Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Some fascinating links

To those who care, sorry I haven't posted last week. Work got very complicated and involved in a classified way and home life has been engrossingly fun with birthday celebrations (more later) and planning two major trips. But anyway, here are a few fascinating links from today I couldn't pass up sharing:

1) Why does time fly in only one direction? (Answer: it might go the other way, but we would never be aware of it. And for answers like this, you can get tenure!)

2) Top 100 political donors of the last 20 years. (#1 ... AT&T, donating 50/50 to Reps and Dems; All but 2 of the top 12 give heavily to the Dems, but most of those are unions; Most partisan Rep donor: Amway.)

3) Some creative athiests will watch your pet if you are taken up in the Rapture and the pet isn't during the next 10 years.

4) Phrase of the day: hapax legomenon (plural: legomena). It's a word or phrase that only appears once in an author's writings. This makes translation very difficult (we have no idea what gopher wood is, Gen 6:14). Someday I may have to sit down and determine all the HL in 'Weird Al' Yankovic's works. I found it as part of a challenge I won.

(Hat tips: Newmark's Door: 1&2. Marginal Revolution: 3)

Monday, August 17, 2009

This in from ... China: A Tale of Two Provinces

The inimitable Scott Sumner was preparing for a trip to China. In discussing just how big and diverse it is and how we rarely recognize that fact (because we focus on countries instead of on people, as a forthcoming article of mine discusses), he turns to a fascinating retelling of the Chinese miracle that has happened since 1978.

In the standard version, the Chinese government, led by the heroic Deng Xioaping [left], gave farmers some limited property rights and began letting price mechanisms decide some food production choices. The agrarian economy transformed and hundreds of millions of starving people could now be fed. This brought support for further reforms as the coastal (non-ag) areas received the blessings of the market system and grew much faster than the relatively neglected inland regions. Today the primary concern of developmentalists seems to be much more on the inequality between coastal/inland and urban/rural rather than on absolute living standards.

To VERY briefly summarize Prof. Sumner (a less brief version quoting parts of his blog is below), Jiangsu Province was the 3rd richest agrarian province in 1978 and Zhejiang 7th. They are marked in red on the map. Both are next door to Shanghai, China's New York City, both were relatively open to trade, and after 1978 were required to grant foreigners the same levels of property protection for foreigners. Domestic protection levels varied, however, with Zhejiang being more market-friendly to natives.

Today Zhejiang is not only the richest province (Jiangsu still 3rd), despite Jiangsu getting more foreign direct investment (FDI), but the average income of the people there is roughly equivalent to its production while Jiangsu's inhabitants own only a third of their production (the rest goes back to foreigners). Zhejiang also scores very highly in terms of human development (health and education). So the inequality problem may be too little free market rather than the oft-supposed too much (alternatively, too little equality under the law). The rest of the post is worth a read if you have a minute:
To give you a sense of how complicated China is, ... [Prof. Huang of MIT] observed that both [provinces] had similar histories of being relatively prosperous and open to trade. ... In the 1980s, however, the provincial leaders in Zhejiang province were much more encouraging of private business. Although we think of the economic reforms starting in 1978, a huge ocean liner turns very slowly. The government of China does not just wave a magic wand and order changes, rather change often bubbles up from the bottom. So the leaders of Zhejiang province, and even more so the early entrepreneurial pioneers in business, were risking their lives. Just imagine if China had decided to abandon the economic reforms and go back to the Cultural Revolution.

BTW, a brief digression that libertarian readers might find inspiring. The rural reforms began in late 1978 in a single village in Anhui province [some members of which are pictured right]. Each family in the commune was assigned their own plot of land. This decision was incredibly risky, so everyone took a blood oath to secrecy. Gradually other villages started to copy them. When the government saw that the reforms were successful, they eventually gave them their blessing. But it was not the sort of top-down change that is often portrayed in the West. It was the Chinese people that took the lead, and the leaders followed. In an earlier post I called this agricultural reform the single best thing that has ever happened in world history. [I'd put it top 10 non-religious.]

Yasheng Huang points out that the 1980s have been widely misunderstood. The industrial revolution occurred mainly in the countryside, where free enterprise was encouraged. ... These reforms actually led to a reduction in income inequality in the 1980s, not the increase many Westerners assume occurred. Why? Because the growth was fastest in rural areas that had been much poorer than the cities. Of course since 1990 the cities have grown faster, and income inequality has indeed worsened. Huang argues that that is because government policy favored the cities after 1990.

