Saturday, June 30, 2007

Advice For Teaching

I am trying to digitize some of my written notes. I am too lazy to just type them up and save them, so I am going to put some here at the old blog.

The following is advice distinguished professors gave to TAs at a seminar.

1. Have a stage presence. Teaching is a performance.

2. Be prepared.

3. You syllabus should be a legally binding contract between you and the student. It should be a constitution. It might not be fair, but all students should be equal before the syllabus.

4. Know peoples' names.

5. Details are important.

6. Look nice and professional.

7. Be careful.

8. Always leave your personal problems at the classroom door, and do not take anything a student says or does personally.

9. Talk about what you know every opportunity you get. If you are doing research on a relevant topic, talk to the students about it. Teaching equals research and vice versa.

10. Never say anything important in the last five minutes of class.

11. Define what it takes to get a certain grade.

12. If it is important, say it at least three times.

13. Tear down the wall that separates most professors and students. They have to know you are a real person. Disarm your students unless you want to be fired at. (I know this is a bad analogy given the tragedy.)

14. Work with your best and worst students. The middle students take care of themselves.

15. Talk to colleagues.

16. Do not try to control students. If you do, you will fail.

17. Learn how to manage your time.

18. Many students do not know how to learn. It is part of your job to try and teach them how to learn. You cannot do this unless you know how to learn.

19. Sometimes you just have to survive.

20. The day before a class always have something "solid" in front of you.

21. Make your material relevant.

22. Be helpful.

23. Know yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

24. Make people stand.

25. If you have a talkative class, pick a fictitious person in the back to yell at.

26. Be organized.

27. It has to matter to you. Be passionate.

28. Understand your own insignificance. A bad class does not ruin a semester. A bad semester does not ruin a career. Do the best you can and do not worry about the rest.

A Question

A comment from this predictable pious article:

"ihamos (6/28/2007 at 9:41 AM)
Let me come at this from a different, albeit unpopular angle. Why does it matter? Yes NFL players are subject to the same laws of this country as we are, but I mean as far as the NFL and suspensions go. Salaries in general, be it the $40K that a normal guy makes or the $5m made by a player are calculated based on the amount of money that person produces for the company they work for, relative to the reasonable life of the job and the scarcity of the skill needed to do it. NFL players aren't payed so much because they're famous or they're athletes, they are payed so much because less that 2,000 people can do what they do and on average they each do it for less that 4 seasons. THIS IS A JOB. Short of breaking the law, for which punishment is decided by the courts, why do they have to be role models? They don't choose to be role models, we choose to make them. These are guys trying to make a living to feed their families, just as we do for $40K over 50 years. They're job is to entertain us at the highest level possible for 4 years each, not to raise our kids for us. The fact that we are outraged at the idea of a criminal being a player is a commentary on the state of parenting in this country. We feel the need to blame other people when we should be the ones teaching our kids right and wrong. To expect all these players to be "role models" is unfair to them. I'm not condoning what these guys (Tank, Pac, Henry) do, fundamentally they are taking away years of their playing career if nothing else, but I'm saying that we need to stop expecting so mcuh from 22 year olds who get paid millions to play a game. Role models are the guy who works for 50 years at minimum wage, not athletes. It's high time we realized that."

We get to choose our role models. We get to choose what we watch on Sunday. If we choose to watch and glorify idiots, then that is our problem, not the idiots' problem.

The Funniest Thing I Have Read In A While

"In my evil, wicked fantasy world I imagine economics graduate students presenting their new Ph.d. dissertation ideas to a jury of four: Paul Lynde, Fred Thompson, Charles Barkley, and Kenny Smith."

I would love to present a research idea to Charles Barkley. Shit, I would love to talk to Charles Barkley.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Einstein Quote Of The Day

"The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the State but the creative, sentient individual, the personality..."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Am A Mindless Monkey

I am a mindless monkey.

Thinking this is the easiest way to get through some days especially when you have to stop structurally procrastinating.

I am a mindless monkey.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Einstein Quote Of The Day

"It is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it."

Do I have it?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Other Quotes From The GTA Workshop

"There is nothing worse than the realization that life is absolutely meaningless. Here I sit, and I have wasted a whole day listening to people who like to talk rather than listen."

"It is not meaningless. It is the lack of control."

"Half of life is quickly covering up fuck-ups."

"Learning is a Hayekian discovery process. You cannot control it."

Preparing The Future Professoriate: Fifteenth Annual GTA Workshop

Thinking about a face
Whose name I cannot recall
A smile that made me
Want to fall and pray

Pray to the beauty that is the world
A face
A brilliant face
That I will never forget

I have forgotten
The name,
The place,
But that face
That brilliant face

Friday, June 22, 2007

Companies I Would Work For

1. Wal-Mart
I am a retail man through and through, and they are the best.

2. BBandT
I heard their CEO interviewed on EconTalk. He sounded like a Randite, not an Objectivist, but a Randite. It is about helping yourself while helping your customers. The CEO understood and verbalized this pretty well, especially for a CEO.

