Shoe Stores, Black Writing, and Missions Accomplished

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by Gene Callahan by Gene Callahan

November 5

Causation Treatment

Today, you can go somewhere to receive treatment for almost any habit you have, for example, gambling, drinking, drugs, sex, and so on.

Well, the Scottish philosopher David Hume said that the idea we have that certain events “cause” others arises merely from habit. So I’m considering opening a “Causation Rehab Center.” Clients will come in and we will ask them things like, “How many times do you posit a cause-and-effect relationship per day?” and “How long have you been using induction?”

Then we will do things like roll one billiard ball toward another, but only after crazy gluing the stationary one to the table, or filling it with explosives, or placing one there made of glass. We’ll get ‘em off the stuff soon enough.

November 9

Every Summer We Could Rent a Cottage in the Isle of Wight…

…if it’s not too dear.

Over the weekend, I took a trip to the Isle of Wight, to visit my friend, Paul Birch, and tour the island.

Now, despite the fact that Paul is my friend, I must warn you, I fear he’s a somewhat fishy character – although he claims to be an astronomer, when I asked him to show me his telescope, it turns out he doesn’t have one! I bet he has no astrolabe either.

On the ferry out to the island, the passengers were shown a safety film. As usual, no one paid any attention to it. It occurred to me that such films would draw more attention if they actually showed footage of horrendous accidents, e.g., the ferry sinking, bleeding passengers, people screaming as they sunk into freezing water, and so on. That would get the customers’ attention, wouldn’t it?

The Isle of Wight itself is not heavily populated, and is full of picturesque rural scenes.

A rural barn on the island.

Another rural scene.

It is also geographically quite interesting, as there are a number of different strata running through the island. In fact, Alum Bay, where several of them come together, was apparently quite important in forming the thought of the Isle-born English biologist, physicist, geologist, and architect, Robert Hooke. (They didn't specialize nearly as much in those days, did they?)

A view of Alum Bay, showing a few of the different strata visible in the area.

Another shot of the bay, showing “The Needles” just off shore.

November 10

What Did I Say Wrong?

I was in a shopping district near my home, where I thought I had seen a shoe store. However, I could not re-locate it, so I stopped someone to ask where it was.

“Excuse me, is there a shoe store nearby?”

He looked at me in a puzzled manner.

“A shoe store,” I repeated.

“You want to buy shoes?”

“Yes.” What else would I want the shoe store for?

“I think there’s one down that way,” he said, pointing.

Not wanting to waste time in case he was wrong – he didn’t seem very sure about whether there was or not – I asked another passerby.

“Is there a shoe store nearby?”

He was taken back. “You want to buy shoes?”

Now, I’m sure there was something wrong with the way I was asking my question – I just don’t know what. “Shoe shop”? “Footwear store”?

PS — I've since learned that it was "store" that was throwing them. Here, a "store" is a place to store things. So, at first, it apparently sounded like I wished to warehouse my shoes!

I would get the same look when I asked for a "bathroom" in a pub. No doubt, the bartender was wondering why I wanted to bathe in his pub. (Use "toilet," "gents," or "loo.")

November 14

Picadilly Circus on a Saturday Night

Elen popped by London for a quick visit. We were passing from the Picadilly Underground Station south toward Leicester Square, down a wide pedestrian thoroughfare. It was packed with people. Suddenly, we heard fireworks going off, in the middle of this throng of humanity. People began screaming and sprinting for cover. Several more rounds were launched – some sort of bottle rockets sending bright arcs just over hundreds of heads.

We picked up our pace, trying to get out of the area. We had to stop at a crosswalk, and as we stood there, from inside the McDonald’s across the street, three or four minutes after the first rocket had gone off – hey, they had to finish their Big Macs! – about seven or eight cops raced into the street. Well, not so much raced, as kind of strolled, at a very leisurely pace. They seemed to have no interest whatsoever in finding out who was shooting bottle rockets in the crowd. In fact, they came to a stop about fifteen feet from the entrance to McDonald’s, and just stood together in a clump.

One of my English friends explained, “Well, no one was attacking them!"

November 16

King's College

Some shots of King’s College in London, where I’m studying the history of science:


I took a quick trip up to Cambridge, to visit my friend, Cambridge University economist Paul Lewis, and then attend Tony Lawson‘s Critical Realist workshop. I arrived in the evening, so Paul gave me a whirlwind tour of the campus and then treated me to a lovely dinner.

The gate to King’s College in Cambridge.

The first item on the agenda of the workshop is drinks from 7:30 until 8:00. Just before 8, when the evening’s talk is to start, most people fill their wine glass one last time before sitting down. After the lecture, it’s… off to the pub! Paul told me that drinking accompanies all activities at Cambridge.

Trafalgar Square

Admiral Nelson stands atop his pillar in Trafalgar Square.

A fountain in the square catches the morning sunlight.

Signs of Drugs

I stopped at a pub last night that had two large signs up warning that no drug use would be tolerated on the premises.

I think this is pretty much equivalent to putting up two signs saying, “Looking for drugs? There’ll be plenty of them around this place!"

November 18

Mission Really, Really, Really Accomplished

President George W. Bush announced today that, with the destruction of Fallujah, the “Mercan” mission in Iraq is now “really, really, really accomplished.”

“When, on May 1, 2003, I announced u2018mission accomplished' in reference to our invasion of Iraq, I was speaking truthfully. We had accomplished the mission of getting me a great photo op.”

“With the capture of Saddam Hussein in December, 2003, we had really accomplished our mission, meaning, in this case, that I gained a 5% boost in the polls with his capture.”

“In June, 2004, when we returned ‘sovereignty’ to Iraq – in other words, the new Iraqi government can do whatever it wants that we approve of – we had really, really accomplished our mission. By saying that, I’m pointing out that my poll numbers went up another 2%.”

“With the conquest of – but not the complete elimination of resistance in! – of Fallujah, we have now really, really, really accomplished our mission. And once we pound the bejeezus out of Masul, I expect that I will be able to announce that we have really, really, really, really accomplished our mission.”

“And that’s the wonderful thing about our mission in Iraq. It’s the mission that keeps on giving, so that we can accomplish it again and again."

Black Writing

In Borders today, I saw a section of books with the heading “Black Writing.” And, when I browsed through a few of them, I found that all of the writing in them was, indeed, black.

But, on further inspection, so was all of the writing in the books I examined from other sections. There must have been something particularly black about the writing in that one area, but I can’t grasp what it was.

November 22, 2004

Gene Callahan [send him mail], the author of Economics for Real People, is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and a contributing columnist to

Gene Callahan/Stu Morgenstern Archives

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