Thursday, October 29, 2009

A little philosophy: what is truth?

1 - Frederick Hayek's 1974 Nobel Prize (Econ) lecture: "I prefer true but imperfect knowledge, even if it leaves much indetermined and unpredictable, to a pretence of exact knowledge that is likely to be false." Hayek was speaking about the great unknowns in economics and political science, pointing out the hubris in assuming away the things we cannot measure in order to come up with estimates to the third decimal point of the effects of, say, government spending on unemployment. It works equally well in discussing spiritual truth. It is the humility to say, "I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things" and avoiding the pride that says my model proves there is no God because He does not show up in my experiments.

2 - An economist who writes philosophy (Steve Landsburg) just started blogging, and he argued that 1) the evolutionist who says "Evolution proves there is no God" is missing the point. It's not explaining life that's challenging, but why is there anything? and that 2) since mathematics and other extremely complex things are eternal and self-existent, there is no need for a Creator to create them. I responded thusly:

Y'see, part of the problem both you and he are bringing up is what we mean by "create." There is stuck in Western thought since the councils that create must mean "ex nihilo." But there is no Biblical support for that. The better term for what Gensis speaks of is "organize" rather than "produce from nothing." That is, in fact, the sense we usually mean when we talk of creating anything: we take the parts that are already there, physical and mental, and combine them to form a new thing. "In the beginning ... the earth was without form" not "In the beginning there was no matter."

Joseph Smith, some one hundred years before Einstein said the same thing, claimed that matter "was not created or made, neither indeed can be" (Doctrine and Covenants 93:29). Mormon/LDS theology has long accepted the eternal, 'independent existence' of God, the universe with all its matter, mathematics, and all of us. It's still not proof there is no God. Its eternal, self-existent nature is in fact one more type and shadow of Him.

There is much of that I do not understand. ... That may be a good thing.

3 - On the lighter side, Chris Blattman links us to three questions: Truth is a number? Truth is art? Art is numbers? A Chinese firm that sells art around the world produces composite pictures of the most and least desired art in various countries to show us what we want. For Americans, it appears to be George Washington by a lake. Kenya has remarkably similar taste. One of the artists explained:

"In a way it was a traditional idea, because a faith in numbers is fundamental to people, starting with Plato’s idea of a world which is based on numbers. ... we believe in numbers, and numbers never lie. Numbers are innocent. It’s absolutely true data. ... That’s really the truth, as much as we can get to the truth. Truth is a number."

Oy, my head!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two fun links

An open letter, or what not to get your kid for Christmas, chemistry edition. Incredibly hilarious. "The time has come to ... allow your daughter to enjoy her happy intellectual incuriosity..." Hat tip: an old Wronging Rights post.

McDonald's is throwing in the towel in Iceland. What's the fun part, you ask? The opponents of American neo-imperialism (I work with some of them) cheer because Mickey D's has "terrorized food culture all over the world." If you buy that Big Mac... the terrorists win. (Hat tip: Marginal Revolution).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Salzburger Dom (Cathedral)

The Salzburg Cathedral is a magnificent monument to Christ and to the archbishops who have worked and served there. A number of them are entombed underneath and two of the wing-side altars are dedicated to their memories and service with large than life-sized portraits of them surrounding the altars.

This is the door to a smaller chapel underneath the cathedral in the crypt.







One of the principal altars.







The top of an arch-bishop altar.









The grand organ. There are I think 4 other organs in the main hall as well. The organist doth covet.








The paintings on the ceilings depict scenes from the crucifixion, resurrection, judgment, and stories from the Old Testament. Probably stories from the Catholic saints as well, but I wouldn't recognize them. It's really worth it to click on the ceiling pictures in the post to see them enlarged.


video
In this video, I walk from one side of the cathedral to the other, starting at the baptismal font (surrounded by a group of happy grandparents). The place is really huge.


