Black Swans and Perfect Storms

David Ryan

David Ryan is a boat builder and USCG licensed master captain. He is the owner of Sailing Montauk and skipper of Montauk''s charter sailing catamaran MON TIKI You can follow him on Twitter @CaptDavidRyan

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43 Responses

  1. Jeff Wong says:

    FYI, it’s spelled Sebastian Junger (a German spelling).Report

  2. Stillwater says:

    Good luck David. Stay safe. Sounds like Sandy is bringing some pretty serious, nerve-wracking weather your way.Report

  3. Ghost Author says:

    Oh I was calling this The New Perfect Storm already. 🙂Report

  4. David Ryan says:

    The new and improved Perfect Storm!Report

  5. Fnord says:

    Also flood watches just from rain in inland areas with no storm surge danger.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    A million years ago in Chemistry class, one of my teachers told me that two particles hit each other all the freakin’ time. Three particles hitting each other? *REALLY* *RARE*.

    I can’t help but wonder if this wouldn’t also be true for storms.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      From Sports Night

      Dan: Eleven years ago, he pitched a perfect game.
      Rebecca: A perfect game.
      Dan: Yes, ma’am.
      Rebecca: And a perfect game is good?
      Dan: Listen, I know there’s a lot of jargon, but some of these are pretty self-explanatory.Report

  7. Rtod says:

    Good luck to you and your family, David, and to all the many other members of our little community that are back east.

    Stay warm and dry, everyone.Report

  8. david says:

    Pray for all those cub reporters and their cameramen, who are doing the “on location” reports.

    Because, we really don’t believe there’s a hurricane outside unless we see some fool struggling to stand up straight on the beach while yelling above the gale winds into his microphone in front of a shaking camera being held by someone who is also having trouble standing still…Report

  9. Peter says:

    I’ll put on my Cynicism Hat and point out that if it weren’t for the taxpayer-supported federal flood insurance program there’d be fewer houses built in low-lying areas that are vulnerable to storm surges.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Peter says:

      I had this same convo with my wife earlier. I’m not so bothered by the folks living in multi-family dwellings in the lower ninth ward as I am by the multi-million-dollar mansions on the outerbanks. Not because of some “eat-the-rich”mentality, but because the former often live where they live because they don’t have readily available choices; the latter often seek out such spots knowing they can subsidize the risks.Report

      • Rtod in reply to Kazzy says:

        Meh… We all live in places where the cost of risk is subsidized by others.Report

        • KatherineMW in reply to Rtod says:


          I’m from coastal BC. If The Big One ever hits, the rest of Canada will be pitching in for the costs of fixing everything that hasn’t fallen into the sea for years.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Rtod says:

          But some much moreso than others. Let’s not pretend it is all the same.

          People who want to build mansions in OBX are essentially saying, “I want all the benefits of living here with none of the costs.” There is something wrong with that.Report

      • LWA (Lib With Attitude) in reply to Kazzy says:

        We’ve heard this discussion previously.
        In fact, whenever there is a major disaster somewhere- hurricane on the Gulf Coast, tornado in the Midwest, earthquake in California, floods alonf the Mississippi, wildfires anywhere, the same argument is brought out, why the government subsidizes the folks who live there.

        The simple reason is that about 90% of the country lies in a place where some natural disaster or another is just waiting to happen.Report

        • Kim in reply to LWA (Lib With Attitude) says:

          Yeah. I’m the exception.
          The floods along the Mississippi got solved, mostly in the 1990’s. People said, “we made this problem, we’re going to fix it.”

          Tornados don’t cause much damage…

          Youv’e got some problems that you lose a lot if you try and make go away… (ports need to be by water, and not everything is Pittsburgh).Report

          • Lyle in reply to Kim says:

            Perhaps better put re tornadoes: The cut fairly narrow swaths and leave the remainder of the community able to respond, while Hurricanes and Earthquakes tend to put an entire area out of commission. Yes we had a number of bad hits in 2011 but if you moved either of the storms 10 miles (south) for example it would have nearly missed Joplin. Lots of tornadoes tend to just tear up corn fields and small towns (see Greensburg,KS) They are such that the law of large numbers works for them and they become insurable because of that.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

        Agree, Kazzy. Libertarian John Stossel did a piece on his beach house insurance subsidy. The bigger question here is not really a question atall: Stossel would be stupid not to take the gov’t handout on that property because if he won’t, somebody else will.

