25 November 2007


Here is Matthew Yglesias talking about how the question of success in Iraq is being reframed in light of recent successes and failures (all of which is in the context of this NYT article):

...[the surge has] created a situation where it now once again looks -- as it did in 2003 and 2004 -- that we might be able to stay in Iraq forever. And, of course, if you don't consider financial costs to be costs, and don't consider small numbers of casualties to be costs, and don't believe in opportunity costs, and try not to worry to much about the risk of war with Iran, and don't mind the lack of benefits except to the egos of the war's supporters, then this looks like a pretty smart policy.
Certainly, this will continue to look like a smart policy until at least January 20th, 2009, it's just a real question of whether it will continue to look so smart of January 21st. That, of course, depends on who is shacking up in the White House on that point. Given my biases, I fear that for any Republican candidate, particularly Mr. 9/11 Giuliani, it will continue to be the smart policy. Even under Clinton who is constantly afraid of appearing soft on defense, that could appear as a reasonably smart policy. Under Obama, Edwards, or several of the second-tier Democratic candidates, I'm confident that it would be clear that ignoring all of these relevant variables is not smart policy.

Given the irrationality of the American electorate (any electorate, really), it's interesting to wonder how this will turn out.

Merry Thanksgiving Day!

One unanticipated pleasure of working for a treasure hunting company is that I get to deal directly with Chinese suppliers because, when cost is your primary motivator, there really isn't anywhere else to turn.

Most recently, I bought 100 promotional LED blacklights to give to players. We often use invisible ink in our clues thereby making blacklights an indispensable part of the effective treasure hunter's toolbox. I spent a good amount of time looking for the best price online until I came across Quality China Goods. In addition to the confidence-inspiring name and the website full of flashing HTML, they had ridiculously low prices and the option of getting the Ravenchase logo printed on them for a reasonable charge. I ordered them through "Joel", my customer service representative who was very attentive and professional. I had to get the express shipping to be sure that they would be here in time for the Paris Expat Olympiad (otherwise shipping would have been free) and they arrived on Saturday. I opened the box and, well, they are a little crappier than I was expecting, but still worth the price I paid for them. Suffice it to say that I'll be going back to Quality China Goods and their parent company, Shenzhen Wholesale, for future blacklight needs.

Beyond the general pleasure I get, as an economic liberal, from dealing with a Chinese manufacturer/wholesaler, I also get to read nearly perfect emails from their customer service reps. In their quest for good relations with their American customers, they are careful to never forget a national holiday (would we, in comparison, remember the date of the Zhonghe Festival?) which, when mixed with nearly perfect English results in well wishes of the sort that I received from "Joel" which serves as the title to this post.

Mmm, globalization. Merry Thanksgiving Day to all, and to all a good turkey!

22 November 2007

Quick Summary of French Strikes

NYT video. Unfortunately, they don't offer an option to embed directly here, but it seems to get to the heart of the matter. Sarkozy, with a strong electoral mandate, promised to reform the special benefits enjoyed by some public sector transit workers. They have a very strong, very well organized union. Sarkozy sits back and lets the demonstrations run their course. My money is on Sarkozy.

21 November 2007

Rail Sabotage is the Perfect Lesson in Etymology

I was struck by how appropriate this all was. From an article in the NYT about the ongoing transit strike here in France, we learn,

As a national transit strike stretched into its second week, arsonists disrupted high-speed train service on four main routes today. Government officials called the disruptions a “coordinated act of sabotage.”

The early morning outbreak of fires among the electrical lines supplying the high-speed TGV trains happened hours before talks began between transit union and government officials...

The sabotage — a distinctively French word coined in railway strike of 1910, when workers destroyed the wooden shoes, or sabots, that held rails in place — took place at the start of the morning commute.

How appropriate!

The article says that "there is no end in sight", but at least service is slowing coming back on line. I even took the metro once today. It wasn't crowded.

It's also interesting the level of fervor present in French unions (assuming that they were behind this). Perhaps it comes from the fact that union members, along with any other supporter of leftist politics, are called "militants" here. Just can't give up on the good old days of Communism I guess. For more on that, look here.

15 November 2007


Here's a graph that compares US investment into alternative energy research to the cost of the Iraq War.

