When I am teaching, I introduce myself as "Professor Palmer". Doing so implies, I think, that I would like students to address me that way.
I didn't always feel this way. When I was young, I listed my first and last names on the reading lists and invited students to call me "John". After all, I was close to them in age and was socially much closer to them than I am now.
I also asked members of the secretarial staff to call me "John", but they politely refused, insisting on calling me "Professor Palmer".
Somewhere in my late 50s, I began to feel a social and cultural distance from my students. It no longer seemed appropriate for the students, especially undergraduates, to call me by my first name. They always knew my first name from my blog work and from my academic website, but on reading lists and exams, I listed my name as "Professor J. Palmer."
From time-to-time, a student would nevertheless call me "John" or ask if they could call me "John". I would react with a bit of surprise and say "ok" in a clearly unconvincing way. Some persisted; others did not. I am not a buddy or friend (at least not yet when they are undergrads taking a course from me), I am their professor.
When they are no longer my students, I ask my former students to call me "John". Some do, others find it difficult (typically these students were raised in more formal, traditional cultures).
As an undergrad, I attended Carleton College, which had many Harvard-like traditions, including proper address of the faculty members: they were Mr., Miss, or Mrs. (and many females there are probably Ms. now); we were instructed not to address them as Dr. or Professor.
At Chicago Theological Seminary, and later at Iowa State University, our professors were addressed as Dr. And even at Iowa State, until the last term of my last year in gradskool, after I had accepted a job offer from UWO, I was reluctant to call professors by their first names.
Here is what prompted this recollection: An article a week or so ago in the WaPo in which it was pointed out that US President Obama liberally referred to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel as "Angela" while she fairly consistently referred to him with a more formal term of address.
My jaw hit the floor when I read the president referring to the chancellor, Angela Merkel, as “Angela.” Surely the reporter got it wrong. So I went to the White House transcript, and was horrified to see that the president referred to the chancellor by her first name nearly two dozen times. The opening paragraph alone is littered with informality. “Angela, of course, has been here many times.” “Well into her third term, Angela is now one of Germany’s longest-serving chancellors.” “As we all saw in Rio, Angela is one of her team’s biggest fans.”...
“Angela?” My goodness. “Ms. Merkel,” “the chancellor,” “Chancellor Merkel” (if that usage is permitted in Germany), “madam chancellor” or “Dr. Merkel” would be fine. But “Angela?”
Maybe I am just a stuffed shirt and out of touch with current norms, but I agree with this writer. Go more formal until invited to do otherwise. For example:
I recall a recruiting trip I took back in 1970. I addressed the person greeting me at the airport as Dr. _____ and was promptly told to call him by his first name.
That seems more comfortable and more appropriate to me.
Another public service post containing information many of us want to know about erect penis lengths but were too shy to ask, shown in this graphic:
From this site.
-The proper way to measure is from tip of the penis to the very bottom of the pubic bone.
-The global average is 5.5 inches.
For my earlier public service announcement, see this.
Last week in a local grocery store the prices for potatoes were as follows:
That's right. The loose potatoes were priced at nearly four times the per-pound price of ten pounds of potatoes in the bag.
I can think of two possible explanations for the price differential (feel free to offer others):
The two explanations, combined, would help explain why we sometimes do indeed buy individual potatoes. This time, the bagged potatoes had a few minor bruises or cuts, but not many. And we were making mashed potatoes anyway, so those minor flaws didn't really matter to us.
Don Boudreaux has a very good posting at Cafe Hayek, pointing out that just because a firm can (and does) raise its prices, and just because a firm gains market share, those data are not necessarily indications that the firm has market power. His argument is that generally it is the firms that offer better quality, better service, and more of what consumers want that are able to grow and still charge more for their products.
The upshot is that observing that a firm has the ability to profitably raise the prices of its outputs is not necessarily an observation of that firm’s “power” in the output market. Likewise, observing that an employer has the ability to lower the monetary pay of its workers without having all of those workers quit is not necessarily an observation of that firm’s “power” in the labor market. Such observations are perhaps – and in a market economy are almost certainly – only evidence of complex and mutually advantageous bargains struck between firms, consumers, and workers.
