6.29.2005

Preemah Fakiay or: Be Careful, Young Pedantic Lawyer

Michael Gilleland points out a quite funny example of what happens when pedants try to impose historical usage on people who have been using a language quite nicely, thank you:

The same may be said of all the professions in which the 'dead' languages are not merely the toys of pedagogues but the constant tools of practical men. I suffer from lumbago; I grow geraniums; I go to the cinema. And when my doctor diagnoses loombahgo, my gardiner cultivates gerahniooms, or my cook enjoys herself at the kyneemah I shall begin to think that the pedagogues are making headway.

As for the political world, the numerous Latin words in current political usage are sufficiently mystifying to the man-in-the-tavern without our attempting to make him pronounce them as some good don believes they may have been pronounced by Cicero or Horace. Even the mocking business man is not ashamed to draw his dividends at so much per centum; but not all the pedants of Arabia will induce him to draw them pair kentoom.


Take heed, fellow law students. Take heed, fellow pedants.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...a cautionary tale...

Banana Man and Vegas

Small mid-week distraction. The sweet, surreal, tropical stylings of Banana Man.

I'm back from Las Vegas (actually I got back on Sunday) with more money than I left with. Didn't play any poker, despite staying at the Rio, where the 2005 World Series of Poker was being held. I did see "Jesus" in the hallway, though, and got to meet Penn Jillette.

Mr. X and Penn Jillette

He called me (and everyone else who was getting autographs) "Boss."

Good times.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...curt...

6.21.2005

We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us


When working on making progress it is important to guard against ourselves. When life throws you a curve or someone chews you out, the first inclination of a human being is to look outward for the cause. Epictetus (Handbook 48) counsels that this is the path of the uneducated person; a philosopher will do the opposite.

[1] The condition and character of the uneducated person is this: they never look for benefit or harm to come from themselves, but from external things. The condition and character of the philosopher is this: they look for every benefit and harm to come from themselves. [2] The signs that someone is making progress are these: they blame no one, they praise no one, they find fault with no one, they accuse no one, they never say anything of themselves as though they amount to something or know anything. When they are impeded or hindered, they blame themselves. If someone praises them, they laugh inwardly at the person who praises them, and if anyone censures them, they make no defence. They go about as if they were sick, cautious not to disturb what is healing before they are fully recovered. [3] They have rid themselves of all desires, and have transferred their aversion to only those things contrary to nature that are in our power. They have no strong preferences in regard to anything. If they appear foolish or ignorant, they do not care. In a word, they keep guard over themselves as though they are their own enemy lying in wait.


Recently, I had an incident with a friend of mine from school. I had invited him to a hash event, where many vulgar songs are sung. One of the songs offended him sufficiently that he left early and hasn't spoken with me since. My initial reaction was to apologize for offending him, but as time went on, I found more and more reasons to blame him. This is a mistake on my part.

It's like this: If he was oversensitive, so be it. I have no control over that, I only have control over my own actions. It does me no good to speculate as to his motivations or resent him for his actions. The only beneficial act I can take is to examine my own actions.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...introspective...

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6.16.2005

My Soul Brother

I've added this upstanding law student to my blogroll. I think he has captured the essential key to success in the legal acadamy: drunkenness.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...a kindred spirit...

6.13.2005

Expeditors International: Coolest. Company. Ever.

Expeditors International, a non-asset-based freight forwarding concern, is also the coolest company ever. They have a dedication to their customers, employees, and shareholders. They also have a dedication to honesty and straightforwardness that would make Mencken proud.

Now call me a geek, but I really enjoy reading their SEC 8-K filings. SEC filings are normally quite dull, and while I read them to stay informed as an investor, I don't usually like it. The exception to be found in Expeditors was brought to my attention by this Motley Fool article, detailing the public humiliation of a particularly pushy analyst.

We have been trying to set up a visit to come see senior management at Expeditors in Seattle for over two months now and no one from Expeditors will return our many phone calls or emails. Are you too busy to respond to the sell side? Are you afraid the sell side's tarnish may somehow rub off on Expeditors? Or are we having this problem for the first time in the over five years we have covered Expeditors as a result of our current sell rating?

