June 2009

You are browsing the site archives for June 2009.

In response to my earlier post of a couple of thoughts on healthcare, a reader called “bunkerbuster” throws a few interesting questions my way:

What’s your view on demand for health care?

The market model would have it increase to infinity if it becomes zero cost to the consumer.

Generally, that is the rule, but I think “bunkerbuster” is right to be skeptical for three reasons. First of all, the market model is a model, and nobody seriously expects models to work at the extremes. Having an infinity turn up in the middle of your model is usually a sign that you’ve gone too far.

Second, healthcare has non-financial costs—such as the time it takes from a busy day and the fact that it’s often very uncomfortable—that prevent the true cost to the consumer from ever dropping away to zero.

Third, like everything else, healthcare has diminishing returns. The most important bits of medical care are extremely important to your health, but additional care is less and less valuable. These returns likely diminish all the way to zero—or at least below the costs mentioned in the previous item. Once you’ve fixed everything that’s wrong with you, why would you buy more healthcare, even if it’s free?

(Of course, health problems can be defined down. Back when most children never made it to adulthood, nobody worried about allergies. Nowadays, people take pills to get rid of toenail fungus, and some plastic surgeons have lobbied to have small breasts classified as a disorder.)

But in reality, the non-union pipefitter who can now afford to have regular check ups may well have significantly lower long-term demand for medical services.

So here’s a point to ponder: If preventive care reduces long-term costs, shouldn’t we expect uninsured people to consume a lot of preventive care, since they are more directly exposed to the costs? That’s apparently not what happens, however, because our healthcare system already includes a distortion in healthcare pricing, as illustrated by the last part of the comment:

And there’s always the classic emergency room scenario in which demand for those ER resources balloons because the poor have nowhere else to go and because minor problems go untreated until they are emergencies…

This happens because hospital emergency rooms aren’t allowed to turn people away, even if they can’t pay. For poor people, this artificially lowers the price of emergency care with respect to non-emergency care, which distorts the healthcare decision-making process. From the indigent patient’s point of view, emergency care is cheaper than non-emergency care. And when something has a low price, people buy more of it.

Since non-emergency situations can progress into emergencies if untreated, this creates some perverse financial incentives for poor people to avoid preventive medical care. But what are the alternatives? Refusing emergency care to people who can’t pay? Paying for every doctor’s visit, no matter how unnecessary? There are no easy answers.

(And, just to mix things up a bit, some statistical evidence suggests that the benefits of preventive care aren’t as clear-cut as we might suppose.)

Random shots around the web:

(Hat tip: Radley)

I’m probably being unfair, but it seems like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a bit of a dumbass. (Or maybe, as fair Jennifer says, we should have listened to Anita Hill.) That’s really the only way to account for his explanation of why it was okay for a school principal to order a strip search of a 13-year-old girl to try to find some ibuprofen.

Thomas was the only Justice that thought this was okay. There are a number of ways he might have tried to justify his opinion—stare decisis, in loco parentis—and for all I know, he used them. But this is just plain stupid:

In this case, officials had searched the girl’s backpack and found nothing, Thomas said. “It was eminently reasonable to conclude the backpack was empty because Redding was secreting the pills in a place she thought no one would look,” he said.

I think that’s what mathematicians derisively call proof by ignorance: It must be true because I can’t think of any other possiblies.

In the unlikely even I ever meet Justice Thomas, I’m going to accuse him of smuggling crystal meth in his rectum. By his own logic, he ought to let me check, right?

(I know there’s more to it than that, but the stupidity here just pisses me off.)

Thomas adds this:

Thomas warned that the majority’s decision could backfire. “Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments,” he said. “Nor will she be the last after today’s decision, which announces the safest place to secrete contraband in school.”

“Nor will she be the last”? What the fuck? They did search her underwear, and she didn’t have any drugs. I always assumed Thomas just looked like he was sleeping during oral arguments, or that he was bored because he’d already read it all in the briefs, but maybe he’s really just not paying attention.

