Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Dad, Stones Versus Beatles, And Water In Tires

My dad says there are two types of people in the world: "Rolling Stones people" and "Beatles people."

My dad never liked the Beatles. He doesn't hate them. And I think he has mellowed over the years. He liked George Harrison. But his separation really isn't about the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. The idea was there are people who become what people want them to become. Pacifist people who sing "Hey Jude" and like popular music and like to rant against war and corporations or for that matter, rant about Democrats. Then there are people who sing "War, children...just a shot away," people who like what they like, who hate work, but do work, people who kind-of like to fight, people who get angry and let you know it. People who live and exist no matter what others think.

This classification system reminds me of a community service day in high school. Our home room chose to help a housing agency clean up some rural impoverished households. We went to this one house where some old guy had collected old tires for twenty years. There was rain water in them. They were piled up in a muddy field. The kids in my homeroom were professors' sons and daughters. They did not like the mud. They could not lift the tires. I dove right into the mud. I could lift the tires. I was throwing them on the truck. I was upset that no one was helping. I was upset that I had mud all over me. The agency lady said we should get the water out of the tires. I growled at her "Do you have a drill?" She didn't ask any more questions and let me put the tires on the truck.

That's the difference. It isn't about the Stones versus the Beatles. It is about attitude.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Concussions And Such

I played football for nine years. Five years at the high school level. Four years at the NCAA Division III level. I was never completely knocked out. The only injuries I was ever treated for was a broken wrist, a broken finger, and a broken leg. But I did get my bell rung a number of times.

One time in high school we were going through our mid-season "hell week." We were 0-4, and the coach thought we needed to beat the shit out of one another to get better. We were doing this drill where one guy plays the fullback and one guy plays an unblocked defensive end. The full back gets a 5-7 yard running start and tries to knock the defensive end (who gets a couple of yards) off his feet. I went through the first time and knocked the defensive end down. I was woozy, and the second time I think the defensive end got me. I probably did the drill another four or five times. I was woozy throughout, but I certainly couldn't say anything. I would have probably been chastised for not having enough air in my helmet, and told to "suck it up."

During my first practice in college, we were doing a chute drill, I had almost no air in my helmet because we're in shorts, and a senior intentionally missed the bag and put his face-mask right into my face-mask and knocked me silly. I wasn't right for three or four days. This was my first college practice, and I certainly couldn't have said anything.

The point of these stories is that concussions and football have gone together for a long time and occur at all levels. New helmets will help, but football players and coaches have to change their behavior if anything is really going to change.

Thoughts While Watching People Drive On Ice Who Should Stay The Hell At Home

1. This morning my wife in San Antonio asked me "Why would you drive on the snow and ice if you didn't have to?" I replied "I have to get out of the apartment." She said "Getting out can wait until the afternoon when the sun, plows, and the idiots have made it much easier." She had a point, but afternoon is here, and I have cabin fever.

2. I really enjoy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Office. I don't know exactly what the word irreverent means, but irreverent is the first word that comes to my mind. Both shows are just funny and perfect for the 20-minute format.

3. I watched the complete season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and most of The Office online for free. I know the advertisers can't be putting that much into the shows. I know Steve Carell gets paid a lot of money. Media is constantly changing, and advertising is changing. I can't wait to see what the future holds.

4. On a similar note, I finally finished Gladwell's Blink. To me, the next frontier of marketing, politics, social science research involves the idea that "we don't know much of anything when it comes to humans, but what do we do with what we think we know?" This revelation isn't enlightening and the idea has been around forever. But we have finally moved past the Renaissance/enlightenment idea that humans can know it all. The idea that given time and proper experiments we could discover the secrets of the universe. Micro-evolution and adaptation are not deterministic processes. It isn't about probability either. The last year should have taught people that there are fundamental shifts and changes. The past only approximates the future, and the quality of this approximation changes.

Joe Posnanski Does It Again

Joe Posnanski gives Up In The Air two thumbs up. Here are my two favorite paragraphs:

"I have not seen a great movie in a long time. It seems like I used to see great movies constantly — every few weeks, at least. Good movies were great. Mediocre movies could be great too. Maybe it is because my expectations were different. Maybe it’s because i was different. I could get lost in a movie when I was younger. It didn’t have to be brilliantly acted or snappily written or even plausible … as long as it had something real about it, something that could take me from here to there … I would go. I could go. Maybe that’s a child’s gift. I could disappear. The bright lights when the movie ended were blinding...

When Up in the Air ended, I wanted to sit there for a while and think about it. Maybe it was because I travel so much. Maybe it seemed well written. Maybe I like George Clooney. Whatever, this was an old feeling — the feeling I used to have about movies when I was a kid. I think the movie was great, truly great, but I’m not sure about that. In my younger, movie-loving days, it did not matter if the movie was “good” or “bad” or “OK” or any of the places in between. All that mattered was the feeling when it was over."

Read the whole post.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Some Things

  1. It is hell getting old. My hamstring and back are tight. I can't lift anything over 20 pounds anymore without getting sore. I am becoming my dad.
  2. I rode on a plane with a blind guy and his seeing-eyed dog, a bullshitter who said he played for the Patriots, and two non-nice stewardresses. The blind guy was fine and courageous, but he did require an amount of special treatment. It was just an interesting experience. The bullshitter said he played for the Patriots during their 18 and 1 season. He said they had lost focus at the end of the season. He couldn't remember who they played in the last game of the regular season. He told a guy his name. He said he was going to sign with the Cowboys next week after a week of rehab. He had just had knee surgery at Johns Hopkins (I think he just said Baltimore), but he did not walk with any limp and had no brace. He was shorter than me. He might have been a good small college player, but he did not play in the NFL. The flight attendants weren't ugly, ugly acting, or abusive. They just weren't nice. That really decreases the enjoyment of a flight.
  3. I saw REO Speedwagon play on Saturday night at a private party. They were old. I still can't figure out if there were any original members left. But they rocked. If I have half their passion at their age, then I will be a happy man. I am not a big believer in "callings" or the idea that we all have to do something we love. But we have to keep on searching and struggling. It is better to be passionate about bullshit than apathetic about bullshit. The secret is seeing that most everything has a probability of being fake and ultimately fruitless, but that doesn't give one permission to mail it in. REO Speedwagon should have mailed it in, but they didn't. There is a lesson to be learned from this.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Grocery Stores

When I was home, my dad and I talked about the grocery store he has worked in for the last thirty years. It is failing. Harris Teeter opened up on the other side of town, and business is down by at least 25 percent. Management (I guess I should say ownership) which he is part of has made a push to be a "local" business. They have tried to highlight their local vendors and their local products. They have put their old employees in the local paper. They have adopted a retro-hippie localvore our-town-first strategy.

I thought the strategy was foolish. I thought it was fake. Grocery stores by there very nature cannot be local businesses. They do not make fruit loops or grow bananas in Virginia. It is impossible. If you want to be a grocery store, you have to be a global business. Of course most customers don't see it this way. Some people think that buying from a local "mom and pop's" is somehow better than buying from Harris Teeter.

Now, the strategy also fails on practical grounds. The majority owner does not live in town. One of the old guys has never lived in town. My dad has lived in town his whole life but works too much to really be involved in town politics or even the volunteer fire department. He also believes that business success ultimately depends on providing value to customers. In other words "being local" is not a reason in itself to shop at the grocery store. Business is about reducing transportation and transaction costs (having locational monopoly power) and providing better and/or cheaper products.

I guess it gets back to doing what you think is right, and going with it. But I still worry about the store, and I don't like the fakeness of their marketing campaign. I would prefer them to concentrate on providing value to customers.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Morning And Getting Things Done Or The Genius of Getting Things Done

My mom hosted Thanksgiving this year. We have our lunch/dinner at 1:00PM. I got home at 5:30PM on Wednesday, but during the day I realized that our (my mom's) house was a mess. There were a thousand things to do between 6:00PM Wednesday and 12:59PM Thursday.

Being the good son I am, I wanted to help. My mom told me to not worry about it Wednesday night. Thursday morning she was getting flustered. We needed ice. We needed to sweep. We needed to clean the bathroom. We needed to walk the dog. We needed to make beds etc. etc. etc. I said we needed to stop and discuss everything that needed to be done and assign tasks, next actions to her, my dad and I. She didn't listen. She just kept doing things. I kept doing things, and my dad kept doing things. We just went after it with no idea what "it" was.

