Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Last Exam

I hopefully took my last written exam in December. I left the classroom feeling like I failed it. I did not answer one entire question. I only superficially answered the other questions. I cannot memorize key words like I used to. This was a key word class.

I ended up getting an A on the exam. I ended up getting an A in the class.

This last class typifies my whole academic career.

As an undergraduate and Masters student, I felt like I had an anonymous donor who paid professors to give me As. As a PhD student I just got by, but I always got by.

I have always been lucky. I have always been confused about what was really important. I learned a lot of bullshit in my years of classes, but I never learned confidence. I never learned to accept or face my limitations. I just kept getting by, easily at first, difficult at last, but I never learned the substance of life. I never learned that work and the ability to create were much more important than a written exam.

It is about time I started to learn.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Some Things

1. At any given time I can do an infinite number of things. The secret is to do something.

2. I have no control over what the Redskins do. I must come to grips with this fact. But if they hire Fassel...

3. Italian sodas are the most inconsistent thing known to man. I had a lime one once that was the best drink I have ever had. I had a strawberry one today that was terrible.

4. Life is too short to eat freezer burnt pork chops.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Another Thought

If I ever control of a sports team, they are entering to Springsteen's "No Surrender."

The Sports Guy And Happiness

I find this Bill Simmons article dishonest.

Every now and then he reaches too far for a story, and this is one of those times. Roger Clemens possibly using steroids cannot "kill" the memory of a 20 strikeout game.

I hate to speculate on what other people are thinking, but I think Simmons is like me and just indifferent to Clemens and steroids in general. Maybe I am wrong, but I think most fans are just indifferent to the whole situation. From now on, everything has changed, numbers do not mean what they used to, but the past is still the past. Steroids cannot affect Sully's and that feeling he had that night.

I do not know. I am probably the one reaching. But my baseball and sports memories were much more about me than anyone playing. It was me sitting in the living room and watching the Pistons or A's with my Dad and Granddad. It had nothing to do with Isaiah or Dumars or Canseco or Dave Stewart. It was me. They were just replaceable grown men playing a boy's game. It was my memory. It was my happiness. They were just part of a TV show that I enjoyed.

Saying that someone allegedly taking steroids hurts the fan is just dishonest. It is just misplacing anger. It bothers me that I have tied so much of my happiness to professional sports. This bothers Simmons too, not Roger Clemens.

Would Simmons be happier if Clemens never got the second 20 strikeout game? I don't think so.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Thought

Brett Favre was drafted by the Falcons.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Economic "Failures"

Sam got in trouble for using the term "market failure" in one of his blog posts.

I emailed James Buchanan about language in economics. I basically said we need better terminology. Economists do not speak the same language. How can they expect to communicate with the public? He basically told me to keep fighting the good fight.

So I am introducing two more economic failure terms:

entrepreneurial failure-occurs when an entrepreneur, firm, or some business entity ceases to exist. This can mean a business was attempted but never created or can describe an existing business that has disappeared. For example blacksmithing suffered from entrepreneurial failure. Entrepreneurial subsistence is a precursor to entrepreneurial failure, grow or die. Entrepreneurial success (profits) is the opposite of entrepreneurial failure.

bureaucratic failure-occurs when a bureaucracy fails to meet its specified purpose. For example, the IRS' inability to collect Barry Bonds' or Wesley Snipes' taxes is bureaucratic failure. Another example is the military paying too much for toilet paper. This is part of government failure, but it occurs in existing bureaucracies. The IRS and taxes in general are government failure.

I have too much time on my hands, but I enjoy thinking about this kind of bullshit.

Football Technique And A Picture Says A Thousand Words

This picture foretold Ryan Grant's two fumbles.

Football Coaches

Besides Belichick, Bill Walsh, no scrap that, all football coaches have a similar ex ante chance of success. Norv Turner and Tom Coughlin are coaching in Championship games this weekend. Wade Phillips led a team to a 13-3 regular season record. They just do not matter that much. The NFL is about luck: players not getting hurt, successful drafts and free agents, and the right bounces.

Belichick, Walsh, Gibbs, Noll, and Parcells help and have helped their teams, but they have all had their failures and fair share of good luck.

