Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunday Morning

Church (worship) provides discipline and spiritual/intellectual stimulation.

The discipline is like going to football practice. It is something you do not necessarily want to do, but it pays off in the end. Or at least you think it pays off in the end. Discipline is mutual accountability. It is social.

I have neglected this discipline.

The intellectual stimulation is more personal. It is the search for Truth. Most people have a hard time internally creating this search. They require an outside force to make them question their existence. Church provides this force.

I do not have as much of a problem here.

Notice not all churches provide these two things. And church does not have to be the only place where they are provided. But they are required for an individual to be healthy.

Friday, July 28, 2006

"When I First Met You, You Were Larger Than Life"*

I love Wal-Mart as much as one can love a non-living being. Tonight I bought a computer, deli roast beef, sliced sharp cheddar cheese, turkey bacon, sweet Italian sausage, Carolina Pride beef bologna, an extra firm pillow, non-pasteurized apple juice, NABs, a Ghiradelli dark chocolate and expresso bar, whole wheat bagels, and Hershey milk chocolate bars for $551.08. The whole experience almost alleviated my depression. Wal-Mart reaffirms my faith there is a God. I am not even going to let the fact that $25.71 will be wasted in Richmond bother me.

No matter what the poverty expert says, White Hall Vineyards produces a fine Cabernet Franc.

*This line comes from Top Gun. The love interest says it to Tom Cruise's Maverick. It worries me Maverick is what women want. Maverick is a prick. A prick who has a difficult time looking himself in the mirror. A prick who refuses to confront his own inadequacies. Yes, he is confident, but no one is larger than life.

Of course most men have a little Maverick in them, but if these qualities attract women, what does it say about women?

I do not know. The love interest has a PhD in astrophysics, and she still cannot separate lust from love. I mean of all people, Maverick. Maverick chased after the admiral's daughter. Is Maverick ever going to be faithful? Iceman is less of a prick than Maverick.

My Dad has this saying, "If a man knew what was going on in a woman's head, his head would explode. " In other words, I should shut up.

Are People Stupid?

I think people are smart. Most people get through the day. They take care of their needs and move on to their wants. Do they always make the right decision? No. But they learn from bad decisions. They stop touching the stove. They can even watch TV.

Most people I work with think people are stupid. They think they can make better decisions than other people can. For example, left on their own, people will put houses on every square inch of land. They will starve themselves as farm land is converted to subdivisions. People left on their own will commit mass suicide. That is why we need myself and the people I work with. We are all working suicide prevention hotlines "saving humans from themselves."

Sam (who has had some good posts lately) and I discussed this Cafe Hayek post about the current account deficit. Sam says the guy is missing something. In particular US government spending is out of control.

My thoughts on government spending are transparent. Government should not exist must less spend.

But I do not see any problem with the post. Trade is mutually beneficial. People are smart. The Chinese give us consumer goods. We give them safe investments. The Chinese are not stupid. Americans are not stupid. It is give and take. No one is forcing anyone to do anything.

One day Americans might conclude those Chinese goods were bad decisions. The Chinese might see those safe investments were not so safe after all. Everyone will learn from these bad (or good) decisions and move forward with life.

But people will figure it out for themselves without the help of the suicide prevention hotline.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Disappearing Acts And State Vehicles

I am going on a vacation. No one will miss me. No one will care. But I feel the need to post my intentions.

The office has become oppressive. Oppression is not a good thing. It is preventing me from getting through that first practice.

This university has too many state vehicles. This 2005 Ford Explorer has taken up two prime parking spaces for three days. It is ridiculous.

There is no reason that Ford Explorer should have ever been bought. I wonder what my Dad would think about a state official riding in a 2005 Ford Explorer on my Dad's buck, while he was hoping his '86 Chevy pick-up did not break down while hauling a load of apples.

He would not think anything. He would not trade that '86 for any Ford unless it was a diesel F-350. My father is a smart man who gets things done. I am not.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


My father's work is his life. He loves his family. But work is the reason he gets his tired body out of bed. There might have been a time when work was just a way to get things for his family, but work became his life.

My work is not my life. I have been bored for over a year.

I came to graduate school wanting to change the world. By the Spring of my second year, I knew I could never change the world from graduate school. I saw a bunch of professors who pretended. I saw students who chose to be indifferent and played the game. My ambition slipped into boredom and depression.

I decided there had to be more to life than work. I stay in school under the false pretense it is an investment in my future. But work is not going to be my life. I have given up on excelling or caring. It is not worth it. Like the high schooler who does not fit in with any clique, I will make fun of everyone and still get a degree.