If firms are able to elevate prices and still retain their customers, other firms will copy them, and even try to out-compete them. Hence, a better indication of market power is how high the barriers to entry into the market are. Industry concentration, firm size, and price-cost margins (no matter how they are measured) are much less reliable as measures of market power.
If there are high barriers to entry, a firm might well have market power and be able to raise prices and keep them high, earning a "monopoly" return. But if firms are in industries with low barriers to entry (e.g. fast food!!), it is next to impossible for them to earn persistently high profits that are not attributable to their offering something better to their customers, something the customers want and are willing to pay for.
And what is the greatest source of high barriers to entry? Gubmnt regulations. I wrote about this over 40 years ago here:
“Barriers to Entry as a Measure of a Firm's Monopoly Power,” The American Economist 18 (Spring 1974): 33-35.
A writer who opposes Israel's policies toward Palestine writes about his experiences at The University of Westminster, the alma mater of Jihadi John in today's Washington Post. Excerpts:
As a vociferous critic of the Israeli government, I have participated in demonstrations and activities supporting Palestine for many years. Yet in a discussion about the conflict, I was horrified to hear a fellow student, supposedly a scholar of international relations and politics, complaining about “the f---ing Jews.” What bothered me even more than such bigoted rhetoric was that the individuals who voiced these extreme positions appeared to do so with impunity. ...
From my experiences, I believe that the university is unwittingly complicit in perpetuating such radicalization, as it has often allowed Islamist extremism to go unchallenged. I don’t think the university itself is advocating extremism, but by failing to prevent the advocacy of such ideas, the institution is attracting students who are sympathetic to them. Students who do not identify with extreme Islamist ideology are being put at risk of discrimination, intimidation and potentially radicalization by the university’s failure to properly handle the situation. ...
I hope that the humiliation of having Jihadi John among its alumni leads Westminster to implement big changes to quell extremism. If it does not, I fear for how many new recruits the Islamic State might garner from the graduating class of 2015.
I received this information last week. If I were a student, I'd apply for this programme in a flash. The speakers are among the best in the field. Just hearing Munger, Jaworski, and Horwitz [the three with whom I am familiar] will be an experience you won't forget!
What a terrific opportunity!
On August 10-15 the Institute for Liberal Studies will be hosting our second annual Freedom Week seminar in Montreal. This five-day seminar is designed for students who are interested in learning about classical liberal ideas and the foundation of a free society and is open to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as those who have recently graduated. A faculty of six professors with backgrounds in economics, political science, philosophy, and law will deliver lectures and lead discussion groups designed to give students a chance to talk over important ideas with their peers.
This seminar is totally free, and room and board will be provided. Participants will be selected through a competitive application process and all applications must be submitted by April 15. All students who apply by March 15 will receive a free book.
Faculty for this the seminar:
- Jacob Levy (Political Science, McGill University)
- Michael Munger (Economics and Political Science, Duke University)
- Peter Jaworski (Philosophy, Georgetown University)
- Moin Yahya (Law, University of Alberta)
- Diana Thomas (Economics, Creighton University)
- Steven Horwitz (Economics, St. Lawrence University)
Applications can be submitted online at www.liberalstudies.ca/freedom-week.
With the burning of books and the destruction of so many historical items, it is important that archivists digitize everything they can, especially rare books and manuscripts.
While the world was watching the Academy Awards ceremony, the people of Mosul were watching a different show. They were horrified to see ISIS members burn the Mosul public library. Among the many thousands of books it housed, more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts were burned.
“ISIS militants bombed the Mosul Public Library. They used improvised explosive devices,” said Ghanim al-Ta'an, the director of the library. Notables in Mosul tried to persuade ISIS members to spare the library, but they failed.
The former assistant director of the library Qusai All Faraj said that the Mosul Public Library was established in 1921, the same year that saw the birth of the modern Iraq. Among its lost collections were manuscripts from the eighteenth century, Syriac books printed in Iraq's first printing house in the nineteenth century, books from the Ottoman era, Iraqi newspapers from the early twentieth century and some old antiques like an astrolabe and sand glass used by ancient Arabs. The library had hosted the personal libraries of more than 100 notable families from Mosul over the last century.
Taking high-quality jpeg photos of each page is a quick and easy way to preserve old texts. I've been doing this with my mother's letters written back in the 1930s. Here's hoping libraries will digitize their rare collections and store the digitized files in several locations.
