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Merry Christmas to me. I've been busy. I've found a partial solution to my audio bleg, and now I'm able to render MIDIs into WAVs, with the sound of several different pianos.

It's an ugly process and I have a few piano fonts I haven't gotten to work at all yet. But I can do it and make files that sound reasonably good. (When considered distinctly from my playing ability.) I've spent basically all of my time at the piano, trying to make a recording that wasn't awful, or at the computer, experimenting with conversions.

I'll write up the process sometime over the next few days and post a tutorial.

I'll get back to blogging soon, I hope. I don't think I've been blogging significantly less than usual, but it's felt that way because I haven't been reading very much lately, either. But I'll open the ol' mailbag for a bit, even if my commentary is brief.

Don sends this article about stock option accounting:

Accounting theory has not embraced "triangulation" measurement concepts. In the accounting model developed over 500 years, the trader or entity has always been regarded as the center. This view has led to one- and two-dimensional accounting conventions and standards. The outcry to expense stock options is based on an attempt to capture a triangular transaction (involving the employee, the company, and the shareholder) in a two-dimensional accounting model that is not capable of presenting it accurately. Accountants must recognize and develop new tools necessary to carry us safely beyond the horizon.

Yes. Exactly. I must comment on one aspect of the article, where it explains FASB's reasoning in favor of expensing:

No one would argue that if a company issued shares for cash, and gave the cash to an employee, then the cash given to the employee should be expensed. Now, if the same shares are instead given to an employee who sells them for cash, all parties are put in the exact same position. Therefore, the accounting should be the same. Thus, the value of the stock should be expensed.

In the past I've criticized this argument by saying that this sort of expensing is creating sham cash transactions. I can be more precise: This sort of argument confuses the balance sheet with the earnings statement. In very broad terms, the earnings statement is about transactions and the balance sheet is about assets. When the scenario shows no difference in final assets, it is the balance sheets that should be alike — not the earnings statements. If the final assets are acquired through different transactions, then the earnings statements should differ. Accounting should highlight the differences between stock or cash transactions, not obscure them!

Sarah writes to say I'm a humbug (I paraphrase) because I would get rid of religious holidays for government employees. Guilty as charged.

More seriously, figuring out what to do with holidays is a real issue. I think the scope of the problem is vastly reduced by privatization — e.g. I don't have to worry about making postal workers work on Christmas, because I'd privatize the post office. But there will still be some large number of people who wouldn't get those holidays anymore. But it occurs to me that these kinds of jobs already require people to work on holidays. Prison staff can't all take a holiday at the same time. Neither can police officers. Perhaps things wouldn't be so different, after all.

Here's a delightful story about Christmas shopping, a search for toy guns:

I was greeted by a gruff bearded man. He could smell the panic on me, like a grizzled sergeant can smell it on a soldier in his first battle. "Something I can do for you, son?"

"Yes. Please. Please, for the love of all that remains good about America, tell me that you carry toy cowboy guns. Just a couple of cowboy guns is all I'm asking for. Toys R Us doesn't have them, Wal-Mart doesn't have them . . ." My voice trailed off.

You must read it.

There's more trouble at the UN. Kofi Annan says the Darfur "plan" is "not working". (The first are scare quotes, the second are real quotes.) And the UN sex scandal in Congo is worse than I realized; there are apparently photos and videos. The journalists remarked that this scandal "threatens to become the UN's Abu Ghraib." No, let's be frank — this is much worse than Abu Ghraib. I'm listening for the cries of outrage from the same people who were so bothered by Abu Ghraib, but I'm hearing mostly crickets. I wonder why that is? Shouldn't Democrats — the self-appointed champions of the oppressed and exploited — be leading the charge? Here are the oppressed and exploited. What are you waiting for?

To end on a mirthful and seasonal note, enjoy several renditions of A Christmas Carol. These two are my favorite:

Ayn Rand: The ruggedly handsome and weirdly articulate Ebeneezer Scrooge is a successful executive held back by the corrupt morality of a society that hates success and fails to understand the value of selfishness. So Scrooge explains that value in a 272-page soliloquy. Deep down, Scrooge's enemies know that he is right, but they resent him out of a sense of their own inferiority. Several hot sex scenes and unlikely monologues later, Scrooge triumphs over all adversity — except a really mean review by Whittaker Chambers. Meanwhile, Tiny Tim croaks. Socialized medicine is to blame.

Yes, yes!

The Libertarian Party: It's pretty much the same as the Ayn Rand version, but about halfway through the story, we learn that Scrooge is an alcoholic wife-swapping embezzling weirdo who's wanted for back child support payments in several states. Even readers sympathetic to the Libertarian story throw up their hands in disgust and grudgingly seek out the Republican version.


Tiny Island