Of course, Thanksgiving went well. Everything that needed to be done was done. Nobody got food poisoning or bacterial infections. But it was a very stressful morning. And my mom did the same thing the next Sunday when she decided to put up her Christmas decorations.

This morning I was waiting for the cable man. An hour after he was supposed to be there, I got a follow-up "how good was our service" call. I immediately called customer service, stayed on hold for 20 minutes, and was told that the repairman had completed the service. It was an outside repair, so he did not need to come in and didn't feel obligated to call me. I was pissed, but this is life in the 21st century.

While I was waiting, I tried to clean my mess of an apartment. I washed some clothes. I picked up some things. I washed some dishes. But I did exactly like my mom, I blindly attacked the mess.

I never really thought that there was a big problem with this way of doing things, but it finally hit me this morning. By jumping right in, I have no idea when I am finished. I have no idea what kind of progress I made this morning. I can't say what I need to finish before I leave tomorrow. I get no sense of accomplishment, and now I am in the office, and I feel like the morning was wasted. I have probably increased my stress-load.

Part of the answer is David Allen's system. But it is really about learning to take a deep breathe before acting. Attacking something blindly might be a way to start things, but it is never a way to finish things. And most of life is about finishing.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Another Health Care Post Or We're Not There Yet

Three and half years ago, my wife was diagnosed with two herniated discs. She was in graduate school with crappy insurance. She got an MRI, the diagnosis of two herniated discs, and the doctors told her that her best option was epidural shots. The idea being that she should avoid surgery and only have surgery as a last option. She had two or three shots over about a twelve month period. They worked for a while. She finally payed off these doctors last month.

Then she transferred, the pain came back, she got a new MRI, and her new doctors didn't think that the shots would help anymore. They sent her to a surgeon. The surgeon told her that given her situation, surgery was not an option. He sent her to a pain management specialist. The pain management specialist treated her with a short-lived chiropractic and physical therapy experiment, prescriptions, a procedure, and more (non-narcotic) prescriptions. He did exactly what he was supposed to do; he managed her pain. She (no, we) still owe these doctors and hospitals a substantial amount of money. They will not be paid in full for at least a year.

Then she got a job and moved. She got another MRI. The new pain management doctor would not treat her, saying that her two herniated discs were beyond pain management. He said that the pain management procedure was useless and unnecessary. She was sent to another surgeon. He said that she should have had surgery years ago. The surgery-hospital experience wasn't great. The nurses couldn't get on the same page to help her recover and be home in a day, but she did well and was home after two days. Right now, she is at a two-month post-surgery appointment and doing better than before the diagnosis. She has much better insurance now, so we will be able to pay most of these doctors and hospitals off in the next month or two.

My wife says that she has lived in pain for three and half years, because she had horrible insurance and self-interested doctors. I think it has more to do with the inexact science of medicine and doctors who do not know and refuse to admit that they don't know.

Today will be the first time she has seen the surgeon in person since she had the surgery. When I met the surgeon, I didn't think he wanted to deal with patients, but I thought he was focused, a quality I appreciate in surgeons. She has been his office for over an hour now. This lack of service isn't something I appreciate.

The whole experience pulls me in different directions. In a way, I think there were a number inefficiencies, the multiple MRIs, the lack of post-op care, the redundancy of visits, the lack of discussion on different options, and the general bureaucracy of insurance and hospitals. But I can't really imagine a better way. I think that a good public insurance program would have worked a similar way and have back-loaded our out-of-pocket expenses. (Our taxable income should be increasing in the next few years.) A bad program would have meant that she wouldn't have had the surgery yet, be addicted to narcotic painkillers, and it would have back-loaded our out-of-pocket expenses.
I guess the point here is that eventually you have to decide what you believe in, what you are willing to fight for, what you want out of the world where you breathe, eat and sleep. I believe in individual freedom. And if "they" cross that line, I am willing to fight for it. But I don't think we're there yet.

We're getting closer, but we're not there yet.

Ol' Pat Jordan

I forgot how great this article was. Same thing Rocky said in the last post, but the most important lessons in life need to be taught a thousand times before they really sink in.

Ol' Rocky

If he can't get you fired up, who can?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Comment

I have mellowed. I don't argue as much as I used to. I try not to get upset about politics or news. I try to flush the "social" bullshit from my brain. I have too much personal bullshit to flush or wade through to worry about the "world." Life is about what is right in front of you. It is about making money and teaching yourself to be happy. I am not good enough to get paid to worry about the world.

So, I have not followed Climategate. I am skeptical about climate change. I am more skeptical about what politicians can do. There will be no solutions in Copenhagen. But none of this is worth me wasting my time worrying about. What I have taken away from Climategate is something I have learned during my time in graduate school, professors, scientists, and policymakers are all bullshitters. And to be a really good bullshitter, you have to passionate about your bullshit. Al Gore is a passionate guy. He is more passionate than the skeptics. I accept that. And as I said before, I am not good enough or passionate enough and don't care enough to challenge the Al Gores of the world.

But then I saw this post and this video. All I can say is it made me mad. It proved my bullshitter theory, especially Holdren's reply to Bradley. Of course, I don't have the courage to do anything. But it kind of feels good to be mad again.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Some Things

1. I have ear hair. It is on my lobe, not in my ear. It is faint and hard to notice. But it is there.

2. I don't know what to think about number 1. I am dumbfounded by it. I will probably trim it this evening, but how did it get there? Is it a sign of me getting older, wiser? Is it because of secondhand smoke? Will I have to take care of this hair growth for the rest of my life?

3. I was going to criticize UVA's hiring of Mike London. I don't like the idea of replacing Groh with someone from the Groh tree. I think UVA needs a completely different direction. A direction that accepts it isn't Virginia Tech, a direction that embraces the "we're one of the best and most rigorous academic institutions in the U.S." attitude. But the end of this article suggests that it does seem like London is a player's coach, so I guess we'll see.

4. I don't really care about UVA football or VT football. It is just something I was raised with, and I thought UVA would have gone after a bigger Division I-A name.

5. If I really didn't care that much about it, then why did I spend the time to post it.

6. I am reminded of the old saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results." This will be my saying for my week.

7. This is the funniest thing I have seen in a while. It sums up the Groh era well.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Why I Couldn't Be A Football Coach

After today's Redskins' game, if I was Jim Zorn, this is what I would say at the post-game news conference:

"Well, I felt like the interception-fumble for a touchdown at the end of the first half could have gone either way. I think Sellers fumble could have gone either way. My real question is did Sellers quit going after the ball because of the whistle, and we saw what happened at the end of the first half. What if? Where is the damned counter-factual? How can you let a referee decide what would have happened if the dumb-ass side judge hadn't blown the whistle? How in the hell did he have indisputable video evidence? I am going to lose my job because of what some referee thought might have happened.

I say all of this fully recognizing that the calls and the bounces could have gone either way. Football is a game of luck. We aren't that good, but we were unlucky as hell out there today. In fact, we sucked for the first eight or nine weeks of the season. But we've played okay the last three weeks and we're 0-3. I believe as a team, as an organization, we don't know how to win yet. But that is bullshit too. We are all professionals. We have all won and lost before. And we'll win and lose again.

Some times things don't go you way. And it gives your fans ulcers. And it gets coaches fired. And it gets Canadian kickers waived. But you know what it is just a football game. Snyder is making money. The NFL is making money. Players are making money. I will be fired, but I've made money too.

Also for the record, I don't think too much of Sean Payton. I don't think he or Gregg Williams agrees with my "luck" philosophy. But we all know he'll get beat and probably won't win a Super Bowl. Our mediocre team proved that they aren't that good. If they couldn't stop us, then they'll never stop Favre and the Vikings. Also we found out that Brees is human too. But it really is a game of luck, so who knows what will happen?

Thank you, now all of you reporters can go back to covering Tiger Woods. He is a much more interesting story and his story doesn't anyone ulcers. Except for him and Elin, and maybe their immediate family."

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Saturday Morning Thoughts

1. I made a salsa burger last night. I know this isn't original. But it was real tasty.

2. We have arrived at the last week of the regular season in Division I-A college football. After tonight, I don't think we will know who the best two teams in college football are, but we will have a championship game.

3. A playoff system would have to start this week or at the latest next week. That would be strange.

4. Oregon lost to Boise State. Boise State probably won't play in a BCS game.

5. Ohio State lost to USC. USC won't play in a BCS game.

6. Georgia Tech lost to Georgia and Miami. I could go on with this logic. I always felt that a team should know exactly what it had to do to make the post-season. For example, BCS conference teams have to win their conference. So I don't feel that sorry for USC or Georgia. But I don't think Oregon or Ohio State would have won the SEC. I certainly don't know what to say about Boise State and TCU. And is the BCS really a post-season?

