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July 28, 2011


It has been dicovered many years ago that winners of the bronze medal at sporting events are far happier than silver medalists (gold tops both of them). The standard explanation is that the bronze winner thinks "I won a medal! Hooray!" while the silver winner thinks "Why the hell did I not achieve the golden one? I failed."
Failed desires look like a good candidate for depression.
A lot of classic utopians considered a stable, secure but modest wealth to be ideal. It would satisfy real needs but not foster ambition for more. the logarithmic scale applies here too. Low on the scale small achievements bring happiness while higher up even large ones become insignificant, esp. when they are expressed mainly as numbers on paper. What is another billion, if you already have several and the luxury that goes with them. For others a few hundred bucks are manna from heaven saving their existence.

Hope and desire lead to pain, hope for nothing, desire for nothing and you cannot be disappointed.

Sad news about Irabu. I read it over at Replacement Level Yankees Weblog and immediately thought of Steinbrenner's famous quote. My second thought was that, if Steiny was still alive, he'd probably feel regret about calling Irabu a Fat Pussy Toad.

Apparently there was an article recently about Kei Igawa (another pitcher who was awfully good in Japan & failed here - though Irabu at least had some success first) soldiering on in AAA. I haven't read it yet.

Speaking of medals, FINA World Long Course Championships are going on right now.

Only one WR, but the fact that said WR comes from Ryan Lochte means that Lochte is if anything BETTER than he has been (at age 28, now), and that Lochte also looks to be a major threat in the next Olympics.

Many existing swimming world records were set in the so-called techsuit era; now that high-tech bodysuits are banned, the fact that Lochte is equalling or bettering his performance while wearing them either means he didn't get much performance boost from the suits, or he's even better than the already world-class performer he was during the techsuit era. Or some combination of the two.

Lochte also anchored the victorious US men's 800m free relay squad with a time that was fastest in the field, and within a tenth of a second of his own WR 800m relay anchor split. Lochte also owned the 200m backstroke, but was a good second from Aaron Piersall's WR.

Also to keep an eye on: 17-year-old Missy Franklin. She's swimming some very fast times and is close to the WR in the 200m backstroke. Her leadoff leg in the 800m free relay was faster than the winning time in that individual event. And of course there's Michael Phelps, but I get the sense he's less close to his peak than Lochte is. That will undoubtedly change by next year.

Rob, are you thinking of this NYTimes article? Pretty amazing stuff.

Oh. Missy Franklin just turned 16 in May. Even more impressive.

Why are people in poorer countries more cheerful? Possibly because they see themselves doing better than their parents, and can expect their children to do better than they have. ("Better" in an absolute sense, not necessarily relative to those around them.) And they can see, just by looking around, what "better" might look like -- that's what higher income countries have.

If you're in a high income country, you can look around and figure that there's nowhere to go but down. Not least because you have no idea what "better" might actually consist of. A few people may have the imagination to guess (not necessarily correctly), but most will not.

For example, suppose you love to read. In 1990 (or even in 1960 IIRC), you can get almost any (current) book you want via inter-library loan . . . as long as you know about it and are patient. What could be better than that? After all, even in 1990 you probably can't imagine Amazon.

If you're in a high income country, you can look around and figure that there's nowhere to go but down.

Well I grew up in the US - California, no less - in the 1950s, the highest income country in the world (and probably the highest state in the US), and Back In The Day, when we looked around, we figured it was Up, Up, Up all the way. Every year was better than last, and there was no reason it shouldn't go on like that forever. Progress! Huge cars with fins!! Disneyland!!! The LA Dodgers!!!!

So something else has changed . . .

If you're in a high income country, you can look around and figure that there's nowhere to go but down.

An old friend asked me an interesting question last week:

What year or decade in US history would you prefer to live in with an income of $60K in nominal dollars?

I asked him to confirm that he meant nominal dollars, i.e. the dollars of the day. He said yes. At first blush, you'd think that a $60K income in Ben Franklin's day would make you one of the richest people in the country, so why wouldn't you go back that far?

But then you might consider that even with a $60K income in 1780 you could not have afforded telephones or cars or electricity or penicillin or ...

So the question is actually interesting. My own answer, after some thought, was that I would go back to about 1979. Maybe 1999. But back to the last century in any case.


...but then there wouldn't be any Internet for people to be wrong on.

Maybe that goes in the plus column.

Someone in our friend McKinneyTX's neck of the woods tried to firebomb a Planned Parenthood clinic this week. One that doesn't even perform abortions, by the by.

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