It’s also a question of values. If the cost of keeping dickheaded school administrators from looking in little girls’ underwear is that a little more contraband gets into our schools, I, for one, am okay with that.

Now that Michael Jackson is dead, I’m not going to miss him. I didn’t know him. I don’t think many people did. I do, however, miss the Michael Jackson I once thought I knew, back before it all got so weird. You see, there was a time…

I never really loved Michael Jackson’s music, but I loved his music videos. Back in the early 1980s, creating videos for songs was still a new and controversial idea. I liked the videos, but a lot of people, including a lot of artists, thought they were a distraction from the music. Record companies made videos, but they didn’t take them seriously.

Michael Jackson helped change all that. At a time when a music video might have a budget of $40,000, he spent about a half-million dollars on the Thriller video and got a major motion picture director to film it. Nowadays, many motion picture directors get started with music videos and think nothing of producing one for musicians they like, but back then nobody had heard of such a thing.

I admired Michael for taking this fledgling artform to heart and treating its fans with respect.

It may sound odd, but I also admired Michael Jackson for his willingness to let Weird Al Yankovic parody his songs. Musicians with considerably less fame and talent took themselves too seriously to let Al do his thing (I’m looking at you, Coolio!) but Michael Jackson was always willing.

That’s the Michael Jackson I miss. Something bad happened to him a long time ago.

A few random shots around the web:

  • When I heard that bartender-beating Chicago cop Anthony Abbate got a light sentence, I wondered if someone who wasn’t a cop did the same thing, would he get off as easy? When Moser did some research, and the answers is probably yes. It was, after all, just a barfight.
  • Savana Redding wins her case against ibuprofen-seeking perverts.
  • I didn’t love the new Transformers movie, but I liked it more than Roger Ebert did.
  • Why? WHY? Why do they keep letting M. Night Shyamalan make movies! At least it’s an adaptation, so maybe it will have a point.


Chicago police officer Anthony Abbate—caught on video beating up a young woman bartender—has been sentenced. He got probation.

Note that Abbate is still a police officer. The Independent Police Review Authority has recommended he be fired, and it sounds like he was convicted of a felony, which should disqualify him for the police force, but God only knows what the Police Board will do.

Chicago’s Police Board is often described as the “civilian review” component of the disciplinary system, which sounds good, but as I understand it, the only thing they can do in police disciplinary actions is to either approve, reduce, or eliminate the recommended punishment. In other words, it’s a way for the city political structure to protect officers who have connections.

My guess is that Abbate doesn’t have any connections good enough to survive so publicly disgracing the department, but…this is Chicago.

The thing is, Abbate’s not the real problem. He’s just a drunken fool. Notice, however, that there’s been no word in months about the allegations that other officers tried to cover this up and intimidate witnesses with threats of arrest. That would be a criminal conspiracy within the police department.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Illinois’s own Jeremy Richey does some actual journalism and interviews California civil attorney Brian Pedigo about his experience as a juror for a murder trial. He talks about deliberations, and what he thinks each side did wrong or right.

By the way, he has one piece of advice for the prosecutor that I’d like to second if I’m ever on a jury again:

When handling a firearm, do not point it at the jury — have gun manners.  Point it always at the ground, even though it’s unloaded. 

Yeah. It may give us jurors a sense of what it was like to be the victim, but it’s also going to give me a sense that you’re an irresponsible jackass.

Scott Greenfield, font of so much that I can riff off of, has a complaint about gang experts who try to paint every action by the defendant as related to his membership in a gang:

If a defendant has a tattoo, the expert will testify that tattoos are “brands” typically worn by gang members.  If the tattoo happens to say “Tiffany”, then the testimony is changed ever so slightly to accommodate, by the expert then saying that gang members typically brand themselves with the names of their girlfriends.  You get the message.  No matter what the evidence, the defendant can’t win.  It’s always connectible to being a gang member, according to the expert.