A month or two ago, we randomly tried a cheese spread made by Agropur in Canada. It is amazing stuff. It comes in three varieties: Brie, Cheddar, and Oka. It is smooth as silk and great as a dip or spread for crackers or celery or what have you. Yes, it is so smooth, we can use it as a dip
Just so you know: this stuff is NOT inexpensive. These containers are small (only 100g), and the price is about $5 each [Canadian. That's what? 23 cents US?]. We have found them at the London Market and sometimes at SuperStore.
They are wonderful. We think they are more than worth the price.
I'm in the office at The University of Western Ontario today*. For some reason, I decided to listen to the music of Steve Reich. Fascinating and intriguing.
I first heard the music of Steve Reich while I was wandering the streets of Copenhagen in July, 2006, during a major jazz festival. There was a group performing at one of the venues, and the music was captivating. I rushed up to the group afterward and asked if they had CDs (they didn't) and asked about the music. It was then that I learned I had been enjoying the music of Steve Reich. It still suits me and my moods sometimes. For my earlier piece on Steve Reich's music, see this.
*It's a small office shared by nine Emeriti, but the other eight don't show up very often, so it's essentially a nice private get-away that I retreat to about once a week. The department staff have named the office "Jurassic Park".
Electric cars sounds as if they might be the answer to big-city smog, air pollution, and the contribution to CO2 emissions and whatever those emissions might add to global warming. However electric cars are not now generating net social benefits, and won't be for many years to come. From the very sensible Bjørn Lomborg,
The electric car seems great. Except, it isn't yet.
The social costs of the electric car: $223 billion.
The social benefits: about $0.5 billion.
Not a good deal. [EE: the details are set out in the link above]
25 million electric cars would over their lifetimes cut CO₂ worth $0.5 billion. Great. But they would cost $188 billion in direct subsidies, and more air pollution from power plants would kill more than 700 people each year, costing society over their lifetimes about $35 billion in damages....
It is advertised as a zero-emissions car, but in reality it only shifts emissions to electricity production, with most coming from fossil fuels. As green venture capitalist Vinod Khosla likes to point out, "Electric cars are coal-powered cars."...
For now, focus on much cleaner hybrids, clean up coal fired power and then innovate green energy and batteries until the electric car is worthwhile in a couple of decades.
A few weeks ago, a classmate from gradskool posted a link on Facebook to a site with a number of GIFs that illustrate mathematical principles underlying many concepts from geometry, trigonometry, and calculus.
I thought the constructs on the page were fascinating. Some required quite a bit of concentration, and with some I really had to dredge up hazy memories from my math courses even to get a rough idea what they were talking about.
The GIFs are fun to study, but I really don't think they necessarily do a better job of teaching the concepts than my various instructors did. Here's one that made a lot of sense once I looked at it for a minute. It really might have helped me in high school math.
If you’re studying trig, you better get pretty comfortable with circles. Check out this visualization that shows what you’re really looking at when you deal with pi:
You might enjoy the others, too.
This afternoon I'm playing in a concert with Encore: The Concert Band [2pm, Central Secondary School] in which we're playing a number of really fun pieces.
This evening I'm doing a knock-off of Sean Connery for an event at The London Club.
Tomorrow I begin to hang my photo show at The Arts Project. I've been coasting up 'til now, but life will be hectic for the next three months.
Most of us knew that the Crusades were undertaken to capture Jerusalem and Israel from the Muslims and that many, many Muslims were killed during those wars. What is less well-known is that the first major victims of the first Crusade were Europe's Jews.
This history is told eloquently here in the New York Times Sunday Review.
THE first victims of the First Crusade, inspired in 1096 by the supposedly sacred mission of retaking Jerusalem from Muslims, were European Jews. Anyone who considers it religiously and politically transgressive to compare the behavior of medieval Christian soldiers to modern Islamic terrorism might find it enlightening to read this bloody story, as told in both Hebrew and Christian chronicles. ...
Just as the Crusades were integrally linked to Roman Catholicism in the Middle Ages, terrorist movements today are immersed in a particular anti-modern interpretation of Islam. This does not imply that a majority of Muslims agree with violent religious ideology. It does mean that the terrorists’ brand of belief plays a critical role in their savage assault on human rights.
