What I learned this week, February 14, 2013


10 Gorgeous Growlers

A pint of beer is delicious, but not as delicious as four pints…poured into a massive bottle…that you can take with you. I’m talking growlers, people—everybody’s favorite Big Boy Traveler. We’ve rounded up 10 of the sleekest, prettiest, downright sexiest growlers on the market. These aren’t just growlers, these are conversation starters, party starters, and veritable works of art. It’s okay to drool.

In my opinion, the most gorgeous growler is one I have in my hand, with cold Lakewood Temptress, Peticolas Velvet Hammer, or even Revolver Blood and Honey filling it.

Four reasons US business leaders want to import Danish-style cycling

At long last, cycling is being supported by American business – not out of environmentalism but because it’s delivering profit

Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy

From 2006, an excellent piece from the Michigan Law Review.


This Essay examines what the Harry Potter series (and particularly the most recent book, The Half-Blood Prince) tells us about government and bureaucracy. There are two short answers. The first is that Rowling presents a government (The Ministry of Magic) that is 100% bureaucracy. There is no discernable executive or legislative branch, and no elections. There is a modified judicial function, but it appears to be completely dominated by the bureaucracy, and certainly does not serve as an independent check on governmental excess.

Second, government is controlled by and for the benefit of the self-interested bureaucrat. The most cold-blooded public choice theorist could not present a bleaker portrait of a government captured by special interests and motivated solely by a desire to increase bureaucratic power and influence. Consider this partial list of government activities: a) torturing children for lying; b) utilizing a prison designed and staffed specifically to suck all life and hope out of the inmates; c) placing citizens in that prison without a hearing; d) allows the death penalty without a trial; e) allowing the powerful, rich or famous to control policy and practice; f) selective prosecution (the powerful go unpunished and the unpopular face trumped-up charges); g) conducting criminal trials without independent defense counsel; h) using truth serum to force confessions; i) maintaining constant surveillance over all citizens; j) allowing no elections whatsoever and no democratic lawmaking process; k) controlling the press.

This partial list of activities brings home just how bleak Rowling’s portrait of government is. The critique is even more devastating because the governmental actors and actions in the book look and feel so authentic and familiar. Cornelius Fudge, the original Minister of Magic, perfectly fits our notion of a bumbling politician just trying to hang onto his job. Delores Umbridge is the classic small-minded bureaucrat who only cares about rules, discipline, and her own power. Rufus Scrimgeour is a George Bush-like war leader, inspiring confidence through his steely resolve. The Ministry itself is made up of various sub-ministries with goofy names (e.g., The Goblin Liaison Office or the Ludicrous Patents Office) enforcing silly sounding regulations (e.g., The Decree for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans or The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery). These descriptions of government jibe with our own sarcastic views of bureaucracy and bureaucrats: bureaucrats tend to be amusing characters that propagate and enforce laws of limited utility with unwieldy names. When you combine the light-hearted satire with the above list of government activities, however, Rowling’s critique of government becomes substantially darker and more powerful.

full essay available for download

One-month countdown for Snuffer’s to reopen at original Lower Greenville locale

Snuffer’s on Lower Greenville is the first place I went to when I first visited Dallas in 1980. It had only been open for a year. A couple years later I moved into an apartment on the same block – it became our go-to place. I’m glad it’s re-opening on the original location and not too bothered by it being in a new building (the old one was spectacularly uncomfortable) but I will miss going and sitting in the same booth I remembered from 34 years earlier.

8 new acoustic songs to start out your day

What are the chances that a particle collider’s strangelets will destroy the Earth?

“Johnson and Baram are concerned that these changes might increase the possibility that the collider will generate strangelets, hypothetical particles consisting of up, down, and strange quarks. Some hypotheses suggest that strangelet production could ignite a chain reaction converting everything into strange matter.” Leading to the Earth becoming “an inert hyperdense sphere about one hundred metres across.”

Great… and I thought I had enough to worry about.

An Art Deco Airplane!

Buggatti 100P (click to enlarge)

Buggatti 100P
(click to enlarge)

Our MISSION is to build and fly a replica of the Bugatti 100P, the most elegant and technologically-advanced airplane of its time

Our VISION is to recreate – and share with others – the brief period in the late 1930s when Ettore Bugatti and Louis de Monge collaborated to create this singularly unique airplane

Our VALUES include a commitment to honoring the memory of those who designed and built this plane

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