lukegilman.com : High on the Hog Blog
Purveyor of Idle Observation

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Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

Houston Cougars Gear Up for New Season, First New QB in 4 Years

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Kevin Kolb started 50 consecutive games as quarterback for the University of Houston, third most in NCAA history, and closed his career ranked first at UH in yards (12,964), attempts (1,565) and completions (964), and second to David Klingler with 85 touchdown passes. Now Kolb is off to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and head coach Art Briles is looking for a new pair of hands under center for the first time in four years.

Houston Chronicle: Briles, Cougars seek QB

BBC Radio 4, The 1933 U.S. Coup

Fascinating. Nothing I’d ever heard of before. Visit the BBC site and listen to the entire radio segment. Realplayer required.

Document uncovers details of a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by a group of right-wing American businessmen. The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression. Mike Thomson investigates why so little is known about this biggest ever peacetime threat to American democracy.

BBC Radio 4: The Whitehouse Coup

Church Signs

For your entertainment this sabbath morn – Signs From God: The curious history of church marquees. See the slideshow at the end of the article.

Also Church Sign Smack Down, The Baptist Church sign and the Catholic Church sign get into it.

Moose

My friend Shaun captured this footage of a Bull Moose they encountered in White Mountain National Forest on their way to Montreal. This part is priceless:

The moose was unbelievably relaxed, just browsing along as we all snapped photos and watched him. I took the camera and creeped down into the woods with him to get some pictures from closer up. He really only regarded me occassionally, kind of giving me a look now and then, and then going back to eating. I’ll admit that I got a little nervous (and took some steps backwards) the couple times he started to walk towards me, despite knowing that there was virtually no chance that he would become aggressive with me at this time of year. This knowledge apparently flew right in the face of the “knowledge” of the rest of the gathered crowd – mostly from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York – who frequently aired their opinions that he was getting ready to charge at any minute.

It was kind of funny to listen to, actually, because they weren’t questioning whether or not the moose might potentially attack, but letting me know in no uncertain terms that it would attack. I was definitely thinking, “Man, I grew up in Aroostook County, Maine, I have somewhat of an idea about what this moose might or might not do. You clowns, on the other hand, sound like the assembled braintrust of a drunken misinterpretation of a Discovery Channel show about Alaska.” I didn’t say that, though, just politely smiled, inched closer, and got more pictures.

They are indeed amazing animals. Not all that bright, with a nasty habit of walking in front of your car at night during black fly season, but majestic in their own way. I have never, however, seen any moose do anything quickly of its own accord. I’d be more afraid of a sloth.

This is true only to the point you don’t piss it off, which is remarkably hard to do. Shooting it with a bow and arrow generally works. (See below – somewhat graphic)

Inprint Brown Reading Series 2007-08 season lineup announced

The Inprint Brown Reading Series season lineup has been announced. My personal highlights include Michael Chabon and Dave Eggers, founder of publishing house McSweeney’s whose Internet Tendency is a daily read. See the Inprint Houston website for more information.

Houston Chronicle: Inprint Brown Reading Series

• Oct. 15: Richard Powers and Jennifer Egan. Powers (The Gold Bug Variations; The Echo Maker) often incorporates science, medicine and technology into tales fraught with emotional and moral complexity. Egan’s novels include Look at Me and, most recently, The Keep.
• Nov. 12: Elizabeth Alexander and Taha Muhammad Ali. Alexander’s poetry collections include The Venus Hottentot and American Sublime. Ali is a leading figure on the contemporary Palestinian literary scene. His books include So What: New and Selected Poems.
• Jan. 21: Vikram Chandra and Mayra Montero. Indian-born Chandra, an alumnus of University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program, is author most recently of Sacred Games, a 900-page epic of crime and corruption in contemporary Mumbai. Cuban-born Montero is author of nine novels, including Dancing to “Almendra,” set in Mafia-dominated, pre-Castro Havana.
• Feb. 17: Dave Eggers and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Eggers’ memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, launched his career in 2000. McSweeney’s, his literary journal and publishing house, has become a leading platform for up-and-coming writers. Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun won the 2007 Orange Prize. New York magazine described it as “like Gone With the Wind, except in Nigeria.” This reading will be at Cullen Theatre, Wortham Center.
• March 31: Alice McDermott and Laura Restrepo. McDermott won the National Book Award for her novel Charming Billy. Restrepo, from Colombia, is a leading figure in contemporary Latin American fiction. Delirium (2007) is her latest novel translated into English. This reading will be at Zilkha Hall, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.
• April 12: Robert Hass. A former U.S. poet laureate, Hass has a new collection out in October, Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005.

Bryan Caplan Asks Why Anyone Should Bother to Vote

He goes a bit further, in fact, and wonders why you bother to vote, and hopes you won’t actually. Caplan is an economist at George Mason University and co-author of Marginal Revolution, by far my favorite economics blog. In his new book The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies (amazon), he makes himself a hamburger of our sacred cow, democracy. You are, dear reader, not smart enough to vote, and by “rocking” said vote, you harm not only yourself but your country. Please stop. Leave voting to the professionals; economists that is. As Louis Menand notes in a review in the New Yorker:

The average person, he says, has four biases about economics—four main areas in which he or she differs from the economic expert. The typical noneconomist does not understand or appreciate the way markets work (and thus favors regulation and is suspicious of the profit motive), dislikes foreigners (and thus tends to be protectionist), equates prosperity with employment rather than with production (and thus overvalues the preservation of existing jobs), and usually thinks that economic conditions are getting worse (and thus favors government intervention in the economy).

Louis Menand, New Yorker: Fractured Franchise. (Go buy Menand’s Metaphysical Club (amazon) while you’re at it)

The argument of his book, though, is that economists and political scientists have misunderstood the problem. They think that most voters are ignorant about political issues; Caplan thinks that most voters are wrong about the issues, which is a different matter, and that their wrong ideas lead to policies that make society as a whole worse off. We tend to assume that if the government enacts bad policies, it’s because the system isn’t working properly—and it isn’t working properly because voters are poorly informed, or they’re subject to demagoguery, or special interests thwart the public’s interest. Caplan thinks that these conditions are endemic to democracy. They are not distortions of the process; they are what you would expect to find in a system designed to serve the wishes of the people. “Democracy fails,” he says, “because it does what voters want.”

If you’re a bit shocked and appalled right now, well, that’s partly the point. Economics is the enfant terrible of academic thought and provocation is part of what a good economist does well. What goes mostly unanswered in Caplan’s analysis is what an irrational society is to do about this irrationality. In economics it’s customary to assume the rationality of our fellow man (despite ample evidence to the contrary) because the alternative is, well, not very useful. While I recognize that democracy’s flaws are nearly exactly what Caplan says they are, I’m not ready to write off democracy. I don’t think Caplan is either. Economic thought has made amazing leaps in permeating the public consciousness. I remain optimistic about the potential of society and the public debate to grow beyond the four economic biases Caplan points out. Economists have and will continue to have greater influence than we think. As Keynes noted, “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”

Hilarious Airline Complaint

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A hapless passenger stuck in a… ahem.. crappy seat in on Continental Airlines Flight 888 out of Houston took the opportunity to make her feelings known to the airline.

Gadling: Hilarious Hand-Written Airline Complaint

Best Political Quote I’ve Heard in a While, from Ron Paul

“Politicians don’t amount to much,” he says, “but ideas do.”

The New York Times Magazine profiled the Texas Congressman in The Antiwar, Anti-Abortion, Anti-Drug-Enforcement-Administration, Anti-Medicare Candidacy of Dr. Ron Paul.