Saturday, November 30, 2019

Best of the Bee

Scott Adams says

Click for the thread.

Keep your eye on the prize and don't get distracted by postmodernist baubles

From Investors Penalize Companies for Adding Women to Their Boards by Jeff Green. Interesting data though I think this is light on the analysis.
Many of the biggest companies have wholeheartedly embraced the theory that more diversity means more profits. Investors may be less convinced—at least when it comes to adding women to boards.

An analysis of 14 years of market returns across about 1,889 companies finds that when they appointed female directors, they experienced two years of stock declines. The market value of a given company fell 2.3% by adding one additional woman. The research was published in the Informs journal Organization Science.

Shareholders penalize these companies, despite the fact that increased gender diversity doesn’t have a material effect on a company’s return on assets, said Kaisa Snellman, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD business school and a co-author of the study.

“Nothing happens to the actual value of the companies,” she said. “It’s just the perceptions that change.”

A portion of the study conducted by Snellman and her co-author from INSEAD suggests investor biases are at play. The researchers asked senior managers with MBAs to read fictional press releases announcing new board members. The statements were identical, except for the gender of the incoming director. Participants rated those hiring men as more likely to care about profits and less about social values and those hiring women as “softer,” Snellman said.
In effect, most diversity issues are simply efforts to resurrect the long rejected idea of affirmative action. It is also predicated on bigoted beliefs and false ideologies.

People asserting that greater diversity in terms of bean counting for sex and race are the bigots. Without evidence, they are presuming into existence the assumption that any variance in demographic representation must solely be due to prejudice. In other words, the diversity crowd are making assumptions without evidence about other people whose traits of sex and color they abhor.

Paint-by-the-numbers diversity is pretty bankrupt and I am unsurprised that they are finding no correlation between board diversity and business results.

What would be really interesting to see is an analysis driven by experience and knowledge rather than by reverse racism and sexism.

An alternate view, which I hold, is that diversity does matter to any system but that has to be thoughtful diversity. Every dynamic system gains tactical efficiency by standardization and gains strategic effectiveness by diversity.

If you have an entirely uniform and consistent system in the near term, you gain enormous efficiency but your system becomes fragile. It cannot evolve because no deviance is allowed. That fragility will tell as exogenous circumstances change and the system fails to evolve. At some point not only is efficiency lost but very survival comes into play.

You do need diversity. But on the other hand, you also need some modicum of standardization for efficiency. An incredibly diverse system might roll with the punches and readily evolve with changing exogenous conditions but it lacks the capacity to gain a competitive edge through efficiency. It is too amorphous.

You need diversity. You need standardization. And the optimum balance between the two is always shifting.

So what makes an effective Board? In one respect, it is diversity of experience and expertise. You need a broad range of informed perspectives. People from multiple processes (SCM, HR, Manufacturing, etc.), from multiple industries, even from multiple markets or geographies. The only requirement is that they be accomplished at the highest levels in their respective fields.

That sort of diverse board can balance the highest attainable efficiency through standardization with the highest level of diversity of views about risks and trade-offs. And this is exactly what some companies seek to do.

For most companies undertaking diversity initiatives, it is usually much more crude, and much less effective. They are counting skin colors and sex traits, not focusing on achievement or viewpoint diversity. They put people from HR on the board, or from academia, or some two-bit retired politician.

These people usually add cost and little advantage. Skin color and sex traits just aren't that important.

Most of the diversity advocates have always struck me as essentially affirmative action for aspirational non-entities. They can't earn a place at the table through accomplishment so instead they try to use coercion.
“If anyone is biased, it is the market,” she said. In fact, Snellman said investors should consider organizations that add women and other under-represented groups to their boards “because there's a good chance that company is being undervalued.”
Well, maybe. But maybe not.

My guess is that if you were to categorize board appointments of the set-asides for race and gender by their actual likely contribution you would actually find some interesting differences. Where the add is a person who has clearly demonstrated accomplishments in fields near or adjacent to the needs and interests of the firms to which they are being appointed, I would wager you will see an increase in market valuation.

I think what is actually happening is not a biased market but a wary market. If most board diversity adds are perceived as non-value adding, not because of race and gender but because of perceived irrelevance, then of course there is likely some potential decline in market valuation. Space is being taken up at the board without contribution.

There is probably also a second-order effect. What are the companies most likely to indulge these sorts of advocacy campaigns? Those which are most able to afford it. Companies which are early in their growth cycle, companies with a natural or regulated monopoly, companies with proprietary IP which protects them from commodity competition.

My suspicion is that board appointments for explicit diversity objectives is a signal to the market that this is a company no longer focused on the fundamentals. Not only are they taking their eye off the ball but, by diluting the talent pool, they are signaling that they companies which are going, in the future, to be less able to respond to shifts in market balance or competitive position.

I would expect to see a company which adds a female Phd in Psychology from a prestigious university to their board to see a market erosion in value whereas if it adds a woman who just retired from the most senior levels of a comparable company in another country, it will see its valuation rise.

It is not race and gender bias, it is accomplishment bias. That is what I would anticipate the data showing. But that is not what they were looking for. Easier to blame prejudice.
Looking at financial performance, rather than market value, many studies conclude that increasing representation results in neither significant benefit nor harm. Snellman counted 140 papers that show no clear relationship between adding diversity at any level with improving performance metrics of any kind.

“Just to be very clear, I'm not saying that we should not promote female leaders into senior leader positions,” Snellman said. “But is there a business case for gender diversity on boards? If you ask an academic, the answer is no.”
So board diversity has little or no correlation with actual financial performance but diversity appointments to the board do cost the company in valuation for as much as two years.

That fits my hypothesis that there is little or no race or gender bias but plenty of precautionary bias against compaanies being deemed to be focusing on non-financial performance variables.

Journalists really don't understand De gustibus non est disputandum

It's just fascinating to see mainstream journalists and their unconscious bias. These are supposed to be people gifted with words and they can't see how they are mistreating the language.

Yesterday there is a knife attack on London Bridge in which two were killed and the attacker then subdued by members of the public. This is from the New York Times' account by Mark Landler and Megan Specia. Deep into the article, Landler and Specia report.
London has long experience of terrorist attacks, and its residents pride themselves on keeping their cool. On Friday evening, pubs across the city filled up with their usual after-work crowds. But the attack left the city uneasy because so many details about the assailant remain unknown.

It also came only days before President Trump and other leaders are scheduled to visit the city for a NATO summit meeting. On Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth II plans to hold a reception marking the alliance’s 70th anniversary at Buckingham Palace.

After the 2017 attack, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. Khan for what the president falsely claimed was the mayor’s lackadaisical response.
It is that last line which leaps out as sheer partisan or ideological propaganda. The idiocy is startlingly transparent. You cannot characterize an opinion as being true or false. It is an opinion. Were journalist even marginally educated, they would be familiar with the classical adage De gustibus non est disputandum.
De gustibus non est disputandum, or de gustibus non disputandum est, is a Latin maxim meaning "In matters of taste, there can be no disputes" (literally "about tastes, it should not be disputed/discussed"). The phrase is commonly rendered in English as "There is no accounting for taste(s)." The implication is that everyone's personal preferences are merely subjective opinions that cannot be right or wrong, so they should never be argued about as if they were. Sometimes the phrase is expanded as De gustibus et coloribus... referring to tastes and colors. The original quotation is an ancient Latin adage, i.e. Roman, and discussed by many philosophers and economists.
In other words, Trump expressed the opinion that London's Mayor's response was lackadaisical. The journalists may disagree with the President's opinion. But they cannot report his opinion as false. Unfounded, disputed, unsupported - all are adequate adjectives to express the journalist's counter-opinion that the President was unjustified in his opinion. But they cannot claim his opinion was false. They have committed a category error as opinions are not subject to verifiability.

"That looks beautiful on you" is neither true nor false, but is an opinion.

