Oh no, my secrets!

I can’t believe I’d forgotten about this classic video. From Greg Rutter’s Definitive List of Things You Should Have Already Experienced on the Internet Unless You’re a Loser or Old or Something, here’s how you can become a master of seduction using cheesy magic tricks:

On the other hand, Us magazine (what else am I supposed to read between issues Imbibe and Reason?) reports that Holly Madison has left Criss Angel, so maybe this magic thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Below the break, a look at some contemporary magicians who can perform a smooth pass and a rear palm faster than the eye can see…
Continue reading “Oh no, my secrets!”


Links for 2/27/09

With large sample size, evidence of dramatic post-smoking ban heart attack reductions disappears

Vid: Cato scholars on the Obama speech

Vid: Fighting for economic liberty in Boston

Where are deficit hawk Democrats now?

The Washington Post visits the kind of happy hour that makes me not miss DC

Obama should free the Bush memos

Post-Gazette launches monthly coffee column

In praise of slackers

There are so many things wrong with this photo


Way to go, Long Beach!

And now for some good news: The Long Beach, CA city council passed its proposal to loosen the local smoking ban, granting official approval to the city’s 13 cigar lounges. Even this is far too much diversity for anti-tobacco activists:

Lung association spokesman Steven Gallegos disagreed, telling the Los Angeles Times: “This is a giant step backwards for public and employee health. This product kills almost half a million people a year. If this ordinance passes other cities throughout Los Angeles County will look at Long Beach and say, ‘If they did it, we can too. Public health be damned.'”

Just this once I’m going to hope he’s right.


Links for 2/26/09

Authors’ Guild vs the Kindle

How legalizing homebrew launched a revolution

All must bow to the 21-year-old drinking age

Is libertarianism a mental illness?

Private sector volcano monitoring

Heath Ledger’s last two roles were the Joker and a traveling magician? Man crush!

Bag bans going nowhere

Maine’s topless coffee shop opens for business

Kerry Ellison, another smoking ban hero


The death of VA hookah bars

One of the issues that was overlooked in Virginia’s smoking ban debate was its impact on hookah bars. The AP covered their plight yesterday:

[Maher] Elmasri worries his livelihood could be wiped out. His restaurant, Lebnan Zaman, owes its popularity to the hookah, a water pipe popular in Middle Eastern culture. Virginia’s newly passed smoking ban – which awaits the governor’s signature – unlike some others across the country, makes no exception for hookahs.

Elmasri says the ban kills an old cultural tradition.

“It’s not just about the smoking. It’s about people getting together, getting a sense of back home,” said Elmasri, a Palestinian immigrant. […]

The Virginia law makes some exceptions to allow smoking sections in separately ventilated rooms. Elmasri, who recently spent more than $10,000 to put new air filters in his restaurant, said he can’t envision a way to reconfigure his small shop into one that will comply with state law.

“For us this is a life-or-death question,” said Elmasri, who estimated that 70 percent of his customers smoke, and that they generate more than 80 percent of the revenue.

Middle Eastern hookah bars are one of Northern Virginia’s hidden treasures, a unique cultural experience thriving in the suburbs. The small lounges feature delicious mint tea, water pipes with flavored tobacco, music, and special lighting at night. Given how few of them exist, it’s unlikely anyone working in them objects too strenuously to the smoky environment. Yet because Governor Tim Kaine thinks he knows better than the employees what’s best for them, they will soon no longer have a choice in the matter — or likely any job at all.

Reading about people like Maher Elmasri is what so absolutely disgusts me about politicians like Tim Kaine and his publicity-seeking abettors like the owners of the Liberty Tavern. Their zeal to wipe out smoking in public places knows no respect for the rights of small business owners or a smoking culture that comes to a different balance between pleasure and health.

Given their small size, it will be difficult for many of Virginia’s hookah bars to survive the ban. If you’re in the area, go check them out while you have the chance.

Update 2/26/09: South Bend 7 has a remembrance of fun times with hookahs that’s worth reading.


Oregon is for beer lovers

For those of you who oppose Oregon’s proposed beer tax hike, the Green Dragon Brew Pub is offering the most fun way to protest. Tomorrow they’ll be having a ceremonial dumping of beer, inviting brewery owners to talk about the tax, suggesting letters to send to state representatives, and temporarily raising prices to their estimated 2010 level. The first 100 people to show up get an “I <3 Oregon” pin and tax relief.

The Green Dragon is at 938 SE 9th Ave and the party starts at 5:00. More details available at the Oregon Econ blog.


Links for 2/25/09

10 things economists agree on

“From Washington to Jackson, presidents gave about three speeches a year on average.”