7. It is just college football.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Something I Wrote

Tiger Woods reminds of this post. I guess I should say the Tiger Woods situation, but I think the situation is Tiger Woods. It is the "Same Thing" that makes him want to win so bad-, the "same old thing that makes the tomcats fight all night."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Groh, Woods, And Honesty

There are two kinds of people in the world; those who seek honesty at all cost, and those who don't worry about honesty and create a delusional world where they are happy and successful.

The delusional world people can be very successful. The people who seek honesty cost hate delusional people and want to be like them at the same time.

I read the "Man in the Glass" poem in a motivational packet before a high school game. I don't think it is a great poem. It didn't speak to me then. It didn't speak to me when Al Groh repeated it Saturday.

But some times you have to live in your own world. A world where football means something and "your best" is all that matters.

Honesty at all costs requires one to look deep inside. It requires one to realize that "your best" might not be good enough. It requires you to admit that you've made commitments that you can't keep. It requires you to admit that we're all derived demands and dependent on somebody. And every time we think we aren't, life has a tendency to slap you in the face.

Delusions take away the sting. But the bruises are still there for everyone to see.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Post-Thanksgiving Thoughts

1. (This thought is because of Tyler Cowen and UrbanSpoon.) I love my mom's turkey. I love cheeseburgers and spaghetti. I seriously think that a good pecan pie could lead to world peace. But I judge restaurants (other than fast food) by a different standard. I want them to give me something different. I don't want a regular cheeseburger, I want a different cheeseburger. I had never really thought about this until a couple of weeks ago when I ate two of the best salads I have ever eaten. I usually never buy salads at restaurants, but these just blew my mind. I guess what I am saying is that I will now look at the whole menu and order the most interesting-appetizing-cheapest thing on the menu. I will not look for comfort foods, but look for something that if it is done right I will enjoy but if done poorly I will hate.

2. My dad says that stores being opened on Thanksgiving was a "race to the bottom." A few stores did it, now customers expect it, and we're all worse off. His idea being that there is no holiday anymore. Some people are off, but now they wait to Thanksgiving to get food or "run to the store" when they should be with their family. And others have to work and can't be with their family.

3. I kind of see number 2 as a "race to the middle" or a "race to the inconsequential." The idea being that holidays have lost meaning, but I can't see any other way.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday Morning Sports Stories Posted On A Sunday

I have slept in four different beds in five nights. I haven't been able to really keep up with things, but two stories have stood out to me, the Mark Mangino story and the France-Ireland World Cup Qualifying game.

Jason Whitlock has a couple of commentaries on Mangino. This morning's article basically asks "How important is winning?" This is also the underlying question of the France-Ireland handball. At what lengths should coaches, organizations, teams, and player go to win? I played enough athletics to know that most coaches, organizations, and players would answer "anything within limits" to win. The limits differ, but the objective of sports is to win.

The things that bothers me about Mangino are the personal nature of his attacks, and his commitment to the idea that he is helping his players succeed in life. He probably has helped a lot of players do better than they would have if they didn't have a college scholarship. His "tough love" has probably helped a lot of players get past bad habits and lack of discipline. But what for? Winning college football games? I guess the question becomes is winning football games closely correlated with winning in life? I know they are somewhat correlated, but how closely?

It is the same thing with the France-Ireland thing. I know if I was Irish I would be pissed. I know the French feel that the win was tainted, but what is the right thing to do? And a bigger question, does the outcome of the game really matter in the grand scheme?

My philosophy has developed to the point where I believe the games don't matter as much as the seasons, and the seasons don't matter as much as the decades, and so forth.

The real thing that amazes me is that we are wealthy enough to care. Bill Simmons is paid millions of dollars to write about games. He gets to write a long column on one decision in one game that will in all likelihood not make a difference. And I get to read it even though I haven't slept in the same bed in consecutive nights this week.

Is the "win-at-all-costs" attitude what has gotten us to this place? Is the commitment to the attitude the difference between Bill Simmons success and writing a blog that no one reads? Is it the difference between six and five figures? Is it the difference between finishing and not finishing?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Opinion On The Decision

This post demonstrates my poor use of time, but I have to say it.

I agree with Belichick's decision. I am believer that a coach has to demonstrate confidence. There is nothing worse than a coach punting on fourth and one when a team needs a shot in the arm. There is nothing that pumps up an offense or defense when a head coach goes to them and says "It is on you."

The football season for a player is monotonous. Week after week of the same thing wears on a player and team like nothing else. You see it in high school. You see it in college. Winning helps. But the key to success, and the difference between good coaches and mediocre ones, is to maintain focus. Having a coach who demonstrates immense testicular fortitude with his decisions really helps quell the monotony and maintain focus.

Now there are a million different ways to demonstrate testicular fortitude, and I can understand some people questioning Belichick's decision. But if I am a player on the Patriots, I still want to sell-out for Belichick.

(With this being said, I hate the way Belichick interacts with the media. You can run a team without looking like a jackass 95% of the time you're on TV.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Outcomes Matter, Probabilities Don’t

Bill Belichick demonstrated what I was trying to say in this post. I just listened to Bill Simmons and Cousin Sal say Belichick went against the odds. Joe Posnanski links to a guy who says he played the odds perfectly. Neither link matters. They didn't get the first down. The Patriots lost.

The probabilities don't matter. The outcome does. Bill Belichick will only have once chance to make that call. He made it. Now the game is over. And he has to start preparing for the Jets. And I bet that is what he is doing.

Yesterday’s NFL Thoughts But I Am Not Getting Sucked Backed In To The Redskins

  1. The question is not Manning or Brady? It is Jason Campbell or Kyle Orton?
  2. Besides Wayne, Manning's best receivers are a former walk-on at Iowa and a Division III player (even though Mount Union is as close as Division III comes to big-time college football).
  3. A Division III player was getting a pretty big push on Football Night In America.
  4. Besides Moss, Brady's receivers aren't much better than Manning's.
  5. Again the question is not Manning or Brady, it is Campbell or Orton? And the answer goes something like if you put the right guys around a mediocre NFL quarterback, you might win one championship but you're not getting a hundred wins in a decade.
  6. I would be satisfied with one championship.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Uncomfortable Or Unfortunate Situations I Have Been In Today

1. I have to get up at 4:30AM to catch a flight. I put on a shirt that is about half-a-size too small. A big man knows that this is one of the worst things one can do. It makes you self-conscious all day. It also makes you look like a fat idiot as you are walking through airports, hence, the self-consciousness.

2. I go into a bathroom at a fairly large airport. There is a man, an attendant, sitting there. I have to drop a sizable load. He sees me go in. Ten minutes later, he sees me go out. I know he understands, but like the shirt, it is just an uncomfortable situation.

3. I also don't know what to do with the attendant. He doesn't have an official tip jar. There are some mints and Listerine with a money jar, but that looks like it goes to a charity. Again, I don't know what to do.

4. I shotgun 40 ounces of Diet Coke. The caffeine and and liquid causes bladder spasms. I have to piss 4 times in the next two hours. This situation amplifies the uncomfortableness of 2 and 3.

5. Since I left this morning, I missed the opportunity to see Kevin Durant, the emerging Thunder, and maybe this year's champs, Spurs.

Just an unfortunate day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some Things On My Mind

1. The idea that "funny" is an objective term. Adam Carolla and his guests have talked about this some. I certainly think that Norm MacDonald is funnier than Larry the Cable Guy. But I have always thought that "funny" was what made me laugh. I guess what I am saying is the economist in me says funny is what puts people in seats and money into comedians' pockets.

2. I really think that in five years 50-60% of my income will go to taxes. I am not saying this to be pessimistic. And I am not overly concerned about my or "this country's" future. It is just what I think.

3. Health insurance doesn't equal health care. Health insurance doesn't equal health care. Just like life insurance doesn't equal life.

4. I am reading Bill Kirchner's A Miles Davis Reader. I am not that far into it, but Miles is the man.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

NASCAR Is Still A Good Sport To Write About

Joe Posnanski sheds some light by not shedding light on Jimmie Johnson.

