The 10,000-hour Rule Might Be Wrong

This 10,000 hour theory has its origins in a 1993 study by Ericsson, where he looked at the performance ability of violinists, and showed that the playing ability was determined by the cumulative hours of training up to the age of 20.  That is, the best experts had accumulated the magic number of 10,000 hours whereas those classified as merely "good" or "least accomplished" were found to have done only 8,000 or 5,000 hours of practice, respectively.  The graph below illustrates this main finding, where yellow and orange are the best performing violinists.  Clearly, the average time taken to get to the ‘elite’ level is 10,000 hours, at least when it comes to playing a musical instrument …

Exceptions to the norm:  What variance would indicate

There’s another way to interpret this finding, which I’ll get to later in the piece.  First, a major statistical "omission" in the paper undermines how the conclusion of Ericsson and those who argue for 10,000 hours can be made.

I have that study, and what is remarkable about it is that Ericsson presents no indication of variance – there are no standard deviations, no maximums, minimums, or ranges.  And so all we really know is that AVERAGE practice time influences performance, not whether the individual differences present might undermine that argument.  Statistically, this is a crucial omission and it may undermine the 10,000 hour conclusion entirely.

via The Science of Sport: Talent, training and performance: The secrets of success.

The Men Kicking In Your Door Shouting “Police” Might Not Be Police

The homeowners told police that while they were sleeping, three men who were dressed in police-like garb entered their bedroom and put flex-cuffs on their hands.

Investigators said the assailants came in through the home’s front door and took money and electronics before running away.

Police said this is the third home invasion incident involving possible police impersonators. The other incidents happened in the northeast and southern parts of the city.

via Police Impersonators Sought In Home Invasion – Baltimore News Story – WBAL Baltimore.

Hooray for Price Gouging! It Makes Sure Everyone Gets A Little Something

As Hurricane Irene bears down on us, have you gone to CVS or Giant today and found that it’s all out of water? Alternatively, did you go last night and buy as much water as you could fit in your shopping cart?

Maybe you went to the hardware store and it was out of flashlights, or batteries. Or, maybe you went yesterday, and bought three flashlights — just in case — and a ton of batteries, because who knows what you’ll need to use them for?

Or, maybe — just maybe — you went to the hardware store, and battery prices were jacked up, and so you carefully counted how many you needed, and bought only that much.

Disaster pricing often yields more widespread allocation of scarce resources. So everybody has something, and it’s less likely someone’s sitting on water or batteries they don’t need.

via In defense of ‘price gouging’ | Campaign 2012.

Wal-Mart: Prepared When FEMA Is Not

I never want to hear another word about Wal-Mart is “evil.”

Walmart’s preparedness system helped the company emerge as a hero after Katrina, says Steve Horwitz, an economist at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., who studied the company’s response.

"They know exactly what people want after a hurricane," he says. "One of my favorite stories from Katrina is that the most popular food item after a major storm like this is strawberry Pop-Tarts."

Katrina showed that Wal-Mart was willing to let its employees improvise when they encountered something no computer could predict, Horwitz says.

In Waveland, Miss., where a Walmart was badly damaged, "they sort of pushed all this stuff into the parking lot and basically gave it away to the community," he says. "In other places, they broke into their own pharmacy to get drugs for local hospitals."

Since Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has begun studying ways to work with the private sector during emergencies. And the state of Florida has actually hired Bryan Koon, Walmart’s former emergency manager, to run its Division of Emergency Management.

"What I learned at Walmart helps me here to be able to make sure that we are putting those retailers in the best possible position to be successful in a situation like this," Koon says.

If most people can get what they need from stores after a hurricane, Koon says, agencies like his can focus on the less fortunate victims.

Read the whole thing: Big-Box Stores’ Hurricane Prep Starts Early : NPR. If you know what to look for, you see Adam Smith’s invisible hand, the Hayekian knowledge problem, and arguments against protecting consumers from “price gouging.”

Are You Prepared For (Earthquake|Hurricane|Zombies|Collapse) ?

A note to all my friends and anyone else who reads this blog: the recent earthquake on the US east coast shows that the unexpected event will eventually occur. Prepare now while it’s cheap to do so, both in time and money.

Have at least three days of food and water on hand for each person and pet in the house, more as you have storage for it. (You need at least a gallon of water per day per person.) Hell, throw in some comfort food stores too (liquor, candy, etc). The food should be suitable for long-term storage: canned meat, canned cheese and butter, rice, beans, freeze-dried foods, MREs, and the like. Remember that some foods need water for cooking, so factor that into your water stores.

Expect the power to be out. Flashlights, headlamps, candles, a camp stove, and some propane bottles will go a long way in the cold and dark.

A battery-powered radio or TV will help you keep connected to the world.

Keep an extra supply of your medicines on hand. The pharmacies may not be able to dispense or even order your meds when the power is out.

Keep some cash hidden away, so you can buy things in case the credit card networks are out with the power.

If you’re inclined to firearms, have at least a pistol and a hundred rounds of ammunition. I carry a .40 Glock, but if I had it to do over again I’d go with a 9mm Glock. If you can, have a rifle and/or shotgun as well along with sufficient ammunition.

If you really want to get into the spirit of things, think of it as a game of preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse; it’s amazing how well those scenarios translate into real-world disaster preparedness.