Aside from the implication by Scott that police gang experts are pulling answers out of their ass don’t really know much about gangs, I can also see something of a logical problem with the so-called expert’s theory. The cop’s statement that gang members have specific types of tattoos is a logical statement: If he’s a gang member, then he’ll have a specific tattoo, say of a snarling dog. If we try to get all mathematical, the statement it would look like this:

gang member ==> dog tattoo

But that’s not what the prosecutor wants the jury to believe. The prosecutor doesn’t care about the tattoo. He’s trying to prove that the defendant is a gang member. He’s trying to prove the converse:

dog tattoo ==> gang member

The problem is, as a matter of math, the truth of a statement does not imply the truth of its converse. Even if it’s true that all gang members have dog tattoos, it doesn’t mean all people with dog tattoos are gang members. It’s easier to see with a more obvious example: All gang members have noses:

gang member ==> nose

but that doesn’t in any way prove

nose ==> gang member

That is, not all people with noses are gang members.

So why is it that “all people with noses are gang members” is obviously wrong, but “all people with dog tattoos are gang members” seems plausible? The answer is a little more complicated because it involves the real world, the statistics of experimental design for testing hypotheses, and the availability heuristic.

Suppose you wanted to test the hypothesis “all people with X are gang members,” where X is either “noses” or “dog tattoos.” You’d do it by setting up an experiment—in this case a survey of the population—to look for counterexamples to the hypothesis. That is, you’d try to find people who have X but are not gang members. Finding even one proves it’s not absolute truth.

The real world is a little fuzzy—especially in the social sciences—and our methods of testing are less than perfect, so real-world hypothesis testing usually involves testing a statistical relationship. In this case, we’d be testing “people with X have a high probability of being gang members” and we’d still be looking for people who have X but are not gang members. The more such counterexamples we find, the lower the probability of a relationship.

A scientific test of this kind of hypothesis would involve conducting random surveys and gathering enough data to reach statistically reliable conclusions. But when it’s not a scientific investigation, when it’s just us trying to figure something out, we don’t do a scientific study. We just try to think of counterexamples.

When X is “noses” it’s easy. We all know lots of people with noses, and nearly all of them are not gang members. Such a large number of counterexamples makes it easy to destroy the hypothesis that all people with noses are gang members.

When the hypothesis is “all people with dog tattoos are gang members,” it’s a little harder to think of counterexamples, simply because dog tattoos are so rare that we may not know of anybody who has one. Our inability to find counterexamples makes the hypothesis seem plausible.

This way of thinking is called the availability heuristic. We assume something is likely because we can easily bring to mind examples. The more examples we can think of, the more likely we believe it to be.

Although the availability heuristic is not as rigorous and generalized as conducting a scientific investigation, in essence it’s a similar process. A scientific investigation gathers data using randomized trials, controlled studies, and careful surveys and then analyzes the data to arrive at results. The availability heuristic does the same kind of analysis, but it works only on the data we have in our heads at that moment. There is no data gathering process.

The availability heuristic is a perfectly valid way of thinking about our day-to-day world, about which we have lots of data but don’t have time to gather more. It tends to fail us, however, when thinking about parts of the world with which we are unfamiliar. That’s why we have science.

What are the practical implications of all this philosophy when it comes to thinking about gang experts? Probably not much. But if I ever find myself on a jury listening to this kind of testimony, I hope I’ll keep a few points in mind.

Basically, any assertion of a general rule—all fish have fins, all cats have fur, all people with dog tattoos are gang members—is equivalent to an assertion that counterexamples do not exist: There are no fish that don’t have fins, there are no cats that don’t have fur, there are no people who have dog tattoos who are not in gangs.

(Actually, the gang expert will likely invoke several indicators of gang membership in combination—gang tattoos, gang hats, gang shoe laces, gang jewelry—and the standard in the courtroom is not that there are absolutely no counterexamples, but rather that counterexamples are rare enough that they do not constitute a cause for reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, an assertion of a general rule is still an assertion about the rarity of counterexamples.)