My point is that Snyder should hire Gregg Williams unless he can get Belichick and most of his staff. Williams has just a good of chance as getting the Redskins to the Super Bowl as anyone else. Unfortunately, the probability that they will go to a Super Bowl under Williams is small. But I know Cowher's probability is the same or less.

(Pete Carroll fascinates the hell out of me, not as a football coach but as a person.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Yesterday I ate a small breakfast, a small lunch, and a small dinner. I felt full all day.

Today I am starving. I ate a big breakfast and and a big lunch and a sizable snack, but I am starving.

Eating is behavioral. It has more to do about stress and psychological health than caloric need. It matters less what you have eaten and more how you feel.

This is not new or interesting information, but I am writing something so I won't eat. A blog post is a better response than a vending machine honey bun.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Some Questions

1. I am interested in knowing my employment and financial future. (Let's assume I am not a doomed economics' PhD student.) Do I look at national unemployment rates? Do I poll my family, friends, and co-workers?

2. I want to know whether Chipper Jones will get a hit in his next regular season at bat. Do I look at his career average? Do I look at his spring training average? Do I look at his average against the pitcher he is facing? Do I look at his average from the side of the plate that he is hitting? Do I look at his average in that particular ball park?

3. I want to know Sunday's weather in Green Bay. Do I look at the weather.com forecast? Do I find another forecast? Do I look at almanacs? Do I pray?

4. I want to live life. Do I ask questions? Do I base all of my decisions off statistics? Do I worry about rationality? Do I wing it as I go along?

Life is a discovery process.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Some Things

1. Internet porn and alcohol serve similar therapeutic purposes. Which one is worse?

2. Anything worth flipping a coin for is worth flipping a coin three or five times or any odd number of times for.

3. Anytime you have to flip a coin to make a decision, you are in a sad state.

4. Learning to live with disappointment is learning to live. As Mellencamp said, "No one said this was going to be easy." One cannot deny disappointment, but he must learn how to accept it and move forward.

5. I weighed 205 pounds at the gym today. I felt like a fat cow all day. I feel like a fat cow now. The scale has to be light.

6. I know. I am turning into a woman.

7. I have lost my identity. There were guys in the gym throwing up a little weight. I could neither match their weight nor their intensity. But I do not feel different. Yeats has a poem about this, about how the face we see in the mirror is the same face we saw as a kid, about how we perceive ourselves today the same as we do when we were seventeen.


I do not pay a water bill. It is part of my fixed Homeowners' Association dues. My shower leaks. It has leaked for eighteen months. I have no plan to fix it.

I pay my electric bill. My heat pump broke a month ago. I have not fixed it, and do not plan on fixing it anytime soon.

So to compensate, I am not going to flush my piss to conserve water. Only if it is shit, will I flush it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Bill Simmons Tackles The Video Stores' Problem

From this set of links:

"• Thought this USA Today article about slipping DVD sales was intriguing, although it failed to mention the three most likely reasons: First, Hollywood screwed up the DVD market by loading every movie with "EXTRA STUFF!" when, invariably, the extra stuff always sucks. For every "Boogie Nights," where it's actually worth it to own the DVD, there are 50 terrible ones that waste your time and money. Second, people are tired of buying a DVD for a movie, only to see that same movie be re-released a year later with more extras. It's practically consumer fraud. You should be able to return the old DVD and put the money toward the new one. And, third, since every single movie is constantly on TV now, and since you can rent anything, there's not the same urgency to buy DVDs that there was 10 years ago (or even five years ago). Why do I need to own "Shawshank" when it's on every night on one of the 475 movie channels we're getting?

(My buddy Ace has a fourth theory that I don't necessarily agree with, but it's interesting: He has reached the point that he's too lazy to even stand up, find a DVD and put it in the DVD player, fast-forward through all the ads to get to the main menu, then press "Play." He'd rather just plant himself on the sofa, flip channels and find something without moving. Now, I'm the same way ... but is everyone else in the country equally lazy? Probably not.)"

The article and Simmons' commentary reinforces my entrepreneurial subsistence argument. The rental market is holding steady, but our store is definitely slipping.

