Friday, August 21, 2009


The Dog Days of Summer are upon us, the time of the year in Texas where God turns the oven on "broil" and goes away to do something else for six weeks or so. Mostly I try to stay out of the sun as much as possible. If I could hibernate my way through August, I would. But I can't, so here we are.

The relentless fury of mean ol' Mr. Sun has sapped most of my desire for deep thinking, but I do have a few quick thoughts:

(1) There's a part of the health care debate I find grimly amusing. Everyone says they're against rationing, but rationing is precisely what's going on already. It's simple, really; when you have a finite good and a near-infinite demand, you will have rationing. There's simply no other way. Health care is in finite supply: there are only so many doctor-hours in any given day. And it's also in near-infinite demand: who doesn't want to live longer and healthier? So, the question isn't whether or not to have rationing, the question is what kind. Currenly, by and large, we ration health care by the ability to pay. On the other extreme of the spectrum you have a pure first-come, first-served system. I find both extremes unsatisfactory. I'll go into the details another time, but the basic idea is that you almost never find the optimum point on the extrema of a curve. The balance point is almost always somewhere in the middle. The fallacy of the excluded middle is a perennial favorite in American politics.

(2) As part of my effort to reduce my need to consume health care, I have been spending more time in the gym. I am by no means a fitness expert, but I do have to say that, so far, the StrongLifts 5x5 program has been excellent. I've been doing it for about five weeks now, and feel magnificent. Better than I have in years, as a matter of fact. You do have to take care that you do the movements properly, or you're liable to hurt yourself; but that's the point of starting light and working your way up. Highly recommended.

(3) Apropos of this item I wrote about back in June, CNN has a piece today on the outing of anonymous bloggers. No need to repeat myself, except to say that anonymity brings out the Inspector Detector lurking within your opponents. With a handful of exceptions, it's more trouble than it's worth.

(4) Finally, The Augustine panel, appointed by the Obama Administration to review NASA's near-term human space flight plans, will report its results soon. It remains to be seen if the Administration, and NASA's leadership, take the recommendations as a plan of action. This may be NASA's last chance to regain the initiative in the manned space sector. Lately, most of the interesting headlines have been coming from private industry, not from government laboratories. This can change, but only if NASA is willing to change the way it does business. Can they? Will they? The next few years will tell the tale.

That's about it for now. Is it September yet?

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