Some more gorgeous ceiling work. There's actually relatively little on the walls. The altars and paintings in the alcoves are beautiful, but the pillars and walls themselves are noticeably blank. Clearly the intention is to get one to look up in wonder at God.

video
Outside the cathedral is a large statue of Mary. One of the cooler parts I learned about online before we went was that if you start from the passageway and walk forward, it looks like the angels on the cathedral lower to crown the virgin Mary. My videos seem a lot shakier than I remember being.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Amazing Spiderman Should be Mormon

I mentioned in my last post that I was watching Spiderman 2 for the first time. I finished it last night and really liked it. The first movie did a fine job introducing Spidey, okay. This one touched me deeply and talked about a number of issues that I've been struggling with too.

But I'm not here to talk about them. I'm here to talk about Peter Parker's issues. His main internal conflict deals with finding balance: how can he be a college student, a part-time photographer, hold down a second job, keep up with a social life (maybe even date), and, oh yes, be a hero? The stress of it all is just too much to that point that he really can't do any of it effectively. Not for the first 15 minutes of the movie anyway.

After watching the first part, I was convinced that Peter Parker needs a couple LDS missionaries to knock on his door, convert him to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and get this boy a calling in the church. Y'see, from the LDS/Mormon point of view, all of us are called to be "saviors on mount Zion" (Obadiah 1:21) - to assist the Savior in His work. (It's ... kind of like being expected to be a superhero without tights or powers - unless you're the guy on the left - just a faith that somehow God will magnify our feeble efforts to reach out, that the Holy Ghost will touch people's hearts, and the Atonement change us all.)

And there are a lot of things that assisting in God's work calls on a member of the Church to do. This goes way beyond 10% tithing and not smoking or drinking. One of our speakers in stake conference, a state trooper, referred to this as the "Marine Corps of churches."
  • Visiting several families monthly and looking after their spiritual and temporal needs;
  • serving in any capacity where asked - in my case an extra 10ish hours on top of the 3 hour Sunday meetings every week, plus priesthood meetings, and that's all just so that the branch president doesn't have to spend that time too on top of the who-knows-how-much extra he voluntarily does; [don't get me wrong: I love my calling and have loved all my other ones]
  • driving up to the temple 1:45 away as often as you can to do vicarious work for the dead [picture right is of the angel Moroni statue on the Hill Cumorah near our local temple, who, incidentally, was modeled by two of Joy's ancestors];
  • taking opportunities to talk to people about the gospel;
  • dropping most anything most anytime when someone calls and needs help;
  • moving 10 families out or around every May and another 10 in or around every September;
  • feeding the missionaries a couple times a month;
  • reserving every Monday night for family time;
  • teach your kids the gospel;
  • make home a temple;
  • daily personal scripture study, prayer, journal writing;
  • search out information about your ancestors so you can do their work in the temple too;
  • filling random service projects and assignments as they come up, usually with little warning;
  • keep up and rotate food storage;
  • get out of debt and make sure you have several months' worth of money for emergencies [which they said long before the current recession]...
And even that doesn't cover all of repenting, "putting off the natural man," and striving to become more like Jesus. At various points, church leaders have reminded us to be politely politically engaged, to plant vegetable gardens, you name it. It is, quite literally, more than any one person can do at one time, particularly when you add family, work, social life, and maybe some me time into the equation, and all of which are assigned important roles this grand, eternal plan we get to participate in.

I think Peter Parker would relate. I think he would gain a lot by associating with a bunch of mere mortals trying to be superheroes. I think that in the process of talking - as our branch does a couple times every semester - about how to balance it all without being overloaded, he would learn to find more of a center in his life.

At a church meeting I was at tonight, one of the speakers mentioned that when Jesus was on the earth, He didn't go around to heal every person around the globe. He didn't even heal everyone in all Israel. He healed those around Him who had faith. I gather there were a lot of sick people at the pool of Bethesda, but only one person healed. As He said to the Pharasees, there were many widows in Israel, but Elijah was sent to just one.

Yes, Pete, you are a superhero. You have a responsibility. "Where much is given, much is required" is how your LDS Uncle Ben would've said it. But you aren't required to give more than you have. None of us has enough to give and do all of it. None. That's one of the reasons we need the Atonement. We do all we can, and we leave the residual in God's hands. With great power comes great responsibility, but not all responsibility. You don't have all power. Don't take on all responsibility.

