Sunday, March 30, 2008

Barbecue Sauce

I bought two containers of barbecue sauce a few years ago. It is now out of date by 6 months to a year.

Do I throw it out? Do I use it? It is brown sugar based, so it isn't that good for me. Do I try to give it to someone? Am I being cheap?

This a great time to employ what I have learned and just do something.

I wore a shirt today with cufflinks. What does this say about me? Better yet do I care?

If you spend your life worrying about the signals you send out, then you are going to spend you life instead of living it.


My advisor says the secret to finding a job is organization. In response I have read a lot about organization.

I confess I am unorganized. Jeff looked at my computer desktop and told me the clutter said a whole lot about my organizational skills. I had no idea what he meant. But after reading about organization, I reduced my desktop down to five folders and action items. The action items are just PDFs or Word files that I want to read or work on. Once I am done with these they go into a folder or get deleted. I also limit my Email inbox. I reply, delete, or mark it an action item. I do my best to limit the action items. These steps do help. I am not organized yet, but I am improving.

I participated in a soccer game yesterday. There were Eastern Europeans, North Americans, Indians, Asians, Latinos, and Middle Easterners. Everyone played the game a different way. Everyone saw a different organization to the game. For one team it turned into a clusterfuck. For our team, the Eastern Europeans took over, played with the Americans, and easily won the game.

There were also two two-year old boys. One was Asian and the other Eastern European. The boys also had different behavioral traits. One was rather adventurous and quick. He crawled up the playground stairs faster than I could walk up them. The other was more deliberate and curious. He used the handrail and went up as fast as his short legs would allow. When he saw the other boy crawling, he modified his style, but he was still much more deliberate. The adventurous boy played with my door handle for twenty seconds then went onto something else. The curious boy played with it until he figured out how to make something happen.

These anecdotes really have no point except to show that organization, a way to get things done, is subjective. My mother and father can attest to this by the number of times they have fought over kitchen organization. It is amazing that it has not caused a divorce.

There is more than one way to skin a cat. And the only way to get better is to keep skinning cats.

Friday, March 28, 2008

All I Could Think About As I Was Driving On A Secluded Road

From Woody Allen's Annie Hall:

Duane: Can I confess something? I tell you this as an artist,I think you'll understand. Sometimes when I'm driving... on the road at night... I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The... flames rising out of the flowing gasoline.

Things I Have Learned

1. Make no assumptions about people. All people are crazy. Observe them. Study them. But make no assumptions about them. This is why modern economics fails.

2. When something hits close to home, I pay attention. I will always be a Crozet boy.

3. Preparing for rain does not guarantee rain. In fact not preparing for rain leads probably increases the chance of rain.

4. Sitting around thinking about something is not the same as doing something. There are times for both. But I would rather error on the side of doing something.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Unfortunately I Cannot Kick Myself In The Ass

So I self-experiment:

1. I do twenty push-ups every time I walk into group (social) office with the refrigerator. This has worked well. I do the push-ups and visit the office less.

2. I schedule my day. This has been a disaster. Shit happens. It is hard to schedule the shit.

3. I just give a task an allotment of time. I have to do this task for two hours a day. I then keep track of the time I spend on the task. The problem here is not only shit happens but also I have to really limit my tasks. I have not been successful when I allot more than two hours to any given task. I have not been able to accomplish more than two tasks.

4. I drink a lot of caffeine. This has not been kind to my acid reflux. Caffeine especially from Diet Mountain Dew tends to give me a headache. Sometimes it helps me focus, but most of the time I get antsy and distracted. I also piss twice every hour.

I need to call my Dad. He used to be able to motivate me. But last night he started our conversation by telling me he "wasn't worth a shit." So I am afraid we will just bring each other down.

I guess it is like Nike says "Just Do It." Quit complaining and just do it. Stop worrying and start working. "Some of this bullshit is kind of cool." As Jeff says, "Why not?" As my old coach said, "Make excuses to lift weights not to skip weightlifting." "Never back up when you can go forward." Everything will be okay.