"The Mayor's response was lackadaisical" is neither true nor false but is an opinion. Depending on what one considers to be an adequate response, the reporters can demonstrate that there is a greater or lesser likelihood that the opinion is well supported, but they cannot claim it to be either true or false.

Given that terroristic car and knife attacks continue to occur every few months in London, was Khan's response lackadaisical to the 2017 attack? Lots of opinions, but Specia and Landler cannot journalistically declare any of them true or false.

They are simply expressing their political partisan repugnance of Trump. They are not reporting. They are not respecting the language.

To. W. P. by George Santayana

To. W. P.
by George Santayana


Calm was the sea to which your course you kept,
Oh, how much calmer than all southern seas!
Many your nameless mates, whom the keen breeze
Wafted from mothers that of old have wept.
All souls of children taken as they slept
Are your companions, partners of your ease,
And the green souls of all these autumn trees
Are with you through the silent spaces swept.
Your virgin body gave its gentle breath
Untainted to the gods. Why should we grieve,
But that we merit not your holy death?
We shall not loiter long, your friends and I;
Living you made it goodlier to live,
Dead you will make it easier to die.


With you a part of me hath passed away;
For in the peopled forest of my mind
A tree made leafless by this wintry wind
Shall never don again its green array.
Chapel and fireside, country road and bay,
Have something of their friendliness resigned;
Another, if I would, I could not find,
And I am grown much older in a day.
But yet I treasure in my memory
Your gift of charity, your mellow ease,
And the dear honour of your amity;
For these once mine, my life is rich with these.
And I scarce know which part may greater be,—
What I keep of you, or you rob of me.


Your bark lies anchored in the peaceful bight
Until a kinder wind unfurl her sail;
Your docile spirit, wingèd by this gale,
Hath at the dawning fled into the light.
And I half know why heaven deemed it right
Your youth, and this my joy in youth, should fail;
God hath them still, for ever they avail,
Eternity hath borrowed that delight.
For long ago I taught my thoughts to run
Where all the great things live that lived of yore,
And in eternal quiet float and soar;
There all my loves are gathered into one,
Where change is not, nor parting any more,
Nor revolution of the moon and sun.


In my deep heart these chimes would still have rung
To toll your passing, had you not been dead;
For time a sadder mask than death may spread
Over the face that ever should be young.
The bough that falls with all its trophies hung
Falls not too soon, but lays its flower-crowned head
Most royal in the dust, with no leaf shed
Unhallowed or unchiselled or unsung.
And though the after world will never hear
The happy name of one so gently true,
Nor chronicles write large this fatal year,
Yet we who loved you, though we be but few,
Keep you in whatsoe’er is good, and rear
In our weak virtues monuments to you.

A pack, not a herd.

Just your average three person man-in-the-street Londoner dealing with a knife-wielding terrorist on London Bridge by subduing him with 1) bare fists, 2) narwhal tusk, and 3) fire-extinguisher. Eventually the police arrived and shot the terrorist. That sequence is not yet clear. As opposed to this dance of civilized man and barabarian.

Double click to enlarge.

Reminds me a little of that incident in August back in 2012.
This happened the other day at a Best Buy store in Augusta Georgia. A shoplifter tried to make off with a lap-top computer... keyword... "TRIED".

Tyrone Jackson of Augusta became irate with staff at the store while being confronted after his attempt to steal the computer was caught on surveillance video. He pulled a knife on the employees and made a run for the door, where he met a group of four United States Marines collecting for "Toys for Tots".

The Marines stopped the thief, but not before he stabbed one of them in the back. Cpl. Phillip Duggan's injury was not life threatening. The police and an ambulance showed up and Cpl. Duggan was transported to a local hospital for treatment.

The shoplifter was also transported to a local hospital with two broken arms, a broken ankle, a broken leg, multiple missing teeth, a broken nose, broken ribs, multiple contusions assorted lacerations, and a broken jaw... injuries he received when he fell off the sidewalk after stabbing the Marine, according to the police report.
Mighty steep sidewalks there in Augusta.

Off Beat Humor

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The Library, 1915 by Félix Vallotton

The Library, 1915 by Félix Vallotton

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En hjemkomst (Amerikadamperen ved Larsen Plads), 1898 by Edvard Petersen (1841–1911)

En hjemkomst (Amerikadamperen ved Larsen Plads), 1898 by Edvard Petersen (1841–1911)

Click to enlarge.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Best of the Bee

The cost can be justified only if teacher and pupil are of top intellectual caliber.

From These Ruins Are Inhabited by Muriel Beade. In 1957, George Beadle was a visiting professor at Oxford University. On winning a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1958, he and Muriel spent additional time exploring England. This is an account of that time when an older, more traditional England was disappearing.
Modern undergraduates come to the university ready to concentrate in one narrow field of scholarship. The liberal-arts bias that encourages American college students to sample widely of varied course offerings does not exist at Oxford; the program there is more similar to that of the graduate schools at American universities. Oxford has fourteen areas of specialty, of which the most demanding and the most honored is Ancient Philosophy and History, a course known simply as "Greats."

Whereas the American student "majors" in a subject, the Oxford undergraduate "reads" it. Literally. His work is directed from his college by one or two tutors who are experts in his chosen field. For three or four years, in weekly private session, he presents an essay based on his reading, hears his mentor discuss and criticize it, may be forced to defend it, is finally sent on his way with a new reading assignment and a new essay topic. That's all there is to the academic side of an Oxford education: Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other. It's the best possible method of teaching, and also the most expensive. The cost can be justified only if teacher and pupil are of top intellectual caliber.
That final sentence is suggestive.

It is common to ascribe the rise in cost of a university education to the explosion of administrative costs, costs in trun enabled through the explosion of student borrowing. And I think that description is largely right.

But there is another element suggested by Muriel Beadle's comment.

Not only has the cost of university education exploded, but so has the availability. In 1957, perhaps only 5 or 10% of the American population had a university degree and we were among the most educated countries in the world. Everywhere else, the comparable number would have been 1-3%.

Today, the number is closer to 30% of the population with a university degree. The mathematical certainty is that the more people receiving degrees, the more diluted the average talent base of those with a university degree. The necessary corollary is the more expensive it is to educate those with lesser abilities.

American university education has always been more industrial than the tutor system in England, particularly at the undergraduate level, larger lecture halls, less of individual time between the professor and the student. With the explosion of numbers and the necessary reduction in student talent, the more expensive it becomes to educate them.

It forces you away from the expensive tutorial system and towards the much more efficient system of large lecture halls, graduate student teaching assistants, more virtual education, and more student to student tutorials.

To get a similar experience of learning from the masters today as was experienced by the average Oxbridge undergraduate in 1950, you would have, as Beadle indicates, to go all the way for a PhD.

He may have poisoned him as well, since the old man died suspiciously soon afterwards.

From The Middle Sea by John Julius Norwich. Chapter 14.

A testament to the continuing complexity and violence of the mideast. From five hundred years ago and it is not a far description of today's headlines.
In 1512 Bayezit’s son Selim rebelled against his father and forced him to abdicate in his favour. (He may have poisoned him as well, since the old man died suspiciously soon afterwards.) Selim I, as he now became, was always known as Yavuz, ‘the Grim’. His first act as Sultan was to eliminate, as potential rivals to the throne, his two brothers and five orphan nephews–the youngest of whom was five years old–by having them strangled with a bowstring; he is said to have listened with satisfaction to their screams from an adjoining room. He then turned his attention to the east, directing his formidable energies against Ismail I, the founder of the Safavid dynasty in Iran, massacring some 40,000 and incorporating various Kurdish and Turkoman principalities in eastern Anatolia into his empire. His next objective was Syria, still in the hands of the Mamelukes. Aleppo, Damascus, Beirut and Jerusalem fell in quick succession, and on 24 August 1516, at the battle of Marj Dabik, he effectively destroyed the Mameluke dynasty; its penultimate sultan, al-Ghawri, died on the field. In Egypt al-Ghawri’s nephew Tuman Bey proclaimed himself Sultan and refused to submit, whereupon Selim marched his army across the Sinai desert and after one more particularly bloody encounter–at Raydaniye, near the Pyramids, in January 1517–captured him and had him hanged at the gates of Cairo. Six months later the Sherif of Mecca made voluntary submission in his turn, sending Selim the standard and cloak of the Prophet and the keys of the Holy Cities. At last, with Egypt, Syria and the Hejaz all acknowledging him as their sovereign, the Sultan returned in triumph to the Bosphorus. His empire was not only increased; it was transformed. Possession of Mecca and Medina made it an Islamic Caliphate; henceforth the Ottoman Sultans were to consider themselves protectors of the Muslim world.

