Thursday, November 18, 2010

running the bayou

I went for a run early this morning in Houston, along the west side of the famous Buffalo Bayou ---- or so I thought!  It's supposed to run all the way downtown, and I was only going to run a few miles along its length.

I parked on the south side of the bayou/road interestion at Dairy Ashford (see good pix attached), and started runing down what I thought was the trail.  The first part was paved with asphalt, and I had seen a sign that talked about a maintenance entrance, but I though nothing of it.  The paved trail wound its way for 1/2 mile among the trees, with the bayou a fair distance over and below me.  I thought, "bummer, I'm not seeing much of the bayou!"  At least, I'm running among the trees, I thought.  So I wound left and right, up and down on, along the trail and then the surface changed to red clay and gravel, and the trail opened up and made a right turn, and opened up with grassy areas, with trails both sides of what I thought was the bayou.  I figured that the earli winding portion had got me disoriented, and that this right turn was getting back on track to a general easterly direction.  Also, I thought, "Wow, that bayou is pretty small and puny here. Oh well!"So I keep running, happily, for a couple of miles, wondering why this bayou park is so straight and boring, and when the bayou will receive a tributary that will make it grow into something interesting...

Then the "bayou", and the trail, ended. 

There it was gone, into a drainage tube boaring under a roadway.  "Well," I thought, "I guess the bayou goes UNDER those highschool grounds ahead, and becomes available again after."  So I detour my run between the school and the next neighborhood, doubling back to try to find the bayou on the other side.


"Wow, this bayou really bores underground deep and far!  Well, I'll look for it after the next block." 

Nothing.  "What??  Where the hell did it go?"

Next block.  Nothing.  "Okay, this pathetic bayou is really pathetic!  I'm heading back"

As I reach the end of the red clay trail again, I see a park sign.  "Where is the "You are here" sign?"

"What???"  "What am I doing down there!!?"  Turned out the right turn was really a right turn, and I had begun heading South, not East, along a storm water viaduct!!  Turns out the Bayou Trail is on the north side of the Bayou, not the south side  where the parking lot was located.

"Oh well, that settles it.  I'll come back tomorrow..."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What's the difference between a fisher, weasel, polecat, stoat, ermine, ferret, genet, mink, marten, sable, goshawk, serval, caracal, and wolverine?

I happened to be surfing YouTube the other day and I came across some interesting home videos of a ferret as a pet, and of the tiny stoat who lives off attacking & killing the much larger rabbit.  That let to finding more and more related links to other similar animals -- all relatively small, scurrying, furry, cute but kinda nasty busybodies.  I see some difference in size, agility, color, etc -- but are they all related? 

Luckily I discovered someone else wrote a whole book on the problem...  "This Is Not a Weasel" by Philip Mortenson

It's on my reading wish list

Sunday, September 12, 2010

good and affordable French Red

This evening Lisa and I ate late.  We had one of our favorite casual "dishes" -- round focaccia bread loaf with tomato and olive oil, and stuffed with artichokes, spinash, garlic and (light) cheese.  Baked it open-faced in the oven for ten minutes, then another ten with the top slice on.  Awesome! 

With it we savored Petite Ruche a delicious French red shirah from M. Chapoutier, a winemaker in the Rhine Valley.  It's called , 2008 vintage.

It's under US$20 it appears (I don't know whether you can order single bottles...), and has an awesome aroma, sharp edges, and lingering flavor and warmth.  We have a cellar in the basement, but we had forgotten about this wine for months as it was left upstairs among "the empties."  Lisa got it as part of a wine-of-the-month selection from our local wine-and-cheese restaurant (map).  Alas, the wine buyer Lisa so enjoyed dealing with is leaving soon, and Lisa will be discontinuing her membership.  It's been a wonderful experience.
-- Stephan

WSJ: the German post-WWII miracle

Wednesday WSJ had a nice opinion piece by Lawrence H. White, a professor at George Mason U., on the lessons of history for economic recovery.   Taking exception to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble’s policies that will try to spur economic activity and avoid the hyperinflation of 1920s Germany, Mr. White cites instead the case of Germany’s post-WWII recovery as the proper example.    It was a case of John Kenneth Galbriath, at that time a state department official  and well-known peddler of MIT’s Keynsian economics, versus Germany’s economist and later Minister of Economic Affairs Ludwig Erhard.   Erhard flouted post-war Allied military command, abolishing cripping post-war price controls and rationing.

Apparently, one day American commander Gen. Lucius Clay telephoned Erhard:  “Professor Erhard, my advisers tell me that you are making a big mistake”.  Erhard: “So my advisers also tell me.”  I gather JKG and MIT were Clay's advisors -- but who were Erhard’s?  The article doesn’t mention, but I looked it up:  among others, it was Wilhelm Röpke and Alfred Müller-Armack.  And who were they?  Students of the great free-market Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises -- the first man who challenged Marx's socialism.