We'll see. I have confidence in my Dad.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

In Response To Sam Or More Real Economic Research

My Dad has been considering the subscription model. For $19.99 a month, customers could have two DVDs out at anytime and for any length of time. The reason we have not done this is that it would take expensive and time consuming capital improvements. We would have to get credit card capability. In fact we would have to get "Internet" credit card capability because we would have to automatically charge cards without the cards and customers being present. We would also have to update our computer system and retrain employees. My Dad has not deemed the idea worth it yet.

My problem with the subscription model is the incentives are confused. Customers have the incentive to rent two new DVDs every night. I have the incentive to order very few new DVDs. It is not a sustainable strategy. People would quit the subscription after coming in and not getting the new release they wanted a few times.

We have always implicitly stated our mission as the provider of "low-cost" entertainment. From a cash flow perspective, our rentals (between a $1.66 and $2.50) have always been cheaper than Blockbuster. We do ask that new DVDs be returned in two days, but we rarely charge late fees. We were doing this well before Blockbuster started the "No Late Fees" campaign.

Our ideal customer only rents with us and rents just as many older titles as they do newer titles. We have also depended on yuppies to rent "sophisticated" movies that they have a hard time finding in other places. Lately this type of customer has went over to Netflix for the convenience or stopped renting movies from us for some other reason. Now we have more "New Release Hounds" who want the newest, biggest blockbuster and are willing to go wherever to find it. It is really difficult to satisfy these types of customers without substantially increasing our prices or to start charging late fees. We cannot buy the quantity of DVDs it takes to get deep discounts, and many times Wal-Mart sells them for less than we can buy them for.

Our experience has been that people have an overly negative response to price increases even if you are still cheaper than your competitors. We increased prices a year ago, and I think this has as much to do with our slow-down as anything else.

Our real problem is entrepreneurial subsistence. My Dad has gotten tired and sees the business as a cash cow that will soon run out of milk, so he does not have the energy to be creative. My Uncle and I have too much education to devote but so much energy to the video store. We have had good employees, but none of them have had the combination of skills to really move the business forward.

My Dad probably has the right mindset. In a few years, everyone will be downloading movies anyway.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sinus Drops And Real Economic Research

Your head hurts. You feel sick. You feel tired. You know it is probably related to allergies, but that does not change that you feel like shit. That is what my Dad calls a sinus drop.

My Dad kept complaining that the video store was down, "We just aren't doing the business we used to, son." Well I crunched the numbers. He was right. This year's sales were down compared to last year.

But profits were up. I was confused. I could not understand why. Have we somehow reduced our costs? Have we somehow become more technically efficient?

My Dad was unphased, "Something's wrong with your numbers, son. The business isn't the same."

Now there were many reasons why the old man could be right like Netflix, cheap DVDs, general slowdown, and my ordering but being away from the store. But I kept crunching the numbers, there just wasn't any noticeable difference between the two years that would have decreased costs this year or inflated costs the year before.

In the end and as usual, my Dad was right. The year before he had to pay a one time large tax bill. The business is down.

Most importantly, I need to adjust my orders accordingly.

Friday, January 04, 2008


I know I write this post every month, but I have to give up on following sports teams.

I learned a lot playing sports, but watching, paying attention and caring about them has caused me nothing but grief. Making a BCS bowl or the playoffs is not enough. Past championships are not enough. Nothing is ever enough.

I learned that nothing is ever enough while playing sports. I do not need to be constantly reminded of it by watching sports.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I Have Been Away For Awhile

But I will be back on a more regular basis now. That is my first New Year's resolution. The blog has its therapeutic effects, and in a way it keeps me accountable for my life. To make this is a measurable goal, I would like to average at least 3.5 posts a week.

I want to exercise more. I do not need to worry about structured exercise, but I need to live an active lifestyle. I need to walk, play basketball, and always use the stairs. Yes this is a repeat, but this year I will succeed. To make this a measurable goal, I would like to walk on average 3.5 mornings every week.

I want to concentrate on my career. By the middle of the year I will have a homepage that lists my resume, working papers, and teaching purpose. I will also make weekly (Wednesday to Wednesday) measurable strides on my dissertation. I will report my successes and failures to my peers and this blog.