Her Uncle was a Vietnam veteran who once worked as a roughneck in rattlesnake-infested oil fields

From The Secret Benefits of Retelling Family Stories by Sue Shellenbarger. I agree with her argument but it is one of those highly plausible truths which is also very difficult to "prove." I choose to believe that intergenerational story-telling is a very effective cultural and personal mechanism for underpinning continuity and success.
The best holiday stories are funny or entertaining and often convey life lessons, says Robyn Fivush, a psychology professor and director of Emory University’s Institute for Liberal Arts. “They have a very important function in teaching children, ‘I belong here. I’m part of these stories.’ They provide not just a script for life, but a set of values and guideposts,” she says.

Hannah Rose Blakeley, 26 years old, says listening to stories about her late uncle led her to appreciate her family’s resourcefulness in the face of adversity. A Vietnam veteran who once worked as a roughneck in rattlesnake-infested oil fields, her uncle donned thick leather work boots, wrapped them in burlap, tromped through the grass and captured any rattlers that thrust their fangs into his protective gear. Then he sold them to laboratories, where their venom was harvested for medicine.

“Family stories were important in forming my idea of the character of the family,” says Ms. Blakeley, a doctoral candidate at Princeton University.

More than 90% of teenagers and young adults can retell family stories when asked, even if they seemed uninterested when the stories were told, according to a 2018 study of 66 families with teenage children and 194 college students led by Natalie Merrill, a postdoctoral researcher at Emory. And the youngsters valued the stories for their lessons and insights.

Family stories told face-to-face have advantages over social media. Rather than the story fragments and fixed images displayed on most apps, children’s interpretations of family stories can evolve and take on new meaning as they mature.

Of Horses and Men in The Rain by Carl Sandburg

Of Horses and Men in The Rain
by Carl Sandburg

Let us sit by a hissing steam radiator a winter’s day, gray wind pattering frozen raindrops on the window,
And let us talk about milk wagon drivers and grocery delivery boys.

Let us keep our feet in wool slippers and mix hot punches—and talk about mail carriers and messenger boys slipping along the icy sidewalks.
Let us write of olden, golden days and hunters of the Holy Grail and men called “knights” riding horses in the rain, in the cold frozen rain for ladies they loved.

A roustabout hunched on a coal wagon goes by, icicles drip on his hat rim, sheets of ice wrapping the hunks of coal, the caravanserai a gray blur in slant of rain.
Let us nudge the steam radiator with our wool slippers and write poems of Launcelot, the hero, and Roland, the hero, and all the olden golden men who rode horses in the rain.

Off Beat Humor

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Pink Flamingos by Henri-Robert Brésil

Pink Flamingos by Henri-Robert Brésil

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Thursday, November 28, 2019

Best of the Bee

Psychology is notorious for having little statistically detectable relationship between its own research and reality

Kind of interesting but the sample is unrepresentative. From I'm Morally Good Enough Already, Thanks! by Eric Schwitzgebel.
In a fascinating new paper (forthcoming in Psychological Science), Jessie Sun and Geoffrey Goodwin asked undergraduate students in psychology to rate themselves on several moral and non-moral dimensions, and they asked those same students to nominate "informants" who knew them well to rate them along the same dimensions. Non-moral traits included, for example, energy level ("being full of energy") and intellectual curiosity ("being curious about many different things"). Moral traits included specific traits such as fairness ("being a fair person") but also included self-ratings of overall morality ("being a person of strong moral character" and "acting morally"). They then asked both the target participants and their informants to express the extent to which they aimed to change these facts about themselves (e.g., "I want to be helpful and unselfish with others..." or "I want [target's name] to be helpful and unselfish with others...") from -2 ("much less than I currently am") to +2 ("much more than I currently am").


To me, perhaps their most striking result -- though not Sun's and Goodwin's own point of emphasis -- is the almost non-existent correlation between self-ratings of general morality and informant ratings of general morality. Neither of their two samples of about 300-600 participants per group showed a statistically detectable relationship (there was a weak positive trend: r = .15 & .10, n.s). Self-ratings of some specific moral traits -- honesty, fairness, and loyalty -- also showed at best weak correlations with spotty statistical significance (r = 0 to .3, none significant in both samples). However, other specific moral traits showed better correlations (purity, compassion, and responsibility, r = .2 to .5 in both samples).

In other words, Sun and Goodwin find basically no statistically detectable relationship between how morally good you say you are, and how honest and fair and loyal you say you are, and what your closest friends and family say about you.
The piece is worth reading as a whole.

I suspect that this does not tell us as much as it appears to do.

Undergraduate students will unlikely have yet been independent, socially and economically productive, and/or yet had to make hard trade-off decisions, or make consequential decisions with uncertain information - all the marks of the mature adult. If they haven't been tested, and can't have been tested, perhaps it is little wonder that the correspondence between self-assessment and observers is so low.

The selves have little frame of experience to gauge their own assessment and the observes also lack any shared frame of objective or experiential reference.

But given all that, it is still kind of startling that there is:
No statistically detectable relationship between how morally good you say you are, and how honest and fair and loyal you say you are, and what your closest friends and family say about you.
Of course, the problem might be that they are psychology students rather than that they are young. Psychology is notorious for having little statistically detectable relationship between its own research and reality.

The First Thanksgiving by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

The First Thanksgiving by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

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Have You Ever Seen the Rain by Creedence Clearwater Revival

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Have You Ever Seen the Rain
by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Someone told me long ago
There's a calm before the storm
I know it's been comin' for some time
When it's over so they say
It'll rain a sunny day
I know shinin' down like water

I want to know
Have you ever seen the rain?
I want to know
Have you ever seen the rain
Comin' down on a sunny day?

Yesterday and days before
Sun is cold and rain is hard
I know been that way for all my time
'Til forever, on it goes
Through the circle, fast and slow,
I know it can't stop, I wonder

I want to know
Have you ever seen the rain?
I want to know
Have you ever seen the rain
Comin' down on a sunny day?


I want to know
Have you ever seen the rain?
I want to know
Have you ever seen the rain
Comin' down on a sunny day?

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802 by William Wordsworth

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
by William Wordsworth

Earth has not any thing to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

A print of Westminster Bridge in 1808.

Click to enlarge.

Off Beat Humor

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Off Beat Humor

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By R. Kenton Nelson

By R. Kenton Nelson

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Best of the Bee

Members of older cohorts were wealthier at younger ages in the past than is the case for current cohorts.

Hmm. From a couple of days ago.

Click for the responses.

I don't know if the data is correct, but for debate purposes happy to stipulate that it is.

Theoretically, if each generation is demographically identical (particularly in marriage and fertility choices) and each generation is facing virtually identical economic forces, one would expect each generation cohort at the same age should be owning a comparable amount of societal wealth. Clearly there has been a falling off from each generational cohort since the Boomers.

Alex Tabbarok at Marginal Revolution linked to the tweet in Wealth by Generation and Age.

The responders to Andersen's original tweet are a smorgasbord of Rorschach tests. Everyone is seeing what their priors dictate they should see.

