January 2009 Archives

To read this paragraph you either need a walking cane or a cup of coffee:

This article examines the dynamic relationship between two key U.S. money market interest rates - the federal funds rate and the 3-month Treasury bill rate. Using daily data over the period 1974 to 1999, we find a long-run relationship between these two rates that is remarkably stable across monetary policy regimes of interest rate and monetary aggregate targeting. Employing a non-linear asymmetric vector equilibrium correction model, which is novel in this context, we find that most of the adjustment towards the long-run equilibrium occurs through the federal funds rates. In turn, there is strong evidence for the existence of significant asymmetries and nonlinearities in interest rate dynamics that have implications for the conventional view of interest rate behavior.

I think he's just great. I read countless stories about the financial mess and his work always answers questions to clear my foggy head, puts moves in context and doesn't get too jargony.

I never wanted to be the kind of person who suggested stories on This American Life. But here I am. The story of Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall is just great.

Companion to this piece.

This is what the home office looks like at the end of a day of writing

Desk2.JPG
I could read this all day. The main reason is that it supports a favorite theory: music and creativity are planned and thought through. There are rules -- even if one of them is "You've got to dig it to dig it, you dig?" Music and creativity aren't all about feel an natural talent.

My favorite line is one that writers know about too: "Don't play everything (or everytime); Let some things go by. Some music just imagined. What you don't play can be more important than what you do."

mrgan:
Thelonius Monk's advice to saxophonist Steve Lacy (1960)
Every one of Monk’s notes in here may as well be gospel, but one that stood out for me:
“A genius is the one most like himself.”
via lonelysandwich via mrgan

John Updike RIP

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As the author himself once put it, his heroes "oscillate in their moods between an enjoyment of the comforts of domesticity and the familial life, and a sense that their essential identity is a solitary one -- to be found in flight and loneliness and even adversity. This seems to be my feeling of what being a male human being involves."

Times appraisal of Updike

Respect

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From David Brooks' column "What Life Asks of Us."

In 2005, Ryne Sandberg was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame. Heclo cites his speech as an example of how people talk when they are defined by their devotion to an institution:

"I was in awe every time I walked onto the field. That's respect. I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponents or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform. You make a great play, act like you've done it before; get a big hit, look for the third base coach and get ready to run the bases."

Sandberg motioned to those inducted before him, "These guys sitting up here did not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third. It's disrespectful to them, to you and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up.

"Respect. A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didn't work hard for validation. I didn't play the game right because I saw a reward at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because that's what you're supposed to do, play it right and with respect ... . If this validates anything, it's that guys who taught me the game ... did what they were supposed to do, and I did what I was supposed to do."


Lincoln exhibition imageLincoln exhibition image

         Lincoln 1860                                         Lincoln 1865

From exhibit at National Portrait gallery

UPDATE: I pulled the plug on the experiment you are about to read because I couldn't keep to my promise to just post this novel without re-editing it. I took a peek and after 10 years there are some passages that are just too embarrassing to put out there in the wider world. Some day I'd like to run it through the typewriter one more time but I just don't have the time now to do it for free. If you'd like to know how it turns out email john@johndickerson.com and I'll send you a private copy of the manuscript under certain conditions.


This relic of mine starts here. Let me know what you think.


Chapter Six

 

            Thursday, as Quinn made his groggy way to his office he was greeted by a large and grumpy man who rolling away Quinn's plus-sized computer. Its wires hung out like insults as the cart clattered by.

            "You can just call me if that little baby doesn't turn on." he laughed pointing to the replacement which sat on the desk. "These machines I don't know from them or my elbow," he said, moving his elbow like a chicken.



via Merlin Mann at kungfugrippe.com
UPDATE: I pulled the plug on the experiment you are about to read because I couldn't keep to my promise to just post this novel without re-editing it. I took a peek and after 10 years there are some passages that are just too embarrassing to put out there in the wider world. Some day I'd like to run it through the typewriter one more time but I just don't have the time now to do it for free. If you'd like to know how it turns out email john@johndickerson.com and I'll send you a private copy of the manuscript under certain conditions.

For some reason this is showing up as markup text so I'm republishing the links to the chapters.

Prelude and Chapter One

Chapters Two and Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
People who take in the caffeine equivalent of three cups of brewed coffee (or seven cups of instant) are more likely to hallucinate, a new study suggests.

or
 
scientists found that the subjects who had reported drinking three to five cups of coffee daily were 65 percent less likely to have developed dementia, compared with those who drank two cups or less.
 



UPDATE: I pulled the plug on the experiment you are about to read because I couldn't keep to my promise to just post this novel without re-editing it. I took a peek and after 10 years there are some passages that are just too embarrassing to put out there in the wider world. Some day I'd like to run it through the typewriter one more time but I just don't have the time now to do it for free. If you'd like to know how it turns out email john@johndickerson.com and I'll send you a private copy of the manuscript under certain conditions.