Prof. Stephen E. Robinson likened it to weight-lifting: you keep adding weights until you can't do anymore, and you lift that weight until it becomes easier and then you can add some more. Your schooling, Peter, your jobs, and even some down time, are essential parts to making you a more effective Spiderman later. [My parents are probably reading this and thinking, "Oh good, the boy was paying attention to something we said."]

I know [oh yeah, from your vast experience playing City of Heroes, I suppose? Pfft.]... Okay, I imagine it's hard to justify seeing Mary Jane's play when there's someone out there who needs you. People need Peter too, not just Spiderman. Sometimes you can delegate the crime fighting to the boys in blue, who really do a good job in the real world. It takes faith and prayer and serious thought to know when to do what - that I do know from experience. I also know from experience something I learned by applying what Brigham Young taught: if you give God the time He needs, He will give you the time you need. I've found that to be true again and again.

Do all you can. Do the best you can. Leave the rest in the Lord's hands "and [He] will give you rest."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Let's not go there: avoiding markets in everything

Tyler Cowan, over at Marginal Revolution, was asked for some examples of successful government bureaucracies. He provided some thoughtful examples: "the NIH, the Manhattan Project, U.C. Berkeley, the University of Michigan, Fairfax County, the World Trade Organization, the urban planners of postwar Germany, some of the Victorian public works and public health commissions, most of what goes on in Singapore, anywhere that J.S. Bach worked."

One of the regular commentators objected to the Manhattan Project in this way: "Another thing, how is the Manhattan Project an example? Yes, they ended up creating an atomic weapon. But did they do it for less money than it would have taken a private company to do, if that had been legal and the company could reap the profits from selling A-bombs?"

EEEEEEEEEEEK!

Okay, now that my hair is back in a flat position, is there any way this could work?

a) Contract to the low bidder. At best, we have an airline result with our nuclear deterrent built with the cheapest materials possible. I'm rather worried about safety. In the mediocre case we get $10k hammers. Worse case (not worst, but worse) - Haliburton with H-bombs. We could name it the HALiburton-9000.

b) X-prize style. Get the best and brightest at dozens of private and public institutions working on it. It worked for space flight. Okay.... Security leaks are going to be killer... Undergrads at MIT working on nuclear warheads... Be afraid.

Just as an aside, I was watching Spiderman 2 for the first time last night while cleaning, so add to my list of fears Doc Ock with Einstein's head. Jurassic Park comes to mind as another example. Compared to the list of ways the entire project could have gone wrong, no matter who did it, I think it comes down as a success.

It might be instructive, though, to compare the Manhattan Project to other countries' efforts that also produced bombs: security, cost, time taken, etc.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The M&M Game

We reported earlier that Hy ate M&Ms. That is no longer true. But he still wants them. Here, captured on webcam, is the reason why:
video

It's really cute watching this video with him, because he gives the same answers to webcam Derrill and prompts webcam Hy.

A new day dawning?

I'm thinking more and more about breaking this bugger into two blogs: one for work to discuss economics, development, politics, and some religion to a broader world and one just for the more familial concerns. While I can believe that some of you who are here for the pictures of the baby are also interested in the economics and politics, I think there are some pretty separate audiences here ... and that it might be a good idea to keep some of the audience separate. I'll let you know when the new blog is up.

A good start on: child and slave labor

The US Department of Labor just finished a major piece of work identifying 122 products in 58 countries made with child and/or forced (=slave) labor. This is a good start, but far from done:
1) At 194 pages, it's more than the casual reader wants to go through.
2) Though they can give a list of suspect products, there is no 'guarantee' that the specific Christmas decoration you see on the shelf labeled Made in China was actually made with slave labor.
3) This doesn't identify the conditions under which children worked if in fact children were used as laborers in the process, which is salient to me if not to everyone. (I'm more concerned about hard labor and harsh conditions than about after school jobs or some menial housework that keeps the family from starving.)

