what came to be known as the Merovingian monarchy, named after the legendary Frankish chieftain Merovech (Merovaeus), grandfather of Clovis, who had fought against the Huns at Châlons (A.D. 451).

After Clovis’s death a series of dynastic wars among his offspring led to independent kingdoms: Burgundy to the southeast in the valleys of the upper Seine, Rhône, and Loire Rivers; Austrasia to the east across the Meuse, Moselle, and Rhine Rivers; and Neustria in the west along the large plains bordering the Atlantic coast. By 700 Gaul was a petty kingdom of warring states until the reign of Charles Martel; nevertheless, the Franks increasingly saw themselves more as a nation than a tribe, more in the classical than in the Germanic tradition. Indeed, the Merovingians sought to trace their Frankish ancestry not back to the dark forests of Germany, but to migrations of mythical Trojans after the conquest of Troy.

Charles Martel was not in direct line of succession to the Merovingian throne, but the bastard son of King Pippin. Despite the absence of a legal claim on the Frankish kingdom—Charles was mayor of the palace, equivalent to being a duke of the Austrasian Franks—he engaged in a lifelong effort to unite these kingdoms. His eventual victories provided the foundation of the much larger, stronger Carolingian dynasty, which under his grandson Charlemagne saw the reunification of central Europe. In eighteen years of uninterrupted civil war, from 714 to 732, Charles consolidated the old tripartite realm of Clovis and then quickly expanded his rule throughout Gaul. Almost every year of the reign of Charles until his death in 741 was spent in warring to unite Gaul or to rid Europe of Islam. In 734 he fought in Burgundy; the next year he furthered his consolidation of Aquitaine. The years 736–41 saw war once more in Burgundy, in Provence, and against the Saxons. This yearly fighting eventually allowed his son Pippin (751–680) to rule over a united Francia officially as the first Carolingian king. It is often forgotten in accounts of Poitiers that when Charles brought his infantrymen to the battlefield, they were hardened veterans from nearly twenty years of constant combat against a variety of Frankish, German, and Islamic enemies.

Hope, Faith, and Love by Friedrich Schiller

Hope, Faith, and Love
(c. 1786); also known as "The Words of Strength"
by Friedrich Schiller
translated in The Common School Journal Vol. IX (1847) edited by Horace Mann, p. 386

There are three lessons I would write, —
Three words — as with a burning pen,
In tracings of eternal light
Upon the hearts of men.

Have Hope. Though clouds environ now,
And gladness hides her face in scorn,
Put thou the shadow from thy brow, —
No night but hath its morn.

Have Faith. Where'er thy bark is driven, —
The calm's disport, the tempest's mirth, —
Know this: God rules the hosts of heaven,
The habitants of earth.

Have Love. Not love alone for one,
But men, as man, thy brothers call;
And scatter, like the circling sun,
Thy charities on all.

Thus grave these lessons on thy soul, —
Hope, Faith, and Love, — and thou shalt find
Strength when life's surges rudest roll,
Light when thou else wert blind.

Lightning is shockingly discriminatory

While reading an article, the author alluded to the statistical event as being less likely than being struck by lightning. It got me to thinking about this metaphor we use for something being both unlikely and random. How unlikely and how random? And if not random, why not?

Two documents provided the answers, Struck-by-Lightning Deaths by Nelson Adekoya and Kurt B. Nolte and A Detailed Analysis of Lightning Deaths in the United States from 2006 through 2016 John S. Jensenius, Jr.

It is kind of a fun exercise illustrating that disparities are not necessarily the product of intent, a fact so often ignored in sociology studies. There is a clear disparate impact related to lightning deaths. Taken at face value, lightning is horribly discriminatory overwhelmingly seeking out male victims and especially Hispanic males.

The facts are these:
There about 32 deaths from lightning strike per year.

July is the peak month for lightning strikes.

Hispanics death from lightning at about twice the rate sugested by their representation in the population. African-Americans, on the other hand, die from lightning at half the rate suggested by their population percentage.

Deaths due to lightning strikes - Whites (58%), Hispanics (32%), African Americans (7%), Other (3%).

Males account for 79% of all lightning strike deaths.
Obviously lightning is not discriminatory and it is not discriminating against men and Hispanics.

This serves only as an illustration that disparate results occur for a variety of reasons, usually contextual and independent of intent.

Lightning strike deaths are concentrated in outdoor work and leisure activities such as ranching, roofing, lawn care, construction, fishing, etc. which are heavily dominated by men. Lightning does not seek out male victims. Males simply are more frequently involved in the types of activities where there are lightning strikes.

Train Landscape, 1940 by Eric Ravilious

Train Landscape, 1940 by Eric Ravilious

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Reminds me of the train seats when I first lived in England in the 1960s. A hardwearing, scratchy type of cloth surface which retained smells, especially of smoke. Memorable. There were still antimacassars on many of these old train seats then. It was sensorily rich world.

T. Allen Lawson

Unknown title by T. Allen Lawson

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Social value of travel time saved is not significantly larger than the costs of traveling at inconvenient times

From The Welfare Effect of Road Congestion Pricing: Experimental Evidence and Equilibrium Implications by Gabriel E. Kreindler. Abstract:
The textbook policy response to traffic externalities is congestion pricing. However, quantifying the welfare consequences of pricing policies requires detailed knowledge of commuter preferences and of the road technology. I study the peak-hour traffic congestion equilibrium using rich travel behavior data and a field experiment grounded in theory. Using a newly developed smartphone app, I collected a panel data set with precise GPS coordinates for over 100,000 commuter trips in Bangalore, India. To identify the key preference parameters in my model – the value of time spent driving and schedule flexibility – I designed and implemented a randomized experiment with two realistic congestion charge policies. The policies penalize peak-hour departure times and driving through a small charged area, respectively. Structural estimates based on the experiment show that commuters exhibit moderate schedule flexibility and high value of time. In a separate analysis of the road technology, I find a moderate and linear effect of traffic volume on travel time. I combine the preference parameters and road technology using policy simulations of the equilibrium optimal congestion charge, which reveal notable travel time benefits, yet negligible welfare gains. Intuitively, the social value of the travel time saved by removing commuters from the peak-hour is not significantly larger than the costs to those commuters of traveling at different, inconvenient times.
As Kreindler indicates, congestion pricing is a standard to over-crowded roads and is entirely compatible with standard economic theory. But as I frequently point out, the world is rife with attractive theoretical solutions that do not deliver in the real world.

There are plenty of methodological concerns about Kreindler's approach so I do not see his evidence as overturning the standard solution but it does raise a warning flag warranting more investigation. Perhaps the standard solution is not so ideal after all.

Amazing Grace by Peter Hollens

Amazing Grace with Peter Hollens and Home Free

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