Big Agriculture Illustrates Difficult Trade-offs

Big agriculture is in the news lately, offering some useful examples of the concepts of “trade-off” and “hidden costs.” An obvious place to start is the noise about rising food prices and the role of ethanol production. Some top international food scientists Tuesday recommended halting the use of food-based biofuels, such as ethanol, saying it … [Read more…]

Are we at the bottom yet?

It’s surely a sign of something when editors break out the “consumers are cutting back” articles. The New York Times featured a big one today with lots of interesting statistics and observations. As you would expect, there are lots of signs of cutting back, passing on little indulgences, switching to off brands, shopping the low … [Read more…]

In Search of My Lost Moto-Mojo

Robert Pirsig famously opined, or perhaps it was whined, in his landmark “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” about the importance/beauty/honor/rightness of deep involvement with the mechanics of the motorcycle. I remember nodding along in righteous agreement. I was 23 at the time and then made my living (sort of) as a carpenter/plumber/electrician/dry wall … [Read more…]

How Not To Pick A Candidate

Several weeks ago–it seems like years ago–I sat in a conference room with Howard Dean, major domo of the DNC, listening to him explain the beauty of the Democratic nominating system. Everyone gets a chance to play Everyone gets a chance to be heard Candidates have to campaign everywhere in front of everyone Inclusion, inclusion, … [Read more…]

Def Sec Wants More Mavericks. Hope Springs Eternal.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is beating the drums in front of both the Army and Air Force young officer cadres to become more innovative "forward thinkers with the courage to advance new approaches needed to confront current and emerging threats." A couple of quotes from the pentagon website . . . He challenged the … [Read more…]

Conversation with Carl Schelin

I met Carl (virtually) on a motorcycle forum. Think of him as your average, every day, mid-life motorcycle crazy. He agreed to answer my various questions. Lots of great thoughts about riding. He also has assembled one of the most impressive personal motorcycle sites you’ll ever find: loads of ride reports, maps, pictures, and more. … [Read more…]

Health Care Needs More Choices

One of the keys to quality decision making is giving yourself good choices. Right behind that is information about those choices so that you can make trade-offs with confidence. It turns out that both these ideas are they keys to sorting out the mess that is US health care . . . and it is … [Read more…]

Alton Logan, Innocent Man, Imprisoned by ethics

I know of at least one college professor who is planning to discuss the case of Alton Logan in an upcoming ethics class. The facts are there. Alton Logan is convicted of killing a man in a McDonald’s. Andrew Wilson tells his attorneys that he, not Logan killed the guard. The attorney’s, "bound" by the … [Read more…]

Beware your information biases

Nicholas Kristoff makes some good points about some common decision traps in discussing the predictable reactions to the recent Obama / Clinton Debate. To understand your feelings about Wednesday night’s debate, consider the Dartmouth-Princeton football game in 1951. That bitterly fought contest was the subject of a landmark study about how our biases shape our … [Read more…]