Wednesday, December 28, 2011

junk science and arson

People seem so shocked that people have trouble accepting science, say in climate change, but its amazing how much professional practice is based on folklore. This interesting npr story notes that arson investigation was based entirely on folk lore and the use of science is only a decade or two old. The story notes many past cases where people were found guilty based on folklore, that would be vindicated today. But this is not isolated. I have noted before that even in medicine, the use of "evidence-based medicine" (i.e. science) is relatively new and still not entirely uncontroversial. And even in economics, where typically empirics is king, but in areas where data does not exist (e.g. in large important macroeconomic counterfactual questions), we fall back on instinct and folk wisdom, which can often be right but has also been devastatingly wrong.

The larger and more important point is how much pseudo-science pervades everything we do, even for important policy questions like what food to eat, or what to do about the environment, and the pseudo-science is pervasive. the media likes to paint it as a republican thing but everyone uses pseudo-science when it suits their interests. A recent npr story highlighted how obama has largely continued the bush era policies on political editing of "scientific documents" despite all his campaign rhetoric. Even scientists use pseudo-science all the time when it suits them.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Play Reviewlet: She Kills Monsters

Watched, the D&D inspired off-off-broadway play She Kills Monsters this afternoon, and it was awesome. I was really impressed how effectively this off-broadway production was able to bring bugbears, beholders, gelatinous cubes and even a dragon, to life, while telling a really touching story about a woman who really gets to know her younger sister after she dies in a car accident, through the D&D module she wrote before dying. While the show still sports a relatively inexperienced cast, the show deals with death and grief and love and how much dungeons and dragons means to so many and sadly reminds us what is lost when we move from table top to online.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

NYC Food Recommendations

A friend recently asked for food recommendations in NYC. These were my thoughts:

Yes the highline is a good bet. That's our standard go-to place for out of town guests. Other places to eat around there is Chelsea Market (home of the food network), Soccarat (only place I've gotten good paella outside of Spain), Mary's Fish Camp (creative fish shack). There's also Spotted Pig (the original NY gastropub, by April Bloomenfield, though we like her two new places both in the Ace Hotel in midtown better (John Dory for seafood and the Breslin for more pub-y food). 

The NYTimes recently recommended one of the Momofukus as the most definitive "only in NYC" restaurant experience these days and I would tend to agree. dishes can be hit or miss, but still a unique experience.

for expensive-ish but but not crazy expensive and relatively easy expectations, I like Marea (great italian seafood place, especially love its pasta in central park south), and Aldea (for contemporary Portuguese near the highline sortof--its chef Sam Mendes was on top chef masters--for that matter the winner of top chef masters has Red Rooster up in harlem for Ethiopian-Scandinavian fusion which I haven't been to, though I used to like his earlier restaurant Aquavit a decade ago)

for super haute, I used to love Blue Hill, haute place on John D Rockefellar's farm one hour north of the city, for the ultimate in farm to table cuisine, we've gone 3-4 times now, and last time unfortunately was a miss, so its lost its luster a bit. its also lost its buzz although for a while it was a contender for best in the US.

amongst the 3 michelin starred places, in the city, i sort of like le Bernardin, R- I think prefers Per Se. 11 madison park is the new kid in town and maybe the most innovative. Jean-georges for me has always been an old standby and still solid after maybe nearly a dozen visits... 

wd-50 is the city's molecular gastronomy stop, but that's sort of old hat by now.

plus lots of hot places in the lower east side and the village as well as brooklyn and queens that have gotten buzz recently that we're just not as familiar with. contemporary-filipino seems to be one emerging trend...

Hope that helps.

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economist (political economist socio-economist behavioral economist educationalist teacher) former (i-banker policymaker) dabbler (in photography, art history, comic books, musical theater) from (new york paris morristown palo alto baltimore ithaca) independent (northeast neo-conservative liberal confuscian taoist social welfare maximizer)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

the 1%

There was more outrage on NPR the other day about CEO salary (about $11 million on average for the 500 or so fortune 500 CEOs, according to AFLCIO), though the 400 or so NBA players (average salary to be $8 million in the current agreement) are feeling justified to go on strike. I couldn't find the numbers, but the top 500 movie and tv stars easily average above $11 million (Rupert Grint alone made $30 million).

I suppose it is no coincident that the philosopher most known for his defense of income inequality always used Wilt Chamberlain as his example, since people rarely begrudge the salaries of celebrities.

I feel compelled to defend the 1% because pretty much most of my friends if they aren't in that 1% now, will likely at some point be at or close to the 1% at some point in their life. The number people tend to use is $340,000 for joint household income in 2009. Or $170,000 per person in a two-earner household.

Also, someone who turns down a $200,000 a year to work for a non-profit or start a family should also properly be counted as earning $200,000 because by revealed preference, they are getting at least that many dollars of hedonic value from the less renumerative jobs they have taken.

I think few of my friends like to think about this fact. I agree it is somewhat troubling.

Also, that's just 1% of the US. To be in the top 1% of the world only requires $34,000 a year.