Cigars should embrace the wine marketing model

Effect of smoking in movies overestimated

The Washington Times hits the important issues

Does Twitter rot the brain? I don’t know, I got distracted before I could finish the article

Weird fish with transparent head

Notes: Sorry for the delay, server was down last night.

My Twitter feed now imports to the left sidebar. It doesn’t show up on RSS.


A reply!

I admit I felt a very slight pang of guilt when I sent that letter to my congressmen proposing sending me stimulus money to invest in my terrible bar idea. That’s because the letter would never actually get to the politicians. I knew it was going to be some poor overworked aide who’d have to read my letter, figure out if I’m being earnest or not, and send me a reply. I didn’t feel too guilty, obviously, because if you sign up to work in Congress I figure you deserve all the BS that gets thrown at you. But still, some of them are genuinely nice people, despite what one might conclude after to going to a few happy hours on Capitol Hill.

One of those nice people was visiting Portland this weekend, so I asked her what she’d do if she’d received my letter. She said she’d get annoyed at having to waste time on me and fire off some boilerplate jibber jabber about the stimulus bill. Whoever works in Representative Earl Blumenauer’s office thinks the same way and replied to me this morning. On the off chance you want to read through the whole thing (not recommended), it’s below the break.
Continue reading “A reply!”


Links for 2/24/09

Don’t panic: Good journalism was never profitable in the first place

Is Yelp manipulating reviews to bully advertisers?

Obama continues Bush policies yet again

Libertarian op/ed against the VA ban

Blogging makes people happy

Tucker Carlson joins the Cato Institute

Idaho also looking to raise beer tax

Krugman explains liquidity preference (the principle, not this blog)

Vegas gets a new rum and cigar bar

Flame-cleaning an old Probat

SBUX says Clover project going strong

Use Twitter, meet Shaq


Why we drink

Paul Clarke’s most recent post on the New York Times Proof blog about why and how we cocktail writers and bloggers enjoy alcohol is very much worth reading. The most-used tag on Proof is, sadly, “alcoholism;” the focus there has been more about excess and abstinence than responsible drinking. Paul’s post remedies some of that:

I drink because I like it, and for reasons that usually place “effect” a step or three down the list. I love the spicy sweetness of whiskey and I’m a total sucker for the herbal ballet of a good vermouth; when tasting well-made spirits and cocktails composed from them, I can admire the skill of a talented distiller, along with that of a bartender who understands what they have. While plenty of spirits and cocktails are so artlessly made as to make me consider early retirement, there are great new things being done by bartenders and distillers, making this an exciting time to be a drinker.

Drinking also satiates my historical and culinary curiosity: as a fan of obscure and sometimes obsolete spirits and cocktail ingredients, I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time searching for liqueurs, bitters and other products that appeared in bar manuals from the 1860s through the 1950s, but which disappeared from bars decades ago. Recreating these drinks and having the chance to taste them gives me a richer perspective of other eras and places, an experience I usually find far more satisfying than the simple buzz I could get from something as pedestrian as a vodka and tonic.

Paul goes on to discuss why he drinks moderately at home in the hope that his young children will later follow his example, an approach he expects to be far more successful than banishing alcohol from the house entirely.

My own experience is similar to Paul’s (minus the children). Last spring I went dry for a week just to see what that would be like. It didn’t bother me at all. I didn’t miss drinking. I didn’t have any problem socializing with friends minus alcohol’s relaxing effects. I certainly didn’t miss getting drunk (not that there’s anything wrong with that on occasion). What I did miss was the experimentation and exploration of new spirits and cocktails. With a well-stocked home bar and a dozen cocktail books on the shelf, it was like having a giant box of toys and not being allowed to touch them.

Paul gets it exactly right. We could go without the drinks, but the intellectual engagement that comes with mixing them is much more addictive than the warming buzz.


Links for 2/23/09

Is conservative money corrupting Atlas Foundation?

NYC bleeds, DC thrives

Cooking may have been humanity’s killer app

Peanuts or ecstasy?

Sugar cane cola comes back, badly branded

DC bottle bans hit all drinkers, even craft brew fans

Invasive pregnancy screening bill in TN

NC taxing smokers and fatties

Hawaii smoking ban flaunted

Stick a needle in your eye

Prawo Jazdy finally apprehended


Pipe up!

In a May post last year about the future of smoking, I made a prediction:

Have we reached a tipping point that will inevitably make smoking socially unacceptable? Or will the increasingly untenable and bizarre claims made by anti-smoking groups propel the movement over the shark, allowing smokers and property rights defenders to push back?

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that, regardless of legal changes, old-fashioned pipe smoking will see a resurgence.