3. SuperValu
I have some experience with them, and I think they have the infrastructure to compete with Wal-Mart.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Things Are Getting Worse, But I Feel a Lot Better, And Thats All That Really Matters To Me"*

I have been distracted. I pulled out in front of someone. I drove past the gas station. I forgot to put my windows up in my car. I forgot to put my windows down at my apartment. I forgot my lunch.

And you know what?

I don't give a damn.

*From the Counting Crows' "Amy Hit The Atmosphere"

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Other Things

1. I finished Stuart Evey's ESPN. For the last half, I read the first and last sentence of each paragraph, and only reading the middle when necessary. I got through it much faster but still got the main points. Old men must justify their lives. Good businessmen recognize opportunities but are also lucky. Communication is also important.

2. Sam and some kids from Hampton taught me that I am too fat to play basketball. It was pretty disgusting. I have neither the stamina nor the quickness to guard anyone. I mean anyone.

3. I have no idea what to do when I run out of things to do while attempting to structurally procrastination. ML keeps saying graduate students are not busy enough. They do not have enough variety. There are only so many bills to pay, before I have to get back to writing my papers. As usual, she is right.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Some Things

1. I saw A.D. Vassallo and Deron Washington playing basketball in the gym. I quickly ran into the other gym. I would rather play in the MLB or NFL, but I would rather be causally good at basketball. They had a grace that you rarely see.

2. My Dad seems to be a Fidel Castro sympathizer. Instead of blaming high sugar, corn, and ethanol prices on tariffs and ignorant American policy, he blamed it on the embargo with Cuba. "All we have to do is admit we are wrong, apologize to Fidel, and open up trade. All Fidel wanted to do was feed his country. We have plenty of sugar 30 miles off the coast of Florida. Those people (Cubans) want to trade with us."

He went on to say his Grandmother's favorite saying, "America will starve with money in their pockets." And added: "There are no small farmers in America anymore. Everybody is big. Prices will stay high, and we will starve. We need more farms."

My sister who I have must have had some influence on asked him why he did not have a garden. He replied, "Well maybe not a garden, but I think greenhouses are the answer. We should get a greenhouse. We should grow something."

I love my Father. It was Father's Day. So I shut up and said nothing.

Notice I do not support the embargo against Cuba, and American sugar policy is a travesty. But Fidel Castro is no saint, and Castro's communism should not be glorified. America should apologize for any embargo but not to Fidel Castro.

3. Structured procrastination is a smart way to look at things.

My worst days come when I do nothing. Yes this blog is just me not working on the papers I am supposed to be working on, but I am doing something. I spent most of this morning looking at Finally about 4 o'clock today, I decided that it was okay to not do the work I am supposed to be doing. But damn it, I have to do something. I lifted, shot basketball, paid some bills, fixed the air conditioner in the lab, and checked on some things.

Now I feel like working, but it is time to sleep.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Great Poetry

1. Duritz's "Mrs. Potter..."

2. Rudyard Kipling's "If"

"...If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with triumph and disaster And treat those two impostors just the same..."

They are impostors.

Three Of My Many Faults

1. I have to be in control.

My Dad's anti-alcohol anti-drug speech consisted of "I never liked being out of control." He quit smoking cigarettes when he lit another cigarette after having one already lit. He knew then he could not control his smoking, and he quit (and gained eighty pounds).

I have taken his message to heart. I cannot stand to be "out of control." I cannot stand to think my future or present is in someone else's hands. No matter if it is a simple party or meeting, I think I could organize it better.

2. I require others to boost my self-confidence.

This probably comes from my parents too. I define my worth by others' compliments and criticisms. I know this is stupid. But I still do it.

I am getting better. I think this is one of the things that age and perspective cures, but it takes time. And I might be wrong; it might get worse with age.

3. I believe in justice.

I care. I cannot let things go. I believe there is a proper way to act. There is right and not right.

I get involved in other people's struggles. Many times this involvement is a diversion from my own struggles.

These three things are really the same. But their sum leads to me being an angry and unfocused person.

It can also lead to perpetual unhappiness, but I can and will change.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Something Someone Said

I found this quote from Lord Kelvin in some old economics book "Whenever you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it. But when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind."

This illusion of objectivity, this myth of positivism, this faith in statistics was never meant to invade economics, but it has. The whole thing reminds of R.E.M's "Sad Professor":

R.E.M. - Sad Professor Lyrics

If we're talking about love
Then I have to tell you
Dear readers, I'm not sure where I'm headed.
I've gotten lost before.
I've woke up stone drunk
Face down in the floor.

Late afternoon, the house is hot.
I started, I jumped up.
Everyone hates a bore.
Everybody hates a drunk.

This may be a lit invention
Professors muddled in their intent
To try to rope in followers
To float their malcontent.
As for this reader,
I'm already spent.

Late afternoon, the house is hot.
I started, I jumped up.
Everyone hates a sad professor.
I hate where I wound up.