We were surprised to get a question like this and we spent some amount of time trying to decide whether or not you really wanted an answer. It was possible, after all, that this was really just another effort to get the appointment you have been seeking. But, then as you say it has been 5 years and so could we be safe in assuming that you know that a question like this one would be impossible to ignore?

So we were left wondering whether you knew us or not. We frankly still aren't sure and fear that we may be making a mistake, but we are going to answer anyway.

Let's start with the fact that for a couple of months we have been ignoring your calls and emails. This is true. Your calls and emails requesting a visit have been ignored. The message is one that any seventeen-year-old boy would understand; you are not going to get your date. We were hoping not to have to give reasons, but we certainly wanted you to get the message: no date.

We could stop here, and most seventeen-year-old girls likely would, but your question sets forth numerous incorrect assumptions as to why we aren't giving you the time and attention you seek. Each is incorrect and for the sake of other sell-side analysts and interested readers, we want to deal with each one in turn.


Read the entire response here (question #3). It's a riot.

In their latest 8-K filing, they get asked the perennial question about whether they are threatened by asset-based companies (freight forwarders who own their own ships/planes/etc.) The answer is great:
18. Are you seeing more intense competition from other supply chain solutions companies which own assets, particularly aircraft? Do they have a competitive advantage that Expeditors does not?

As to more intense competition, the answer is no. The sort of competition we are currently seeing has always been there. It’s just another flavor of the dancing circus bear. The outfits may change, the routine gets upgraded and the music may be different, but at the end of the day, a dancing asset bear is still a bear in a tutu. Brown bear or grizzly, it is really just the same act. Popular in Europe, but still the same act. They may try to present an image of refinement costumed in a supply chain outfit with a flashy IT wig, but you are still just watching a bear dance. Some say it is just not natural.

With respect to competitive advantages, sure, being a bear no doubt has some competitive advantages, although we question whether improvisation or flexibility could be listed among them.


Anyway, I own stock in EXPD through my investment club and will probably be buying more personally. They have excellent management and long-term growth figures, along with a great attitude.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...geek of all trades...

Debt forgiveness and positive change

Tom Knapp posts some very good criticisms of the current foreign aid regime, in light of recent announcements of $40 billion in debt forgiveness for African nations. The fundamental point about foreign aid going to oligarchs in the borrowing countries is an important one:

First of all, the idea that the money was lent to "countries" is pure fiction. It was lent to politicians -- politicians who, for the most part, were exceptionally evil even by the standards of, well, politicians. Why should a dirt farmer in sub-Saharan Africa consider himself on the hook just because some dimwit in Washington DC (or Brussels, or London) gets off on subsidizing Lifestyles of the Rich and Brutal? And why does said dimwit deserve that money back anyway? Remember, he stole it from us before he sent it to some Idi Amin clone to blow on fast cars, cheap women, expensive booze and well-armed palace guards. Hell, these "loans" have been, to at least some degree, instrumental in keeping those dirtbags in power. And we want their victims to fork over? Idi sure as hell isn't going to.


Having worked in relief and development for a time (1999 in Albania and Kosovo), I agree with his sentiments. There was a highway from the main airport outside Tirana to the city. However, the highway, built with international development money, only spanned about half the distance. Why? Because half the budget was siphoned off by graft and corruption.

If you want to do something positive along with rightly criticizing traditional foreign aid models, you can do what I did this weekend while paying bills: give a donation to FINCA to support micro-lending to individual entrepreneurs in developing countries rather than giving to their corrupt leaders. "Small Loans, Big Changes," baby.

For those interested in the subject, Lord Peter Bauer did some pioneering work on the effects of foreign aid, specifically on the inefficacy of traditional aid. See the May 2, 2002 Economist article on him (not free, unfortunately). Lord Bauer was the winner of the 2002 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...make a difference...

UPDATE: Scott brought to my attention Heifer International, an organization that doess similar sustainable aid, though with livestock instead of dollars. Check out their 'gift catalog' or their interactive map of projects. Change the world, people.

6.10.2005

The Sage of Baltimore

It's been a while since I've posted anything philosophical, so here are some words of wisdom from
H. L. Mencken, the Mencken Creed:

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.
I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.
I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty...
I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.
I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech...
I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.
I believe in the reality of progress.
I - But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.


