Vital news for this sacred day!

I am not yet in Madison, but I am in the Land of the Cheeseheads and am about to hit the road and expect to be there by early afternoon. And then I discover two coincidences, one happy and one mildly problematic.

By my good luck, Ron Numbers is speaking on the campus today, at 3:30 in Science Hall room 180. Hey, I should be able to make that! I just hope he doesn’t dispense some jewel of wisdom that compels me to rewrite my talk on the spot.

One concern: this is September 19th! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day! This means, of course, that I have to give my lecture in a hokey dialect, which always makes us People of the Pirate sound silly to those who have no respect for our traditions. This is important to us, and I sure hope others around us, even the non-believers, will honor our deeply held beliefs and join us in the ritual. It will fend off global warming, you know.

I hope someone lets Dr Numbers know. I will feel much better if he engages in a little sabre-rattling before the talk, and perhaps punctuates his major points with a holy “Arrrrr.”


It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, so let’s all heave a hearrrty “Arrr” and down a ration of grog.

Also, more significantly, today is the day of the

Freshman Biology Major Mixer!

In case any of our new biology majors at UMM didn’t get the word, but do read the blog, here’s the deal: party at my house, 300 College Avenue, 7pm tonight. Here’s a map, but you hardly need it — we’re right next door to the U.


The biology faculty will be providing the refreshments, we just want you to stop by and meet us all and your fellow budding biologists. It will be fun.

I doubt that I’ll be up to growling like a pirate in the evening, but I’ll have my Jolly Roger flying, and I’ll be sure to have some of my collection of pirate books out on the coffee table if anyone else wants to join in.

But sorry, no grog for you. You’re all under 21! Fizzy drinks and chips and cake instead!

Pirate economics?

Normally, I can’t be motivated to read economics—no offense, economists, but I think the economics part of my brain got left behind on one of my many moves around the country, and it was locked in to one particular latitude and longitude anyway—but maybe adding a little swashbuckling and really bad puns in the title would help. Hilzoy has found some interesting examples, anyway. Here’s the abstract to one:

This paper investigates the internal governance institutions of violent criminal enterprise by examining the law, economics, and organization of pirates. To effectively
organize their banditry, pirates required mechanisms to prevent internal predation,
minimize crew conflict, and maximize piratical profit. I argue that pirates devised two
institutions for this purpose. First, I analyze the system of piratical checks and balances that crews used to constrain captain predation. Second, I examine how pirates
used democratic constitutions to minimize conflict and create piratical law and order.
Remarkably, pirates adopted both of these institutions before the United States or
England. Pirate governance created sufficient order and cooperation to make pirates
one of the most sophisticated and successful criminal organizations in history.

Maybe I should read that more carefully. If a group as anarchic as pirates could find a way to stably organize, maybe there are some hints for us atheists.

No, gang, boarding churches and looting them of their wealth probably isn’t a viable strategy to give us a unifying profit motive. We’re going to have to think about something more abstract. Although I do confess that a viking lifestyle does have some appeal…

First they came for the pirates…

Morgan Smith is six years old and is going to have a birthday party with a pirate theme. His parents hoisted a Jolly Roger up the flagpole, and…boom, some officious titzypritzel goes bustling off to the city council to complain. Down goes the flag. Now there is what a deranged bureaucrat might call a “happy ending”:

A Stafford Borough Council spokesman said: “A planning application has been made for a Jolly Roger flag to be flown at a property in Stone.

“The application is currently under review and will include planning officers looking at the impact the flag has on the area, with the decision expected by the end of this month.

“Legislation requires planning approval before it can be flown from the flagpole.”

Erk. That’s the antithesis of pirate. I say, hoist the flag, run out the cannon, and give the pretentious stuffed shirts at the Stafford Borough Council a broadside. Give that mob of six year olds cake, ice cream, and good sugary soft drinks, hand ’em each a cutlass, and turn ’em loose on the neighborhood. Yarrr, that’s the pirate solution.