Dear readers, my apologies.
I'm drifting in and out of sleep.
Long silence presents the tragedies
Of love. Not the age. Get afraid.
The surface hazy with attendant thoughts.
A lazy eye metaphor on the rock.

Late afternoon, the house is hot.
I started, I jumped up.
Everyone hates a bore.
Everybody hates a drunk.
Everyone hates a sad professor.
I hate where I wound up.
I hate where I wound up.

By Kelvin's and the author of the book's logic, the most important things in life like love, liberty and happiness are unsatisfactory because they cannot be measured. This philosophy is doomed from the start.

Economists must recognize that there is a great amount of knowledge that is unmeasurable but very important and worthy of study.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Difference II

When Dad used to complain about his boss, Granddad would say "Quit or buy the place." Knowing full well he could do neither, Dad would shut up and work harder.

Freedom is having the ability to "Quit or buy the place." That freedom is the way my Granddad lived, it is what Dad has finally achieved, and it is what I crave.

But how can I buy a public university?

So I can either quit, or shut up and work harder.

The Difference

My grandfather used to say "the difference between a landlord and a renter is that the landlord owns the place."

There is an article on the front page of the Collegiate Times (I cannot find the article on the website) about tenants complaining about a developer buying their apartments and renovating them into luxury condos. The former tenants are worried about finding another place. They want government to step in and help them. They want special privileges.

But the landlord owns the place.

The Wisdom Of Ozzie Guillen

"Guillen said he's "100 percent" against steroid use but added it's "not my business" if others take them.

"I really don't worry about it," he said. "I have three kids and those are the only three people I care about. Everybody else, you do what you want to do.""

From this article

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I Know I Am Late On This One

But YouTube is absolutely awesome.

I would have paid a significant amount of money just for the Springsteen, U2, and R.E.M. clips.

I dare anyone to say that YouTube would have happened in a communist country. I dare anyone to say that government can do anything except get in the way of YouTube.

Stupid Things I Have Said

My sister's friend is getting married. Like my sister, she is twenty two years old. I asked my sister what the over/under was on her friend's marriage. My intended effect was to irk my sister. I achieved that goal.

But my 29 year old cousin was also a little irked. He half-jokingly asked what was the over/under was on his marriage. He could stand to make a few extra bucks.

I halfway apologized, and said that my joke was a poor way to think and not funny.

But my foolishness can also be used to teach an economic lesson.

In today's world divorce happens. There is significant chance that my sister's friend will be divorced. By me asking for an over/under I was implicitly claiming that my sister's friend's marriage was a risky proposition. Give me the average length of marriages between people with similar characteristics, and I will give you an over/under. I was implicitly assuming the length of marriages are a predictable stochastic process.

My cousin and sister felt that the length of any given marriage was uncertain. There were no stochastic process just chaotic randomness.

I do not know who is right. But people who see risk where others see uncertainty can make a lot of money.

But first they have to find the courage to bet, then they have to be lucky.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Sundays, Harleys, Death, Whores, And Pimps

Over Christmas my Dad commented that all businesses should be closed on Sunday. "That is the way it used to be with blue laws, and we still got everything done."

I retorted that motorcycles should be outlawed. I knew my Dad was an avid rider back in the day. I also knew his dream is to buy a big Harley and ride across the country. I also knew that one of my friends from high school and my Mom's co-worker's boyfriend had just died riding motorcycles too fast. "There are just too many unnecessary deaths from motorcycles."

We argued. He claimed that all I care about was money. This is his go-to argument. When he cannot defend his position with reason, or he gets flustered, then I am a greedy bastard who only cares about money. I said in a sarcastic tone, "What about my high school buddy? Don't you care about him?" The realization that I was using my friend's death as a semi-joke during an argument scared me and offended both of us. So we shut up, and the argument ended.

GGM called me a whore to a philosophy the other day. I said that we do not need collective planning, and that property rights take care of all of the problems that planners cannot and or refuse to see. If you do not want Wal-Mart, do not shop there. Do not zone them out or make them jump through hoops. Just do not shop there. GGM reasserted his faith in the collective, democracy, precedent, and all of those other things that do not impress me.

One of my favorite rhymes is: "I feel like a whore. I cannot do anything for free anymore." That rhyme sums up the transition between youth and adulthood. Children do not worry about salaries or opportunity costs. They just play. They just act.

But somehow most children learn to be adults. They learn to face the consequences of their actions. Some learn quicker than others. Some learn the hard way. Some die. Some hurt others. Good parents help, but bad parents do not doom. And in the end, most make it.

The fact that most people make it is why I think blue laws and planning is wrongheaded and futile. The fact that prohibition had to be repealed, that people back in the day still got drunk on Sunday, and that people still speed on motorcycles show that laws will never solve the perceived wrongs of society.

So Dad and GGM, liberty, property rights, and the right to choose are my pimps, are my masters. If that makes me a whore or slave, then so be it.