Really I am just in a morning funk, and I have been doing better lately. I will get out of this funk and move forward. As ML constantly reminds me, I will, and this is life's beauty.

The best thing I can do is to start recognizing that morning funks are just morning funks if you limit them to the morning.

Always move forward.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"I Used To Think Cowboy Music Was The Only Thing There Was Then I Heard Thelonious Monk"*

1. I used to think that buying a Japanese car was unpatriotic and Japanese cars were destroying America, but then I read Russell Roberts' The Choice.

2. I used to think I was lazy, but I now know my laziness is heavily correlated with my mental health.

3. I used to think my mental health did not matter, but now I know it does.

4. I used to think I worked hard, but now I know other people work harder and smarter.

5. I used to think I could live life alone, but now I know other people matter.

6. I used to think this post was going somewhere, but now I know it is not. I just wanted to write the title quote and call it the best definition of Knightian uncertainty I have ever seen.

*Carmen McRae singing "The Ballad of Thelonious Monk" I cannot find the lyrics, but I suggest you find the song and listen to it about a thousand times.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Car Problem

I have a 1994 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer. It has a Vortec 4.3 Liter engine. It has a 145,000 miles on it. The transmission leaks some, but after using some stopleak, the leak has subsided. I am still worried about the transmission. It does not burn oil and runs well. Some interior features are broken, but overall, it is tolerable. It has had a good amount of work ($2500) done to it in the last couple of years. I am getting around 17-20 miles a gallon. Currently it needs rear brakes and an emergency brake. In a few months, it will need new tires. The four wheel drive also does not work.

I think I should run it into the ground while keeping my eye out for something in case I have to make a quick decision. I see this as maximizing my cash flow by preventing a $200 a month car payment and keeping my insurance low. Even if I spend a $1000 a year in repairs, it is cheaper than a car payment.

The old man says I should get a new car sooner rather than later. He does not believe me that the four wheel drive does not work and thinks I can get money in a trade-in. He told me this after driving and riding in it.

The short term question is: Do I get the brakes fixed?

The intermediate questions are: Do I put on new tires? and How good of tires do I buy?

The overall questions are: Do I stick to my "run it into the ground" strategy? or Do I suck it up and get a new car?

The Difference

Monday, March 17, 2008

Money Versus Meaningfulness Or Take The Money And Run Or Help Me With My Resume

I want to travel. I want to be a Redskins season ticket holder. I want a nice car. I want a widescreen television. I want a whole lot of things. These things take money, not a little, but a lot of money.

I also want happiness or professional satisfaction or some bullshit that makes me feel good and makes me less depressed. Maybe it is meaningfulness. Meaningfulness is not the word. I really want some way to determine that I am successful. I want some measure like sports. I want runs or points. Something to tell me that I am winning. I assure you "papers published" cannot be this measure for me.

Many people, especially when they are young and dumb, will not allow money or the amount of things they have be this measure. They want something "more." It is politically incorrect to make money the center one's life. It just isn't "right."

I come from a background that knows that at the end of the day money means a hell of a lot. I do not think my father or grandfather maximized money. They maximized the amount of wants they could get (while learning how to minimize and carefully decide on their wants). But wants take money, not a little, but a lot of money. And I have a whole lot more and expensive wants than they did. Thankfully for me, the thing my forefathers most wanted is for their sons to succeed.

Jeff sent me an Email a couple of weeks ago and explained this to me. The questions Jeff asks are "What do you want and why do you want it?" These are always tough questions, but they are always important questions. A man who does not know what he wants is like those young and dumb kids who do not "believe" in money or things. He is just a "rolling stone" or a "rambling man."

Then a guy working in Washington asked me to send him my resume. This made me realize that it was time to start deciding what I want. More importantly, it was time to start getting the things I want. The things I want take money, not a little, but a lot of money.

So I started to work on my resume, and I realized I do not have much. So any suggestions on how to market the things I do have would be appreciated.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jimi Hendrix Singing "Lord, I Hear My Train A Comin'" Or What I Am Reading

I am still reading How to Read the Bible. I enjoy it. It summarizes true Bible scholarship. It asks difficult questions. It makes me think.