But it will not work. I am pretending too.

The last year has felt like I have been waiting for the first day of football practice. On the first day, you run. You run a lot. No matter how hard you train, the running is hard. It wipes you out. But when you are done with the first day, practice gets easier. You dread the first day for eight months, but the first day comes and goes. No matter how much you puked or how sore your legs are, life progresses.

So I have to get through the first practice. I do not know exactly what that means. It has something to do with caring about what I am doing. It has something to do about making a decision and going "balls to the wall." It has something to do with telling the fear of failure "fuck you." It has something to do about discipline. It has something to do with confidence. It has something to do with happiness.

There has to be a day when boredom ends. There has to be a day when depression ends. Why not today?
(My jackass side wants to say why not tomorrow or next week? Is that my jackass side or is it just me? Stopthink.)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

"And If You Want It Just Come And Get It"*

The concept of original sin is bogus. It a Christian cop-out. It is the basis of Christian guilt. It gives evil a moral sanction to exist. It allows imperfection to continue.

I know the difference between right and wrong. I knew it when I was a child. I know it now. I was not born to do wrong. I was born to do right. I have no excuses for doing wrong, none whatsoever.

The Adam and Eve story has been misinterpreted. When Eve ate the apple mankind began. Mankind was given the ability to recognize Truth. We were able to distinguish between right and wrong. We were no longer animals. God did not want us to be animals that is why he created the serpent. Eve eating the apple was the original gift. There was nothing sinful about it. (I am sure theologians will rake me over coals, but frankly, I do not give a damn. I am right.)

An ideal society can exist. All it takes is people doing right. Doing right does not mean sacrificing your talents in the name of a mythical public good. It does not mean maintaining a broken system in the name of the status quo. It does not mean justifying evil by calling it human. Doing right means recognizing one's own greatness and pursuing this greatness. It means being truthful to yourself.

Yes, I went to church this morning. The pastor (she was not a preacher, this church does not believe in preaching) said the same thing I said in "Everyday Low Prices." She said it better, but honestly I doubt if people understood the significance of being real. They will continue to go on mission trips because of vanity. They will continue to ignore the consequences their decisions. I guess it is the 80/20 rule. A preacher can only hope that 20% live his message.

The music still sucks.

*From David Gray's "Babylon." This is a song I would like to sing in church.

Three Good Church Songs Other Than "Babylon":

1. U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I Am Looking For"

2. The Allman Brothers' Band's "Soulshine"

3. Don Henley's "The Heart Of The Matter"

Friday, July 14, 2006

300th Post And Taking The Trash Out

I am still a child. I am petty. I cannot stand someone beating me. When life does not go my way I sulk. My anger sinks into self-pity. I still want superiors and colleagues to recognize my greatness.

My grandfather would say "I was full of shit."

Growing up means shitting. It means throwing away childish emotions like self-pity and jealously. It means progressing. It means you love yourself so much you do not worry about others. It is being happy with yourself morning, noon, and night. It is confidence.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Paul Shirley Describes Academia

I mean the NBA.

I enjoyed my days playing football. Of course, I did not fit in with most of the team. I did not listen to rap or country. I cared about school. But they were a great bunch of guys.

We were a bunch of individuals who sweated together. We were a bunch of angry guys who were angry at different things, but come Friday night or Saturday we were a team.

I do not know what this says about anything. But I said it.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

What Am I Doing?

I am a jock. I trust my physical skills. I trust my ability to compete. I am an asshole to those who do not trust.

GGM and I were trying to play basketball yesterday. I am fat, slow, and have turf toe. I cannot run for any length without going into cardiac arrest. I cannot push off my right foot without crying about my toe. My shoulder feels like shit. I can make two out of ten shots when no one is guarding me.

But I convinced myself that GGM and I could take anyone in the gym. Fortunately we did not get into any games.

Later we went to the races. I convinced myself I could be a driver, or at least, run a team.

As I was going to bed, I decided I needed the jock atmosphere to snap out of my doldrums. I could not decide if I needed explicit competition or a coach telling me what to do.

I decided I needed a coach telling me what to do. So I went to church this morning.

My goal for the day was to get my life in order. I wanted a plan. I decided I needed to simplify my life to essentials. With God's help, I was going to be my own coach. I was going to make a schedule and stick to it.