Back to Zhejiang [pictured right. Jiangsu is pictured left]. After the party leaders adopted a business-friendly policy, economic development in Zhejiang province took off. Since 1978 Zhejiang has gone from 7th to 1st in per capita provincial GDP, while Jiangsu, which has also grown fast, stayed at 3rd. But the most interesting part of Huang’s argument concerned foreign investment. Which province do you think attracted the most foreign investment? Surprisingly it was Jiangsu, the slower growing province. The reason was that after the economic reforms began the central government provided secure property rights for foreign investors in all of China’s provinces. In contrast, property rights for local business was much more iffy. ... [Huang then uses a clever comparative advantage argument that this really isn't surprising at all: If both provinces are equally accommodating to foreigners, but one does a better job attracting domestic talent, the domestics will tend to work in one province and the foreigners in the other.]

... We found that the difference between Jiangsu and Zhejiang was even more dramatic if you looked at personal income, rather than GDP per capita. In relatively market-oriented cities in Zhejiang province, such as Wenzhou [right], the firms are mostly owned by locals, and GDP per person is only slightly higher than the personal income per person. In contrast, in a Jiangsu city like Suzhou, much of the industry is foreign-owned and GDP per person is roughly 3 times higher than personal income per person. The people in Suzhou produce a lot of output, but much of the income flows out of the country to the owners of the foreign enterprises. So even in two seemingly similar coastal provinces, there are vast differences in the economic structure. ...

Professor Huang argues that many of the Chinese problems that are blamed on free market reforms are actually caused by a lack of free markets. ... In my view the social indicators in China would look better, not worse, if market reforms had occurred at a faster pace. And once again I think Zhejiang province is the best example. Not only did their incomes grow much faster than in neighboring Jiangsu, despite all the foreign investment flowing into Jiangsu, but their Human Development Index score is now highest among all non-urban Chinese provinces. If market reforms were really the cause of China’s social problems, you wouldn’t expect the social indicators in Zhejiang to be so good. ... [Zhejiang Normal University pictured right, another Jiangsu shot on the left]

I often think about the little village in poor Anhui that started it all. Wouldn’t the secret pact of Mr. Hongchang and the other 12 families of Xiaogang village make an inspiring Hollywood story? Don’t hold your breath, there’s still more films to be made glorifying Che Guevara. Of course Che would have preferred China’s pre-reform agricultural policy. The one that led to mass famine. The one that the brave peasants of Anhui rebelled against.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Beautiful Scranton

We drove down to Scranton, PA, for a wedding reception this weekend. Our new official family portrait you see plastered above this. With our heartfelt congratulations to Dave and Laura, here are a couple fun snapshots we got: Lucky couple on the left, happy guests on the right.
In answer to the ... daughter who asked: 'Mother, how do you fall in love?' the wise mother had answered: 'My darling, you don't fall in love, you must keep working at it all the time.' Yes, love is like faith, it isn't something you can capture today and it will remain with you always. It must be nurtured day after day by a husband who continues to 'court' his wife after marriage by studiously trying to do the things that will make her happy. -- Harold B. Lee

We were really impressed by the decorations. The green and yellow colors went very nicely together, the tables were beautifully decorated, the backdrop of the Washington DC temple behind the buffet was great.

Love is not about looking into each others' eyes;
But it is looking toward a common horizon.

Joy: It was really well done. I couldn't think of anything that could have been done better with her reception. Laura's parents did a great job.

Love is not just an ecstasy, not just an intense feeling. It is a driving force. It is something that carries us through our life of joyful duty. – Arthur Henry King, The Abundance of the Heart, 84

Dave and Laura, you were just sealed for time and all eternity. Please speak into my bananaphone and tell us what your plans are now. "We're coming to ITHACA!"

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hy's New Tricks

Whenever people ask what Hyrum is doing, they usually ask if he's walking or running all over the place. Yes, that he does. But that's not what's new.

As soon as family left, Hyrum realized that time is a special commodity, and you have to stop every once in a while to enjoy it. In other words, he has learned how to SIT. This won't seem incredible to many of you, but our boy has never been a sitter. He squats. He walks, he runs, he pauses, he squats, he falls over occasionally, he tackles... he's never decided that he would like to stay doing the same quiet activity for long enough to warrant sitting. "Besides looking at books. He will sit for a book." Well now he's sitting for toys and in the tub (which he never did except when we visited the Green M&Ms last month).

In playing, he likes most to sort shapes and to stack blocks ... or cans of vegetable soup ... or cups of yogurt. His music preferences are also growing. He gave a pretty big headbop during a Shakira (latin pop) song. This morning he conducted David Nevue and Jared Johnson playing Classical/New Age piano. He has also expressed interest in Chopin's 'Raindrop' prelude and a Bach chorale number about death. Anything with trumpets or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir still gets him pretty happy, but he doesn't know what to do with jazz.