        That’s why those charges of hypocrisy—opposing gov’t handouts on one hand while accepting them with the other—don’t do much for me. That’s cutting off yr nose to spite the government’s face, I make it.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Sure. If it is there for the taking it’d take someone overly principled to decline it. The hypocrisy charge is valid if they attempt to draw false differences between THEIR handouts and OTHER’S. “Oh no no, I didn’t take a hand out. But those mooches sure as hell did!”

          But I’m less interested with charges of hypocrisy and more interested with the government subsidizing million-dollar vacation homes in disaster zones that serve little economic interest.Report

        • Jon Rowe in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          I wouldn’t mind me a rent controlled Manhattan apartment even though I utterly oppose rent control in principle.Report

        • Jeff No-Last-Name in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          John Stossel has been repeatedly exposed as a lying a**hole.Report

        • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          If every other person jumps off a bridge, is John Stossel too? I guess the vaunted integrity of libertarians breaks down when it might actually cost them money.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            Jesse, this has been an annus horribilis in my household, what with the economy and my this and all.

            Though eligible for public aid, we figgered we could tough it out and leave the government charity for those who can’t.

            I’m not douchebagging you here. What I’m saying is that if every American comes to see public assistance as the first resort and not the last resort, we’re fucked, man. We’re probably already fucked, with a record 50+ million on Food Stamps. How to get them off without playing Scrooge?

            I grew up poor, lower middle class. We scraped by, and Mom & Dad always found some way to feed us and keep a roof over our heads. We never had shit, but we always had everything. We didn’t even have a color TV until 1970.

            Used. The colors were kinda psychedelic, although I didn’t know what that meant at the time as I was too young to be either psycho or delic.Report

            • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              I think every American should apply for and use the government programs that are available to them and they are eligible for, if they feel they need it.

              A matter of fact, the idea that public assistance is this horrible thing that only “those” lazy good for nothing who have no other options kind of people use is something I wish we could eliminate in this country and a matter of fact, I think the past four years should hopefully do a lot to change that feeling, as people who previously were ‘doing fine’ have to use those terrible food stamps that kept food in my belly for most of my formative years.

              BTW, we could also easily afford it, if we hadn’t wasted the treasure of the last
              thirty years on tax cuts, defense spending, and growing inequality.

              If we had the same inequality as we did in 1980, we wouldn’t have to spend the money we do on welfare.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                “A matter of fact, the idea that public assistance is this horrible thing that only “those” lazy good for nothing who have no other options kind of people use is something I wish we could eliminate in this country and a matter of fact, I think the past four years should hopefully do a lot to change that feeling, as people who previously were ‘doing fine’ have to use those terrible food stamps that kept food in my belly for most of my formative years.”

                My hunch is this won’t be the case. Many folks who found themselves on assistance during the latest downturn will blame the government for their struggles. It’s not THEIR fault they’re on assistance; they didn’t WANT to be on assistance; Obama SCREWED them and MADE them need assistance. But those other folks? Yea, they’re just lazy.

                I hope that you are right. But I’ve seen enough, “Keep your government hands of my Medicare” signs to be skeptical.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Scrooge always gets a bum rap. If he was parsimonious with the coal and the donations, he had his reasons for becoming so embittered with life. He was a lonely boy who had loved and lost. Emerging from poverty, he’d struggled hard for money and respectability.

              “This is the even-handed dealing of the world!” [Scrooge] said. “There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!”

              “You fear the world too much,” she answered, gently. “All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach…”

              And if money was all he had left, Scrooge was only striving to escape his miserable upbringing. If his offices were as cold as his stingy heart, he had known cold and poverty. Why should others enjoy life when love and joy had been snatched away from him? Fezziwig and Marley were both dead. In the last of the three dreams, we are given the merchants of the city, remarking on how Scrooge had always attempted to be in good standing in their ranks.