Dr. White is a well-known expert in economics and the gold standard at George Mason U. and author of a forthcoming book “The Clash of Economic Ideas.”  The example of post-War Germany certainly was such a clash, with a good outcome: Germany’s growth was legendary.

--- Stephan

WSJ: HP and Oracle

The Wall Street Journal this week talked about HP suing its former CEO for joining competitor Oracle in an executive position. HP alleges that Mr. Hurd is in breach of contract (the "exit agreement"). His firing from HP was all over the news recently, after some alleged --and inscrutable -- expense account irregularities, as well as a sexual harassment issue, which HP objected to on the grounds that Mr. Hurd settled the matter in person without HP's knowledge or help.

Everything I read makes the matter of Mr. Hurd's dismissal fishy and apparently a massive waste and destruction of true company value (administrative issues permuted into the hackneyed corporate PR issue of a CEO's alleged fiduriary duty to appear to be ethical, whether he was ethical or not and whatever the scale of the issue). 

But what I find interesting here is several aspects of the lawsuit.  As I see it it falls under the general topic of intellectual property rights.  Is is possible to define objective boundaries to the use of one's knowledge, boundaries enforceable by law?  Regardless of the lawsuit's merits, it looks like HP is in an uphill battle -- because of obstacles from Oracle's CEO Ellis, and because of California law.

Oracle's Ellis -- a software man who livelihood depends on intellectual property -- is quoted solely as saying he doesn't like the matter because it's a "vindictive lawsuit"  and makes it "impossible for Oracle and HP to continue to cooperate."  It may be the shortcoming of the report, but what about the validity of HP's claim -- what doesn't Ellis say something about that?  Is it because he doesn't believe in such confidentiality agreements?  How can he find it so apparently ridicilous that HP would pursue their rights , rights that they objectively tried to secure ahead of time? 

And California courts, says HP's lawyer, also make the lawsuit difficult because "in California, it is hard to sue a former employee who leaves for a competitor", since the courts "typically frown upon on agreements that limit employees' ability to switch companies."  HP's lawyer adds, "I think a judge would be more open to an argument that there is a real and imminent danger that trade secrets would be in inherently disclosed."

What??  Lawyer double-speak.  As the article summarizes well, Mr. Hurd holds deep knowledge of HP's operations that cold prove useful at Oracle, including HP plans for future products, pricing information, details about component and product costs.  Mr. Hurd "has put HP's most valuable trade secrets and confidential information in peril."  This is obviously exactly what HP wanted to limit Mr. Hurd from using as part of his new job for a certain delimited period of time. 

What beyond the basic principles would a court adduce as evidence of "real and imminent danger" to its trade secrets?  But HP themselves seems to be buying into the bureaucratic guagmire, asking in its lawsuit for the court to assign a "special master" to regularly review Mr. Hurd's compliance with his confidentiality agreement.

It is likely that Mr. Hurd is in fact proving to be immoral once and for all in this case, plainly breaking a signed agreement and flaunting intellectual property rights.  Such agreements have no escape clauses to the effect that, "oh sure, sometimes it's ok to go ahead and work immediately in a leadership position for a competitor, as long as your daily job doesn't typically require you to rely upn or reveal upon our secrets."

Ellis and Hurd and California courts remind me of the Libertarian position, which disdains contracts that constrain, on principle, the use of intellectual property.  They often point to how "society" is hurt by limiting the "free flow" of information, including secrets (for the same reason, Libertarians also hate copyright laws).  Such disdain also relies on other non-objective concepts, such as privacy-comes-before-property-rights, and antitrust laws' disdain of exclusive contracts and love of spreading information among competitors (a la "perfect competition" model taught in all economics courses.)

By the way, a good Objectivist intellectual who is now working full time in making intellectual property rights objective is Dr. Adam Mossoff, now a full professor at the wonderful George Mason U.  I heard him speak in Chicago a few years back on the history of intellectual rights in AmericaAnother is Dr. Amy Peikoff, now at Chapman University in Orange, CA, my first hometown in America.

They argue that attacks on intellectual property (e.g. via the issue of privacy, which was corrupted and cemented into American law and thinking by Justice Louis Brandeis) was the beginning of attacks on all rights.

-- Stephan

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lisa's school

Lisa re-started school after taking a well-deserved a summer off ("off" is relative -- she still worked awfully hard!) For her MBA degree at Roosevelt Univesity this term on Saturday at Schaumburg, she is taking a finance course. She loves the small class of 14 students, and the instructor – a petit but sharp lady who knows how to teach, is colorful, and demands hard work from the students!

Lisa’s work demands a lot of her time, so she has been taking one course per term. Her ETA for completion is 2012! Her concentration is international business.

I’m so proud of her – and it’s nice when we have study-buddy sessions together -- usually either at her work office at Johnson Controls in Oak Brook (my old work spot too!) or at the Elmhurst Library (map) a new & confortable building which we both like (I even delivered a speech that mentioned Elmhurst).

Go for it Lisa, you can do it!!  Stephan