Posts tagged ‘Maggie Farm’

New York Museum & Restaurant Recommendation

Large museums can be overwhelming.  I remember a while back, one of the writers at Maggie's Farm blog suggested that the best way to see large museums is to pick one limited section and plan to visit just that section.  I have tried that a couple of times and it is an enjoyable approach, though as a completionist I have trouble walking away when I have not conquered every room (I am that guy, for example, that has to reveal every single square inch of dark space on a Diablo III map).

However, another alternative is just to visit a smaller museum.  Sometimes smaller museums can be disappointing, because the average quality (or at least name-value) of what is being displayed may be lower than in the large museums.  Not so the Frick Museum in New York City.  This is probably my favorite small museum.  The building itself is marvelous, the Fifth Avenue mansion of Henry Frick, Andrew Carnegie's right hand man (among many other ventures).  I first went to the museum years ago because it houses one of my favorite paintings, the Comtesse d'Haussonville by Ingres.  In addition in just 7 or 8 rooms, it has a virtual who's who of western art history, including Rembrandt, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Gainsborough, Turner, Holbein, Goya, Gilbert Stuart, Whistler, and many others.   The ratio of big names to also-rans is just amazing.  Walking the halls is like watching the actor list in the opening credits of the movie "A Bridge to Far".  My only complaint on this visit is that the Comtesse has been moved to a poor spot for viewing.

Another nice small museum nearby we also went to this weekend was the Neue Gallery, which focuses on German and Austrian art.  My wife loves Klimt, which is the reason we went.  The museum has a very good collection of Klimt and Egon Schiele, neither of which are really my cup of tea but for those who enjoy these artists it is a nice destination.  The third small museum we saw as the Museum of Arts and Design, with a great location on Columbus Circle.  We saw an exhibition of American 60's and 70's age-of-Aquarius style clothing.  There are also a few craft studios where one can watch designers work.  It was fun but probably overpriced for what it was.  However, on the 9th floor we went to the restaurant Robert which was really good -- very good food and drop dead gorgeous views of Columbus Circle, the park, and the rest of Manhattan.  We had a window table and this was the view:

On the far left, 4 or 5 floors up, is Per Se, one of the top restaurants in Manhattan and perhaps the country.  Given how hard it is to get a reservation, this is probably as close as I will come to eating there.

Fighting for the Right to Control Other People's Property

Deborah Vollmer appears to be a nightmare neighbor in this story from the Washington Post (via Maggie's Farm).  She is absolutely hell-bent on preventing her neighbor from doing anything to their house that she would not do to it.  If her neighbor's aesthetics don't match hers, she takes them to court.

“Some people may question my motives,” Vollmer said. “But what’s happening in this town, these developers, tearing down old homes. I’m standing up for my rights. . . . And then this whole thing just kind of evolved” from that...

What could possibly be driving this woman? Friend and Chevy Chase resident John Fitzgerald said that her stubborn streak has roots deep in her past. Vollmer forged her career defending the rights of those without means. And that, he said, inculcated in her a desire to protect principles until the bitter end.

What right or principle is she fighting for?  The right to micro-manage her neighbor's property.  Read the article, this woman seems to be a total nightmare, all because she wants everyone else's house to look exactly like hers.

She should move to California.  She would fit right in.  She would be a perfect candidate to sit on the California Coastal Commission, for example.

We have a sort-of similar fight brewing here in Phoenix where a few local residents were trying to prevent another resident from tearing down and rebuilding his tired old house, which happened to have been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's studios.  I appreciate Mr. Wright's work, but also know he designed some unlivable crap.  He was an artist, experimenting, and sometimes the experiments were not great.  He was also a businessman, always short of money, and sometimes his projects did not get his full artistic attention.  In my view, this was such a house.

I have the same answer for Ms. Vollmer that I do for those Wright house enthusiasts -- if you want to control a piece of property, buy it.  If you don't have the money, encourage other people to chip in.  But if you can't get enough people who similarly value your vision for the property to fund its acquisition, don't take the shortcut of using your influence with the government to impose the cost on taxpayers, or worse, on the individual property holder.

Two Hedge Fund Managers Walk into a Bar

This one is priceless, and I have been remiss in not posting it.  Reminded most recently by the link at Maggie's Farm.  Excerpt, but the whole thing is great:

"Here's the problem. Most hedge funds are indistinguishable from mutual funds, other than the fact that they feel entitled to charge 30 times the fees."

"Two percent of assets for showing up in the morning, and 20% of any profits."

"There are probably 100 hedge funds that will consistently beat the market after fees. They won't take your money. They provide just enough hope for investors to keep the rest of us in business. We earn half the performance of index funds, charge 30 times the fees of mutual funds, pay half the income tax rates of school teachers, have triple the ego of rock stars, and fewer disclosure requirements than the NSA."

"We're basically a conduit between public pension funds and Greenwich real estate agents."