Change.org has kindly created a convenient list of "some of the worst offenders for forced labor or slavery specifically:

* Bolivia: nuts, cattle, corn, and sugar

* Burma: bamboo, beans, bricks, jade, nuts, rice rubber, rubies, sesame, shrimp, sugarcane, sunflowers, and teak

* China: artificial flowers, bricks, Christmas decorations, coal, cotton, electronics, garments, footwear, fireworks, nails, and toys

* India: bricks, carpets, cottonseed, textiles, and garments

* Nepal: bricks, carpets, textiles, and stones

* North Korea: bricks, cement, coal, gold, iron, and textiles

* Pakistan: bricks, carpet, coal, cotton, sugar, and wheat"

Hopefully next steps will identify specific companies who are involved in this and shipping to a store near you so that people can, if you choose, vote with your dollars to not support slave-produced goods. Hat tip to Texas in Africa.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Government as Santa

Robert Higgs, to whom I was sent by Marginal Revolution (link on the right), has an interesting discussion with a very interesting conclusion. The discussion is about the difference between diagnosis and prescription: it's one thing to say 'government is too big' and another to know how best to shrink it. In defending himself from those who say his diagnosis is no good because he doesn't have a prescription, he ends with these thoughts on why it is beyond the power of any one person or small group of people to stop the growth of government we've seen over the last 75 years:

"Yet, one thing we do know: Many Americans now believe many things about their government that are false, and they expect much from the government that the rulers cannot provide. ... Until more people come to a more realistic, fact-based understanding of the government and the economy, little hope exists of tearing them away from their quasi-religious attachment to a government they view with misplaced reverence and unrealistic hopes. Lacking a true religious faith yet craving one, many Americans have turned to the state as a substitute god, endowed with the divine omnipotence required to shower the public with something for nothing in every department – free health care, free retirement security, free protection from hazardous consumer products and workplace accidents, free protection from the Islamic maniacs the U.S. government stirs up with its misadventures in the Muslim world, and so forth. If you take the government to be Santa Claus, you naturally want every day to be Christmas; and the bigger the Santa, the bigger his sack of goodies."

I should note, despite my nice graphic, that many conservatives were quite happy to look at Bush II as Santa also. No one gets elected by saying they won't do anything, and only diehard Libertarians vote for someone because they expect that person to do nothing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Random Thoughts on Suffering

Today for part of church some of us debated the existence of trials and challenges. My mind turned to Brother Brigham, second president of the Church. For a man who is as firm and straightforward as he, he does seem to come down on both sides of the issue:

"As to trials, why bless your hearts,
the man or woman who enjoys
the spirit of our religion has no trials..."

"The people of the Most High God
must be tried. It is written that
they will be tried in all things..."

"We are now in a day of trial ..."

"If the Saints could realize things as they are
when they are called to pass through trials,
and to suffer what they call sacrifices,
they would acknowledge them to be
the greatest blessings that could be bestowed upon them."

These and many more excellent words of wisdom are here.

We did reach agreement at any rate that we pass through suffering. And one of the blessings of this suffering is the gaining of something called empathy. The example given was that when you break your foot, you learn to have empathy the next time you see someone with crutches.

I've been thinking about this empathy thing over the last few weeks. It seems that we, many of us humans anyway, do a good job convincing ourselves that we are so thoroughly unique and individual that no one has ever suffered or gone through what we do. Though prominent among teens, turning twenty does not remedy the opinion. We therefore only accept counsel or pity or acknowledge the suffering of someone who has suffered sufficiently similarly to us.

"No one knows my pain." Folks who have waited a long time to find their eternal companion (or to have a child or to graduate or to ...) discount the pain of those who had to wait less for those blessings. My sense of loneliness and not-belonging is greater than yours. My psychosis is bigger than yours. It's a perpetual game of Topper. Yet "charity suffereth long" and despite suffering a long time "envieth not and is not puffed up" - charity neither longs to exchange crosses nor is it proud because my cross is bigger than yours... charity doesn't compare crosses at all.

Even if trials are not universal, suffering is. We all suffer. Some more visibly, some more vocally, but all of us do. Why don't we a) accept others' suffering empathy or b) apply our suffering to others better?

J.K. Rowling had some wonderful things to say on the subject at Harvard's commencement 2008 (here's my summary, the original link is missing now). She started off, "I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates." She then goes on to discuss why we need imagination: it's not just for bedtime stories of wizards, but "it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared."

