Saturday, May 5, 2007
Crooked Timber vs. the suburbs
There's something about the suburbs that appears to periodically freak out the Crooked Timberites. Exhibit A was a Daniel Davies riff against big-box retailers that provoked a very interesting comment thread.
In the Top 10 for Singles are the fun, densely-populated places you might expect: New York, L.A., Washington, San Francisco, Chicago, etc. For Young Couples, we have cool hangouts like Portland, Austin, and Boulder. Empty Nesters get to kick back in Bellingham, Santa Fe, Tahoe and Berkeley....I confess to some puzzlement at Kieran's distress. What most of the top-ranked Family With Children places have in common is that they are semi-affordable suburbs adjacent to cities that fell into one of the other Top 10 categories [What about Noblesville IN?--ed. I got nothing, but that doesn't mean it's a bad place to live.]
In a follow-up comment, Kieran elaborates:
[C]ome on, everyone. Do people really not find the notional life transitions laid out in the chart—from New York or L.A. to Boulder or Austin to … Flower Mound or Gaithersburg—even slightly funny? It’s like, as if the endless diapers and slug-like minivans aren’t enough, here’s where you have to live.
Having made the move from one of the top 10 places for Singles to a place that I'm guessing ranks high on Families with Children, all I can say is, thank God for the suburbs (in fairness, Hyde Park is not exactly a typical urban neighborhood):
Five minute walk to the elementary school? Check.I suspect Kieran was mostly being flip, but I do think there's a part of him that shudders with dread about the exemplary suburban locale.
To which I have to say, sure, it's easy to find fault. But I'll take the small downsides of suburbandom over the nasty stares I recall getting when entering hip and trendy restaurants/supermarkets/stores/shopping malls with a few rugrats in tow. At this point in the 21st century, having small children is kind of like belonging to a different religious persuasion that others view as bizarre and discomfiting. It's nice to be with one's own kind during these years.
Friday, May 4, 2007
Forward progress on intellectual property
"Striking the proper balance on intellectual property rights" is one of those ideas I put in my conceptual hope chest along with "unilateral elimination of all agricultural subsidies" or "fiscal conservativism" or "NBC renewing Friday Night Lights for another season" as policies I'd really like to see but don't expect to happen.
So, it's a pleasant surprise to read the Economist's tech.view column explain that the Supreme Court actually took a positive step on patent rights:
In a unanimous decision that is being hailed as the most important patent ruling in decades, the Supreme Court early this week swept aside the non-obviousness test used by the appeals court. In its place, a common-sense standard based on real-world conditions is to be applied to all patent applications that combine (as most do) elements of existing inventions.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Well, I'm glad that hiatus is over
After a short, four-year hiatus, Brink Lindsey is back and blogging. Go check him out.
Housing and the productivity slowdown
Labor productivity growth in the United States has declined every year since 2002. In the first quarter of this year it fell below the symbolic 2% barrier, evoking bad memories of the stagflation-era economy.
[M]any economists were concerned when productivity came in at just 1.6 percent last year. Was America returning to its old low-productivity ways? If so, that was a much bigger problem than the housing slowdown. But it looks like the housing slowdown itself has been making strong productivity look bad. Here is what the econ team at Goldman Sachs recently said on the topic:This seems like a peculiar inverse of what was happening in the economy circa 2002-3 -- astounding productivity gains that were not matched by wage or employment growth. One wonders if this means that, for the next year, the U.S. economy will observe the obverse of marginal productivity increases but robust wage and employment growth. Profit margins have been sufficiently high to allow this to happen -- though I confess I fail to see why firms would have an economic incentive to act in this fashion."We believe there is a straightforward explanation for slower productivity growth—the housing downturn. The sharp drop in homebuilding activity has not yet led to a significant decline in employment, so productivity in this sector is falling rapidly. Productivity growth in the rest of the nonfarm sector remains at a healthy 2.5 percent pace. Housing productivity should begin to improve within the year. Two factors—seasonal hiring patterns and the lag between the slowdown in home sales and the slowdown in home construction—have delayed the employment adjustment, but we expect declining residential housing employment to pull nonfarm payroll growth below 100,000 jobs per month in the spring and early summer."Dale Jorgensen, productivity guru and Harvard economics professor, told me a similar story in a chat today.
Will NBC save our marriages?
It started just the other week as I watched FNL's season finale. I had never bothered to introduce my significant other to the show, because, well, she likes football about as much as she likes my Star Wars lightsaber collection — which is to say, not very much — so I viewed the entire season by myself. But then something else dawned on me: Christina loves teen shows.... It occurred to me that, hey, Friday Night Lights is as much -- if not more -- a teen show than it is a football drama. So I implored her to give it a chance. To my shock, she agreed (again, we're talking about football here). We had the first nine episodes on DVD. We watched one. Then we watched another. Then I went to bed, and she watched two more. Next night, same drill. She went through episodes the way I go through cans of Milwaukee's Best. Only she didn't wake up with a headache in the morning.I lack Ross' NBC connections, but my wife got so hooked on the show after I introduced her to it that she caught up on all the episodes by watching them online (they're all still available, by the way).
And, as in Ross' case, my wife is a huge Riggins fan, even though he's the bad boy of the show. "He's just gorgeous... and smoldering," she said. She then tried to assuage any anxiety I might have had by reassuring me that, "you are as un-Riggins-like as you can possibly be."
I feel much better now.
[Yes, you, who link to Salma Hayek at the drop of a hat, should get upset at this!!--ed. True, though I have never (and will never) told my wife that she was "un-Hayek like."]
Oh, and for FNL afficionados, I'm neither a Lyla or a Tyra guy -- I'm a Tami guy through and through.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
What I learned at the 2007 Brussels Forum
So, what did I learn at the 2007 Brussels Forum? Four things small and large:
1) I cannot stay in Brussels for longer than 72 hours. This has nothing to do with the city, it has to do with its chocolate sector. Its rich, succulent, delicious, and unbelievably fattening chocolate sector.If you want to catch the proceedings, click here and select the topic that interests you. You might even catch a few cameo appearances by your humble (and fatter) blogger.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
As Rogoff goes....
It's a bad, bad sign for Paul Wolfowitz when Kenneth Rogoff decides to write a satirical memo in Wolfowitz's name for ForeignPolicy.com. It's an even worse sign when he can write the following paragraph:
I trust you [the staff] have not been unduly influenced by the recent letter calling for my immediate resignation, signed by forty-two former World Bank managing directors, senior vice-presidents, vice-presidents, and directors. You and I can surely see through this thinly-veiled attempt to manipulate the value of “Paul Wolfowitz resignation” claims [on TradeSports]. I want to assure you that the World Bank Internal Investigations Unit will look into this matter. If any of the letter’s signatories are found guilty of price manipulation, they will be dealt with harshly. Let’s not forget who is paying their pensions.Wolfowitz has argued that he's the victim of a smear campaign, and there's a small grain of truth to that charge in that he is not solely responsible for the current imbroglio over his paramour.
However, when the staff that runs Wolfowitz's signature initiative indicates that his problems are compromising that initiative, it's time to say adieu.
I'll be back in action soon
Your humble blogger has returned from Europe, and the 2007 Brussels Forum, filled to the brim with stuff to blog about (including the trade contretemps I unintentionally triggered). Alas, while the brain is willing, the body needs to recover from its jet lag... and, come to think of it, the brain has massive loads of grading to do.
So, more this PM. While you wait by your screens, however, anxiously hitting the refresh button to see if I've posted another missive, here's a question to you: any recent developments that you feel demand a blog post?