              And Scrooge had died alone. The only people who felt anything at Scrooge’s death were his debtors and the looters. We’re never given that part of the story, usually. If Scrooge died unmourned, he did not die unnoticed.

              Tom, I don’t know the source of your public aid funds, but I didn’t pay all that tax last year so you could deny yourself benefits to which you’re not only entitled, but entirely deserving. You have sustained a serious, painful and debilitating injury: though we’ve argued horribly, it grieves me to know you’ve paid your taxes for all those years and now feel you shouldn’t take public aid. You are not a grifter. You’re an honest man who needed help and needs it still. Hold your head high and take help in the spirit in which it’s offered, in good conscience. You are an American citizen and that ought to mean something beyond mere obligations.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              If we’re really interested in getting people off Food Stamps, the answer is obvious.

              If we had a great number of unused but perfectly serviceable machines in a warehouse, a competent analyst would seek to upgrade them so they could be productive and add to the Bottom Line. But it’s called the Bottom Line for a reason: it comes after Revenues and Expenses, including Capital Expenses. The Japanese used to book my consulting fees under Capital Expenditures: they viewed what I was doing as knowledge transfer.

              Why can’t we view our own people this way? There will always be some people on Food Stamps. That’s roughly analogous to doing maintenance and upkeep on that warehouse full of machinery. But if we really want profits, we’ll upgrade those people. I’ve taken seemingly obsolete office computers, installed Linux on them and put them back in service in a variety of applications. Granted, they’re no longer in Carpet Land, but they’re excellent value for money hosting out-of-sight applications, tucked away under some shelf on the factory floor, where the constraint is bandwidth and not computing power.

              So why not invest in our own citizenry, viewing them as valuable resources? Isn’t a good education a wise investment? Think of such investments as an upgrade path to Employee 2.0. Perhaps even Entrepreneur 2.0….Report

              • DRS in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The big problem with getting the most benefit out of public benefits (pun intended) is not the way they’re structured or dispersed (although I’m sure that kind of thing can always be improved). It’s the emotional freight that these benefits are expected to haul.

                Why not simply see the benefits as morally neutral: bad things happen, the resources are there to at least partly ameliorate the worst of the impact, then the recipient(s) can get back on their feet again? As long as people see the use of these benefits as implying some kind of moral deficit or even immorality.

                Canada’s Employment Insurance (national government program) provides for maternity and paternity leave for up to a full year, even if parents adopt a child and even if the applicant has been on EI (that is, been unemployed) within the previous year. This means that maternity leaves “up here” can actually give the mother full-time with the baby during the important first twelve months. This benefits families, the community, the economy (lots of newcomers to the employment world get their first real experience in mat-leave positions and go on to full-time jobs afterwards) and therefore the country as a whole. No stigma is attached to the use of these benefits this way :

                EI can also cover you if you’re sick yourself or have to take time off work to provide full-time care to gravely-ill family members: All these issues make it easier to deal with life disruptions and keep things on an even keel for families, which can only benefit the economy and the community and the country as a whole. You can even arrange to buy into EI if you’re self-employed.

                These benefits (and this is just one program) exist for a reason and no one up here begrudges anyone the use of them for those reasons because we know that most people are approaching them in the right spirit. There are abuses, but the system is set up in a way that makes it increasingly easy for the government to catch you – you have to provide regular documentation to prove your continued eligibility. And that documentation is shared between the relevant databases so there’s less of the “right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing” problem that made it easy to abuse in the past.

                Tom I wish you well in your efforts to recover, and I respectfully ask that you re-consider your emotional attachment to how things used to be as you use the public benefits you have paid for and are entitled to. They will be wasted only if you cannot bring yourself to take advantage of them in the proper way – the way that will bring full benefits to your family. (Pun intended again.)