So the question for the night as I get ready for bed, is: Is common suffering enough? Can we learn to accept another person's love and concern simply by virtue of their having suffered something else? Can we learn to empathize with others to say, "No, I don't know precisely what you are going through; but I know what it is to hurt, and I join you in that pain"? In short, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, not just those who mourn the way we have mourned.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Giant

Congratulations, dear. You have given birth ... to a giant.

"I don't think I was pregnant the last 9 months."

We took Hy in to the doctor last Monday for his 18 mo checkup to learn that he is a mere inch short of 3 feet tall.

"That sounds so tall the way you say it."

Of all the kids his age, he is taller than 92% of them. People at the store or on the plane think he's 2.5 years old. Given that most of the people in our church have relatively small children, it makes him look even larger by comparison! And at not-quite 30 pounds, he's also a big boy, but that's quite appropriate for his height.

"And he still has a large melon - cerebral melon." He also has a decent set of teeth now, as you can see, with canines coming in to complete the set.

In the mornings, we give Hy a little devotional. We pray, sing a couple songs from the primary hymnal, and read a Children's Book of Mormon story. He picks the story. Nearly every time Joy does it, he picks the same story: How we got the Book of Mormon.

"And I do it a lot!"

After reading the story, we then take him to the TV (he calls it Tee) to watch the video version. Our best guess for why he picks this story all the time is that the trumpets start playing at the end of the story when you see the finished Book of Mormon sitting there.

"That's his favorite frame."

Hyrum sits when instructed, and is getting better at sitting to watch the TV when we do the scripture video. This is much preferred to his earlier activity of pushing the channel change buttons or adjusting the brightness and contrast while watching something. "The great thing about being able to get him to sit down is getting him to sit in the tub when I ask him to." Mother-hearts everywhere rest easier.

He has a lot of partial words that he's working on. Give us a list, Joy.

"Su - sun. Something like kern for the corn part of popcorn" his favorite nursery song. Gaw for God and Je for Jesus. He loves pointing to the computer to ask to talk to "Po"p and Grandma "Boo." "Boo! Sometimes I'm not sure he's saying Boo because he'll elongate it or whine it: boo-oo. boo-oo. He also says "Ca-ca" for computer," particularly when he wants the computer to play music. He says a very forceful "down" and we've been working on getting him to say "yeah" in addition to "no" at the dinner table. Joy got him a blow-up ball pit for an early Christmas present, and he loves playing with the "ba"lls. Joy comments that we really need to take more pictures of him playing in it.

He can throw things away in the garbage can when we ask and even close the lid afterwards. One of the cuter bits of that is that we usually keep the garbage can facing the wall to discourage him from putting toys in it. Well, when we put the can in the middle of the room so it would be easier for him to throw something away while we practiced, he walked around to the back of the can, opened it from behind, "just as if it was still against the wall."

Hyrum has never been much of a one for hugs, but we have discovered he is very willing to kiss. So instead of asking for hugs and occasionally getting cries, we now ask for kisses each night and sometimes revel in a hug as well. "Yep, we almost always get a kiss." He can also blow kisses, and he kissed a woman in choir he was sitting next to. We may need to work on that one.

"He has jumped for the first time, with both feet." He claps his hands after music or when someone is happy. He still conducts music very well. Tonight he conducted Bach's Toccatta & Fugue in D minor with Leopold Stakowski while watching Disney's Fantasia. Last night he and I did a Tchaikovsky piece that he really enjoyed. It's nice to see him party out to classical as well as Latin pop, rock, and soundtracks with trumpets ... even if it is all my music. "At church, he started conducting before the church conductor did. She said it made her smile." I was watching him, and his timing for the in-coming was Perfect. The organist finished the intro, he waited one beat, and his arms went down. (Laura waited two beats.)

Our Perfect Example

Two weeks ago, my brother and his wife joined us for General Conference. It's a time when members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and anyone else who cares to) join together to listen to our prophet, the apostles, and other church leaders give advice and counsel inspired by the Lord.

One of the main messages this time around that was most important to me was the testimony that each of us can receive revelation. That is, God will speak to us individually for our individual problems. This revelation comes most often as feelings of comfort or peace that help confirm a course of action, or things will stand out during my scripture reading I hadn't noticed before that seem to have a bearing on what I'm praying about. They particularly emphasized that parents have a right to receive revelation to help their children - that God wants to give us direction and help. It was a beautifully comforting message, and one that Joy and I have witnessed on a number of occasions in the last month.