The Marginal Revolution commenters are a shrewder and more intelligent bunch and their responses are less dogmatic and more puzzled, more open to suggestions.

Some ideas which leap to immediate mind for me:
The Boomer generation is about 20% longer in years than the next two, 18 years versus 15 tears. That will skew things anyway.

Cohort life expectancies have been rising. If you are a Boomer born in 1950, you could expect to live to be 68. You would expect you parents born circa 1925 to live till they were 58. If you are a Generation X born in 1970, you expect to live to be 71. If you are Millennial born in 1990, you expect to live to be 75. The longer lived each generational cohort's parent cohort, presumably there is less wealth to be inherited (the next generation waits longer for them to die and more of the parent's accumulated capital is expended in that longer life) and therefore less subsequent cohort wealth accumulation.

Shift in income/wealth balance. For the entirety of the post-WWII period, there has been a shift in balance of household income from labor to capital. The implication is that earlier cohorts might have had greater opportunity to accumulate wealth via labor than later cohorts. This is an intergenerational inequality issue.

It is possible that for the asset owning members in the older cohorts, that their assets accumulated value (interest/inflation) at a higher rate than is true for current cohorts. In a world of negative interest rates, the structure of capital and interest might be disadvantageous today in a fashion deleterious to the current generations.

We know that post-WWII there has been a mass migration out of the traditional middle-class into the top two quintiles of income and wealth. Heritable wealth is perhaps segregating in a skewed fashion such that later cohorts are demonstrating a statistical skew.

It is possible that some of the apparent impact is due to changed attitudes towards household debt. My impression is that all quintiles are carrying much higher burdens of household debt than earlier generations. If that is the case, then it would retard net wealth accumulation of later cohorts. Basically the younger generations are bringing forward consumption in a fashion different from the past.

I suspect work diligence expectations might have been much higher in the past, yielding more rapid wealth accumulation earlier in life. We know that labor force participation rate is down materially over the past two or three cohorts. We have less good data on work intensity. However, I would wager that there was a higher percentage of Boomers at any given age who were working intensely (say greater than 50 hours a week) than today. If so, that would translate into more rapid wealth accumulation earlier in life among earlier cohorts.

Almost certainly the biggest driver would be in demographic changes in terms of career start and family formation starts between earlier and later cohorts. Among boomers, perhaps only 15% expected to achieve a college degree whereas today it is perhaps 35%. Pursuit of a college degree takes you out of the labor force longer, retarding your wealth accumulation. So age by age in the different cohorts, your wealth accumulation is going to push back later. Similarly, wealth accumulation begins to kick in with marriage and then children. Become more financially responsible as they accumulate familial responsibilities. Percentage ever married is lower in later cohorts and average age of first marriage is higher. Same with birth of children.

A higher percentage of more recent cohorts are pursuing more education and more degrees than in the past which should translate into higher future incomes, enabling greater savings. However, the degree premium has been eroding, more people attempt higher education but do not complete (incurring the costs but not gaining the benefits), and more are funding the cost of higher education through debt - all of which likely sharply erode the capacity to accumulate wealth.

Finally, I assume that the average propensity to save was higher in older cohorts and that later cohorts have a corresponding higher propensity to consume.
If Andersen's data is accurate, then the reasons for the variance in wealth accumulation between age cohorts has multiple root causes, some of them self-correcting. For example, we are probably topping out the long run we have had in age improvement.

Unstated in Andersen's tweet are the policy implications of these root causes. If cohort wealth accumulations vary because of random luck events at the cohort level, it possibly bolsters the case for estate and or wealth taxes.

If, instead, and what I suspect is more likely the case, cohort wealth accumulation varies owing to personal choices (when to marry, when to have children, propensity to save, propensity to consume, how much to invest in education, tolerance of debt, etc.) then the wealth variances between cohorts is a simple function of superior behavioral practices among the older cohorts, then the case for estate and wealth taxes evaporates. Younger cohorts need to adjust their behaviors and then they too will have high wealth accumulation rates.

Regardless of what the answers turn out to be, it is an interesting observation and implied question.

How wrong can you be? Let me count the ways.

Robert Reich used to be an interesting commenter or essayists though with a profoundly wrong worldview. He struck me as a good person with bad analysis. He seems to have been slipping, or my tolerance has been declining.

The obviousness of how factually wrong is this argument is astonishing. I can see how you might wish it to be true but I do not see how anyone can make the case empirically.

Click for the refutations.

Off the top of my head:
1) Profiting from a monopoly - This is the second closest in the list to being a true statement but it simply isn't very true. Corporations can and do become wealthy through regulatory manipulation and state-sanctioned monopolies, but rarely do the private or big personal fortunes occur through this mechanism. Or not in the normal meaning. The big tech fortunes do accumulate wealth through the artificial monopoly of patents and brand creation but no one is recommending we get rid of patents. Reform them, certainly, but not get rid of them. Patents create a large incentive for innovation. There are very few natural monopolies though. Those that are sustained are almost always due to a statist regulatory system and are a net drag on productivity. The reality of state created artificial monopolies is one of the bigger arguments for limiting state power. Kind of counter to Reich's inclinations.

2) Insider-trading - A few millionaires perhaps but rarely if ever billionaires. Vanishingly infrequent at scale.

3) Political payoffs - See the regulatory state and imposed monopolies in item one. Imposed monopolies sometimes created through lobbying/payoffs. But very few personal fortunes in the billions through political payoffs. Again, the most obvious examples, such as Gore and Clinton, are exactly the players closest to Reich.

4) Fraud - Not any of the big fortunes. Small ones, sure. Can't think of one big personal fortune which was created via sustained fraud. The closest we come are some of the fortunes in finance which are created by skirting the edges of the regulatory system rather than blatant fraud. But again, these are fortunes measured in the tens or hundreds of millions, not in the billions. Did Michael Milliken commit fraud? Probably, but most of the controversy was more about how close he sailed to the legal winds rather than actual fraud per se.

5) Inheritance - This is the argument which is most defendable but still not very accurate. My recollection is that only about 20% or so of the Fortune 400 are on there from inheritance (either from parent or from spouse).
How can such a prominent person publish such demonstrable nonsense?

It is a puzzle.

The Mandarin Class in all its glory

As the volume of real news declines, the fascination with the noisy news rises. From Texas Democrat Caught Carrying Envelope of Cocaine by Elizabeth Matamoros.
Texas Democratic state representative Alfonso "Poncho" Nevárez was caught on video surveillance dropping an envelope containing cocaine at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

The Texas Department of Public Safety filed an affidavit on Oct. 29 detailing surveillance footage that revealed Nevárez "dropping a white paper object" as he walked out of the airport on Sept. 6. Two Texas Department of Transportation employees found the white envelope, prompting an investigation.

Inside the sealed envelope were four "small clear plastic baggies" containing cocaine.

Nevárez, who is chairman of the state house Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee, told the Texas Tribune on Thursday "the news is true."

Nevárez used an envelope with official state letterhead to carry his drugs.

"I observed the white envelope had a letterhead that was from the ‘Office of the State of Texas House of Representatives Member Poncho Nevarez,'" Special Agent Otto Cabrera wrote in the affidavit.
A state representative, chairman of the state house Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee, is walking around with his drug supply in an envelope with his official state letterhead.

So many ways to choose to be outraged and/or astonished.