So if you hear someone say that dog tattoos are sign of gang membership, you should be wondering why that person believes there are no (or few) counterexamples. Remember, it’s not just about gangs. It’s also about tattoos. If he’s really an expert on gangs, he may very well have observed that gang members have dog tattoos, but how does he know that non-gang-members don’t have dog tattoos as well? He’d have to know a lot about tattoo prevalence in society at large. In addition to being a gang expert, he’d also have to be a tattoo expert.

Or at least he’d have to have received reliable information from a tattoo expert or be aware of a scientific study of some kind that addressed the issue. If I were on the jury, I’d want to hear about that.

Back on my latest I’m-going-to-be-blogging-about-healthcare post, reader Seth makes a few points in the comments. Here’s the first one:

Making healthcare cheaper by saving money on billing data, etc. is saving money on clerks and bookkeepers. Whether the amount is large or small, it has no effect on the amount of healthcare provided (except perhaps by doctors who do their own billing, of which I know of none).

At first I thought Seth was simply wrong, but when I thought about it some more, I realized the reason he’s wrong is more complex, and to the extent that he’s throwing my own words back at me, I’m wrong too. Seth is referring to the third item I listed:

The reason some people can’t get healthcare is because it’s a scarce commodity: There aren’t enough doctors, hospitals, nurses, drugs, and medical equipment to give everyone the care they want.  That some people can’t afford healthcare is merely a symptom of its scarcity.

I overstated my case in the last sentence. I was thinking of pricing in the very short term.

For example, when a hurricane does unexpected amounts of damage, there’s often a sudden spike in the price of building materials, especially wood for boarding up windows. This is often denounced as price-gouging, but the economic reason for the high prices is that wood has suddenly become scarce relative to the demand, and buyers bid the prices way up.

Legislatures can pass anti-gouging laws, and politicians can crack down on suppliers, but none of those things can increase the amount of wood. If wood prices are held low, it changes who gets the wood—it now goes to the people who get there first, rather than the people with lots of money—but there still isn’t any more wood to go around.

A similar problem would arise from any attempt to hold down healthcare costs through price controls or through single-payer bargaining power: Healthcare won’t be just for the wealthy anymore, but there still won’t be any more of it.

(Actually, history suggests that the wealthy will somehow find a way to prevail, but that’s another story.)

In the longer term, however, the supply of healthcare is not fixed. People involved in the prodution of healthcare—from doctors to hospitals to pharmaceutical companies—will provide more healthcare if it becomes more profitable for them to do so.

So, for example, reducing the clerical costs of operating a doctor’s office increases the efficiency with which patients’ money ends up in doctors’ bank accounts. The medical professions become more profitable, and more doctors enter the field, providing more healthcare.

(Other outcomes are possible. Instead of more people becoming doctors, it’s possible that doctors will start working longer hours, which still leads to more healthcare. Alternatively, maybe instead of the saved clerical money going to doctors, it could end up in the hands of the patients in the form of reduced fees. This would not lead directly to an increase in healthcare, but presumably the patients would spend it on something that improves their lives, so it’s still a good thing. Technically, they could even spend the extra money on more healthcare.)

Seth’s other point is this:

A problem with your solution to the problem of pre-existing conditions is that it isn’t clear how to attribute costs with multiple causes (e.g. osteoporosis found during coverage by one company, person falls off a ladder while covered by another, and gets a lot more bones broken than someone without osteoporosis would). But I suspect the companies would come up with some way to handle that, mostly because they’ll be on both sides equally so won’t really care.

Yeah, that’s just an idea I tossed out, and it needs a lot of fleshing out. I’m sort of assuming it’s not that hard because insurance companies already make these kinds of decisions about pre-existing conditions. It’s just that now there’d be two companies arguing about it. If insurance laws required that one of them has to pay, they’d probably work out a solution.

I imagine a system similar to no-fault auto insurance: Your current company pays for your treatment, and then they try to collect from previous companies for pre-existing conditions. I think companies on the hook for pre-existing conditions would probably try to unload them on the new insurance companies. For example, the company on the hook for the osteoporosis might pay the new company $20,000 to take responsibility for the condition. It’s sort of like having people with pre-existing conditions come with a signing bonus for their new insurance company. As the system matured, the companies would probably create a clearinghouse to make these transactions more efficient.