                It’s dangerous to drive forward when looking constantly in the rear-view mirror, especially since those days are long gone and as the Boss says, “they ain’t comin’ back”. Cheers.Report

              • DRS in reply to DRS says:

                Correction: “As long as people see the use of these benefits as implying some kind of moral deficit or even immorality, they will spend too much time worrying about something that doesn’t matter.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to DRS says:

                Why not view such benefits as ethically positive? What the hell, hasn’t Tom paid his dues as a member of society, working hard all his life? Why shouldn’t society invest some money in his recovery, so he can go back to being a useful, productive member of the society he’s helped maintain with his taxes and personal work ethic? At the most cynical level, doesn’t it make more sense for society to give him the necessary resources to get back on his feet, both literally and metaphorically?

                Furthermore, why should he feel shame for it? Beggars drag down a society, they’re a shameful manifestation of a broken system. The efforts to abolish the slums of New York weren’t done out of the goodness of anyone’s heart. They were a blight, a rat’s nest of crime and they had to go. Have we no shame as Americans, that we are willing to tolerate needless suffering in our fellow citizens? For all this cheap talk about Patriotism, it never ceases to disgust and amaze me to hear the same people wax hot and feisty about the evils of Dependence.Report

              • DRS in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I’m going to be late for work – again – thanks to this site, but a quick response: I think Americans are very attached to their vision of economic prosperity has some kind of confirmation of their special place in the world and in history. The economic upheavals since the OPEC gas crisis of the mid-70’s (yep, going back all that way!) have thrown that vision into difficulties. Part of that is the outdated attitude to public benefits – if people get used to public benefits being used more often, perhaps it’s a sign that the good times – and the specialness – aren’t ever coming back. If people just keep the old attitudes and refuse to acknowledge change, maybe the change will go away.

                I’m not saying Tom thinks like this but subconsciously I believe he’s absorbed a lot of those attitudes and might find it hard to change because in some ways perhaps he’ll see it as a rejection of his parents’ experiences and lessons taught him. It’s not going to be easy but in a globalized economy large pools of unemployed or unemployable people just aren’t a luxury countries can afford anymore.Report

              • Scott in reply to DRS says:

                How are folks to get back on their free when Barry wants to gut the welfare work requirement? All that says is that you can stay on welfare without trying to get off it. If would sure like it if I could not work and have folks support me. Plus I would get one of those free Barry cell phones and I would be set.Report

              • DRS in reply to Scott says:

                Well considering that Obama is following the wishes of many governors – including Republican ones – I think he feels that working with state authorities might be the best way. And while you might prefer to be dependent, the majority of unemployed people want work. Phony work requirements – which is exactly the kind of time-wasting thing that prevent public benefits from doing what they’re supposed to do – as opposed to re-training or adult schooling are simply emotional crutches for an insecure society.Report

    • Rtod in reply to Peter says:

      I am wondering if this is a comment in favor or against subsidies.Report

  10. David Ryan says:

    Just got back from helping a friend get his boat squared away. Between work and family obligations he didn’t even get out here till 5PM. By the time we got his anchored pulled and were motoring across the lake it was dark and the boat was healing 5 degrees on bare poles.

    He’s in the lee of Star Island now, with two anchors down. In the morning I’ll go check on MON TIKI and then dingy out to help him strip more windage off his boat. NOAA is splitting the difference with their forecast now; lower sustained winds forecast of 35-55mph, but now they’re calling for gusts to 80. 50 is not such a big deal. 80 is a lot of wind!*

    Also heard that the Viking Fleet (a local operator of walk on fishing boats and ferries) is anchored in Fort Pond Bay rather than take the buffeting at their docks.

    And last I saw all those USCG rescue boats plus the 80 cutter Ridley were out. Doing exercises in the crummy conditions I expect. At least someone is having fun!

    *For you non-physicists, non-sailors, the power of the wind is equal to the square of the speed, ie. 20mph is four times as much force as 10mph, 40mph is four times as much as 20mph, and 80mph is four times as much as 40mph. We can do without gusts to 80mph!Report

    • Fnord in reply to David Ryan says:

      Oh, it’s even worse than that. The power of the wind goes up with the cube of speed.

      As you physicists already know, kinetic energy goes up with the square of speed. So the energy carried by a given bit of air goes up with the square of speed. But a faster wind doesn’t just move air at a higher speed, it moves more air through a given area in the same amount of time.Report