He's also learning how to jump into Mama's lap. "Lately when Hy wants my attention, he'll attack my legs, and if I sit down he'll usually climb into my lap, try to climb and jump up on me and he'll stand in front of me with his back to me and kind of do a jump-fall or the kind of trusting fall they have you do at team building exercises. He's gotten to the point that he's willing to fall on his bum too, not just on me, when he tries to jump. He's getting better." His feet haven't really left the ground yet, though. He bounces.

Dada is still Hyrum's best friend. He is really sad any time I leave. Here he is crying because I stepped outside to put away the garbage (with my camera in hand). It's comforted him a lot that Joy has driven me in to work almost every day this week so that he could say goodbye. "He watches Daddy leave through the screen in the mornings when you go by yourself."

Tonight Hyrum was really ready for dinner. So he pulled his chair out and climbed on to it without any help or prompting. The other day as he and Mom went outside, he went right over to the stroller and climbed into it, turned around, and sat down in it without prompting. "Just relaxed, waiting for me to push him around."

And in the speaking news, Hy is starting to get more interested in imitating sounds. While reading Is Your Mama a Lama, he will say "bat," and he gave Mama his very first attempt at "please" today. 'pees' [Here he is reading scriptures with Mama. Those are post-its in the shape of flowers they're playing with. "He chooses the scripture story I read with him these days. He'll take the book from me when I'm singing him songs. He'll flip through it for a while and then leave it on one page until I'm ready to read it to him. If I start reading the wrong side of the page, he lets me know.]

He can find one body part on his face on any given day. Usually it's his eye, and he will point to his eye or poke gently into ours and say, "eye!" On the odd day, he finds his ear, but on those days he doesn't find his ears. Joy reports that today he played with his fingers and toes on cue as she read a book to him, "and his eye and his shirt - he pulled on his shirt when it says 'This is my shirt.' And when we read about the bath, he said, 'ba. ba.' He's learning new things all over the place today."

So that is what Hyrum is learning this week.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Where West Meets East

"We had all of Derrill's family visiting us last week!

It was a real treat." My brother and his wife are going to be living up here now, in the Northeast anyway.

"That is why they were able to come, because they were passing through on their way to their home and Derrill's parents were helping them with a load of there belonging. They are soooo nice."

Steve was hoping for a large reaction from me when I saw his goatee. Something along the lines of, ~Oh, no! What have I done!??!~ I did ponder the infectious nature of beards. What I said to my brother in the evening shadows was: Are you sure you're a BYU student? No, but he used to play one on TV.

Steve and Emie stayed with us two nights. They got to show us a lot of their new games. "I really enjoyed Dominian the most. That is not only because won the game the first time, but it certainly doesn't hurt ;). Thanks so much Steve and Emie. We also played Dance dance revolution Disney style, Mario Kart (which was more fun than we expected) and Wii Active. Derrill does a great job at DDR, so do Steve and Emie. I had fun watching them. The next morning I showed them My Fitness Coach."

We were delited to discover what we hadn't thought of before, that Hyrum has an Auntie Em. And he loves her "as shown in the above video".

One of my favorite parts was that I had plan food ahead and was feeling like I could relax and enjoy our company and they really enjoyed the food I made. They loved the deserts, chicken soup, and wheat banana poppy seed bread. Dad also took us to a lovely dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

In a surprising return to tradition we had a joint birthday celebration for me, Steve and Emie.

"Emilee and Steve both have birthdays in July and Derrill's is in August" in two weeks. "This video is of Steve opening his gift of a kitty from his parents. Animals are not allowed in their apartment, but this Fur Real kitty does some real things and is fun."

It lifts it's paw to lick it and it rolls onto its back so that you can scratch it easier.