Instead. “I need to see your license and carry permit.” Which was just as well, for reasons I’m not going to go into, about where some people put their insurance cards. 

He didn’t ask about that.

“Do me a favor, sir, and step out of the car.” He didn’t sound like it was really a favor, so I did, and pocketed the keys, closing and locking the door behind me quite appropriately.

This is embarrassing, but I do have an excuse. Some other time. “Shoulder holster.”

“And where is the firearm?”

, “My carry permit and drivers license are in my left hip pocket, Officer; and, yes, I’m carrying today.” Oh. somewhere that a guy shouldI answered, as I read

— comes up to the window, and asks for my D/L, proof of insurance and… “…do you have any firearms on you?” never mind quite which agency; I’ve got my reasonshe cop —

So I promptly found a safe place to pull over, and did just that. T


I was so distracted by that phone call that I didn’t notice that I’d let my speed creep up to a tad over the legal limit, until I noticed the flashing lights.

that are going on.  Some other time. issues So I had a xerox of both in my front shirt pocket, wrapped around $400 in cash. I got a call from my younger daughter’s school about some…

Perfectly reasonable.

I was running over to meet a guy to buy a gun. Private sale. Since he’s not an idiot, he wanted a copy of my DL and permit, just to adhere to the forms.

Maybe you can, too, but I gotta tell you the story, first.

will be first to point them out . . . after all, he’s got a head start.  He’s heard the story.Kevin EckerThere’s actually some lessons to be learned from this; I’m figuring that “Sure. It’s in my left hip pocket. Would you like me to take it out?” said: should haveWhat I

Well, when he took the piece of paper either I let go too soon or he grabbed at it too late, and the money started flying all over the place . . .

, I said, more or less accurately. The gun store

“And where were you going with a copy of your permit wrapped around $400?”

So I explained, with a fair amount of stuttering, I think, that, yes, there was some money in there, but I wasn’t offering him either a bribe or a tip, just so there wasn’t going to be any misunderstanding.

I was just about to hand a cop a piece of paper wrapped around twenty twenty-dollar bills, and it was a bit too late to withdraw the offer.

Well, so did I.

You see where this is going?

I think he liked the idea that I wasn’t going to be reaching anywhere, so he said that that would do, and I took out the piece of paper, and started to hand to him.

. “Sure. I’ve got a copy of both in my shirt pocket. Would you like to see that?” said What I And he stuck out a hand, and I shook it, and he went his way, and I went mine.

“You drive safe, Joel,” he said. 

came out of my mouth. thank youI didn’t quite know what to say, but I think something like

  He said it the other way. and there’s nothing I can do about it, but I’d like to.” — to the US Constitution. You seem to,” he said, handing the paper back to me, “work the First and Second pretty hard, and that’s just fine.”  There are ways to say it that mean

correct him and point out that there’s more; that’s just the Bill of Rights. Didn’t even think of it until later, and I’m not always a stickler for details. not I did

of the Amendments — ” ten as a generic, “who believe in all not And he sort of cocked his head to one side, and was clearly making a decision, and then he made it, and he said, “you know, there’s some of us jackbooted thugs,” this is a phrase I use, but to describe a certain kind of bad cop,

watch the phone stuff when you’re speeding.Yes, he said,

“I’m just going to give you an ‘advisory’, Mr. Rosenberg. Watch the phone stuff when you’re speeding.”

Oh, goodie.  I think that was a figure of speech.  Really.

“You’re fine, Mr. Rosenberg,” he says, and then smiles. “Guess if you had any warrants on you, the Gang Strike Force would have kicked in your door yesterday, after all.”

A couple of minutes (which didn’t feel like minutes, but the cigarette timed them), he comes back, and we move around to the side of the car.

intently. Very

“Just wait here a minute, while I run this,” he says, waving the paper. He sort of glances at me, as though he was going to ask me to produce the DL —  they can swipe them, rather than type stuff in — but then he goes back to his car, and I just wait over to the side of the road, smoking a cigarette.