Every newsmagazine writer writes a novel about being a newsmagazine writer. Calvin Trillin wrote the best one, Floater. It was short and funny. A gem. In the late 90s I wrote one too. It stayed in my drawer. I just took it out and I'll keep posting it as long as people keep reading (Keep the feedback coming). It starts here.

Vintage April 1942 IBM Employee THINK Magazine

Chapter Five

 

            Writing. Brutal. Lonely. Desperate. That's what Quinn was up against. He wasn't even the one who would have to produce the copy that went into the magazine. He just had to write up his thoughts and interviews for another more senior writer who would craft the final story using similar files from a handful of other correspondents. Quinn didn't have to worry about space limitations or getting every word just right. Still, the process did not come easily.

A friend noted this similarity:

frontpageThe Freewheelin' Bob Dylan cover

UPDATE: I pulled the plug on the experiment you are about to read because I couldn't keep to my promise to just post this novel without re-editing it. I took a peek and after 10 years there are some passages that are just too embarrassing to put out there in the wider world. Some day I'd like to run it through the typewriter one more time but I just don't have the time now to do it for free. If you'd like to know how it turns out email john@johndickerson.com and I'll send you a private copy of the manuscript under certain conditions.


Every newsmagazine writer writes a novel about being a newsmagazine writer. Calvin Trillin wrote the best one, Floater. It was short and funny. A gem. In the late 90s I wrote one too. It stayed in my drawer. I just took it out and I'll keep posting it as long as people keep reading (Keep the feedback coming). It starts here.



Chapter Four

 

            The Wall Street story that was killing Quinn had been cooked the previous Sunday by Forney Smart on a phone call with the business editor Jack Kramer.

 Jack Kramer had worked at Think for almost twenty years. Starting in San Francisco, he had served in London, Beirut and Washington. He had been writing and editing in New York for the last five years. His official biography listed the range of cover stories he'd written on everything from the Druze militia to Teddy Kennedy's 1976 presidential campaign. He wanted to stay at the magazine but he found it harder to do each day. It wasn't lack of energy. He'd written a novel and a James Agee biography since coming to New York, so he wasn't lazy. It's just that something was missing in the magazine. The rush and clatter that had been a part of most of his career at Think was disappearing. He opened his own magazine and the pages seemed to just sit there, dead.

UPDATE: I pulled the plug on the experiment you are about to read because I couldn't keep to my promise to just post this novel without re-editing it. I took a peek and after 10 years there are some passages that are just too embarrassing to put out there in the wider world. Some day I'd like to run it through the typewriter one more time but I just don't have the time now to do it for free. If you'd like to know how it turns out email john@johndickerson.com and I'll send you a private copy of the manuscript under certain conditions.


Every newsmagazine writer writes a novel about being a newsmagazine writer. Calvin Trillin wrote the best one, Floater. It was short and funny. A gem. In the late 90s I wrote one too. It stayed in my drawer. I just took it out and I'll keep posting it as long as people keep reading. The Prologue and Chapter One can be found here. Below are chapters Two and Three:

Vintage April 1942 IBM Employee THINK Magazine


Chapter Two

 

            Quinn Connor had never reported for a magazine because his first year out of college he had worked for the 24-hour cable channel TVN (Television News: "It's Your World and We Bring it to You.") He had wanted to work in print and had a job lined up at the Charlottesville Daily Progress covering the crime beat. But a month before he was scheduled to head south, the paper decided crime stories just made people sad.


This is a very cool picture of the inauguration in which you can find yourself if you were there.
UPDATE: I pulled the plug on the experiment you are about to read because I couldn't keep to my promise to just post this novel without re-editing it. I took a peek and after 10 years there are some passages that are just too embarrassing to put out there in the wider world. Some day I'd like to run it through the typewriter one more time but I just don't have the time now to do it for free. If you'd like to know how it turns out email john@johndickerson.com and I'll send you a private copy of the manuscript under certain conditions.

Every newsmagazine writer writes a novel about being a newsmagazine writer. Calvin Trillin wrote the best one, Floater. It was short and funny. A gem. In the late 90s I wrote one too. It stayed in my drawer. I just took it out. Here's the Prologue and Chapter One, let me know if you want to see more:

Vintage April 1942 IBM Employee THINK Magazine

Prologue

 

January 21, 1992-- Quinn couldn't open his apartment door. Eight months in New York and he still couldn't remember which key worked in which lock. He turned the top one to the right; the next one to the left. Then he eased the final tricky Medco around twice. Nothing. He put his shoulder to the door. Locked. He changed his mind about the middle lock, turning the key back where it had come from. More shoulder. Nope.

            Not having slept in two days made this suck particularly.


My nephew Brian Pillion took this picture of the madness on the mall yesterday. We started the day out together but split up. I had my special press pass. It did me little good. It took me almost two hours to get to my seat. This is the exact spot of the parkour move that finally freed me from the post-apocalyptic madness at the end of my journey. (These people were probably half a mile from security screening)

Jumping down on to this highway and then up the other embankment I finally worked my way around to my seats. I cut my hand and bled everywhere, including the white marble floor of the Rayburn House office building, but after nearly four miles of walking and many moments of despair in crowds that were not moving, I was rewarded. Heading into the press section I ran into Bruce Springsteen. I walked up to him and thanked him for his music as they took him to his VIP seats. He mumbled his appreciation.