"I took this video especially for you mom, so you could remember how much he loved it on first sight. Here is the beautiful mother with the beloved kitty now"

We sure wish everyone could have stayed for longer. It will be nice to have Steve and Emie closer. Hyrum should enjoy it too. But this means that the Watson family is now more East Coast than West. eek.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eating for Love in all the wrong places

Okay, first to justify this as work: I work in a nutrition department and as an economist, I'm interested in signaling behavior. There, that wasn't so hard. Now the meat:

Your sandwich choices may reveal personality, compatibility

With a hat tip to Newmark's Door, this article discusses a study that finds correlations between certain personality types and the sandwiches they enjoy. Interviewing Alan Hirsch, director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation reveals the following results, revealed that they combined the psych profiles and sandwich choices to identify what type of sandwich eater you should be dating, offered here as a public service:
We now know that tuna-salad types are competitive, easily irritated and intolerant of failure....
  • Tuna-sandwich types are better off hanging with other tuna-sandwich types.
  • Seafood salads and BLTs are a slam-dunk love connection.
  • Egg-salad lovers get along with everybody,
  • while ham-and-cheese types, apparently the players of the bread-and-lunch-meat set, "function best without strong romantic entanglements."
Take heed, ladies.
A pity they didn't try out the Three Little Pigs sandwich: smoked ham, breaded pork cutlet, two strips of bacon, two fried eggs, and gruyere, on a brioche bun. Gold diggers should look for people eating this.

Monday, August 3, 2009

DC - A Policy Guy Wanders

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." -- POTUS

As interesting as the economic landmarks were, I was much more interested in making a tour of the Presidents. I have no idea if Pres. Obama was 'at home' when I came calling, but it was very interesting to imagine him or one of the kids pulling back the curtains to look out at the small crowd of photographers, families, and protesters (below) standing vigil. I wondered how long it takes before the novelty of omnipresent amateur paparazzi wears off. Imagine looking out your windows every day and seeing a throng of people. Then I wondered what it would be like if the White House lawn was armed as well as the X-Mansion and decided I wasn't dignified enough to be sticking my camera through the bars and moved on.

"Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential." -- POTUS

Washington and the Distinctive Unit Insignia of the The Big Red One from near the FDIC and Red Cross HQ. Being a Cornellian, I'm rather fascinated by that nickname for the First Infantry Division, the oldest division of our army.

I marched across the green between the White House up to the Washington Monument and was amazed at the number of baseball games going on. Game after game of coed softball all over the parks! I paused once in a while to cheer on a batter or applaud a good outfield catch.

From Washington, you can see the Capitol Building (Congress, pictured right), the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln and the WWII Memorial, and the White House. It is a fitting layout in tribute to our first president. There are so few people who have been put into such high office with so much humility, so much willingness to put it all down to return to a simpler life, and so many excellent first examples. John Adams, our second president, had apparently wanted to make the President serve a life term. Yet as Washington peacefully laid down the mantle, so Adams also turned them over in one of the world's first peaceful exchanges of power between political parties.
I gazed up from the foot of the monument. Yes, he stands that tall today. This is what he said:

  • Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.
  • Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.
  • Friendship is a plant of slow growth and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.
  • Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.
  • Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
  • Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.
  • If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

Of similar bold assertions was our third President, Thomas Jefferson:

  • A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.
  • Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
  • Every generation needs a new revolution.

  • Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.
  • Experience hath shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
  • He who knows best knows how little he knows.

Sauntering around Jefferson, I visited a remarkably flat memorial, that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President during the only economic crisis of the last 100 years worse than this one. I walked it backwards and spent much of it wondering where a statue of the man himself was. The walk consists of his more famous sayings carved into stone, with occasional reflecting pools and waterfalls or statues of Depression-era bread lines.
His dear wife, Eleanor, gets a statue of her own as our first delegate to the UN. Since she is rather less often quoted, here are some of hers:
  • Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you'll be criticized anyway.
  • Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.
  • Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.
  • In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
And so finally, after more than two hours of walking I came round to the lanky Illinoisan himself, whom I trust you will read with as deep a voice as you can manage:
  • The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. Plainly, the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of liberty.
  • My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.
  • How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.
  • I care not much for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.
  • Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.
  • No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.
What a debt of gratitude we owe to these men and their wives.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Counting With Hyrum

Dada tries to make everything a game, especially when he guesses something might be distasteful. So I try to make diaper changing and bedtime as fun as can be. One way I've done that is to hold Hyrum (after he was old enough) just above his crib and called out, "One ... Two ... " and then plopped him into the bed. Sometimes I count Three also, sometimes I wait until a Nine count, sometimes I drop him early. It's the anticipation of being dropped in bed that really brings out the biggest smiles.

This week, Hyrum demonstrated that he has been listening. He's always loved counting books and listening to me count in different dialects and voices. "And I've noticed him saying the number 2 when he reads the counting book himself," adds Joy, "and wondered where he got it from." Now he's added to it. (added to -- added two, get it?)

He started wandering around the house this weekend yelling, One, Two, Aaargh!, "only the Aaaa is pretty soft, which is nice. More like a rasp aghghghghg." [And no, I haven't been showing him Monty Python and the Holy Grail to teach him about the Castle of Aaaargh.] He also shortens it to just 'Two, Aaargh!'