That is a system of belief I can get behind. And also, his feelings on alcohol, to wit:
"I'm ombibulous. I drink every known alcoholic drink and enjoy them all." -H. L. Mencken


If you want a reason to party in September, the Saturday closest to September 12 is Mencken Day (it's the 10th this year). If you're feeling philanthropic, give some cash to the Friends of the H. L. Mencken House to support their efforts to reopen 1524 Hollins Street to the public.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...ombibulous...

Magic Commerce

Like most libertarians, I was disappointed that Professor Barnett's arguments did not prevail in Gonzales v. Raich. Not surprising (in fact, it's surprising that it was only a 6-3 decision), but still disappointing. Justice Stevens managed to find interstate commerce in the intrastate, private growing of cannabis for personal, state-approved, medical use.

I've been having trouble following the tortured reasoning of the Court, but saw a link on the VC to an enlightening explanation of the 'Wonderful World of Commerce.'

"Insolent pot!" says Giblets. "Be more vendible!"
"Giblets why are you yellin at that pot plant?" says me.
"Giblets is trying to turn it into commerce," says Giblets. "But buying and selling it is too much work. He wants it to be commerce NOOOOOWWW!"
"Silly Giblets, everything is commerce!" says me. "Let's step into this maaaagical schoolbus and we will learn all about Our World Of Commerce!"


Absolutely hilarious. If you're a law geek or an amateur economist, it's better. And don't forget the extra-credit nature koan:

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around, and Antonin Scalia doesn't like it, can we ban it?


Yours truly,
Mr. X

...the power of imagination...

6.08.2005

Tokyo Plastic

Candy for the eyes and ears:

Drum Machine

Music Box


Yours truly,
Mr. X

...digital crack dealer...

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6.07.2005

Gardening With X

So, I'm poking around in my garden a couple of weekends ago, raking and weeding and whatnot. Walking around the side of the house, I see the blackberry cane that I had planted a week or two prior. It's showing no visible signs of growth, just sitting there like a thorny stick.

This would be a good time to mention that your faithful correspondent has an impressive gardening record. Every year I plant a bunch of seeds and plants and a full 20-30% of them live. If that's not a green thumb, I don't know what is.

In the interests of tidiness and not wanting visitors to know that I'm a natural born plant killer, I decided to remove the obviously dead blackberry cane and bury it in the compost pile with the rest of my victims (don't even ask about the rosemary bush).

I went to the garage to get a pair of work gloves to protect my soft, supple, almost feminine hands from the evil thorns. Armored with heavy gloves, I grabbed the cane by the base and yanked it right out of the ground.

And you know what? The tricksy bastard was growing under the soil line. Healthy green leaves shooting right out from the cane. Sneaky.

So I did what any master gardener would do. I shoved the cane back into the hole I yanked it from, patted the soil around it, and walked back to the garage to put my gloves away.

Whistling. Innocently. As though nothing ever happened.

And now a certain someone is going to get me more plants to kill take good care of. If they're smart, they won't try to get sneaky with me.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...garden gnome...

Almost Enough to Convince Me to Teach

Michael Gilleland posts an awesome Mencken quote (but really, aren't they all) about teaching.

A man who knows a subject thoroughly, a man so soaked in it that he eats it, sleeps it and dreams it -- this man can almost always teach it with success, no matter how little he knows of technical pedagogy. That is because there is enthusiasm in him, and because enthusiasm is as contagious as fear or the barber's itch...


I'm not one to snag an entire post, so click on the link to read the full post. It reminds me of a quote by Henry Chester that is on my bathroom mirror:

Enthusiasm is the greatest asset in the world. It beats money and power and influence. It is no more or less than faith in action.


If you don't have enthusiasm for what you do, why are you doing it?

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...random...

6.03.2005

Who doesn't like jetskiing?

Generally, the Drew Carey remake of Whose Line Is It Anyway? pales in comparison to the original Channel 4 version of same. However, this movie, in which Richard Simmons is a 'prop,' is so funny that you may actually soil yourself.

You have been warned.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...my sides still hurt...