Nancy Dickerson

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She would have been 82 today.



Those five or six young guys

lunched on the stoop

that oven-hot summer night

whistled me over. Nice

and friendly. So, I stop.

MacDougal or Christopher

Street in chains of light.A summer festival. Or some

saint's. I wasn't too far from

home, but not too bright

for a nigger, and not too dark.

I figured we were all

one, wop, nigger, jew,

besides, this wasn't Central Park.

I'm coming on too strong? You figure

right! They beat this yellow nigger

black and blue.Yeah. During all this, scared

on case one used a knife,

I hung my olive-green, just-bought

sports coat on a fire plug.

I did nothing. They fought

each other, really. Life

gives them a few kcks,

that's all. The spades, the spicks.My face smashed in, my bloddy mug

pouring, my olive-branch jacket saved

from cuts and tears,

I crawled four flights upstairs.

Sprawled in the gutter, I

remember a few watchers waved

loudly, and one kid's mother shouting

like "Jackie" or "Terry,"

"now that's enough!"

It's nothing really.

They don't get enough love.You know they wouldn't kill

you. Just playing rough,

like young Americans will.

Still it taught me somthing

about love. If it's so tough,

forget it.

Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

Reminds me of the Saturday Night Life skit on the Darnette Disposable Toilet


...but where do you put your drink?

hat tip Plaintive Wailing

I like the historian Richard Hofstadter for many reasons but perhaps one of the reasons I found his writing to be enjoyable when I first encountered it, in addition to being informative, was slightly subversive sentences like this one which I found underlined when I was re-reading my copy of The American Political Tradition:

"When the task of conducting a presidential campaign fell upon him, Roosevelt's background of economic innocence was dappled by only occasional traces of knowledge."

Me, me, me

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The line between total self-absorption and keeping your friends (and family) in the loop about what you're up to is a tough one to find. As a personal matter,90 percent of the time I'm not that interested when people I admire and whose work I look for tell me every few hours about their latest event-- that's because I follow them closely enough to already know what they're up to, or I seek out their work on my own schedule. For people I'm not that keen on, the bath of regular updates is a bother.

I send out my pieces to a group of people on an email list and worry that I'm bugging them to death and they can't opt-out without worrying about hurting my feelings (Anyone who wants to suggest a web site that allows you to make opt-in/opt-out email lists please let me know).

Merlin Mann makes a very nice effort at informing without being in your face here.

I'm not sure how to strike this balance but for now here are some links to my work for those who are looking. I'll :

Slate
My book
My Google reader feed
Twitter
Twitter self-pimping line
 

The Big Picture continues to make my day. The Gaza photos are too brutal so I'm trying to lift the mood. These pictures of ski jumping world cup are just great.

The year in photography parts 1, 2 and 3 can eat up an entire day.


It's just gorgeous, gorgeous music.
I love this idea that nature makes you focus.

via (one of Merlin Mann's new nodes)
I'm stuck having to re-do my expense reports today because the accounting department has switched systems. Fortunately the shuffle function on my iTunes saved me and landed on this song.
Hi Ian Ayres,

You're right, I do check My Google Alert. This is the kind of thing you're not supposed to admit though right? It's like looking at yourself in the store mirror when you pass by-- a sneaky slightly desperate vanity. For me though, the Google Alert directs me to reactions to my reporting. I learn a lot from blog posts or stories that mention the pieces I've been writing.

(Plus, checking my Google Alerts gives me something to do between checking my Amazon scores, Favrd and calling my friends to ask them if they think I'm clever and worth inviting to parties).

Reader input has been crucial to my work. I get tips, helpful corrections and often a view on an idea or piece that I'd never considered. The notion that readers are our best fact checkers was one of Slate's founding ideas. (Along with the idea that we fess up to our mistakes quickly and in public). During the political campaign I often sent group emails to my most thoughtful readers to get their view of a political development.

But none of this great conversation happens in the public space. The comments I find most useful always come through the email account at the end of my stories (slatepolitics@gmail.com). Public comments just haven't worked for me.There's too much prancing around, rudeness and axe grinding.

I've found the quality of conversation to be far better in private. It contains the key ingredient (for me anyway) of good argumentation and learning which is the desire to meet the other person halfway. Even if a commenter is trying to pull me over to their way of thinking, in the productive conversations I've had, they always start with that general openness and fellow-feeling.There's just not as much questioning of motives and bile.

Cheers


I have two so far:

1. Spend 1/4 of the waking day off email.
2. Write at least one sentence in my journal describing the day's events each day.

There are thousands more that I make and re-make each day--including having an answer each day to these five questions-- but these are the resolutions that came to me over the year-end break.