Prelude by Richard Watson Gilder

Prelude by Richard Watson Gilder

The night was dark, tho' sometimes a faint star
A little while a little space made bright.
Dark was the night and like an iron bar
Lay heavy on the land—till o'er the sea
Slowly, within the East, there grew a light
Which half was starlight, and half seemed to be
The herald of a greater. The pale white
Turned slowly to pale rose, and up the hight
Of heaven slowly climbed. The gray sea grew
Rose-colored like the sky. A white gull flew
Straight toward the utmost boundary of the East
Where slowly the rose gathered and increased.
There was light now, where all was black before:
It was as on the opening of a door
By one who in his hand a lamp doth hold
(Its flame being hidden by the garment's fold),—
The still air moves, the wide room is less dim.
⁠More bright the East became, the ocean turned
Dark and more dark against the brightening sky—
Sharper against the sky the long sea line.
The hollows of the breakers on the shore
Were green like leaves whereon no sun doth shine,
Tho' sunlight make the outer branches hoar.
From rose to red the level heaven burned;
Then sudden, as if a sword fell from on high,
A blade of gold flashed on the ocean's rim.

Come Sail Away by Styx

Double click to enlarge.

Come Sail Away
by Styx

I'm sailing away set an open course for the virgin sea
I've got to be free free to face the life that's ahead of me
On board I'm the captain so climb aboard
We'll search for tomorrow on every shore
And I'll try oh Lord I'll try to carry on

I look to the sea reflections in the waves spark my memory
Some happy some sad
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had
We live happily forever so the story goes
But somehow we missed out on that pot of gold
But we'll try best that we can to carry on

A gathering of angels appeared above my head
They sang to me this song of hope and this is what they said
They said come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me

I thought that they were angels but to my surprise
They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies
Singing, come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me

London Underground, 1952 by Bert Hardy

London Underground, 1952 by Bert Hardy

Click to enlarge.

I remember the smell and feel of those old hard crush velvet seats.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Best of the Bee

The Lonely Trout

The Lonely Trout from the play, What About Dick? by Eric Idle.

In the grand English music hall tradition. So many double entendres and nonsense.

Double click to enlarge.

The Lonely Trout
By Eric Idle,

HUDSON So you see Inspector, it is Helena’s piano.
INSPECTOR How very touching. It reminds me of a wee ballad from my childhood called The Lonely Trout
WHOOPSIE Is he going to tell an anecdote?
MAGGIE Worse, I think he’s going to sing.
INSPECTOR Give me a C Chord Miss Schlegel.
WHOOPSIE Oh good grief. Is there to be no end?
MAGGIE No but there might be an intermission shortly.

Song The Lonely Trout


From the heelan hills and rills o bonnie Scotland
Fra the bogs and fogs and soggy lochs and braes
From the moontin tops where lonely jocks drink whiskey
To the dingy pond wherein the lone trout plays.
There was once a laddie wandered wi his lassie
When she told him that her love for him was dead.
As she left this lonely boy
Who’d now lost his only joy
The trout raised his head and this is what he said:

O rum ti tumti
Tickle yer monkey
Tickle di didle doo
Rumpy pumpy
Humpty dumpty
Tickle yer tivey too
Oh hankie pankie
Winkie wankie
Diddle de didle doo
Rinky dinky
Tiddley winky
Nicky nacky noo
the noo the noo the noo the noo the noo

O muckety buckety
Shmackety crackety
Sings the lonely trout
Tiggly wiggly
Higgly piggly
What is life about?
Mickety pickety
Wickety lickety
She was just a slut
Find yourself another lass
A nicer piece of butt.

Two Dancing Trout girls enter as the Words are lowered and the Audience sing along.

Oh packety wackety
Nickety nackety
Sings the lonely trout
Splickety wickety
Pickety nickety
What is life about?
Shackety mackety
Thwackety crackety
She was just a slut
Find yourself another lass
A nicer piece of butt.

No. You're not going to take my ship.

Antoine Vanner is author of a series of 19th century naval books in the vein of Forester or O'Brian. In his research for his series, he comes across the most amazing stories which he captures in short essays.

One such is the remarkable tale of An Unequal Duel: Trader vs. Privateer 1744 by Antoine Vanner. The British merchant vessel Wrightson and Isabella had an eight person crew four carriage guns and two swivel guns. She was attacked by the French privateer, Marquis de Brancas with a 75 man crew, ten carriage guns and eight swivels. Basically the Isabella faced odds of 5 or 12 to one based on headcount or armament. It was attacked by the privateer, fought, and eventually entirely destroyed the superior enemy. A fantastic story.
The story of war against maritime trade in the Age of Fighting Sail is usually told, whether in fact or in fiction, from the viewpoint of the naval commerce-raider intent on prize-money. One finds few accounts which view these contests from the side of the victims. I was therefore fascinated by stumbling recently on an account of a furious battle between a civilian trader – armed, as was essential at the time – and a French privateer in 1744, during the War of Austrian Succession.

The Wrightson and Isabella of Sunderland was a merchant ship engaged in trade across the North Sea and commanded by a Captain Richard Avery Hornsby (1699-1751). No details are available of this vessel but given the fact that she was manned by only five men and three boys, besides Hornsby, and that she mounted four carriage guns – which could only have been small ones – and two swivels, she cannot have been of large size, perhaps brig-rigged. On 13th June 1744 Hornsby arrived off the Dutch coast at Scheveningen, the coastal suburb of The Hague, in company with three smaller vessels with which he had sailed in convoy from Norfolk. The Isabella (it’s easier to refer to her as such) was laden with malt and barley. At this period there was no harbour at Scheveningen – one would not be constructed until 1904 – and trading vessels had to lie offshore and transfer cargoes ashore in smaller boats. Fishing boats were drawn up on to the beach (a subject for many painters, including Vincent van Gogh, for many years).

When the Isabella arrived, a large number of fishing boats were lying offshore and among them a French privateer, the Marquis de Brancas, had concealed herself. Commanded by a Captain André, this appears to have been a larger vessel that carried ten carriage guns and eight swivels, plus a crew of 75. She made straight for the Isabella, the other British ships turning away and escaping.

Given the disparities of armament and crew, resistance by the Isabella must have appeared suicidal. Hornsby seems however to have had the agreement of his crew to fight it out and he accordingly refused to comply when André of the Brancas called on him to strike his colours. Like any privateer André was naturally focussed on capture of a valuable prize rather than on her destruction and his initial attack on the Isabella was with small-arms fire only. Hornsby ordered his men to shelter and by skilful manoeuvring avoided two French attempts to board on the port quarter. By this stage the Brancas was bringing her guns as well as her small-arms into action and Hornsby was replying with his two port weapons.
Read the whole story.

Loveliest of Trees by A.E. Housman

Loveliest of Trees
by A.E. Housman

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

These people are beer people

From Eat Like The Ancient Babylonians: Researchers Cook Up Nearly 4,000-Year-Old Recipes by Maria Godoy.
What did a meal taste like nearly 4,000 years ago in ancient Babylonia? Pretty good, according to a team of international scholars who have deciphered and are re-creating what are considered to be the world's oldest-known culinary recipes.

The recipes were inscribed on ancient Babylonian tablets that researchers have known about since early in the 20th century but that were not properly translated until the end of the century.

The tablets are part of the Yale Babylonian Collection at the Yale Peabody Museum. Three of the tablets date back to the Old Babylonian period, no later than 1730 B.C., according to Harvard University Assyriologist and cuneiform scholar Gojko Barjamovic, who put together the interdisciplinary team that is reviving these ancient recipes in the kitchen. A fourth tablet was produced about 1,000 years later. All four tablets are from the Mesopotamian region, in what is today Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq.
From the interview.
So .... red or white [wine]?

These people are beer people. In fact, lots of the recipes contain beer. The Assyrians would have had wine with the food, I think. The best of the stews we're cooking is a red beet stew, and it has nice sour beer in it.

Unexplained and possibly irrelevant ignorance.

Listed among the things I am amazed I did not know. From Greg Abbott: My Success Despite Paralysis Is a 'Testament' to the 'Glory of God' by Tyler O'Neil.

Greg Abbott is Governor of Texas. No particular reason why I should know much about him other than that he is governor of a major state. However, in one capacity or another (he was earlier Texas Attorney General), he has been on the periphery of national news for at least a dozen years or more.