I am also still reading Understanding Econometrics. I haven't got too far. That says something about how much I care about econometrics.

1. My opinion has not changed about Woodward and Bernstein's All the President's Men. It is good but not great. As an American I feel obligated to read it.

2. I am most of the way through with Robert Boice's Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing. It has been the most practical guide to writing that I have found. All writing books have the same premise: suck it up, forget the bullshit, and write. He does a good job of saying this and also giving specific example of how to suck it up and forget the bullshit.

3. I have started Katherine E. Browne's Creole Economics. She is an anthropologist studying the informal economy of Martinique. I am not an anthropologist, but I appreciate her work. I am trying to research the role of the Trickster mythological character in economics. (I cannot believe I just wrote that sentence.) I have no theses or coherent thoughts on the subject yet, but I think the way the way a society views the Trickster myth compares to the way a society views the entrepreneur. (I really cannot believe I wrote that sentence.)

4. I am getting ready to start Daniel Botkin's Discordant Harmonies. I cannot wait.

What Does A Recession Mean?

I know the principles of macroeconomics definition of two consecutive quarters of GDP decline. I know about the wealth effect. I know that stocks are down and oil is up. I know the Fed is printing money. I know mistakes are being covered up by this printing of money. I know some peoples' job security is questionable.

But what does a recession really mean for me? What does it mean for you?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Now That I Am Done With Politics: The Roommate Story

I admit this is my fault. I repeat the following is my fault. I do not want to be accused of self-pity.

My old roommate moves out in December 2006. I have nobody to move in, so GGM gives me this guy's name who was looking at his place. He is a graduate student who thought he was going to be done in December 2006, but his advisor pushed it back to May. I am a graduate student. Graduate students cannot be that bad. To seal the deal, I agree to share a storage unit. He leaves for Winter Break after he has almost completely filled up the storage unit. From the storage unit, I can tell the guy has money, a big TV, computer boxes galore, Preakness glasses, etc. I am not worried.

Well I do not hear from him all Christmas break. About the third week of January, I walk in and he is there. He says he left his charger in storage, so he couldn't call. Some of my old roommate's stuff is still in the room, because I did not know when he was moving in and hadn't moved it to storage. That all works out.

Well he does not pay me for four months. Finally I ask him for the rent. (I admit this is my fault.) He said he had to transfer some money. In a couple of weeks, I have a check for five months rent. We agree to do better next time, but I am happy that I got something. He does not finish in May.

Well we get to October, and neither of has done better. I confront him again. He says he has to transfer money. We get to November, he says it should be in a few days. The week before Thanksgiving he is packing a suitcase. I confront him again, and we agree that he'll pay when he gets back from break. I keep thinking that this guy has thousands of dollars worth of stuff in his room and storage unit; he will pay me. He might not have money, but his parents or someone in his family does.

November, December, and January come and go. I Email him. I call him. I call his department. I write a letter to his Aunt who had sent him a package. No luck. I go to the lawyer, and he tells me how to evict him. His "Aunt" who is not his real aunt cannot find him either. My wonderful girlfriend then gets his parent's number and finds out he is living in his parents' basement. I call them. I speak to the guy. He says he is coming back and will pay me right once he gets here.

Ten minutes later his mom calls me and tells me she is going to pay all his back rent. A week later, he is back. His rent is paid through March, and I am happy that I got something.

It will happen again, but at least I have his parent's number now.

The Silent Majority And Politics

I am reading Woodward and Bernstein's All the President's Men. It is okay. I know the story, and I keep seeing Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. It just does not compare to Jurassic Park. Truth might be stranger than fiction, but it is not necessarily more entertaining.

I had a professor in college point to the fact that Nixon won the 1972 election in a landslide. He proposed that for most of the Vietnam War, the silent majority of Americans supported the war, the silent majority of Americans were conservatives, and the silent majority of Americans appropriately went on with their life pretty oblivious to politics. They knew politics was corrupt but made the conscious decision to get up in the morning and go to work. Eventually Nixon screwed himself and there was a tipping point about him personally, but the silent majority rarely changes.