NASCAR is and has always been about crazy men. Men who can drive 200mph. Men who can quell their fear of death like very few other men can. The Car of Tomorrow and Corporate NASCAR doesn't allow these stories to come through. They don't allow fans to appreciate how absolutely crazy these men are.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Too Many Movies, Not Enough Work

I enjoyed Whatever Works. Watching a Woody Allen film isn't like Forrest Gump's "a box of chocolates." You know what you're going to get. It isn't going to be sweet. It isn't going to be dark. It is going to have a few nuts in it. But when you're finished, you're going to say "that wasn't too bad." You are also going to laugh.

I also enjoyed The Assassination of a High School President. Both it and State of Play openly plagiarized All The President's Men. But at least Assassination and Bruce Willis had a sense of humor. State of Play had better actors, but no matter how hard they tried, they couldn't make it a fictional All The President's Men. I have never liked when a fictional movie tried too hard. All The President's Men was true, and that is what it made it so good. State of Play wasn't true, and that is why the twists and turns kept me watching but didn't impress me in the end.

I really liked Management. I thought it was funny and also spoke to the struggle of "home" versus "the world" and "ramblin'." Life, love, charity, and moving forward isn't simple. And neither is being part of a family business.

Like Assassination, Adventureland impressed me. A "coming of age" story that uses Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love" reminded me of listening to U2's cover version on their "One" single and marveling over "I love to watch things on TV." Like the characters in Adventureland, I soon realized that watching things on TV and dreaming about things on TV and looking up to guys like Ryan Reynolds' character did not get you closer to "being on TV." In fact, all it did was keep you stuck.

I did not like Transformers 2. I slept through a 1/4th of it. I liked Transformers as a kid. I usually like cartoon super-hero movies, but no matter how much action and noise Transformers 2 had, I didn't care about what happened to any of the characters including my friend Optimus Prime. It was disappointing.

My wife made me watch Confessions of a Shopaholic. I will never get that hour and forty minutes back.

Observe and Report was absolutely crazy, a manic movie about a bi-polar person. It was funny and deeply sad at the same time similar to Swimming With Sharks. A demented world can be entertaining to watch, and I couldn't wait to see what happened at the end of Observe and Report or Swimming With Sharks.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Some Things

1. I have never been addicted to drugs. I have heard that crack-heads spend the rest of their life searching for the high of that first hit. Warm, fresh, right-off-the-assembly-line Krispy Kreme donuts is all I am going to say.

2. Vista sucks. The Mac commercial makes sense. Microsoft has been selling empty promises since I have started using computers. Windows will work most of the time, but when it doesn't, it will make your life miserable.

3. Wireless mouses were a great invention.

4. I bought a cord to hook up my laptops to my TV. I have no idea what I am going to do with it, but I am really glad I have it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

"Truck His Ass" Or The Pursuit

"Truck his ass" is what I said when I saw Howard coming home on Damon's throw.
My wife and I watched the first game of the World Series. She has no idea about baseball. No idea whatsoever. But she and I enjoyed the game. The Phillies won.

I hate the Yankees. I have never liked them. It really started when they came back against the Braves in '96. I never thought they could get four wins in six games against the Braves' starters. But even before then, my grandfather told me to not like teams from New York, especially one named the Yankees.

I am not a big fan of the Phillies or Philadelphia either. I grew up watching the Redskins. Washington fans have very little respect for the other NFC east cities. Philadelphia, New York, and Dallas don't get "my team isn't playing" fandom.

But I enjoyed game one, prefer the National League to the American League, Charlie Manuel is from Virginia, and I started rooting for the Phillies. I couldn't watch Game 2, and they lost. I stopped wanting to watch the games. I couldn't handle it. I couldn't handle watching a baseball game, caring about the outcome, but knowing that my desired outcome probably won't happen kills me.

I don't want to watch anything sports related especially with the Redskins the laughingstock of the NFL and the Hokies choking away another season. And here I was enjoying the beautiful game of baseball in HD, and I don't even hate this Yankees team as much as usual (except Joe Girardi), but once I have a rooting interest, I can't watch the damn game without increases in blood pressure and yelling. I find the whole thing sad.

Then I am watching Mad Men, and President Kennedy gets assassinated. I remember September 11th and April 16th. I remember that baseball and sports and most everything else is a distraction from the only important thing:


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Some Thoughts

1. For some reason, I've been thinking a lot about writing. It is a very vain act. It is also very much subject to Gladwell's 10,000 hour hypothesis. But it and other forms of communication is a key in today's world.

2. I wanted to watch baseball last night. I want to watch baseball tonight. Tomorrow I am not so sure. This series has great potential, but Selig and MLB will screw it up.

3. I don't see why MLB cannot have a flexible playoff schedule. I understand enough business to know that they are probably maximizing revenues, but they are alienating me as a fan. November is too late for baseball in New York and Philadelphia.

4. I have also been thinking a lot about luck lately. Getting a job or getting into a school or getting through a subjective admission process requires an amount of luck. But there are things you can do to increase your chances. Those are the things you have to concentrate on to remain sane.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Risk is purely a probablistic concept. Probability requires a significant number of events. Playing poker once or for one night or for your life's saving is not a risky proposition. It is an uncertain event. The probablities associated with the game of poker are not informative if you're playing for your life's saving. The "right" play, the play with the highest expected value, doesn't mean anything if you lose. It doesn't mean anything if you win. All that matters is winning or losing.

My example is not a very good one, and I will work on a better one. But there are two ideas here. First of all, risk has no meaning unless you're dealing with a repeatable and replicated event. I would argue we haven't had enough service economy recessions to understand the risks associated with our economy. I would argue we don't know the risks involved with a public health care system in the U.S. Second, "risky" thinking is dangerous when one explicitly considers uncertainty. People who try and predict recessions will mislead people, because they are thinking about the problem in a fundamentally wrong way. People who discuss a public health care program in terms of outcomes and events will mislead people, because there is a fundamental error in there thinking. We don't know will happen, and we can't argue in probability terms.

I am not saying what I want to say, but my final point is that assuming and proclaiming that you know the distribution of outcomes when you really have no idea is (might be) dangerous and wrongheaded. We (some times) need to admit when we're guessing.

Poker isn't the best Risk, the idea that events can be broken up into chance

The Economy

I wanted to write a post saying the economy has turned around, because my last two flights were relatively full. But the Hayek in me knows this is the same error in scope most people make. "The economy" doesn't exist. It is just Orwellian political language to be used and manipulated by political pundits and pseudo-intellectuals.

My last two flights were full. You decide what that really means.

On a different note, I am sitting in a surgery waiting room. I can assure you the surgery business is brisk also. Thinking of surgery as business is strange, but I think that is the proper way to think about it. There is too much money involved for it to be thought of any other way.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From The Plane Which Is Going Through Choppy Air

1. I still get a thrill out of lifting off the ground. I hope I always do.

2. I also get a thrill out of racing through a major airport to catch a plane. I have a feeling as I get older this thrill will pass.

3. I don't care much for choppy air.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thoughts While I Was Running

1. I don't drink enough water.

2. I have known that I don't drink enough water for a long time. Once in the 11th grade, my body cramped up so bad because of dehydration that I stayed on my den floor for two hours.

3. There is nothing sadder than continually doing a stupid thing over and over again.

4. I can't watch TV and do work. But I watch TV and act like I am working. Another sad situation.

5. The lesson here is to drink water and turn the TV off when you want to work. It is like my old coach said, "Push away from the table you fat-ass., push away from the table!" "Let your mistakes by your own."

No, Not That Nobel Prize

I have seen three Nobel Prize economists speak.

James Buchanan is still my favorite, but I did enjoy Elinor Ostrom. I would have never thought she would have won a Nobel Prize in economics, but she did. And the profession is better for it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Things I Would Like To See Tried But Not Necessarily On A Permanent Basis

  1. All balls and strikes determined by K-Zone or a similar computer system. If it is in the box, it is a strike. If it isn't, it is a ball. The home plate umpire would only help determine swings and plays at the plate. Notice, I said I would like to see it tried not that I think it should be implemented. I think balls and strikes have always been very arbitrary, and I don't have the counterfactual to know if this is better than the alternative.
  2. All major sports have a "the umpire or referee completely screwed up and we have to do something about it" replay system. I imagine this looking somewhat like college football's every play Is reviewed system, but I would like for it to include other blatant bad calls like pass interference penalties. This system would have to be somewhat arbitrary. The idea would be that the call was so blatant that it only takes a single review and everyone knows the referee screwed up, then the call would corrected. I am ignoring the counterfactual problem here, but I think it can be overcome. The system would depend on mutual agreeability between teams. Like with Mauer's fair ball the other night, you give him a double and move forward. I don't think that ex ante (right after it happened) the Yankees would have disagreed with that, especially if they knew the same would be done for them. Again, I just want to see this and admit it might not (probably won't) work.
  3. I would like to see a college football playoff system, but I think it is like the above things. It might work, but I don't think it is guaranteed. (Listen to this possibility, Virginia Tech versus Miami in the BCS championship game. I don't think Florida or Alabama is going to lose twice. Texas didn't impress me last night. I know Virginia Tech will screw up. But imagine the possibilities. This is why I am unsure about the playoff system.)