And I never knew he was wheelchair bound. On the one hand it is a testament to a perhaps shared consensus that his condition should not define him. On the other hand, what an accomplishment to go unacknowledged.

There are a couple of other instances where I have been unaware of a politician and a related handicap. David Paterson, Governor of New York for a couple of years after Spitzer's resignation, was on my news radar screen for a year or two before I became aware of his blindness.

However, the longest duration of personal ignorance was in regard to Charles Krauthammer. I had been reading occasional Krauthammer columns for easily a decade or two and only became aware of the fact that he was wheelchair-bound a little before his passing.

What is the origin of these patches of unawareness. I would be inclined to believe that it might be due to my print over TV orientation. It has been decades since I have watched TV news. But even that is sort of an inadequate explanation. I know I have seen Krauthammer a few times over the years in TV discussions. But always seated at a table.

It is a puzzle to me. A puzzle that I should be unaware. A puzzle that I can't even adequately explain to myself why that unawareness should even be relevant.

I suspect that it has to do with missing recognition. For anyone to overcome a major setback is admirable. Perhaps it is that I feel bad not having extended in my own mind the recognition and respect that they deserve.

Off Beat Humor

Click to enlarge.

Marjorie Ferry, c 1932 by Tamara de Lempicka

Marjorie Ferry, c 1932 by Tamara de Lempicka

Click to enlarge.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Best of the Bee

I bought 50 of these and finally my rooftop deck permit got approved. 10/10 would buy again

What do you want in a Mayor? Usually something like honest, competent, and responsive to residents. Baltimore has gone a long time with mayors without any of those attributes. Sort of like Chicago, Baltimore politicians tend not to lose elections but to lose on appeals of their convictions.

Catherine Pugh, the now former Mayor of Baltimore, this year pled guilty to a range of corruption charges, most centered on her having written a self-published children's book whose primary purchasing public were big corporations with business before the City which Pugh might influence.

Politicians writing books as a means to receive bribes is nothing new. Been going on since at least 1989 when Speaker of the House Jim Wright resigned because of a similar scheme.

What is new, from Wright's time, is the opportunity for citizens to mock their establishment "betters".

Amazon book reviews would seem an unlikely forum for such an activity, but people are creative.
R. C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book- Highly recommend
April 3, 2019

I bought 50 of these and finally my rooftop deck permit got approved. 10/10 would buy again

353 people found this helpful

Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh's Cash Cow
March 13, 2019

On March 13, 2019, the Baltimore Sun published an article exposing how Baltimore City Mayor, Catherine Pugh, a board member of the University of Maryland Medical System since 2001, has a contract with UMMS to buy this book. The article reports that Pugh cleared $100,000 profit in 2017 by selling 20,000 copies to the UMMS. Pugh reportedly said she has a deal where UMMS buys her books every two years.

230 people found this helpful

Konstantine Simakis
1.0 out of 5 stars It’s Healthy Holly, by the way, not “Health Holly.”
March 23, 2019

Exercising is fun, but money laundering is funner. This series of books is now a hard-to-find collectors’ item (especially the titles that don’t exist), although still probably not worth $100,000.

193 people found this helpful

Greg from Baltimore
1.0 out of 5 stars Extra Healthy Holly books available
March 23, 2019

The mayor arranged for 100,000 of these books to be purchased by the University of Maryland Medical System to donate to the schools of Baltimore. Somehow most of these were not given out. There is now a mystery hunt for the remaining Healthy Holly books--nearly 9000 turned up in a city warehouse in East Baltimore. No need to buy one of these, about 60,000 are still unaccounted for and the Mayor and School Superintendent should be able to point to these and start distributing them to children and readers as originally intended!.

167 people found this helpful

1.0 out of 5 stars Huckster Holly
March 24, 2019

Huckster Holly - teaches kids how to steal $500,000 and get away with it.

169 people found this helpful

1.0 out of 5 stars Helping Holly maintain her health is not so fun
March 21, 2019

The mayor should try working at one of Bmore's health systems full time and taking home $500 a week, not $500,000. Not too easy to support a family on that as a single parent.

152 people found this helpful

1.0 out of 5 stars Stay Tuned
April 2, 2019

I can't wait for the next installment in the series - Healthy Holly: Defrauding the Citizens of Charm City. Coming soon to an otherwise empty warehouse near you.

86 people found this helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Unavailable? Shucks I wanted to buy 100000 copeies.
April 2, 2019

Why is everybody upset about the Mayor's book? And why no sympathy for her pneumonia. Holly is an incredibly beneficial book for kids. And every one of them should have one. My company wants to buy 100,000 copies and distribute them to needy students in the South.
Please let us know when you restock.
Thank you
"Rick" Singer
The Key Foundation
San Diego CA

59 people found this helpful

Raymond Payne
5.0 out of 5 stars Future Must Reads from Holly
April 4, 2019

Anxiously awaiting the sequel “Wealthy Holly” . But it sounds like that project might be shelved in favor of the new book “Hard-Time Holly” . Either way, must reads ... so sure to be hard to find!

52 people found this helpful

soil sommelier
5.0 out of 5 stars Exercise is fun, but money laundering is mo' funner!
April 2, 2019

Were this anyone but a politician (and a Democrat in Maryland) the would already be in jail. She will no doubt end up the next head of the DNC, or at least a big shot at the State level. Our political party hacks revere their most successful criminals, and Maryland has an incredible history of them.

It would be nice to hear why it is that these organizations involved never reported her, but three cheers for the Sun Paper for digging this up.

Anyway, you can bet no one will ever make her cough up the dough that she extorted/bribes that she took. Criminality of her sort never has any risk in this country. Maybe when we start public canings and executions for abusing the public trust...

The best thing anyone can say about Baltimore is that you don't live there any longer. I know I'm happy that I don't.

The Navy’s recent demonstrated inability to perform its basic task of sailing ships

From Fire the Admirals to Encourage the Others by Kurt Schlichter. Schlichter is admirably clear and muscular in his opinions and arguments. The whole column is worth a read. I have been astonished at how little comment the lack of adherence to orders has elicited.

But I love this line:
As much as the admirals – who really ought to have a bit more humility in light of the Navy’s recent demonstrated inability to perform its basic task of sailing ships without crashing them into other ships – might not approve of Trump, approving of him is not their job.
Sense a small degree of inter-service disdain. Schlichter was a colonel in the US Army with 28 years of service. There is little love lost between the Army and the Navy.

Schlichter isn't wrong. The Navy has in recent years been plagued with a raft of accidents demonstrating some systemic issue in training. It has also struggled with any sort of efficiency or even adequacy in deployment of new weapons platforms. And the available for service record is atrocious. I think I saw something just the past couple of days that all six US aircraft carriers on the east coast are in port for service at the moment and not available for deployment.

If you can't do you basic job, refusing orders and circumventing the chain of command seem to be a desperate and foolish response.

A Bird Came Down the Walk by Emily Dickinson

A Bird Came Down the Walk
by Emily Dickinson

A Bird, came down the Walk -
He did not know I saw -
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass -
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass -

He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad -
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. -

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers,
And rowed him softer Home -

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless as they swim.

Thank you for choosing AT&T. We appreciate your business. Have a great day!

A couple of months ago my wireless at the office went out and I had to go through the excruciating experience of working with AT&T to replace the router. About a month ago, the internet went out at home. Same thing: "We need to install the most recent router. We would like to send it to you by Shetland Pony from our distribution center in Outer Mongolia. It should arrive in 83 days." Or something like that.

Bit the bullet, was out of service for a few days and then they replaced it.

Wake up this morning and the internet is out again! Scramble around finding all the account numbers, the usernames, the passwords, etc., rebooted the device a couple of times with no joy, and log into AT&T chat to resolve this. Had tried to resolve online but their automated virtual assistants are automated but don't assist.