Another of the main themes was that we should do anything we do out of love. President Henry B. Eyring, one of our prophet's two counselors, stood out to me particularly on that topic. You can find his talk "Our Perfect Example" in print, or as a video if you scroll down a bit.

As we strive to be like Jesus, he said, we need to "
pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love" (Moroni 7:48). "Love is the motivating principle by which the Lord leads us along the way towards becoming like Him. ... The greatest joys and the greatest sorrows we experience are in family relationships. The joys come from putting the welfare of others above our own. That is what love is. And the sorrow comes primarily from selfishness, which is the absence of love. The ideal God holds for us is to form families in the way most likely to lead to happiness and away from sorrow."

He gave these words of counsel to couples: "Pray for the love which allows you to see the good in your companion. Pray for the love that makes weaknesses and mistakes seem small. Pray for the love to make your companion’s joy your own. Pray for the love to want to lessen the load and soften the sorrows of your companion." He also counseled about reaching out to wayward children, about how children can show love for parents, and about showing love for people not in our families.

He promised that as we would strive to be filled with love and give that love to others, we will feel the approval of Jesus and our Father more in our lives. We will have more peace and contentment in our lives.

Happy Halloween to Joy's Family

Starring:
Fran, Derrill, Joy
DeWayne and Hyrum

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!


Feel the love.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Salzburg 1 - Austria's Most Famous Exports

Austria has a bit of an image problem with English speakers. We heard the same story several times in our two days there and saw its effects emblazoned on t-shirts in every gift shop. When they tell a Yank, for instance, that they are from Austria, the Yank is liable to say things like, "Oh, g'day mate," or "Can you sing a didgeridoo?" or some such. The patient Austrian then explains (unless it's on the t-shirt), "There are no kangaroos in Austria."

The Yank is liable to be puzzled at this statement. Of course there are kangeroos in Australia! That's when the Austrian will say, "The Sound of Music" and comprehension dawns. The Alps! Do-Re-Mi! Salzburg and Vienna! Mozart! Yes! That Austria.

We awoke in our van Wednesday morning, had a wonderful, provincial breakfast of Broetchen and Nutella and hopped on the bus into the Salzburg Altstadt (old city). We spent two days in Salzburg and surroundings, so we're going to break the part down thematically and focus on the Sound of Music and Mozart today.


The bus dropped us off in front of the Mirabelle Gardens. Lots of decorative flowers, lots of statues of two or more people - some fighting, some helping their pedestal buddy, some doing other things. The fountains are impressive.






The Gardens are next door to a palace and the Baroque Museum, which oddly enough was preparing to do a Classical music concert. It's like going to the BeeGee's museum to hear MC Hammer.





Sound of Music fans may recognize the Mirabelle Gardens as the scene for Do-Re-Mi.










In the Salzburg Castle (Thursday) they had a puppet museum, complete with this cut out from the Sound of Marionettes.






Also in Salzburg is a wonderful trick fountain garden we'll describe later. At the trick fountains is the gazebo where they performed 16 Going on 17.


Our big ticket item in Salzburg was Wednesday night: a dinner theater entitled The Sound of Salzburg. Four singers performed most of the Sound of Music repertoire, Austrian folk favorites, a couple Mozart pieces, and had some fun. Joy LOVES dinner theater, so this was on a per with the gondola ride for romantic moments. Dinner was very good - I loved my 'typisch Deutsch' pork roast with sauerkraut. I was one of the lucky people called up from the audience to dance and sing. Joy got video of much of it, but I spent the dancing bit paying attention to getting the steps right while hidden behind another 'couple' and wasn't paying attention to the audience, so you won't see those videos. The song after that, though, was one I recognized (Once an Austrian went yodeling...), so I sang along with gusto ... much to the shock of the singers. In the next verse, they grabbed the hat off my head to swing around.

video

Mozart's Birthplace, the building declares.
Much ado about nothing, the online reviews of it declare. It's all 'period' furniture, but none if it was the Mozarts' and you can't touch anything.