Similarities between today and then certainly exist. But this silent majority premise still works.

The problem with politics is that the silent majority does not determine candidates. The people who have the time to be politicians, campaign for politicians, lobby politicians, those zealots who do not get up in the morning and go to work decide candidates. This is why in the next election our choices will be between a douche bag and a shit sandwich.

This is not a personal attack on any of the candidates. To be a politician one has to compromise, one has to do things he would rather not. For that matter, to be a good manager or a good graduate student, one has to have aspects of a douche and a shit sandwich. I am not wise enough to know how to escape this situation. When I am, I will surely write about it. But douche bags and shit sandwiches do not represent the silent majority.

The silent majority really does not care about steroids in baseball. The silent majority does not care about who the New England Patriots taped. The silent majority does not think that prostitution should be illegal, but they think that a self-righteous married John deserves all the hell he catches. The silent majority gets up in the morning and goes to work. The silent majority does not care about public opinion or politics. Maybe I should replace the silent majority with I. (I am working on the "goes to work" thing.)

I do know this: the silent majority does not care about this blog.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Some Things To Remember

1. Always fully read an Email before responding. The failure to do so will lead to you making an ass of yourself.

2. Be careful who you send an Email to. The failure to do so will lead to you making an ass of yourself.

3. Never forget Jurassic Park, Ian Malcolm and chaos theory. It has many similarities to Austrian economics with the point being that you cannot control nature. Human ingenuity is great, but life is still about survival.

4. Never forget the Drunk Scotsman. Think about the fun he missed out on while he was passed-out drunk.

What I Wanted To Do

I went to an office mate who has been getting on my nerves and told him:

"Let's go outside in the courtyard and fight. It is muddy and will soften our falls. If you don't want to get your clothes dirty, we can fight on the sidewalk. It will do us both good. You wanted to fight Friday night. Why not now? Come on, it'll do us both good to get our asses kicked."

He refused. I want to say he was lucky or smart, but I still think it would have done both of us good. As my Dad used to say, "Some people won't be satisfied until they get the shit kicked of them." I know the office mate is like that.

And I might be too.

Morning Free Write

I cannot stand to wait. My Internet Service Provider sucks. My computer locks up when it comes out of sleep mode. My music player uses more CPU than it is worth. They are cutting off my electricity from 9:00AM to 5:00PM. At least they had the decency to tell me yesterday.

Sunday, I fixed meals for most of the week. I am very tired of what I prepared, but I will keep eating it. Part of portion control and being cheap is predetermining portions and eating foods without much taste. Beef still gives me the most enjoyment and is the easiest to prepare.

I have to wait to eat breakfast because of my acid reflux medicine. I cannot stand to wait. My grandfather used to say he did enough waiting in the army so he wouldn't have to wait when he got back. He never used the Internet or a computer.

It is like that Dyson guy says in his vacuum commercial "I just want things to work." Is this so much to ask?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Oh, The Hours I've Spent Inside The Coliseum Dodging Lions And Wastin' Time"

Some days you just do what you can. And you have to be happy with that remembering if everything goes right, you will get a chance to redeem yourself tomorrow.

*From Bob Dylan's When I Paint My Masterpiece as performed by The Band

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Subjective Theory Of Value

I do what I think is right. I am almost willing to say I always do what I think is right. Sometimes I change my mind. But at the time I thought it was right.

Unfortunately what I think is right does not always conform to what other people think is right.

This lack of conformity has plagued mankind. It has lead to every conflict between men. It is the cause of my and mankind's anger.

As I was sitting on the shitter suffering from the coffee shits, I realized how unsatisfactory this outcome is. I thought there has to be something I can do about it.

But after I wiped my ass, I decided that the best thing I can do is to continue to do what I think is right and let others do the same.

Being Early Means You Have Too Much Time

I read somewhere that if you have never been late for an airplane then you spend too much time in airports. (This is from some link off of MarginalRevolution, probably talking about productivity porn.)