So here is how I spent the past hour. It is virtually a Kafka short-story. My objective is to get immediate restoration of service. AT&T's objective seems to be to get me to do their work for them.

So here is my postmodernist existentialist play. Sartre is my inspiration. With the right actors, this could make a mint.
AT&T: Hi, I’m AT&T’s automated virtual assistant. How can I help you today?

Me: My internet service is out. I have rebooted.

AT&T: Please select the service you are having issues with:
Mobile Phone
AT&T Internet
U-verse TV
AT&T Digital Phone

Me: Still out

AT&T: Hmmm. Could you rephrase your question? Virtual Assistants understand simple questions best.

Me: AT&T Internet

AT&T: Let's find out if service is out in your area! Click here.

If you want anything else, I'll be here.

AT&T: So I can assist you further, please select a product I can help you with:
Mobile Phone
AT&T Internet
U-verse TV
AT&T Digital Phone

Me: I am still waiting

AT&T: Let me get you to a specialist. Please tell us your first name.

Me: Charles

AT&T: Thank you. You will now be connected to a specialist for your issue.
We are now transferring you.

Agent Michael enters chat

Michael: Hi Charles! My name is Michael. I'm happy to help.

Me: Michael - A transformer went out on our street late last night. I assume this is related. This morning we have no internet service. I have rebooted and still nothing

Michael: Thank you for sharing that information with me! I can help you with that! Rest assured, I will find out what is happening and help you resolve it.

Michael: Can you please provide me with your Uverse account number or phone number?

Me: 55555555555

Michael: Thank you.

Michael: I have successfully pulled up your account.

Michael: I am running an automated diagnostic line test from my end to check if there is any line issues or outage and it might take a maximum of 2-5 minutes to get completed.

Me: k

Michael: Thank you.

Michael: Meanwhile, May I know the light status of your router?

Me: Router is in a different part of the house. Do you want me to go down and check it?

Michael: Yes, Please it is more helpful to isolate the root cause.

Me: Anything else you need from the router while I am down there?

Michael: No need only light status as if now?

Me: I'll be gone for five minutes.

Michael: Alright!

Me: Broadband indicator is red. Power, ethernet, wifi are all green

Michael: Thanks for the info!

Michael: Let me help you with some troubleshooting steps to resolve your concern.

Michael: If any need I will go ahead and send out a technician or replace the equipment to resolve your concern.

Michael: Will that be Okay with you?

Me: It has to be, right? We just went through this a month ago.

Michael: I personally apologize for the inconvenience

Michael: Let me check here what is happening with your router.

Michael: To protect your personal information and access your account, can you please provide me with your 4 digit passcode.
Me: either 5555 or 4444

Michael: Perfect.

Michael: I ran the line test and equipment test from my end and there are no line issues detected, while I was working on the equipment test, I found there are some errors, I am making some corrections from my end to get this resolved.

Michael: I could see that the issue persist with the router not sync with the server properly that is the reason connectivity problem has happening over there.

Me: OK

Michael: In this case we need to replace with the new advanced router.

Michael: We have an advanced router for your account, which is dual band (2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz) and connects with all latest types of devices and has excellent wifi compatibility. There is no additional charge for this router/modem.

Me: Thank you. You do know that the router was just replaced this past month?

Michael: Yes, I can see that but still that is the old version router which has been replaced for you.

Me: OK. They said they were replacing my old router with the newest model but if that is not what happened, OK.

Me: Last time I had to wait several days to get the new router. Anyway to get the router delivered today? I work from home and hours without internet are hours without revenue.

Michael: I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused for you, Charles

Michael: I completely understand your concern. I do admit this can be a huge inconvenience.

Michael: This is not a experience we want you to have.

Me: Agree. I didn't want to have it this past month and and I certainly don't want to have it again.

Michael: However, Please do not worried about it I can replace you with the high priority so that you can get the shipment as earliest like on or before 11/26/2019.

Me: Today would be ideal. Tomorrow less so.

Michael: Alright, Let me complete the order first.

Michael: Meanwhile, I will also help you with the steps to return the old equipment to avoid possible charges.

Michael: We encourage you to return the defective/old equipment within 10 days to avoid being billed for non-returned equipment while the equipment is in transit. If you fail to return your equipment within 21 days a $150 equipment charge will be billed to your account.

Theequipment must be returned to an authorized UPS Store.

UPS/FedEX will need your Billing Account Number and your order number.

No packing is required; simply bring your Billing Account Number and order number to the UPS/FedEX store and UPS/FedEX will package the device(s) for you.

UPS/FedEX will provide you a receipt confirming your return.

Please let me know if there are any clarifications.

Michael: Could you please confirm your service address?

Me: WOOOOWW. I don't want to also have to spend a couple of hours scurrying around doing your supply chain work for you. And I don't want to be threatened with charges for your equipment that is not working.

Me: Send out a technician with a new upgraded router, install it so that it works and take the old one away.

Me: If you want to pay my $250 hourly charge for doing your work for you, we can arrange that but don't presume to make my life harder, take away the service you are contracted to provide and then consume even more of my hours fixing the problem that rests with AT&T

Michael: Charles, I personally feel guilty for making our loyal customer like you feel this way.

Michael: Your issue needs to be taken care with high priority to make sure it will be resolved completely.

Me: Michael, this isn't directed at you. AT&T, twice in a month, has failed to deliver service. Apparently AT&T did not do the first time what they said they were going to do (replace router with current version), and now is trying to dictate how I spend my time.

Me: I just want the service restored quickly.

Me: I don't want to be threatened with fines.

Me: I don't want to wait several days till AT&T gets around to it.

Michael: Sure, Charles I will help you to restore your service as soon as possible.

Me: If AT&T is able to fix its problem quickly - GREAT.

Michael: Please do not worry I will also raise the credit request to our billing team for the inconvience caused for you.

Michael: And the credit will be reflected on your next month bill.

Me: I appreciate that. I don't mind not receiving any credit at all as long as service is restored promptly. Problems happen; no issue with that. This issue is that the same problem has happened twice inside a month; it took some days to resolve the first time, and it looks like it may take some more days this time. That is what I am unhappy about. But if AT&T is unable to fix its repeated problems expeditiously, then sure, a rebate is a nice gesture. But it isn't what I am focused on.

Michael: I can completely relate to your situation. If I were you I would have felt the same.

Michael: I apologize for the inconvenience and I truly understanding how frustrating your situation is.

Me: I have had similar issues at my office location. Outage, time taken to fix the problem, having to wait for technician, etc. The hours I spend with AT&T, you would think they were a major client.

Me: Which is just ranting on my part, but also feedback to AT&T. Treat your customers as if they mattered.

Michael: Let me get you connected with my Supervisor to check for the options he could provide to help you out .

Michael has left the chat

You are being transferred, please hold...

Agent Shawn enters chat

Shawn: Hi! My name is Shawn. I'm happy to help! Let's get started

Me: OK

Shawn: I have checked your above chat

Shawn: To fix the problem, we need to send a technician or to replace the router?

Shawn: Which would be helpful for you?

Me: Send a technician to replace the router and take the old one back.

Shawn: Sure give me a minute let me place the order for that.

Shawn: Thank you for waiting

Shawn: We ca n send the technician on 29th between 9-11 and 2-4

Me: Four days from now? This is just like last time.

Shawn: I am so sorry that is the earliest we have as of now

Shawn: If you want the router alone I can send that tomorrow.

Me: So I am going to be out of service for four days (again) and there is nothing AT&T can do?

Shawn: If you need the technician to bring it then 29th is the earliest slot

Me: Send me the router. Have your technician pick up the old one on the 29th. It is an absurd way to run your business but if that is what AT&T wants.

Shawn: Okay, give me a minute.

Me: I assume installation is pretty much plug-and-play.

Shawn: It will be a very easy installation.

Shawn: You need to just plug in like the way the old one is plugged

Shawn: On 29th is it possible for you to return the router to the UPS ?