Friday, October 09, 2009

My Morning Or Whatever

I guess it started last night. My wife and I argued about how much TV we watch. She is happy with her work ethic. She is happy with the amount of time she spends in front of the TV. I am not happy with my work ethic. I think the TV sucks my energy and work ethic out of me. We disagree. We argue which really sucks the energy out of both of us. She says, "Whatever," which I interpret as "This is life."

I wake up late this morning. But this isn't too bad, because I have to pick up something for breakfast and lunch. I also have to pay my HOA dues. I leave the apartment, and I even remember my parking pass and pack a bag with a couple of drinks and granola bars. I don't put the bag in my computer bag.

I pay my HOA dues. I go to the grocery store. I buy one of those microwaveable semi-prepared sandwiches for breakfast. This is of course a mistake. I should know better.

I parked. I am three steps from the office when I realize that I did not put my parking pass on my rear-view mirror. I walk back and put the tag up.

I make breakfast. Semi-prepared food sucks. It always does. It always will. It is passable, but it sucks. And it makes a mess.

I remember that my bag of drinks and granola bars are still in the truck. I go down and buy a drink from the machine.

I am in the office with one other person. She is coughing and sneezing. She seems to be deathly ill to me. She assures a professor that she was sick but is now recovering. This scares the hell out of me.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Two Commentaries

  1. From the New York Times.
  2. From the Denver Post.

This is the debate of our times, and I think both columnists reach the correct conclusion. As my political activist colleague says, "Something always beats nothing."

Marx had some valid observations. There will always be classes, but I don't think there is a real class struggle. The "doers, the Jims, the Humes," don't have time to bother with the "non-doers, the Mr. Hoovers, the Benthams."

Monday, October 05, 2009

“I Feel Like Such A Whore; I Can’t Do Anything For Free Anymore” Or Two Monday Afternoon Thoughts

  1. I thought about the title quote this afternoon. I've never thought that passion and "being paid" were mutually exclusive. But I have always thought that it was hard to do both at the same time, and only a select number of people get to be passionate about what they get paid for. Part of me thinks my outlook is wrong. I should do everything in my power to make my passion fruitful. Another part of me understands that passion is usually a fleeting thing. What I am passionate about today won't mean a thing to me tomorrow. This is life.
  2. How in the world is Tech a 12-14 point favorite over Boston College? Has anyone watched the last few seasons in the ACC? Do people from Boston College just not bet? Did anyone watch Tech against Duke, another well-coached disciplined team? I wish I had the courage to gamble.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sunday Morning Reflection On The Last Three Days

Thursday night I saw U2. I know opinions on U2 vary. But they absolutely rocked. I saw them (and Chelsea Clinton) in RFK on the PopMart tour. This show was ten times better. They're at a point where they still have the physical skills to put on a show and the experience to know how to put on a show.

Friday night I saw my high school team. They ran the most efficient spread offense I've ever seen in high school. They are 5 and 0 (almost twice as many wins as we had total in my junior and senior years). They need to find a package that will help them run out the clock without exposing their quarterback to injury and infuriating the opposing team. But I was thoroughly impressed.

Saturday, I didn't do much. I did mow my parent's grass in record time. It wasn't perfect, but it is done. Now we have to hope for an early October freeze.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Video Store Ideas Or The Lack Of Video Store Ideas

My family and I know that the video business isn't going to make it in the long or medium term. In the short-run, we have a locational monopoly. Right now, the business is a cash cow. Everything is paid for. The rent is cheap. We don't have to pay a lot in labor. Business is definitely slowing. And we have no delusions about our long-term future. But the question becomes what can we do right now to make a few more dollars?

We're thinking about adding a subscription plan. Obviously, we're late on this one. It would cost us a $1000-$2000 to upgrade our software and computer equipment, but it would require us to get credit card capabilities which should increase our revenues and help us eventually liquidate our inventory.

I've also thought about increasing our internet presence with a Twitter, Facebook, and Blog Accounts. All of these only cost time, but they could definitely help us market the business. (There is part of me who thinks this is part of the future for local business. A local business creates a "following". When people check their Facebook Account, they see what DVDs are being released Tuesday. They can debate other "friends" and customers about what movies are good. The local storefront and the fact that customers see and know other customers add a little humanity that "big" business cannot. I also like the idea of "Twitter Specials" like all followers get a free bag of microwave popcorn. From a marketing perspective, this kind of advertising is so much accountable than advertising in the high school yearbook or local newspaper. I can easily count how many followers took advantage of the Twitter Special.) This internet presence should also help us eventually liquidate our inventory.

With all of this being said, I know it is only a matter of time before the video store goes the way of the record store, but I want to squeeze every last dollar out of it that I can.



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Health, Fitness, Nutrition, And Me Discussing Things That I Don’t Know

As I was jogging yesterday I decided that my definition of a basically healthy person was someone who could safely and efficiently exit a building if there was an emergency. If the person had children, he or she should also be able to help those children to safely and efficiently exit a building during an emergency.

Then my mom was telling me (complaining) about her new aerobics/strength training class. I wasn't listening. She called me on it. And I went into my health manifesto to prove that I was actually kind-of listening:

First, nutrition is the key to being healthy. If you eat crap, you will not be more than basically healthy. Proper nutrition is a constant struggle for the vast majority of Americans. It isn't society's fault. It isn't a cultural problem. Society and culture contributes, but it is about making difficult choices. Food that tastes good is usually not good for you. A person who eats food that tastes good (especially in my family) usually eats too much. One has to make a habit out of eating low calorie-low fat-low sugar food (most of the time). One has to make it a habit to watch his portions (most of the time). But remember my definition of basically healthy, it is better to eat crap and be heavy than be an alcoholic who is too drunk (or not there to) to get his kids out of his burning house.

Second, exercise is about activity habits. My mom can go to aerobics/strength training once a week, but if she wants to progress, especially during the aerobics portion, she has to increase her activity levels throughout the week. A power lifter has to lift heavy weight. A runner has to run. If my mom wants to keep up with her aerobics instructor, she has to do aerobics. You have to establish habits, because the exercise itself doesn't burn that many calories. It is the gradual boost in metabolism that really leads to weight loss. It is that confidence and bad-ass feeling that comes from pushing yourself past your pre-conceived limits that allows one to do more. But again, exercise has very little to do with achieving my definition of healthy. If you're on crutches because of a torn ACL or a knee replacement, you aren't making it out of the building.

The word that keeps being repeated is habits. If you want to move past basic healthiness, you have to develop nutritional and activity habits. But the thing to remember is that all habits generate opportunity costs and tradeoffs. In other words, being healthy isn't simple, and I can understand when people decide that it isn't worth it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I'm Done

No more Redskins. The just aren't worth it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Morning Thoughts

  1. I wouldn't be upset if the Redskins traded for Braylon Edwards or Brandon Marshall. The fact that I wouldn't be upset worries me. I think it shows that I am becoming really indifferent to the Redskins' future.
  2. I could see Virginia Tech playing Alabama again in the BCS National Championship Game. By 6:00PM, I have a feeling this vision will be destroyed.
  3. I am watching Rachel Ray. I have no idea what this says about me. But I don't think it is good. She is baking bacon. This fascinates me.
  4. I should do a good amount of cleaning today. This doesn't fit into by badass persona. But I am so badass, I am going to do it anyway.
  5. It is raining in Blacksburg. This has to play in favor of Virginia Tech, right? Maybe it will be 6:30PM or 7:00PM before my vision in 2 will be crushed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Women Don’t Understand Or A Personal Confession

I must think of myself as a badass. I still think I could get in a three point stance and block guys. I still think I can take a few months to get back in shape and be able to play "ball." I think I can do it. But I don't do it, because I don't want to. I am so badass, I do what I want to.