*Some* disaster is headed your way, whether its power outage from a storm, or an earthquake knocking out critical facilities. It will come as a surprise. You won’t have enough lead time to get ready for it. Nobody will be there to help you in the first hours and days of the disaster. Look out for yourself first, so you can then look out for others.

PS. Here’s a good roundup of links to help you get started:

Price Controls Cause Doctor Shortage in Canada

I phoned all 84 doctors who were listed as practising within 10 kilometres of my home. Some of their receptionists were polite. Some were surly. All rejected me.

Then I found another Web-based service called It allows you to search for doctors who are accepting patients. Skeptical, I gave it a try. Lo and behold, there was a doctor listed at a clinic called ExecHealth located right behind my office. Hallelujah!

When I called I was directed to their marketing department. And yes, said the man on the other end of the line, they would be glad to take me as a patient. For $3,000 a year. I actually gave it some thought before declining the offer.

File this under “Health *insurance* is not the same thing as health *care*.” Also file under “unintended consequences”, “perverse incentives,” and “price ceilings cause shortages.” Via Price Controls Cause Doctor Shortage in Canada, David Henderson | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty.

A Wall That Keeps “Them” Out, Keeps “Us” In

Most of us opponents of a wall have focused on the idea that the wall is meant to "wall out" immigrants. But we just observed the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Wall, a wall that was meant to, and did, "wall in" residents. I think I remember co-blogger Bryan worrying that a wall on the border with Mexico might wall us in. I think this is a serious worry. If, 20 years ago, you had asked me if a U.S. president would try to persuade the head of a totalitarian country to reinstitute restrictions on residents leaving that country, I would have said "No way." Yet three years later that’s exactly what President Clinton persuaded Fidel Castro to do.

via Robert Frost and Michele Bachmann on Walls, David Henderson | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty.

Penn Jillette On Government Aid For The Poor

I don’t think anyone really knows how to help everyone. I don’t even know what’s best for me. Take my uncertainty about what’s best for me and multiply that by every combination of the over 300 million people in the United States and I have no idea what the government should do.

President Obama sure looks and acts way smarter than me, but no one is 2 to the 300 millionth power times smarter than me. No one is even 2 to the 300 millionth times smarter than a squirrel. I sure don’t know what to do about an AA+ rating and if we should live beyond our means and about compromise and sacrifice. I have no idea. I’m scared to death of being in debt. I was a street juggler and carny trash — I couldn’t get my debt limit raised, I couldn’t even get a debt limit — my only choice was to live within my means. That’s all I understand from my experience, and that’s not much.

It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.

via I don’t know, so I’m an atheist libertarian –

A Disarmed Society is a Violent Society

… [The] glee and impunity with which rioters torched and looted large sections of London are an indictment of two beloved projects of British and other European elites: a disarmed citizenry and an all-encompassing, cradle-to-grave welfare state.

It’s hard to imagine riots of these size going on for days on end in the American South or Midwest simply because so many armed, law-abiding citizens would stand ready to defend their lives, liberty and property. Once you’ve shot a few rioters dead, it does rather tend to put a damper on the festive mood of the others. An armed shop owner in Texas or Ohio wouldn’t have to stand idly by while his life work burned, waiting vainly for police that never come.

But London shopkeepers and home-owners never had that choice. As Instapundit noted, “Unlike L.A., there are no Korean shopkeepers with AR-15s to help contain the looting.” Since handguns were banned in the UK in 1997 (tightening already restrictive firearm laws), their per capita crime rate has skyrocketed compared to ours.

Cf. “An armed society is a polite society.” Via A Disarmed Society is a Violent Society « Lawrence Person’s BattleSwarm Blog.

Gary Johnson, the most libertarian candidate ever to seek the US presidency

Gary Johnson’s philosophy is easily summarized. He thinks the state is far too big. He wants to balance the federal budget – not 20 years from now, but immediately – and has identified the requisite spending cuts. He understands that an adventurist foreign policy, as well as being expensive, diminishes domestic liberty: that there is a contradiction, in Russell Kirk’s phrase, between an American Republic and an American Empire. Accordingly, he was against the attacks on Iraq and Libya and, though he supported the overthrow of the Taliban, he opposed the elaboration and prolongation of the US mission in Afghanistan.

Gary Johnson is a libertarian on social issues, grasping that the American constitution rests tacitly on tolerance, privacy and equality before the law (see above clip). He was unusual among Republicans in strenuously resisting the various erosions of civil liberties carried out under the guise of anti-terrorism legislation. He sees the “war on drugs” as a misapplication of state power. In short, he believes in personal freedom, states’ rights and the US Constitution.

… Gary Johnson was elected on precisely such a manifesto in the swing state of New Mexico, and promptly set about putting his beliefs into practice. He took the view that there should be as few laws as possible, and vetoed more legislation during his term than the other 49 state governors put together. He cut taxes 14 times and never raised them once. Result? A budget surplus and an economic boom. During Gary Johnson’s gubernatorial term, 1,200 state jobs were axed, but 20,000 private sector jobs were created. And here’s the best bit: he was handsomely re-elected, despite a two-to-one Democrat majority.

via Meet Gary Johnson, the most libertarian candidate ever to seek the US presidency – Telegraph Blogs.