Shawn: No packing is needed, just handover it to the UPS

Me: You understand the point I am trying to make. I am trying to avoid taking 45 minutes out of my day to act as an employee of AT&T and making a supply chain run for you. Your router, your problem, you fix.

Shawn: This is the order number : 7777777777

Me: But yes, as soon as I have the new router functioning, I'll fit in a run to UPS and send the old one back.

Shawn: Okay then I will follow up on this for you.

Shawn: Is there anything else I can assist you with?

Me: Let me count the ways . . .

Me: But no. I assume the new router arrives at UPS tomorrow, you'll send some confirming email with a tracking number, I'll install and as soon as service is restored, I will drop off the old router (old in the sense that it was just installed three weeks ago) at UPS. That all correct?

Me: Wait - you need delivery location information, right?

Me: 1776 Washington Road, Suite A200, Big City, Big State, 29096. It is a UPS store.

Shawn: Yes that correct.

Me: K. Looks like we are done unless there is anything else you need.

Shawn: No all good thank you

Shawn: Thank you for choosing AT&T. We appreciate your business. Have a great day!

Thank you for chatting with us today. The agent has left this conversation. Please continue to browse our website and use our self-service options.
Nice touch after that experience.
Please continue to browse our website and use our self-service options.
It is wonderful how a regulatory structure creates and protects an oligopoly with Soviet-era customer service practices.

Happiness in Hong Kong

I so want things to work out for the brave Hong Kongers. From Hong Kong elections: pro-democracy camp wins 17 out of 18 districts while city leader says she will reflect on the result by Jeffie Lam, Sum Lok-kei, and Ng Kang-chung. Who knows whether the results from the elections will make any difference but I am delighted to see the joy on the faces of these young Hong Kongers.

Pro-democracy supporters celebrate huge gains in the district council elections. Photo: AP
Click to enlarge.

Off Beat Humor

Click to enlarge.

Queen Guinevre's Maying, 1900 by John Collier

Queen Guinevre's Maying, 1900 by John Collier

Click to enlarge.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Best of the Bee

Science confirms Jane Austen

From Chinese and UK participants' preferences for physical attractiveness and social status in potential mates by Lingshan Zhang, Hongyi Wang, Anthony J. Lee, Lisa M. DeBruine and Benedict C. Jones. From the Abstract:
Men are hypothesized to show stronger preferences for physical attractiveness in potential mates than women are, particularly when assessing the attractiveness of potential mates for short-term relationships. By contrast, women are thought to show stronger preferences for social status in potential mates than men are, particularly when assessing the attractiveness of potential mates for long-term relationships. These mate-preference sex differences are often claimed to be ‘universal' (i.e. stable across cultures). Consequently, we used an established ‘budget-allocation' task to investigate Chinese and UK participants' preferences for physical attractiveness and social status in potential mates. Confirmatory analyses replicated these sex differences in both samples, consistent with the suggestion that they occur in diverse cultures. However, confirmatory analyses also showed that Chinese women had stronger preferences for social status than UK women did, suggesting cultural differences in the magnitude of mate-preference sex differences can also occur.

The sample size is not especially large. It is not random (all are undergraduates). I am sure there are other limitations. But at least the question is asked and the anticipated reality is confirmed.

It is also refutes what social justice postmodernists assume. Reality is not socially constructed. Women and men are different. There are attributes which are universal across humans.

Irregular channels

From Regular and Irregular Channels by David Foster.
Some of the witnesses at the ongoing Congressional hearings seem quite disturbed at the use of “irregular channels” for decision-making and implementation, supplementing and bypassing the “regular” channels. (here, for example) Reminds me of a Churchill story…

In February 1940, Churchill was not yet Prime Minister but rather was First Lord of the Admiralty. He received a letter from a father disappointed that his son had been turned down for a commission, despite his qualifications and his record. Churchill suspected class prejudice and wrote to the Second Sea Lord, saying that “Unless some better reasons are given to me, I shall have to ask my Naval Secretary to interview the boy on my behalf.”

The Second Sea Lord, unhappy with the meddling from above, responded to the effect that it was inappropriate to question the decisions of “a board duly constituted.” To which Churchill replied:
I do not at all mind “going behind the opinion of a board duly constituted” or even changing the board or its chairman if I think injustice has been done. How long is it since this board was re-modeled?… Who are the naval representatives on the board of selection? Naval officers should be well-represented. Action accordingly. Let me have a list of the whole board with the full record of each member and his date of appointment.
General Louis Spears was present when Churchill, after taking the above hard-line, saw the candidates. After chatting with the boys, Churchill explained the matter to Spears:
“They have been turned down for the very reason that should have gained them admission. They are mad keen on the Navy, they have it in their blood, they will make splendid officers. What could be better than that they should rise higher than their fathers did? It is in their fathers’ homes that they grew to love the Navy, yet they have been turned down because their fathers came from the lower deck,” and he pouted and glared with fury.
Wonderful story.

Foster is correct that in all places, in all times, in all governments, businesses, enterprises, and institutions, there is the formal and the informal. The channels, and the back channels.

One of the glories of the old Bell system was that they were almost military in their pursuit of talent. People could rise from a lineman to the very highest levels of the business. One of the rarely voiced consequences is that everyone was more honest in their opinions. No matter who you might be speaking with, you could not easily anticipate the range and nature of their internal network. The grizzled old first level lineman you are interviewing might have mentored the young turk sixth level executive who checks in with him from time to time to keep a finger on the pulse of the business.

Churchill is a great example to Foster's point. The organization which abides completely and solely by the rules is likely a hidebound, maladaptive totalitarian enterprise bound to fail eventually because it cannot evolve.

An institution which relies solely on personal contacts and work-arounds might be highly adaptive but is also chaotic and unpredictable. Also likely bound to fail.

There is a happy median which cannot be quantified between too hidebound or too informal. We know it is between the extremes but it is frequently difficult to pin down exactly where is the optimum balance.

The example with Churchill is telling. Churchill was of the old guard but he was a younger son reliant on his own skills. He knew the constraints of the old but was also frequently too daring with the new.

World War II in Europe is a catalogue of hair-brained Churchillian schemes which not infrequently came to grief. Time after time he wasted money on weapons systems which were doomed, he wasted lives on disastrous raids, some of the Special Operations seemed almost clownish. But innovation constantly fails until it succeeds. Churchill's failures were many but his policies led to victory. Were they the most efficient policies to win? Who can tell? It was chaotic and unpredictable war.

On the other hand, he goaded his generals to be braver in their thinking and more willing to take risks. Had the establishment of military and political leaders at the beginning of the war continued, the war would likely have been shorter but also to have ended in compromise and longterm failure.

Churchill was his own boisterous, daring character, seemingly heedless of experts and costs. But he won where they almost certainly would have lost.

Breaking the sclerosis of the establishment is never costless and there are always victims. But you cannot engineer your way to such reform and you cannot optimize on a prospective basis. Sometimes the obviousness of victory is only such in hind sight.

It is much like the law.

Those of constipated and totalitarian mindset always see perfection on the horizon, simply requiring one more law, one more policy one more effort to engineer human perfection. Sometimes that is true. Usually that is a prelude to tragedy.

There is a limit to the law. When you are attempting to legislate manners and opinions and hurt feelings and speech, you are way beyond the effectiveness of the law.

The law extends so far and then it becomes fragile or rejected. Past a certain point, manners and culture enter into the equation. We need a buffer between the hard inflexibility and uniformity of law and the massive, churning volatility and variance of people. A gap cushioned by manners, customs and culture.

Foster is correct. Those claiming that Trump, or whomever, did not follow protocol or procedure or establishment customs, are probably right. Trump seems to be goal oriented in a fashion uncommon in the institutionalized government. For them, success is adherence to policy. For Trump, and other mavericks, success is achievement. The two cultures are virtually incompatible.