So we both count out the money — and it’s all there, and we’re in front of his cruiser, so if there’s a camera running, it’s all on the record, and we both announce the amount, and it’s the same $400 that it should be– and he hands it back to me and suggests that I tuck it away, which I do.

he smiles, and it’s a friendly smile. this is about to get bad,Just as I’m thinking

, of all people, to think that some money’s missing.” you. I wouldn’t want Rosenberg“Better count it, and make sure we didn’t miss any.” He glances down at the piece of paper, and frowns. “…Mr.

So, with the money flying all around, he dashes for it, and after a couple of seconds, I figure that it’s okay if I help — if he was worried I was going to, like shoot him in the back or go all stabbity, he probably wouldn’t have turned his back to me — and since it’s not all that windy, he and I (mainly him; he’s younger and moves faster) quickly gather it up and hands what he’s got to me, and no guns, knives, tasers, nor clubs come out.


the guy.  And if the story ends a bit anticlimactically, hey, I didn’t write the script, and don’t mind that at all. like He could have written me, and he didn’t, and I’m not about to don tactical kneepads, and all, but, hey, I

Not vouching for him on other stuff, but, hey, yeah, I’ve got a soft spot in my heart and head for cops who cut a guy a break when they don’t have to. 

cops. I like this guy. Some Yeah, I like cops.

As a friend pointed out to me, a bit later, when we were discussing this, the reason that I didn’t find it offensive for him to first-name me is that he was doing it as a human sort of thing — he’d already been formal, and was saying that as one guy to another, not a cop talking down to a “civilian,” as he wasn’t.

Afterthought:  I guess it’s possible that he knew who I was when he pulled me over, but I was driving SWMBO’s car; the War Wagon was getting its a/c worked on that day.

What can we learn from this? 

A lot, I think.  Over to you.

Yes, You Do Have Staff, But You’ve Got to Be Staff, First Too Both First and Too
Twitter, the Favor Economy, and the Power of Crowds

You’ve seen the ad:  some bozo, trying to project competence and connections, tells a potential customer:  “I’ve got people to handle that.”  By which he means he can look up folks in the Yellow Pages, hire some, and take his chances that they can deliver.  After all, they bought an ad in the Yellow Pages, and that takes, competence, commitment, and a checkbook.  Well, a checkbook. Credit card, maybe.

You can do better.  Hell, I do better, and I’m, well, just a guy.  Look it up.

Before I get to twitter, let me tell you about a friend of mine, who I’ll call Bob.  (That’s not his name; that is his face.) We met something like fifteen years ago, when he was dating another friend of mine, and we’ve hung out a fair amount, since. 

There are folks who call me a Renaissance Man, but well, Bob’s downright Heinleinian:  he can (and does) pilot airplanes, maintain cars, fix stuff, build houses from the foundation up (he’s done that, and can do any of the tasks required in all of that), sail a small boat (although it did tip over, that time I went with him, throwing us into the icy cold waters of Lake Minnetonka; then again, I was at the helm), load his own ammunition, and Ghu knows what else.

Some years ago (long past the statute of limitations; chill), he decided that the house he owned then was eighteen and a half inches too short — he had a cool stove that wouldn’t quite fit — so late on a Friday evening, he and his brother, Al (also not his name) tore off one side of it, put in all the framing and other stuff, including the additional flooring, and put the side back up and had it all painted and sealed up, better than what code requires, by Monday morning.

I could tell you a lot of Bob stories, but let’s leave it that he can do damn near anything that can be done with one’s hands, and that, from time to time, I’ve asked a favor or two of him.  The one thing that he can’t do is maintain his own computers, and — very rarely — I get a call asking just how one farbles a glimrod under Vista, or whatever, and for two reasons, I get to farbling his computer’s glimrod.