This is true.

So I have stopped my obsession about being on-time or early. It really wasn't an obsession, because I am late a whole lot. But I am minimizing waiting times.

I have already discovered I can get to the bus stop in seven minutes (five minutes if I run) instead of the fifteen I usually give myself.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Why Not Today?

Two football stories:

The year before I broke my leg this guy dislocated and tore up his knee. It was the ugliest injury I have ever seen. So after I broke my leg, I am on crutches waiting for the "helper" to pick me up and drive me to my next location on campus, and I see this guy. I ask "How did you do it?"

He replied: "You can't depend on that guy; you gotta learn how to hump it across campus. You just gotta do it, man." He was in the National Guard hence the "hump" terminology. It was the best advice I have ever received.

Speaking of luck and talent, my freshman year, there was this fellow freshman running back. We had some good running backs, and he was third or fourth team. He got in during some blowouts and scored a touchdown in every game he played in his freshman year. He was not a great practice player. He did not like to run hard during practice, so he got in the coaches' doghouse and sat on the bench his whole sophomore year. By the middle of his junior year he was playing safety. I always called him "The greatest running back to never a touch a ball when it mattered." He was a hell of a player. He found ways to get yards and score, but he never got out of the coaches' doghouse. It really was a coach's doghouse.

The whole thing makes me wonder.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I Wanted To Say Something About The NBA

This is what I wrote yesterday:

The NBA is very interesting this year. I still see the Spurs or Pistons winning it all, and I see this as a good thing especially if the Pistons win it. But I almost care about the NBA right now. I haven't cared about the NBA in a long time.

This is what I am writing today:

I have no idea about the NBA. I will follow the rest of the season and hope that the Pistons win the championship.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"Keep Your Heart Open, And Your Eyes Shut Tight. What Will Be. Will Be."*

1. Republicans believe success results from effort. Democrats believe success results from luck. They are both wrong.

2. Do not underestimate the power of luck.

3. Do not underestimate the power of effort.

4. My left contact has bothered me all day. I have used three different ones today. None of them have felt right. Maybe it isn't the contact. Maybe it is a bad batch. Maybe I should just suck it up.

5. I might be a self-pity addict.

6. But I might not be.

7. The Alarm puts it best "This is absolute reality." This is all we got. We had better do the best we can.

*Fleetwood Mac

Monday, March 03, 2008

Further Thoughts On Most People Do The Best They Can

Russ Roberts and Paul Romer discuss similar ideas here.

I am an average (maybe below average) researcher, graduate student, whatever I am. Probability wise, this is all I should expect. This is okay.

I have delusions that I can be better than average. I have delusions that I could be better than average in other occupations like coaching and managing grocery stores. But these are delusions. I should expect and be thankful for being average.

Accepting that one is likely to be average is an important step into becoming better than average. It allows one to forget about other people's definitions of success. It allows one to forget about being better than average.

It allows one to concentrate on being himself.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Story I Should Not Tell

Sometimes a football player, especially if he is not playing, has to piss before halftime or late in the fourth quarter. The pain hits him, but he cannot do anything about it. The game drags on, and the pain gets worse. Well if it is raining and/or cold, he just lets it go. The warmth feels good, and the mud or rain prevents anything from showing. But on those nice days, he is screwed.

A guy once told me that the secret was to let a little of it go, and this relieved the pressure and pain until halftime or the end of the game.

I was driving yesterday. I was drinking Diet Mountain Dew, and the pain hit me. There was no place to stop, and I was almost home. But it kept getting worse. The pain was unbearable, so I took the guy's advice and let a little go. It worked perfectly, and I felt much better.

This is another one of those things that I am not particularly proud of, but I am also glad I did. I feel the same way about football. These types of things make life interesting and bearable.

Taking A Day Off

I could do this, but do I want to?

I try to maximize the time I could work. I certainly do not always work during that time, but the time that I could be working is the important thing.

This is a stupid objective that must change if I want to grow.