I have to think this way, because when I don't, I am not worth a shit. This proof of this statement is evident (at least in my mind). When I don't have this "lethal ape" feeling, I don't get things done. I am tentative. I am bored. I am not much good. As Ol' Willis Bond used to say, "I ain't worth a shit."

I am not violent. I recognize that it is just a feeling. I know that I couldn't block my sixteen year old 150 pound cousin. I can't even get in three point stance without mildly injuring myself. I recognize that all I really need is confidence in my ability to push through the difficulties that life throws in front of me.

But there is no better way to instill that confidence than to convince yourself that you are a Grade A, Mr. T-like badass.

Keep On Rockin' In The Free World Or Manohla Dargis' Review Of Michael Moore's New "Entertainment"

"In the end, what is to be done? After watching “Capitalism,” it beats me. Mr. Moore doesn’t have any real answers, either, which tends to be true of most socially minded directors in the commercial mainstream and speaks more to the limits of such filmmaking than to anything else. Like most of his movies, “Capitalism” is a tragedy disguised as a comedy; it’s also an entertainment. This isn’t the story of capitalism as conceived by Karl Marx or Naomi Klein, and it certainly isn’t the story of contemporary American capitalism, which extends across the globe and far beyond Mr. Moore’s sightlines."

She reminds me of this review. I have had a long complex intellectual relationship with Michael Moore. Recently, he has just pissed me off. The fact that the "socially minded" will see this movie and come out nodding their head "yes" without being able to answer what they are really affirming really pisses me off. It also scares the hell out of me.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


My office floor had an inch of dust and grime on it. It hadn't been cleaned in eighteen months. There were pistachio and peanut shells under the desk. It was disgusting. For the last six months, I have thought about how I should clean it up.

But I still got a little upset when the custodians made me leave the office for two and a half minutes, so they could clean my office floor.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Don't Know What To Think About This

He has won a lot of games. But maybe it is time for a change. I guess we will find out after next year.


I plug my netbook in at airports, coffee shops, in my office, and at home. I pay the electricity bill at home, but I can't discern any marginal increases when I charge my netbook. I have started turning off my desktop when not in use, but I haven't been able to tell much difference in my bill because of that either. I've read where these electric cars (specifically the Chevy Volt) won't be as cheap as people think because of the increases in electric bills due to charging them. I've heard the cost of electricity will increase in the near future. I know that my electricity bill was high in the winter when my heater had to run all day and night.

The point here is that uncertainty about technology, regulations, government, fossil fuel supplies, etc. abounds. No one knows what is going to happen. But the world keeps spinning. And that is the only energy that matters.


Monday, September 21, 2009

NFL Predictions

  1. There will be a rule where quarterbacks are only live when they're outside the pocket. Referees will have to make the decision whether the quarterback "could have been" sacked or not. I don't think this rule is that far away.
  2. The League will have its own medical-training staff that evaluates all player injuries. Teams will have very little influence on medical-training decisions. Independent (League-paid) doctors will determine who plays and who doesn't play. This change will be due to finances, retired NFL player complaints and medical problems, gambling, and Bill Belichick and his coaching tree.
  3. An 8-8 team will eventually win the Super Bowl.
  4. The Redskins will finish 8-8 this year. They will not win the Super Bowl.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Some Things

  1. I don't know what to think about small unprofitable airports. I do prefer them to large airports, but I don't see much (any) public good value in them.
  2. I did drink most of the coffee from yesterday. It did clean out my system.
  3. I've never bought a newspaper. I don't think I ever will. I always thought that paper vending machines were an interesting test of honesty, but I've never bought one.
  4. The ads on the blog are just an experiment. I am not delusional enough to think I will make any money. Personally, I read everything off of Google Reader anyway.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Einstein Quote Of The Day

"Measured objectively, what a man can wrest from Truth by passionate striving is utterly infinitesimal. But the striving frees us from the bonds of the self and makes us comrades of those who are the best and the greatest."

For some reason, this quote gives me comfort.

Bad Coffee

I didn't get my normal eight hours last night. I needed a pick me up. I made some coffee in my office. It isn't very good.

The coffee was old. The coffeemaker needed a good cleaning. The finished product just sucks.

I shouldn't drink it, but I will. At least it will suppress my appetite.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What Does It Mean To Be A Professional?

Last week some guy who irritated me and basically questioned my work ethic/manhood asked me what my future goals were. Anyone who has read more than five posts on this blog knows I have no goals. I am a confused guy struggling to find my way in the world. I am confident I will get there, but honestly, I am not the kind of guy who is ever going to verbalize future goals. I am superstitious enough to believe that verbalization will guarantee my failure. I am also realistic enough to think that future goals change daily and are dependent on an amount of luck. My only real goal is to live, and I think that is everyone's real goal.

I gave some quick and unthoughtful answer. But here are some possible professional goals that I might pursue in the future.

  1. I want to convince and cajole other similar professionals that every problem is not empirical. I want them to see that many problems cannot be simplified into observable data. I want them realize how foolish some of their answers are.
  2. I want to be a professional who contributes to solutions. I don't care how small or temporary the problems are, but I want to be part of recognizable and implementable, not optimal, solutions.
  3. I want to describe problems in the truest light I can. I don't want to ignore attributes without admitting that I am ignoring them. I don't believe in objectivity, but I want really "call things like I see them."


Monday, September 14, 2009

Another Healthcare Thought

I have been in six different emergency rooms. Three were in predominantly rural areas. Two were in suburban-urban areas. One was in an urban area. One of the hospitals in the suburban area was a private hospital, and one was a public hospital (that I think was just discussed in a USA Today cover story). Of course they were all different experiences. But it made me think about the spatial-transportation-Poisson problems involved in healthcare. The rural hospitals were underutilized in many respects. (I will say that most of my experience with them had to do with broken limbs. The orthopedists took an hour to get there in each case, but I was given a room/tent by myself to wait.) The capacity and service of the suburban hospitals depended on what time of day I was there. The urban hospital was an experience in itself. I also fully admit that I went to the emergency room a few times for non-emergency reasons but Mom reasons. Today I would have sucked it up or have gone to an urgent care facility.

This post really has no point, and I have no answers. But it shows how complicated of a problem healthcare really is and shows how bad of an idea it might be to push something through Congress to create the illusion that you are "doing something."

(This post made me think about some of these issues.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

College Football

1. It is rare that there are two games on a Saturday where I bet most of the nation is wishing that all four teams would lose. Notre Dame versus Michigan, USC versus Ohio State are like that today.

2. My college coach said that Bear Bryant said that "Out-of-conference, you schedule one team you're better than, one team you that is better than you, and one team you're even with." (This was before teams played what seems to be an endless out-of-conference schedule.) I think Tech has scheduled that way this year. So next week, the team that they are even with, is the real test.

3. I still say that the problem with Division I football is there are too many fringe teams. Marshall and Tech should never play one another. Texas should never play Wyoming. TCU should never play Virginia. Florida should never be playing the two teams they have played. They need to cut it back to about fifty teams and make those fifty teams only play one another (or at least for ten games). I think it would help out the BCS situation by making teams more comparable. It is pretty clear to me that Notre Dame and Tech are not in the same league as Florida. But the problem is where does Fresno State and Boise State fit into the equation.

4. It looks like Michigan is starting to take it to Notre Dame. Notre Dame seems to be weaker and slower. Charlie Weiss will be coaching quarterbacks in the NFL in a couple of years.

Morning Thoughts

1. I still don't know what to think of Jordan's Hall of Fame speech. I want to say "bitter," but I think it just showed his ambition was sustained by "slights." I am going to have to read The Jordan Rules.

2. I got up this morning and went to Hardees. A Hardees breakfast is a Hardees breakfast. It isn't healthy, but there is something very comforting about it.

3. It will be an interesting NFL season. The Patriots will win a lot of games. The NFC East will beat each other up. The Steelers and Ravens will play great defense and be around at the end. It will be interesting. I am afraid that there where will be one big blown call this year that will outrage most NFL fans. (I know these are all no-shit predictions.)

4. I wonder what will Favre say in his Hall of Fame speech.

5. This should be the most hyped "must-see-TV" weekend in NASCAR. And I don't care. NASCAR has some real problems. I think the winner of the last race before the Chase should automatically be in the Chase. I say this even though I am not a big proponent of the Chase.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Mystery Of Love

There is this girl graduate student. She has been here almost as long as I have.

There is this guy graduate student. He has only been here a year. He is younger than the girl graduate student.

There is certainly something going on between them. She is always in his office except when he is in her office. It is kind of sweet, more weird. Two kids who aren't kids feeling each other out, trying to hide something that everyone else sees. I don't know.