"This morning when I went to get him out of his crib, I heard him saying 'One, Two, Aaargh!' to himself. He kept saying it over and over again last night in his high chair when he was done eating and I kept laughing and laughing."

Today during the sacrament, he was reading a Joseph Smith pop-up book. As quietly as a toddler can speak, he murmered, 'One, Two, Aaaargh!' as he opened each flap. It was hilarious! He was surprising Joseph and the woodland creatures all through the reverence! But he did so quietly.

Hyrum can count to 2.

Here is a video of the recent entertainment. It starts on an Aaaaaargh. He does it again, softly, while Joy is talking to me, so listen in closely right after she says "put him to bed." The other highlight in this is that when Mama counts "One, Two...." he waits for her to finish and adds the "haaaaaaaaaagh" for us.

[and here, despite Joy's protests, is the Monty Python excerpt in question. She says, "I don't like Monty Python."]

MAYNARD: '... the Castle of uuggggggh'.
BEDEMIR: What is that?
MAYNARD: He must have died while carving it.
LAUNCELOT: Oh, come on!
MAYNARD: Well, that's what it says.
ARTHUR: Look, if he was dying, he wouldn't bother to carve 'aaggggh'. He'd just say it!
MAYNARD: Well, that's what's carved in the rock!
GALAHAD: Perhaps he was dictating.
ARTHUR: Oh, shut up. Well, does it say anything else?
MAYNARD: No. Just, 'uuggggggh'.
LAUNCELOT: Aauuggghhh.
KNIGHT: Aaauggh.
BEDEMIR: You don't suppose he meant the Camauuuugh?
KNIGHT: Where's that?
BEDEMIR: France, I think.
LAUNCELOT: Isn't there a Saint Aauuuves in Cornwall?
ARTHUR: No, that's Saint Ives.
LAUNCELOT: Oh, yes. Saint Iiiives.
SEVERAL: Iiiiives.
BEDEMIR: Oooohoohohooo!
LAUNCELOT: No, no, aauuuuugh, at the back of the throat. Aauuugh.
BEDEMIR: No, no, no, oooooooh, in surprise and alarm.
LAUNCELOT: Oh, you mean sort of a aaaagh!
BEDEMIR: Yes, but I-- Aaaaagh!
KNIGHT: Oh, no!

MAYNARD: It's the legendary Black Beast of aaauuugh!
ARTHUR: Run away!
ALL: Run away! Run away!

Next, I'll have to teach him to count to 5.....

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Many Colors of NO

We decided early on to be circumspect about what we would say "no" to. Only if it would hurt him or hurt the thing (potentially). So mostly, No is reserved for the computers, cords, the stove, and non-social behaviors. Everything else, we worked hard to say, "Let's do something else instead," or "Could you please turn the TV back on?" But there's one little problem: No gets results. He knows that we will put him in time out for disobeying No.

Now it's time for Hy to turn the tables. Thus far, he's only ever tried out a new word once or twice, and then dropped it. He says the names of a few loved ones, and that's it. This week, though, he has taken to saying No.

He points out the computer and says "No no no." We affirm, "No no no." Then he touches it anyway and gets put in time out.

He points at the oven and says "No no no." We affirm, "No no no."

He says No at meal times when it's taking Mommy too long to make the food. He doesn't say No to refuse food, he still just shakes his head. But he lets us know we're doing something wrong.

He says No when Daddy leaves. He kept on saying No today when I left to help someone move. That was sweet.

He says No to his diaper change, though not consistently.

He says No to the air conditioner, which he is only allowed to turn on and off once a day. (It started making strange noises when we let him turn it on and off at will in a baby's OCD way.)

He says No when we take a toy away. "I was still playing with that."

He pointed at my yogurt today and said No. We're puzzling whether that meant that he knew he wasn't going to get much of it (I shared anyway) or whether it was because he didn't want me to eat it (it's his favorite). This video is of me sharing the yogurt with him just a few days ago.

He doesn't say No to going to bed, but he does say No when we leave him in bed. He also says No when I offer him the noise maker and he's happy with the noise it's making.

Sometimes he says No because he heard us say No to each other, but we use it differently with each other.

Overall, this makes us think that No is about the absence of something. He doesn't want something to go away: me, the food, the toy.... the dirty diaper? It's very adorable. For now.

He doesn't say Yes yet. He says "oh" meaning yes. I will ask him, "Can you say, Yes, Hyrum?" And he nods his head and says, "Oh." And he's very clear about the difference between Oh and No.