If you think that a lot of our geopolitical problems are a result of reliance on oil from unstable regions and that our presence in Iraq isn't doing anything to burnish our image, then the graph may be a bit upsetting. Be prepared to scroll.

Originally found on Matthew Yglesias.

10 November 2007

Ravenchase: The Expat Olympic Adventure Race!

Brits? Yanks? Aussies? Canucks? Kiwis?

Just which national allegiance claims the title of the wittiest, the cleverest, the most cunning Paris expat community? Well, on December 1st, Ravenchase, with the help of several meetup.com groups, intends to determine just that. On that day, I'll be running an event for several different Paris Expat meetups, I've already got the Brits and Yanks on board, whether the Canucks, Aussies, and kiwis come out is yet to be seen, but it's hard to imagine that they could turn something like this down.

Ravenchase is offering this as a free event for the meetup groups as means to get our good name out in front of interesting, adventurous people. With just the Brits and the Yanks, I'm expecting at least 30 people, throw in the other nationalities and that could climb rapidly.

All in all, it's good news for Ravenchase Europe. It gives us some practice in creating larger events and, naturally, shows people how awesome we are. (Anyone other than myself notice how I've begun to refer to Ravenchase in the third person? I think it helps me separate the professional life from the private life which is, in general, a good thing to do.)

If you know any Anglophones in Paris, let them know, it should be a real hoot!

08 November 2007

Halo 3 Promotes Suicide Bombing among Lower Classes

In the game, at least. Here is an interesting first-hand account from Clive Thompson, writing in Wired.

It was after pulling this maneuver a couple of dozen times that it suddenly hit me: I had, quite unconsciously, adopted the tactics of a suicide bomber -- or a kamikaze pilot.

It's not just that I'm willing to sacrifice my life to kill someone else. It's that I'm exploiting the psychology of asymmetrical warfare.


I, however, have a completely different psychology. I know I'm the underdog; I know I'm probably going to get killed anyway. I am never going to advance up the Halo 3 rankings, because in the political economy of Halo, I'm poor.

Specifically, I'm poor in time. The best players have dozens of free hours a week to hone their talents, and I don't have that luxury. This changes the relative meaning of death for the two of us. For me, dying will not penalize me in the way it penalizes them, because I have almost no chance of improving my state. I might as well take people down with me. Full article.

The pointer to this comes from a Freakonomics post describing the surprising finding that most suicide bombers are not, in fact, from the lowest, least educated classes of society, but are often rather middle-class. Link.

Should have invested in the Loonie...

Or better yet, the Twoonie! Once again, a sad day falls upon American currency. I thought that these images from XE.com were illustrative. If you're familiar with the rate tables at XE, you know that there is something a bit off about the below table (click to enlarge):

What's that little blue question mark next to the rate in the USD/CAD cell? That's not normally there... Well, what happens when you hover over it? Let's see (again, click to enlarge):

Yikes, you know it's bad when XE, a favorite site of professional currency speculators the world over (not to mention Japanese housewives), goes to the trouble to tell you that, yes, you are reading it correctly, the US Dollar is worth less than its Canadian counterpart. Ouch... Just for historical perspective, eight years ago today, one US Dollar was worth about $1.46 Canadian. That's about what the Euro will get you in US Dollars today. Oh how the tables have turned.

It's gotten so bad that everyone's favorite French President has had to give the US Congress a lesson on fiscal responsibility! The shame! A financial lesson from France! What is the nation coming to? What's next, a France backing the US on matters of national defense? Apparently yes.

06 November 2007

Normandy for the Weekend?

Sounds great! That's what we said and it was a great time. The countryside was really beautiful and we saw some amazing landscapes. Naturally, I spent plenty of time with my camera in hand and took plenty of pictures. Despite the grumblings of my travel mates, I think that the results merit the effort. The first set of pictures are mainly on a walk that we took near Villerville, where Esther's family has their house. We also went to Trouville and Deauville during this set. The following set finds us in Etretat, walking around its cliffs, in the city, and then, finally, in Honfleur.

Without further ado, the pictures!

Normandie avec Elise et Dan

Normandie avec Elise et Dan, Pt. II