Pronouns, "Quotation Marks," and Punctuation (oh my)

Dr. Mercury at Maggie's Farm supports my use of "they" as the gender-neutral third person pronoun English needs but does not have (though he includes a tasteless picture of a family member in distress).   But he wants to make it clear that I am 20 years late in joining the revolution.  So be it.   I will add that I am also on board with putting punctuation outside of "quotation marks".  For anyone who has done a lick of computer programming, in which resolution order of mathematical symbols is a key part of early training, putting sentence punctuation inside of quotation marks makes no sense.  Quotation marks are like parentheses in math, holding together one coherent expression, and so putting sentence punctuation inside them (as I did in the title) is, to me, the equivalent of this:   (2 + 4 x) 8 = 48

There was a great little book a while back called the Professor and the Madman, discussing the origins of the Oxford English Dictionary.  While the French dictionary is constructed top-down by a few folks to describe what French should be, the OED was constructed bottom-up from actual examples of usage, describing English as it is actually used.

By the way, for those of you who are horrified by the grammatical mistakes on this site (I know my friend Tom in Seattle pulls his hair out over this), they come mainly from my inability to proof, not lack of knowledge or concern.  I have some sort of mental dyslexia that can read right over horrible typos and gaffes, even four or five times, without spotting them.

PS:  Looking back at my title, I suppose we could even get into an Oxford comma argument too.

Paying Doctors is Fun

It is a really weird mental block we have against paying out of pocket for medical bills, particularly since this is probably the most, not the least, important thing we can spend our money on.  Having a high-deductible health insurance plan has been a real eye-opener for me.  As in this post from Maggie's Farm, I too have found doctors will very often give a discount for cash.  My son has a great sports medicine guy (he plays 3 varsity sports so we seem to be at the doctor a lot for one injury or another) who gives us a $40 cash rate for a visit.  Further, when he needs X-rays, the radiology place downstairs usually does 2-3 films of the injured appendage du jour for around $35.  The X-ray place has a special cash price book they pull out when I show up.  I shudder to think what rate they charge insurance companies.  And t just think of the piles of infrastructure from my doctors office to the insurance company to Washington DC that would have had to come into play had I sought 3rd party payments for these bills.

And when it comes to the expensive things, it is amazing what price cuts you can find with just a little shopping.  Previously, I had spent less time in my whole life shopping medical care prices than I had price-shopping my last hard drive.  But when my son had to get a CT scan on his head (yes, another sports injury) we saved hundreds of dollars just calling a second place for a quote.  In fact, even mentioning that we were going to price shop the first quote got a few hundred dollars knocked off.  The lack of any rigor in health care pricing is just appalling, and will only get worse as government / single payer solutions crowd out approaches like mine under Obamacare.

Hey! An Award!

In the 75th Annual (lol) Maggie's Farm blog awards, Coyote Blog tied with Tigerhawk (good company) for best Princeton Alum Blog.  Thanks!

Understanding What Going Green Means

This photo (via Maggie's Farm) shows life in the United States during a time when the US emitted more CO2 than Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and other greens want to set as the new emissions cap.  In 1940, the US emitted about 33% of 1990 levels of CO2, vs. the green's target of 20%.

Nanny's of the Year

All Your Base Are Belong to Rick Astley

I have to agree with Roger at Maggie's Farm:  I really love all the silly weirdness on the Internet as well.  I already Rick-rolled my readers once (belated apologies) a while back so I won't do it again.  Instead, I will link with full discloser to this mash-up of Hitler doing Rick Astley.

Hang in There

Maggie's Farm has a great series of pictures of a bear rescue from a high bridge.

Vote For Me Because I Care

How many politicians have you heard say that they care deeply.  I hate politicians who care.  You know why?  Because the way they demonstrate that they care is by using my money against my will to help someone else.  It is a freaking slap in the face every time I hear this.

Now, government employees in Massachusetts are getting a new way to demonstrate they care at taxpayer expense:

A much-hyped program that
gives state workers up to a dozen paid days off per year to "volunteer"
in a wide variety of community activities gives another perk to
employees who already have one of the most generous benefit packages in
the country....

   A Herald analysis
shows that if the 80 employees in the governor's office took full
advantage of the program, the one-year cost would be $217,000. The
taxpayer cost just for Patrick, who makes $140,000, to take all 12 paid
volunteer days would be about $6,400. There are 50,000 state workers
eligible to participate in the program.

the loss of productivity for days off, consider the cost of tasking
other state employees with making sure their co-workers aren't just
extending their weekends," said state GOP spokesman Brian Dodge. "With
bright ideas like this one, the stream of wasted money directly
attributed to Deval Patrick is quickly becoming a raging river."

Its not "volunteering" if you get paid to do it, any more than its "charity" when you give away other people's money.  (HT:  Maggie's Farm)

History I Never Knew

Via Maggie's Farm, the heretofore unknown (to me) history of the Republic of West Florida.  Its annexation into the US denied Dickie Scruggs and Trent Lott the chance to be king of their own banana republic.