It’s too early to tell if I was right, but this piece in today’s Wall Street Journal is encouraging:

No one tracks how many young men and women are pipe smokers. But sales of pipe tobacco are rising again after years of decline, and many think young smokers are the reason. U.S. sales of pipe tobacco plummeted to 4.9 million pounds in 2006, from 52 million pounds in 1970, says Norman Sharp, president of the Cigar Association of America. Sales climbed to 5.3 million pounds in 2008. Pipe tobacco and smokeless tobacco sales are on the rise, offsetting over a decade of decreases in cigarette sales.

Pipe-smoking groups on social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace have attracted thousands of members. Questions in the forums include: A bent or straight pipe? Does anyone have a favorite perique Louisiana tobacco blend? What is the consensus on corncob pipes?

Sykes Wilford, 28, burned his tongue when he first started smoking a pipe as a freshman at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn. He now walks new smokers through the first puffs in his own store in Little River, S.C., to ensure they don’t meet the same fate. Although he mostly carries traditional pipes, he’s trying to bring a modern edge to the ancient habit. “For me to have an iPhone in one hand and a pipe in the other is not unusual,” he says.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see pipe smoking adopted into hipster culture. It would fit right in with other oddly archaic fashions like handlebar mustaches, vests, and jackets with epaulettes. And lighting up a pipe is an instant conversation starter, conferring status on the smoker. As Richard Hacker writes in the introduction to his Ultimate Pipe Book:

The pipe is a unique invention of Man that has combined his creativity with the elements of nature: fire, earth, water and smoke, all of which co-mingle with the sky. There is a certain mystique to it all, and, perhaps that is why, when you see someone smoking a pipe, you cannot help but think he knows something you do not.

Perhaps more importantly, smoking a pipe is less expensive than smoking cigars or cigarettes, and the tobacco is coming out relatively unscathed from the new SCHIP taxes.

[Via TMN.]

Ceci n’est pas une pipe
Pipe down!


Links for 2/20/09

So, over-under on when Radley Balko gets a Pulitzer?

Forests helping to naturally offset carbon emissions

From an entrepreneurial economy to a lobbying economy

Obama maybe 1-for-3 on econ, perhaps soon 1-for-4

How to drink better coffee and not waste your money

How Starbucks’ Via is good for quality-focused coffee providers

Bloggers vs. CPSIA

I wonder what shelf Atlas Shrugged goes on?

Christopher Hitchens, badass

Islam-England-Prohibition mashup

An (almost) free muddler from Leblon

Chewbacca’s high school photo


New comment features

I’ve added a few new comment features to go with the new design. The first is the use of gravatars, short for Globally Recognized Avatars. If you link one of these images to your email address it will show up next to your comments here and at thousands of other sites that use them. The service is free and available at gravatar.com.

The comment form now gives you the option to verify your identity with an OpenID. Information on creating an OpenID is available here, along with reasons why you may want to have one (you already do if you’re on Blogger, WordPress.com, Flickr, or a variety of other services). The OpenID logo will appear next to verified comments and behind commenters’ name in the sidebar.

Comments now also have a reply-to feature. If you’re replying to a specific comment in a thread, just click on the arrow beneath it to automatically link to that comment and the author’s name. For example, if you want to reply to Bob, clicking on the arrow will start the comment form with “@Bob:” and a link to his comment. This is totally optional, but it can make longer threads easier to follow.

Finally, I’ve added a “Share/Save” button to the bottom of every post. Clicking on this will open a menu for emailing posts or sharing them on services like Facebook, Digg, and Twitter. When you read a post you like, I appreciate your help sharing it with a larger audience.


New design, new name, same blog

Things look a bit different now if you’re visiting this site directly. If you’re reading in an RSS reader, click over to see the new design. I’ve given the site a long overdue WordPress update and created a new layout with the popular Thesis theme. My goal was to keep what was good about the old site while fixing a few bugs and making it a little less cluttered. There’s no getting around this being a text-heavy blog, but it should be a little more user-friendly now.

I’ve also eliminated the eponymous title, renaming the site “Liquidity Preference.” Those of you who paid attention in your macroeconomics classes will recognize the term from Keynes’ explanation of interest rates. Here it’s also a fitting pun on my own preference for liquid enjoyments.

I still have a few things to add to the site, such as an updated blogroll and navigation menu, but it’s basically finished. Let me know what you think.

Just for fun, here’s a look back at the three previous iterations of the blog. It started out in 2003 before I even knew what a blog was, manually updated in Microsoft FrontPage. Then my friend Adam saved me a whole lot of time by installing MovableType, bringing on the dreaded yellow banner years. A couple years later I switched to WordPress and the relative of the current design.

The one thing hasn’t changed is this site’s Guide to Good Blogging, which I’ll continue doing my best to adhere to:

Rule #1: Be meaningful.

Rule #2: If meaning is elusive, be amusing.

Rule #3: If meaning and amusement are both out of reach, be brief.