Church was a disaster. It deserves its own post. Most people go to church for the same reason I went this morning, stopthink. They sing bad songs that say very little but say it repeatedly. They listen to sermons without questions. They want someone to tell them what to do. In fact that is what the sermon was about this morning. "Don't do what you think is right. Do what God thinks is right." (I can imagine the NAZIs in Germany saying this to themselves every morning.) But as my roommate told me as I was leaving this morning, "There are a lot of women there (at church)."

I waste the rest of day watching sports and eating hot dogs. I did wash clothes. I postponed planning my life until this evening.

When I got back to the office, I got depressed. There is not competition in the office. There is no coach telling me what to do. I have a shelf full of books and a wall of quotes telling me the futility of planning. The only thing I have learned from Graduate Schools is you cannot plan life. People have control over their lives. But they cannot plan. It is spontaneous order. Things happen. Shit happens. Other things happen. We deal with shit and things.

So here I sit late at night in a depressing office. I am not happy. I have no plans. Instead of dealing with the shit and things, I am just sitting here.

But tomorrow I will make a plan.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Everyday Low Prices

“Why do you like the Blues?” she asked in a tone making him believe she wanted an answer.

A beautiful woman had asked him a thoughtful question, not a dumb question like who or what do you like, but why do you like the blues. She seemed to want to know the answer. He was amazed. “It is real. Those guys didn’t hide anything.”

She smiled. He did not know if she was impressed or amused a white guy liked the Blues because it was ‘real.’ She was beautiful. Her skin was mocha. He did not know what color mocha was, but he was sure her skin was mocha. The contrast of her red lips and her mocha face made him recall the beautiful faces he had seen. She was on the list. Her body looked like a woman’s body should, muscle and fat in the right places. She was real.

He primed this conversation. He asked the easy, “Why do you like the Blues?”

She answered too quickly. “My father listened to the Blues. He indoctrinated me. He said it was our heritage. I hated it. I thought it was primitive compared to modern R and B. I guess I am rediscovering my heritage…My father died a couple of months ago.” She did not want to reveal the last sentence, but she did.

“I am sorry,” he could not decide if she wanted him to leave her alone. She did not look sad. She was not crying. He thought of telling her how his father loved bluegrass, how he hated it, and how he learned to accept it, but that was cliché. He thought her first question was a test. He usually did the testing. Maybe this time he was being tested. She was intelligent. He could push a little. “All music is primitive. It is emotional. It is about wanting. It is about primitive wants. Some music just voices these wants better.” He could not believe he had let that tirade go.

“I know,” she replied. “Some people do not understand music. They claim to like all kinds of music.” Her body language emphasized the stupidity of the claim. “But, they do not understand what they are listening to. They cannot articulate what a good song means, because they cannot define what a good song is.”

He mumbled, “Rand.”

“Yes. People refuse to confront their tastes and preferences. Who is John Galt?” She raised her shoulders and eyebrows to add emphasis.

He was in love. He wanted to kiss those wonderful lips. He wanted to make love to her. It was the perfect answer. He hated the subjectivists surrounding him. He disliked those who listened to everything but knew nothing about what they listened to.

He looked her straight in the eye, he thought when he looked into a woman’s eyes he had magical powers, “That was the most intelligent thing that I have ever heard in Wal-Mart.” It had a hint of humor, but it was also true. There was no hyperbole. A woman with her sensibilities would understand.

She looked him straight in the eye. He remembered why he had always been scared of black women. Their confidence was more genuine than white women. A white woman would not have had the courage to carry on this conversation. They would have shrunk into the little girl they were trained to be. White women were the ones claiming to like all types of music. A beautiful woman he might have a chance with was staring straight into his eyes, and he was rightfully scared.

His grandfather would be rolling over in his grave. No he would not, beautiful women transcended race. He wondered if her father was tossing and turning at his daughter’s thoughts.

“Thank you.” She smiled. She quickly picked up a Lightin’ Hopkins CD.

He went with a live Muddy Waters’ CD.

They both continued shopping.

Another Article

ESPN's Patrick Hruby discusses government waste.

I do not agree with his 'blame the taxpayer' conclusion. Pork barrel projects should be unconstitutional. Congress funding the Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame has nothing to do with taxpayers. It is wrong.

The article exposes two problems.

First we see how separated the individual and government has become. $70,000 is not much money to a Congressman. It is to me. This problem stems from republicanism. The hierarchy from voters to elected officials is necessary in a large society, but leads to principle-agent problems.

Second we see the limits of democracy. Even if the majority of taxpayers approved of funding the Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame, the project should not be funded. It is not a public decision. It is the problem of fascism. Just because the majority of Germans were NAZIs, concentration camps cannot be justified.