The sociology of the thing enthralls me.

(It reminds me of a situation from my first year here. Unfortunately, I don't know if any of my readers have been around long enough to remember.)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Morning Thoughts

1. It worries me that it seems that the Washington politicians really want "to do something" about health care. This "something is always better nothing" strategy scares me. I am not a big fan of the theory of second best. I am less a fan of "Let's compromise on something so we can get re-elected" policy.

2. I hope it is a Federer-Nadal U.S. Open Final. I am not a big tennis fan, but that final could be entertaining.

3. I wanted to rant on Virginia Tech's offense. But Alabama was just better. They had bigger, faster, stronger athletes. They had future NFL Hall of Famer Julio Jones. They were just better. Tech will not play anyone close to Alabama again this year. This isn't to say that Tech will finish the season with one loss, but they won't face that talent-level again this year.

4. I mixed coffee with vanilla-caramel tea. I have had worse drinks. I have had better drinks.

5. The introductory offer on my cable just finished. I didn't even know I was paying the introductory offer. (It had been a year.) Part of me wants cancel the cable. I think the Internet service is worth it, but the cable seems high to me especially if I have high-speed Internet.

6. I am late on this one, but if Brandon Marshall had done what he did with any coach I had, he would have been thrown off the field immediately. I know the NFL is different, but I think some wide receiver divas are enabled by weak coaching. Most football players need a combination of discipline-love. When they don't get the proper combination, they have a tendency to screw-up. After the coach gets his "players on the lot" (recruiting in college, draft and free-agency in the NFL), the discipline-love combination is the most important thing a coach does. (The "on-the-lot" analogy comes from my old college coach.)

7. I am not looking forward to the Redskins season this year.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Einstein Quote Of The Day

"The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in the United States is closely connected with this."

This quote got me to thinking about other unenforceable laws. Of course the drug laws come to mind. But I think there might be some applicability to health care too. Maybe I am reaching, but you can't force people to take preventive measures and you can't force people to not try procedures that generate more costs than benefits especially when it comes to life and death.

You can see this in the film The Barbarian Invasions, There are other stories in the press from Britain and other single payer countries. People find ways to work around laws and the system when the law and system does not make sense.

I readily admit this doesn't say much about the U.S. health care debate. But I really question those who are championing a more equitable health care policy. I just don't see it happening in any system, private or public. People will adapt and find ways around mandates. People will shirk unenforceable suggestions. This shirking will only lower the declining prestige of government.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Funniest Youtube Comment I Have Read

"My life was worse than hers. I was the one who had to go out with those ugly,butch ,left wing, [...] lezbo types like Janis Ian. Poor me."

From this song.

Another Thing

As every Nintendo or Windows user knows, every system needs a "reset" button.

9:15AM Tomorrow Morning

I have really bought in to David Allen's GTD system.

The central ideas being that:

1. I have to get everything out of my head and into a system.

2. I have to have a system that continually evolves.

3. I have to have discipline to follow the system.

4. I have to break down tasks/projects/desired outcomes into next actions.

In other words, I have to have a written/electronic plan. I have to be able to change the written/electronic plan. I have to follow the plan. The plan has to be focused on practical "what can I do next" (compartmentalized) things.

For the last few weeks I have been doing pretty good with my system. Sometimes I get lulled into spending too long on the "waiting on..." phase of projects. But I have been doing pretty good.

So I get into the office this morning. I hadn't been there since Friday afternoon. I see a note that says "9:15AM Tomorrow Morning." I have no idea what it is for or what it means or when tomorrow is. I have to take a few deep breathes, but I want to blow up the system.

I figured out what the inconsequential note was for, and I guess I can go back to my system.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Full Circle

The background story.

Same coffee shop. I bought a metal pot, knew it wasn't cream, and thoroughly enjoyed the peach tea.

(I used to say having a child was the most self-absorbed vain thing a person can do. But I think blogging is certainly up there.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I Have A Presentation I Should Be Working On But…

  1. First-class on short flights is for suckers, I think. I am sitting in coach with just as much room for half the price. I don't know. I have always heard once you go first-class, you don't go back. But I just don't see it on short flights when the plane isn't full.
  2. My wife made me get a massage yesterday. I enjoyed it.
  3. There is a real value to routine. Getting up earlier than you usually do can mess with you. Getting stuck in a bad routine can be destructive, but a good routine can be very comfortable.
  4. Comfort is probably what I look for most. That is the thing about the massage. I didn't want to do it because it made me uncomfortable ex ante. Ex post I was fine. Once I got in the room I was fine. It is just getting over that initial fear. That feeling of uncomfortable that makes me want to stay in certain routine. That makes me want to stick to the ways "I have always done things."
  5. Older members of my family also have this anxiety of anything different. It causes problems in later life. It keeps them stuck in destructive routines.
  6. Now I am going to start working on that presentation.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Amazing Things

  1. I woke up this morning in Blacksburg, Virginia at 5:00AM(EST). By 1:30PM(EST), I will be in San Antonio, Texas.
  2. I am typing this post on the flight.
  3. I could upload this post for $9.95.
  4. Since 5:00AM, I have checked my Email four times, once at my apartment, once on the bus to the Roanoke airport, once at the Roanoke airport, and once again at the Atlanta airport.
  5. I talked to both my dad and my wife while in Atlanta. My dad was in Crozet, Virginia. My wife was in San Antonio. The marginal cost of these calls was $0.
  6. I just typed "The marginal cost of these were $0." The computer corrected me.
  7. I am now publishing this post from our apartment in San Antonio. (By the way, I am in the shitter.)


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Morning Thoughts

1. I like Google Chrome. But lately it has been giving me "unsafe site" messages for Google sites. This kind of crap makes me wonder.

2. I keep hearing commercials telling people not to say "this is so gay." I don't know what to think about this. Part of me thinks it is the evolution of language. Gay for me has come to mean feminine or girlish. I don't think it is as insulting as the commercials make it out to be, but other derogatory words have evolved out of the language. So maybe I'm wrong, and these commercials are part of our societal progression.

3. I have a lot of baseball cards at home. I have no idea what to do with them. Part of me wants to liquidate them. Another part of me wants to keep them. They will probably stay at my parents' house for another five or ten years until my mom makes me take them.

4. I just listened to Dan Patrick interview Peyton Manning. All I can say is "smooth." I have always liked "edge," but "edge" quickly turns into a disaster. "Edge" usually leads to inconsistency.

5. Anxiety, fear, excitement, worry are all complex emotions.

6. I don't like chicken. It used to be my favorite meat as a kid. (I think I used to like the skin more than anything else.) I fried some skinless chicken in olive oil, seasoned the hell out of it, mixed it with lima beans (which I thoroughly enjoy), and made a decent honey and Dijon mustard sauce. It wasn't bad, but I would rather have a dry hamburger.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Have Always Enjoyed This Song

Talent And Honesty

My college head coach was a brutally honest evaluator of talent. He didn't sugarcoat things. If you were slow and your hips didn't bend, he told you. He didn't always tell you directly, but he told you.

I didn't realize this for a while. I and many others always thought of him as the master of the "backhanded slap" or the "backhanded compliment." Then he wrote a letter asking for donations to the school from football alumni. There are also a couple of videos out on the web of him talking about the current team. At first this letter and videos reiterated my opinion, but then I realized that in reality, he was just brutally honest. He had lost enough and been fired enough to know: Talent wins football games. Sugarcoated heart makes for good newspaper stories.

I have always thought that economics and good economists describe trade-offs. Every time one makes a decision he gives up something. This blog has trade-offs. This sentence has trade-offs. Giving a donation has trade-offs. What economics has taught me is that there are no free lunches, everything costs, every gain requires some sacrifice, some pain.

But economics doesn't say much about how to deal with the pain. Cost-benefit analysis assumes one knows the cost and the benefits. But in reality we're always guessing. It isn't about probability or expected values; it is guessing and facing the consequences of decisions, accepting pain, accepting brutal honesty concerning our lack of talent.

Sometimes I avoid decisions, because I am scared of the pain. I have never believed in "something beats nothing." There is value in waiting. There is value in agonizing. But economics says very little about when to make a decision or what to do when agonizing starts to adversely affect your life.

But knowing the trade-offs has to help, right?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Wanted To Say Something About Vick

But Phil Taylor already did.

Vick is just another man captured by the vending machine honey bun. The two P's (power being the other one) has destroyed many men.