Yes:  I’m making out a like a bandit, and if I told you more of the stories —

“Hey, Bob?  It’s Joel.  I know it’s 2:30 in the morning, but there’s water pouring out of the ceiling in my kitchen, and — ”
“I got it. Put on a pot of coffee.”
“That’ll stop it?”
“Nah.  But I’m on my way, and a cup of coffee would be nice.  Don’t worry.  We’ll get it done.”

— you’d get it, even more.  (Yes, we do have fun; there was the time that we tracked a stolen car through city streets… yes, “tracked,” not “followed.” )

I also do some other stuff that Bob thinks is a good thing to be doing — some of the political stuff — and while he always makes himself available to help out in that when he can, he’s of the opinion that, say, the writing and blogging is something that I can do pretty well, and that he can’t do it near as well, and would rather folks like me who enjoy it spend time on.  Works for me.

I don’t want to overanalyze this — well, more than I already did — but it’s a pretty common thing: friends do favors for friends, and it all makes the world a better place.  Other than the fact that we enjoy hanging out together, both Bob and I do pretty well — not just by the favors that we do for each other, but by those we do for others. 

Not a big deal, but a friend of Bob’s once needed a quick carry class; he called me and asked me, and yeah, she got a quick carry class.  I’m not asking for a medal, which is just as well — nobody offered me one, after all.  I just want to make the point that this doing stuff for folks stuff won’t go only in one direction.  For long; you know the kind of person who acts as though they think a favor is something that you do for them, because they’re too busy with their own lives, and all.  How well does that work out for them? 

Which brings me to twitter.

A few months ago, I followed the lead of some friends-who-I’ve-never-met-in-the-flesh, and — while I thought it was silly — took out a twitter account.  Mainly, I use it as an ongoing party line, a way to play with other kids while I’m doing something else, and that’s fun.

But . . .

You’ll see it now and then.  A tweet something like, say:

, but Open Source.http://twurl.nl/vcpzkiRequest: anybody got a link to a good javabuttons generator? I’m thinking something like

Which was quickly followed by:

http://www.dynamicdrive.com/Check this site out. Tons of great java ideas if you have never been here:

, over the weekend. hereWhich is how I ended up with javabuttons and a neat nav bar over

Here’s another one of mine.  I’d been looking into a lawsuit in another state (never mind quite why) and tweeted:

I like it. 

Anybody got a shortcut to information about case C 05-04532 JW in US District Court Northern District of California, San Jose Division?

A few minutes later, an attorney (I’m grateful, but I’m not going to name him without permission, lest other folks think that they get to importune him for legal research — and I’ll get back to that in a minute, I promise), tweeted:

http://is.gd/B7NBAsk, and ye shall receive.


It’ll be fine.  Trust me.

So, yeah:  the world in general — and twitter, in particular — is full of folks who know stuff, many of whom  will be happy to lend a hand, from time to time, and all you have to do to tap in on it is, well, obvious: Go out and do stuff.  Have fun.  Talk to folks; solve interesting problems.  Get your own work credits in, but have fun with it. Help folks, and put a call out there for assistance.Cool.  I can find that.

individual opinion; nobody else gets a vote, and that particularly goes for me) enough to take some time out of his day to look something up for me, and c: — and this is one of the keys — wasn’t being importuned by me for “yet another favor,” without me doing anything for anybody else in return, because, at least among some of the folks I meta-hang-out-with, I’ve contributed enough (in their opinion; mine doesn’t count) putting a few work credits into the favor economy is worth the trouble, to them, even though, smart folks they are, they’re probably thinking the same thing that I am when a neat query comes across:his But I don’t, and I didn’t. I just relied on whoever was a: listening on the party line that is twitter, b: had, in the past, found what I contributed interesting or valuable (in

had breasts, he would have — but I digress.)zayda And, if you go to the link, you’ll find — as I did — that it was just the document I wanted, and would have looked for myself, if I’d known where to.  (I don’t know exactly where he got it, or how — but it’s public information, and if I had access to the sort of tools he has at his fingertips and the knowledge of where to find that sort of stuff that he’s developed, I could have found it, too.  And if my