I am adding political science to economics as disciplines who have not reached the public. Many people cannot intelligently think about economic and political issues. (This is what I was saying about the article in the last post.)

We have to teach better.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Two Articles

Here is another example of how little economics has taught. Demand and supply are abstract concepts to economists. They are more abstract to reporters. They are even more abstract to newspaper readers.

Demand and supply have no meaning to the public. Until this changes, the welfare state will thrive.

Here is a good movie review. I read a multitude of film reviews for my History of Film class. There is a difference between a well-written and thought-provoking review and a mindless summary. Criticism should teach as well as criticize. Good criticism stands on its own. It transcends what it is criticizing.

Is art about fun? My Dad says the purpose of a movie is to make you forget life for two hours. I have never accepted this purpose. Good art is interactive. It is not about forgetting but remembering and thinking.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I Have No Girlfriend

I did the best I can.

I have no regrets.

Sam Makes A Point

Sam discusses his future of economics.

We disagree, but I appreciate the feedback.

The first time I read about game theory I loved it. It was a way of describing the world. Every decision can be viewed as a play in a game.

I still think game theory gives us a good way to view the world. But people are crazy. It is no use trying to predict behavior.

In other words life is a game, but Nash equilibrium is meaningless.

Father To Son

The park was wonderfully dark. The creek leading to the lake was still. The ducks were asleep. It was neither cool nor hot. Everything was just right. The place was peaceful and that is why he had come.

His father and he had just quarreled over business. It was a stupid argument. An argument caused by miscommunication. He had thought he had explained his rationale well. His father did not understand or did not care about rationales. Of course, it was many meaningless things. As much as they were the same, they were also very different.

The argument had gotten him mad enough to make him talk to himself. It was not a loud conversation, but it was audible. His face was animated. His lips were moving rapidly. He bet he looked just like his father did when the old man got angry.

He saw the shadows of two lovers in the gazebo. At first, he was jealous. He had sacrificed for ‘business.’ He had no lover. He had no prospects. He had always thought all it took was effort. He had never chosen to put forth the effort. Now, while walking through this park on this glorious night, had he decided his previous choices were ill-conceived? No, not really, he knew a lover would come eventually. It would be hard, but so was everything else.

He cared as much as his father did. This was what the old man never realized. Of course, he made mistakes. But his father had made mistakes too.

He heard a woman let out a girlish scream. Her playful lover had done something in their privacy she had liked but did not want him to know she liked. Her scream fooled no one.

He wanted to scream. He wanted to give up on this world he had created for himself.

But the park was too beautiful. The lovers in the gazebo could not see it. The playful couple could not see it. But this idiot walking through the park talking to himself saw how wonderful the night was. He laughed out loud, loud enough to silence the playful couple.

He shook his head and stopped talking to himself.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Future Of Economics

The economics profession is splitting into different schools.

One school, exemplified by Levitt and Dubner's Freakonomics and Tim Harford's The Undercover Economist, studies popular issues. Their audience is not economists but the (educated) public. They are applied statisticians and mathematicians. They do not care for normative debate. (Sam recently sent me this example.) Give this school data, and they will make an interesting conclusion about modern life. This is the Freak School.

The Traditional School focuses on government as an audience. They live by government grants. Most of the applied articles in journals are of this type. They make conclusions the public do not care about. They write for other economists. They rarely get into newspapers. They cannot author nightstand books. This Traditional School taught the Freak School.

The Archaic School is irrelevant. It is a group of failed mathematicians. It takes someone from the Freak or Traditional School to make the Archaic School's ideas relevant. Their ideas are rarely worth the paper they are written on. I refuse to consider them as having a future.

There are other Schools too. But I do not want to talk about them today.

The Traditional and Freak Schools requires statistics. Much of their empirical work is questionable. They miss the forest for the trees. The Traditional School has too many connections with the Archaic School to remain relevant. I am not saying government will lose faith in Traditional economists anytime soon, but government depends on popular opinion. The Freak School does a better job of recognizing popular opinion. The Freak School will eventually overtake the Traditional School. But both schools will suffer as social statistics is questioned by a greater number. Their conclusions cannot be supported by positive logic. Positive logic requires one to have no faith. Without faith statistics has no foundation to stand. Freak economists will start to battle one another over statistical details. They will quickly become archaic.

Also Freak economists cannot solve problems. They are passive observers. They study the correlation between waiting and successful surgery but will never convince a doctor to post prices. Their positivism will hamper their ability to generate change. Their lack of ideals will keep them in the middle of society. They will never be leaders or good teachers.