All I hope is that Vick doesn't screw up again.

Lighting Strikes

1. When there was lighting, we had to practice in the gym. At first we thought this was great. But we soon found that the conditioning was harder because of the stale air. We also found that hitting the floor because of tennis shoes or unexpected contact was painful and attention grabbing. If you get knocked down outside rarely would the whole team see it. Inside, everyone saw and laughed.

2. I just finished this recent book on business in Russia. I don't have the title or author with me, but it didn't provide any information you couldn't find on the Internet anyway. I took away that Russia provided opportunities for investors, but Russia is much more unpredictable than the U.S. I guess I knew that before I read the book. But it surprised me that the book and Russia in general had so much centralized power in both the public and private fronts. I don't imagine many American C.E.O.s being profiled like the Russians C.E.O.s were. It seemed like they were more important than the business. It was like they were proprietors not C.E.O.s of giant corporations. I know this happens in the U.S. too, and Russia's capitalism is still young. But it concerned me.

3. I am writing boring technical stuff. It is boring. I can say everything in tables, but people need paragraphs. And I am not saying much anyway. It is boring. But I have to do it. And the best way to do anything is to dive in, and let whatever happens happen.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Some Statements

1. My umbrella broke. This is very frustrating on rainy days especially when your rain coats are in Texas. I would buy an indestructible umbrella if it was less than $25.

2. It is still hot. But not as hot as it is in Texas.

3. My sophomore year in high school we went 9-1 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to a team quarterbacked by Kelley Washington. I didn't play much, and I don't remember much about two-a-days except it was hot. Not as hot as it is and was in Texas, but hot nevertheless.

4. I have always enjoyed Oingo Boingo's "Just Another Day" and "Wild Sex in the Working Class," but I have changed computers so much I can't find my MP3 copies. This is the digital age.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Another Hot Day

In the ninth grade, we were supposed to start two-a-days at 8:30AM and end at 3:30PM. Everyone was supposed to pack a lunch and get a air-conditioned break between 11:30AM-1:00PM. The first day all of the senior linemen were throwing up. It was hot at 10:30-11:00AM, and they had enough time in the morning to eat breakfast. You could see their cereal and milk coming back out. Five or six junior and senior linemen could not practice during the afternoon session. If you puked, the trainers made you sit out the next session.

The coach decided to make the sessions 6:00AM to 11:30AM with a fifteen minute break. This seemed to work better. All I really think it did was keep the linemen from eating breakfast.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why Generations Progress Or Why My Son Will Have A Leg-up on Me

I started playing football in the 8th grade. My dad told me I'd better get in shape. So I started running. No, I started jogging. By the time the season started I was doing 2-2.5 miles over a hilly course every day.

After the first day of practice, I was dead. My recovery was better than most of my teammates, but I was exhausted. Those 2-2.5 miles did very little for me. My limits as an athlete were agility, speed, and flexibility. Jogging does nothing to improve these three things. As I progressed through high school, I started to do sprints and other things (including hydrating) to prepare. In college, they gave us a summer workout plan to prepare. But that first day when I was in the 8th grade was hell.

(Nothing really helps with two-a-days. You can't simulate five hours of activity on studded cleats in the August heat. The August heat was what sparked this post.)

The Time To Start Is Today

Some sports' thoughts:

1. NASCAR has to consider rain tires or something. Watkins Glen would have been a fun race to run in the rain. The best drivers and teams would have risen to the top. Running at Daytona or Talladega or Pocono would be tough, but too many races Monday at noon will kill the sport. Once the NFL starts, NASCAR doesn't have much pull. It has to take advantage of the opportunities it gets.

2. I don't give a damn about the Red Sox and Yankees. It is like Goliath versus Goliath. But after I accept that they both cannot lose, I enjoy watching them play each other occasionally. The Yankees have a hell of a lineup.

3. The Braves beat the Dodgers three out of four, and I don't care. They are a .500 team. Look at their statistics compared to the rest of the National League. I think they are 7 to 9 in every category.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

I Don't Do This Often

I agree with Herbert's point that most men are misogynists. Most heterosexual men have a little "women hate" in them. Just like most heterosexual women have a little "men hate" in them. "Hate" is a bad thing.

I even agree that society and media perpetuates "women hate" probably a little more than they do "men hate." The reasons why and the innateness of these reasons would make a more interesting commentary. But to blame "women hate" for mass murders and use this as evidence for gun control is elephant shit. It is a complete misrepresentation of scope. The opportunity for mass murder is high. A man can go into a gym or school and kill females at any time. But more than 99% of the time, mass murder does not happen. It is tragic when it happens, and I am not trying to be callous to the situation or the victims. I am trying to be honest about the situation. We live in a relatively safe society even though there is a lot of "hate' in it.
Mass murderers are crazy people. They are psychotic. They have deep issues that they cannot solve by themselves. They need help. But they are crazy and evil and not normal. They are the extreme exception not the rule. If you want to argue for tighter gun control or a change of the way women are represented in the media, then do not use mass murderers as examples supporting your argument. It just doesn't make sense.

Friday, August 07, 2009

A Computer Crash (And A Post) That Means Nothing

A few weeks ago, my RAM went bad. I called Dell. I had two weeks left on my warranty. They would fix it.

But I was going to be gone for two and half weeks. I needed a computer to travel with. I went to Wal-Mart and bought a $300 netbook. I am happy with it, and it served me well on my travels.

My Dell was repaired ten days before I got back, and now it seems to be working well. I did not renew my warranty even though Dell's service (and FedEx) impressed me.

This post had no point but to acknowledge that it isn't the shocks that happen to us day-to-day. It is how we handle those shocks.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

So I Went To This Conference...

I went to this presentation about a health experiment conducted with mothers and their children. The female researcher started to tear up when she started to talk about some of the inconsistent mothers she observed. She said something like "I don't know what these kids go through at home."

I have to say the moment was a little awkward. But it was the most memorable thing from the conference. I walked away knowing that the woman cared about her research and genuinely cared about people, and that is more than I can say about most of the other presentations.

David Allen Podcast

Allen speaking about previous commitments: "You can't walk away from this stuff by going numb to it."

This podcast was definitely worth listening to.

I enjoyed this one too.

Modern Agriculture

Tyler Cowen at linked to this essay. It is worth reading.

I was going to write an essay for a contest that asked (I am paraphrasing) what will U.S. agriculture look like and what does it look like now. I was going to build the essay around the view from the back parking lot of a church: On the right was a cow pasture with big electricity towers running through it. The pasture ended with a forest. On the left was a the preacher's garden, further left was his house and his neighborhood. Separating left and right was a creek, and in the distance was Interstate 81.

The idea was that agriculture is complicated and ever-changing, and agriculture tomorrow won't look like agriculture today or twenty years ago. It was and is this mix of conventional and new and organic and inorganic.

In other words, agriculture is kind of like everything else.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The (Un)Fairness Of It All

The problem with Keynesian stimulus is that it has to go to someone or some group. My Blazer blew up last year before the "Cash for Clunkers" program. I don't know anyone who works for GM or Chrysler. I am not planning on buying a house for a few years, and I have kept up the payments on my condo. I might get a job with the federal government, but I am worried their hiring will slow down before I can move to Washington.

Stimulus and government programs are always selective. Some people get selected. Some people don't.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Halfway Business Is Not Business At All Or Saving Money Might Actually Cost You Money

My aunt works in a small town Post Office. I live and frequent another small town Post Office. To deal with the recession and budget shortfalls, both of these offices have closed their customer service centers on Saturday. My aunt admits that Saturday is (was) by far their busiest day. The post office I frequent always seemed to be busiest on Saturday. Both were only opened for three to four hours on Saturday anyway. They usually had to stay open twenty minutes later than their closing time because of the line that "last minute" customers formed.

But that is not the whole story. The Offices will still have to be open on Saturday for people to put up and deliver mail. They way my aunt explained it to me, each office is only saving at most 5-6 man hours, probably less.

Virginia is also closing rest areas along its interstates. Some states have privatized-franchised rest areas. I know that those vending machines could make money. I know some people would spend a small fee to park and use a toilet. My travels have taught me that stopping at convenience stores and fast food places when you don't need gas is costly and bad for your health.

I have said this a million times, but economists have failed to teach anything. Maybe I am wrong and these closings will save money, and I appreciate that the people who made these decisions know their situations better than me. But you can't throw fixed and variable costs and revenue out the window when you're making decisions just because you're in the quasi-public realm.