The State of Academia

The reaction of the Duke faculty to the alleged "rape" by the LAX team has been eye-opening.  The reaction to the student's non-guilt is terrifying.  Far be it for academics to let facts get in the way of a really good chance to sow some race hysteria.  (HT Maggie's Farm).  One bit:

Karla Holloway has resigned
her position as race subgroup chair of the Campus Culture Initiative,
to protest President Brodhead's decision to lift the suspensions of
Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. "The
decision by the university to readmit the students, especially just
before a critical judicial decision on the case, is a clear use of
corporate power, and a breach, I think, of ethical citizenship," said
she. "I could no longer work in good faith with this breach of common

I am not sure what "critical judicial decision" she is referring to, except perhaps Nifong's disbarment

More on Massachusetts Health Insurance

I loved this email received at Maggie's Farm:

What are you guys smoking over there? Here I am in Massachusetts,
without health insurance, and with a family of four, and all that has
happened is on top of having to pay full freight for my family's doctor
bills, I get fined $1000.00 for the privelege.

I don't want
your stinking welfare greenstamp department of motor vehicle government
cheese copay paperwork foodstamp prepaid doctor tax charity ward let a
million flowers bloom supervision of my family's medical situation,
thank you very much.

Catastrophic medical insurance is
currently illegal in Massachusetts. All they had to do is allow me to
purchase what I could get if I lived 50 miles west, which is REAL LIVE
INSURANCE, that is, they would pay if something unexpected,
substantial, and expensive happened. And it would cost me a couple
hundred bucks a month. But no, I have to pay full freight for every
lamebrain thing that every knucklehead who has a job with benefits
wants tax free, like gym memberships and aromatherapy and acupuncture
and reiki massage and "mental health," ie, I'm a miserable failure as a
human being and I want to talk to another miserable failure that went
to community college for psychology about it, at great expense. Oh,
yes, let's not forget all middle age men that need free blue pills
because what a mean spirited thing it would be [if] middle age men didn't
wander the earth with extra free hardons.

And so "insurance"
becomes paying in advance for others to get what they don't need or
deserve, to the point where "Insurance" costs 1200 a month and if
something catastrophic did happen, would bankrupt me anyway, because
instead of paying $50 for an office visit for an imaginary ailment, but
having a real catastrophe paid for, the powers that be would prefer
paying $5 dollars copay for an office visit to their yogurt enema
wellness healer, but have to chip in 20% for cancer therapy, which
would bankrupt anybody that has to worry about the cost of health
insurance in the first place.

ROFL. I too am a big believer in catastrophic health insurance.  My home insurance does not cover broken light bulbs and leaky plumbing.  My car insurance does not cover air filters.  Why does my health insurance have to cover routine stuff?  I pay for my own health care and this is exactly how my family handles both dental and medical:  We pay regular visits but have catastrophic coverage for major health breakdowns. 

Jeez, I wish I had written that email and could take credit for it.  The blog does not reveal the emailer's identity, but whoever you are you're welcome to guest blog here any time.

Update: About a year ago, my family of four was quoted about $650 a month for the type of full (not catastrophic) medical insurance that the state of Mass. is requiring.  This is about $8000 a year.  This strikes me as by far the most expensive item that any US government has required its citizens to purchase, and given the average GDP of most nations, may be the most expensive item any government in history has required all of its citizens to purchase.  Up to this point, many municipalities have shied away from requiring purchase of $40 smoke detectors.  The only thing that is even within an order of magnitude of this is perhaps car insurance, but even car insurance is not required of every citizen, just the ones with cars (don't laugh, if car insurance laws followed the same logic as this health insurance bill, not having a car would not be a legal excuse for not having auto insurance.)

Update 2:  I am sure I will get the response, "but the supporters promise that the bill will halve the cost of private health insurance.  Right.  Here is a clue:  Except for the reform plan in California pushed by Gov. Arnold, every single state attempt to "reform" workers comp. has resulted in my premiums going up.  I am sure we are all holding our breath for the price drop in passenger rail service and first class mail. 

This plan removes the last people from the market who are price sensitive shoppers of individual medical services (i.e. those who pay expenses out of pocket rather than having them covered by medical insurance).  If you drive down the marginal cost to all consumers to the level of the copay from the much higher true-cost of the procedure, then you are going to get a lot more use of all medical procedures.  Higher use = higher cost.  Higher cost = higher premiums, even when spread over more people.

I am constantly stunned that this concept has to be explained to people.  Let's consider a test that costs $1000 to administer that can detect a very rare type of cancer that only occurs in 1 in 100,000 people.  Well, if they charged you anywhere near the $1000 cost, few people would choose to pay for a test to identify something so low-risk.  But if you could take the test for a $20 copay?  Sure doc, let's do it!  So the insurance pool has to fork over $1000 for a procedure that you might only value at $20.   Also see this post for more along the same lines.  And here too.