The Freak economists have the right audience. It is always about the marks. But by working with government the Traditional economists have greater opportunity to change society. It will take another school of economists to bridge the Freaks and Traditionalists. This school will be an idealistic group who believes in economics didactic value. It will be filled with a mix of politicians and entrepreneurs. It will create, instead of describing, our future.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Why I Went To Graduate School

I went to a doctor this morning. Two and a half hours later, I saw the doctor for 2 minutes. He told me I needed a procedure next Tuesday. I knew that on Saturday.

I filled out paper work. The same paper work I filled out in the hospital 100 feet away on Saturday. I waited with ten people past the age of sixty. All had more hair than I do. We all waited for hours. Old people have an easier time. Old people want air conditioners, a magazine, and the news. I want more.

I finally get called back. The nurse prys through my choking and family history. I almost cry when I tell her about my grandmothers' cancer. She got every death in the family out of me. She was nice. But she got pleasure out of my family's unpleasant health history. I did not. I have no chance of living past fifty.

Thirty minutes later I hear the doctor outside the door telling the nurse how he had misplaced a x-ray. Then he says, "Who is this guy?...Oh, the choker." I wanted to walk out, but I am scared of my mother.

He asks me the same questions the nurse did. I have to repeat my choking stories. They are not funny anymore. Repeating my family history brings another tear. In the middle of our consultation, he runs into the hall. I hope he found his x-ray.

He tells me I have to have this procedure. I probably have nothing wrong with me, but I have to have this procedure. Finally he asks what I do. I tell him "I am a graduate student studying 'econ'."

He gets a puzzled look on his face. I hoped he was going to tell me to go to hell. But instead, "What does 'econ.' stand for?" It made me real proud to be an economist. We have taught the world nothing, and do not plan on teaching anything.

In the end, I will pay who knows what to fill out paper work, wait, and briefly see a doctor who does not know what 'econ.' stands for. I have no idea what Saturday cost me or what next Tuesday will cost. The whole thing is ridiculous.

The American medical system needs to know what' econ.' means.

(Sam: I have not forgotten the 'service and flow' economy. I am leading up to it.)

One Year Anniversary

On July 11th this blog will turn one year old. Here is the original post.

It started as a group effort but turned into me whining. I am still searching for Truth while discovering myself. Unfortunately or fortunately myself comes before Truth.

The reason why I write this blog is boredom. Like the people who comment, I am bored. The other contributors found jobs. They relieved themselves of their boredom. They moved to better things.

I went home this weekend. A customer asked my father when the video store closed. He replied, "As long as their is a nickel walking the street, we will be open." He has said it many times. It still makes me think. I long to be so passionate that there is no closing time.

This blog is helping me decide how and from whom I am going to exchange nickels. Eventually I will have to make a decision and stop whining.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

My Day

I moved someone from 9:00AM to noon. The total value of everything I moved was less than $200. The replacement value might have been higher, but I am taking my Dad's advice next time: "Give them $100 and tell them to hire someone, it is never worth it to move someone."
I go on a date with my girlfriend. (I have said it. I am sure she will break up with me within an hour.)
I do not have many stories. I have not lived an interesting life. So I told her about the time I got a piece of hamburger lodged in my throat. I hung upside down. I did everything I knew how to, but I had to go to the emergency room. It was not a pleasant day. I went to specialist. He told me I just needed to chew.
She laughed. Everything was going well. Then karma struck. I forgot to chew. Less than two minutes after the story, I had a piece of chicken or a potato lodged in my throat. I tried to throw it up off the deck of the restaurant. I went to the bathroom and tried to throw it up. I was trying to act cool by telling her everything would be fine, but my body was producing a gallon of saliva every thirty seconds. I went in and out of the bathroom eight times in ten minutes. I can only wonder what the other people on the deck were thinking.
She paid. We left by the backdoor. I tried to convince her everything would be alright. It was not. I kept spitting (throwing up) saliva every thirty seconds. She offered to take me to the emergency room. I said "No." "I can drive." "I will get my roommate." "Okay, you better take me."
Two hours later after an IV to relax the smooth muscles in my throat, I swallowed the chunk. They gave me an appointment to see a specialist on Monday morning. I have no idea what they charged me. The doctor saw me for a total of one and a half minutes.
(My girlfriend did not leave me. So I guess that is a good sign. All kidding aside, I cannot thank her enough. But I will be indebted to her until I save her life.)
The moral of the story: "Chew."