So we toured Mozart's Residence across the street from the Mirabelle Gardens instead. Photography was not allowed (I learned after taking a small handful of shots). We learned a lot about the Wunderkind, including how he married an ex-girlfriend's sister.


An organ in the residence. The great thing about the audio tour was that in addition to the spoken word, they played various lesser-known but beautiful Mozart selections. My favorite were the passionate, almost Romance period, religious pieces he composed at his mother's death.

Mozart has never been a favorite musician for me. For my taste, his great works are overplayed and his lesser works are finger exercises. After saying that, though, I was shocked this week in listening to some Baby Mozart to realize the he wrote the music for Twinkle Twinkle (aka The Alphabet Song; aka Baa Baa Black Sheep; aka....). We've all been singing Mozart to our kids for a long time!

Between the puppet museum, the Sound of Salzburg, Mozart Residence, and other random televisions around, we saw no fewer than 4 different renditions of Papageno's introduction and marriage from The Magic Flute (for my money, Mozart's best work).

That week they were also honoring Mozart's good friend, mentor, and colleague: Joseph Haydn. This is (a copy of) Haydn's death mask. The two of them, despite being 30 years apart in age, apparently had very high regard for each other. Haydn's head has quite a story behind it: separated from his corpse by phrenologist grave robbers and only reunited in the tomb 145 years later.






Oh, one more Salzburg export: another Austrian hat for Derrill. My other two came by way of Disney World's Epcot center and Austrian tourism boards. It's nice to have one I can say really really came from Austria. It has a very different feel from the other two - much firmer and less peaked.

Economics Nobel Prize

From Greg Mankiw's blog, link on right
-----------------
First-Year Grad Student Wins Nobel Prize in Economics! From the Associated Press (with some light editing):

Pfuffnick's Nobel Economics Prize triumph hailed by many

LONDON — The surprise choice of first-year graduate student Quintus Pfuffnick for the Nobel Prize in Economics drew praise from much of the world Friday even as many pointed out the youthful economist has not yet published anything in scholarly journals.

The new PhD candidate was hailed for his willingness to tackle difficult problems, his commitment to improving the economic system, and his goal of bringing efficiency and equality into harmony.

Professor Paul Krugman of Princeton, who won the prize in 2008, said Pfuffnick's award shows great things are expected from him in the coming years.

"In a way, it's an award coming near the beginning of the first year in grad school of a relatively young economist that anticipates an even greater contribution towards making our economy a better place for all," he said. "It is an award that speaks to the promise of Mr Pfuffnick's message of hope."

He said the prize is a "wonderful recognition of Pfuffnick's essay in his grad school application."
---------------
I thought that was too appropriate and funny to pass up on in light of certain other committee choices. The actual Nobel in economics goes to two pioneers in the field of economic governance. Their problems and answers are related to political governance, but in a way show how to govern society when markets fail without resorting to government.

The first woman to win the Economics Nobel, Elinor Ostrom (Indiana University, Bloomington) found a solution to an old problem, the "Problem of the Commons." The problem is that when no one owns a thing (ie: common property), no one has the responsibility for its upkeep and proper management. This means common property natural resources tend to be overused to the detriment of all. It's not in anyone's individual interest to reduce their use, even though everyone would be better off if they could all agree to do so. The top two answers to that problem are privatization and nationalization (for two points, guess which political parties favor which policies). Ostram demonstrates, however, that real people often recognize and resolve the problem of the commons while develop social organizations that preserve the communal nature of the resources. "She observes that resource users frequently develop sophisticated mechanisms for decision-making and rule enforcement to handle conflicts of interest, and she characterizes the rules that promote successful outcomes." I have written about this in Per's and my food policy book.

Update: One example of this mentioned by Nobel laureate Vernon Smith, as posted on Marginal Revolution, from Switzerland: "One rule, still enforced, dating back to 1517 states that "no citizen could send more cows to the [common property] alp than he could feed during the winter." Wintering a cow is costly, and this rule rations access to the commons by tying it to private property rights."