Cultural ignoramuses portrayed President Obama’s references to the Crusades and the Inquisition at the recent National Prayer Breakfast as an excuse for Islamic terrorism, but the president’s allusions could and should have been used as an opportunity to reflect on the special damage inflicted in many historical contexts by warriors seeking conquest in the name of their god.
The details set out there are appalling: Jews were forced to pay protection money, forcibly converted to Christianity, or exiled. Thousands were killed even after having paid extortionate protection money.
The Crusades turned into campaigns of slaughter, rape, and pillage, and woe to the poor Jews in the way. Indeed, the Crusades mark the first large-scale European mob violence directed against Jews which is going to become, unfortunately, the pattern for the next hundreds of years. The later pogroms are just going to be a repeat of this idea.
The Jews were not the only ― and in fact, not the primary ― victims of the Crusaders. Muslims were. ...
[A]bout 30%-50% of the Jewish community of Europe met its end. Some 10,000 Jews of an estimated population of about 20,000-30,000 were slaughtered by Crusaders mobs.
And the conclusion from the Sunday Review article:
What we actually see today is a standard of medieval behavior upheld by modern fanatics who, like the crusaders, seek both religious and political power through violent means. They offer a ghastly and ghostly reminder of what the Western world might look like had there never been religious reformations, the Enlightenment and, above all, the separation of church and state.
I just bought some Atlantic salmon, a product of Chile:
I thought, "Huh?" Chile is on the Pacific Ocean side of South America. But then I checked, and indeed down near Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, Chile does appear to reach over to the Atlantic Ocean.
But that is likely irrelevant when it comes to Atlantic salmon. These salmon filets are almost surely from salmon farms in Chile. From Wikipaedia,
Aquaculture is a major economical activity in Chile. Among the diverse aquacultures practised in Chile Atlantic salmon aquaculture is the overwhelmingly largest sector. Until 2007 Chile experienced over 15 years a huge growth in its salmon aquaculture becoming the second largest salmon and trout producer after Norway. By 2006 Chile contributed with 38% of the worlds salmon volume just behind Norway that produced 39% of it. In 2006 salmon from Chilean aquacultures was the third largest export product in terms value, representing 3,9 of Chilean exports...
I recently ran across this cartoon:
My answer: Better than I ever imagined! (but then I'm not sure I have grown up yet).
Another item from Facebook that is related:
And yesterday, this very touching piece by Oliver Sacks appeared in the NYTimes, written after he learned he has terminal cancer. Some excerpts:
I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying....
I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.
This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well). ...[M]y predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
Wow. Just, wow.
An insightful comment posted today by Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek:
Government is only a business. Past the roads, defense, and sewers, it sells excitement and self-satisfaction to the masses, and charges them an entertainment tax, exacted in wealth and misery. It cannot make cars, or develop medicines. How can it “abolish poverty” (at home or abroad), or Bring About an End to Greed or Exploitation? It can only sell the illusion, and put itself in a position where it is free from judgment of its efforts. It does this, first of all, by stating inchoate goals, “change, hope, fairness, peace,” and then indicting those who question them as traitors or ogres; finally, it explains its lack of success by reference to persistent if magical forces put in play by its predecessors and yet uneradicated because of insufficient funding.
Yesterday Fitch, one of the major credit/bond rating firms, downgraded their rating of Ontario bonds from AA to AA-. From HuffPost,
But really, just about everyone saw this coming. From the same article,
Moody's credit rating agency changed Ontario's debt rating in July to negative from stable, citing concerns about the province's ability to eliminate the deficit as scheduled.
“Governments typically borrow money as a means to finance long-lived assets such as roads, schools or hospitals. In Ontario’s case, the province has gone deeper into debt to pay for day-to-day expenses such as the salaries and pensions of government employees and is passing the bill on to future generations,” ...
The study concludes that the growth in debt is unsustainable and will require a change in fiscal direction including a marked reduction in spending.
“If the Ontario government fails to change course, its unsustainable fiscal policies could provoke further credit rating downgrades, higher borrowing costs and spiralling interest payments,” said Charles Lammam, Fraser Institute associate director of tax and fiscal policy.