Oliver Williamson (UC Berkley) asked which problems are better solved by market settings and which are best solved within a firm. "Competitive markets work relatively well because buyers and sellers can turn to other trading partners in case of dissent. But when market competition is limited, firms are better suited for conflict resolution than markets." Within-firm dispute resolution is also more likely to be chosen the more important establishing relationships of trust is.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dodgers win their division!


The Dodgers only needed one more game to clinch their opportunity to go to the post-season. One game, that's it. But they like keeping things to the wire. So they lost 5 straight.

Last night, while we were playing with my brother and his wife (Dominion), we kept half an eye on the game, a scoreless wonder against the Rockies until the seventh inning where we brought in run after run for a 5-0 victory!

The Dodgers are now the National League West Champions for the second year in a row and 3/4.

They will face the Cardinals Wed-Thur for the first of the 5 game play off.

Some random and entirely unnecessary but celebratory statistics: "The Dodgers have back-to-back first-place finishes for the first time since 1977-78 after already qualifying for postseason play three of the four years that Ned Colletti has been general manager. The last time they advanced three times in a four-year span was 1963-66. Their 94 wins are the most for a Dodgers team since 1988, the last time they won the World Series."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Joy's Favorite Memories

I really loved being with family. It was so nice to chat with Mari and sing with the children before bed, and play games with Mari and DeWayne. It was really special to me that Anna [left] called me her girl friend and it was fun to see how much friends she was with Derrill after he helped her with a hotair balloon and basket (minus the hot air) art project. We really felt special that DeWayne took time off work to play with us and to show us around, what a wonderful trip.

Mari [right, with baby Sarah] gave me a great gift. She suggested that I get my nails done to being a journey of not biting them. Well, happily enough I have not bitten my nails now for three weeks and I bought some nail polish and some files this last week.

A special moment for me was seeing Venezia from the Gondola. They are mighty expensive, but just as we took off in ours I realized that this was the way I wanted to see Venice and I was just thrilled with the whole ride. I was also especially happy when he took us through some quiet streets, most of Venice was really crowded, so the quiet canals were very nice. I also bought white hat in Venics :), so Derrill wasnt' the only one to come home with a hat this time.
video


Before we went into Venice proper we took a boat bus to Morano where they make glass and wandered through their canals. It is just like Venice only quieter and I really liked Morano for that.... sweet memories. [A restaurant in Murano]




The games we played with DeWayne and Mari were Carcazone, Settlers of Catan, Alahambra, and Turn and Taxis. The new one to me was Turn and Taxis. That was fun to learn and to play! I am thinking about owning it. :) I really enjoyed all the fun and laughs that we had, from Derrill banging his head on a table (you had to be there) to be quoting movies at strange times and turning the tables on Mari, trading a grain for a grain (her favorite joke). [DW - I really like this shot of DeWayne. This is the general planning his attack. There was a tomato caught in an eddy of the waterfalls and he was trying to decide how to get it out.]






Then there is Sacatini, yes from Italy it must be the name of a .....PASTA. This pasta looks like it is a paper bag tided at the top with a string. Inside it has pear and ricatta. So you mix it with oil, cinnammon and a healthy dose of parmesian and it is divine!!!!!!!!!!! The pumkin pasta with bacon was superb as well.





We went to a safari zoo where you drive through with you own car and the animals come up to your car. You are supposed to have you windows shut, but as you see we did not and that giraffe was really determined to get a bit of my carrot.... but I was determined as well.




The baby Hippo was really cute too. We were lucky to be passing by (for the second time) and saw the mom and the baby get out of the pool.





The castle that we saw in Trieste was way awsome. Inside it looked like you think a castle should look, not just like a museum like some of them. [Below is the dock by Castle Miramare.]

We really enjoyed the Gelato, that everyone said we should enjoy. We tried to get it whenever we could, we even got it twice one

day. That day was the over the fence gelatto. We had parked behind it and had passed alot of gelattorias that were closed, we were really hoping this one would be open because their lights were on, but when we walked up they had just turned them off. He still served us and that gelatto was fudgey and divine. All the chocolates were different (I always got chocolate).








Finally the waterfalls (featured in a preceding post) were really neat at Valley of the Miste in the Dolomites. I love water and bridges and that was a sweet spot!