Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Morning Reads

1. GGM sent me this about my parents' Representative. I took offense to this sentence: "The rest wouldn't take the political risk of voting for even a fairly weak climate bill that doesn't even come close to doing what science demands." You have to read the article and link within the article to get what I saw as the contradiction. It keeps coming back to what I've been trying to get at in these last few posts. Politics and life is a big debate. What is important is the debate not one particular point of view. David Brooks also addresses this and larger issues this morning.

2. I am not a lawyer or a legal scholar. But I don't know what to think of Madoff getting 150 years. I would rather him be making as much money as he can for the rest of life to pay off as much as he can of the civil suits. The line between criminality and civility seems to be really blurry, and the punishment seems to not fit the crime. Not to beat a dead horse, but how many dogs could Vick's salary have saved if was allowed to continue playing in the NFL? Putting a guy in jail for 150 years isn't going to create wealth or retribution for any of his victims.

3. I don't discuss the Iraq war much. Mostly because I don't know exactly what I think of it. But the following quote from this article sums how complex the situation is:

“Right now we are balanced on a knife’s edge,” said Hamid Majeed, a Sunni speaking near the rubble of a Shiite mosque that was blown up in 2006. “We do not like the Americans, but we also thank God when we see them with the Iraqi Army, because we know we can trust them more than the government forces.”

This editorial also explains some of the complexities.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

We All Knew They Couldn't Hold It

I guess it goes back to: "Root for good stories. Bet on talent."

I have always wondered what Mike Vick could do if he was a soccer player (raised playing soccer to get the foot-eye coordination). He would be competitive with these Brazilian guys, wouldn't he?

For some odd reason, I would like to find out the answer.

Bad Science Or Bad Research II

From the New York Times

I have always been of the opinion that many of the most important discoveries come when you are looking for an answer to a question but then find an answer to another more important question. The question becomes can a grant-making process be developed that puts people in position to answer important questions without quelling their creativity and their ability to answer other questions that were not in their original grant proposal? I guess it comes back to the ex ante versus ex post thing. Research involves so much ex ante uncertainty but also requires so much ex ante funding. Ex post, research results are "taken care" of by the market. But ex ante expectations rarely equal ex post returns, as evidenced by my dissertation which I am going to start working on right now.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hopefully Last Post Of The Day

When I get bored, I read my blog. This serves a few purposes:
  1. I recognize that I have experienced little growth. Many personal posts are about the same issues over and over. I find this both depressing and encouraging.
  2. I realize I am not that bad. I have a few readable ideas. I write okay. I build confidence.
  3. I realize that the blog represents recorded practice. Practice can be a good thing.
Number 2 is the most important function of reading your own blog.

Bad Science Or Bad Research

I was going to compare the batting statistics of Red Sox and the Braves. My point was that the Braves have a similar batting average to the Red Sox, a better ERA, but their OBP and OPS was much lower. Therefore they score a lot fewer runs and win fewer games.

This is all true, but it is no where near as pronounced as I thought. (This page's team statistics started my thought pattern. This page's more detailed statistics ended my thought pattern.)

So I wasn't going "publish" anything. The data didn't exactly fit my theory, so I was just going to keep it to myself. And really, in the middle of a season even if my theory was true, it has very little prescriptive value. What are the controllable variables in a Major League baseball player? Terry Pendelton isn't able to get Francoeur to walk more (take more pitches) especially mid-season. I somewhat doubt if you can get many Major League batters to change their approach in the middle of their careers. My theory is like saying "The sky is blue." Who gives a shit?

I am afraid that is much research. The Kevin Murphy interview I linked to in the last post discusses some of these problems as related to health care.

Unexpected Things I Have Read This Morning

1. Farrah Fawcett and Ayn Rand were somewhat friends. Rand was a complex character.

(These first two links came from MarginalRevolution.com.)

3. The New York Times is beating this Sanford thing to death. I guess they did the same with Spitzer. I read a few commentaries on the hypocrisy of the "right." But I didn't see any commentaries about: "This is why we can't give any person too much power. This is why well-intentioned government is corrupted by individual politicians. This is why we have to be careful about government. It isn't the affair as much as it is the lying and mis-spending of tax-payer dollars in a really poor state. Power can corrupt anyone, so we have to be careful." The New York Times coverage isn't unexpected, but the number of articles on a South Carolina governor surprised me.

4. Milton Bradley is crazy as hell. Lou Pinella isn't going to take it anymore. This isn't unexpected, but I have never liked the Cubs.

5. The Braves suck. This certainly isn't surprising. All I can say is I would rather have Barry Bonds in the outfield than Anderson or Francoeur. I actually think you could put McClouth in left-center and another young-fast guy in right-center and have Bonds be a de facto DH and have a better chance at winning. The lack of offense is going to kill Jurrjens and the other young pitchers. Read Pat Jordan's A False Spring to learn about what confidence means to young pitchers.

Friday, June 26, 2009

751st Post Or Late Afternoon Thoughts

1. Michael Jackson was a significant part of my childhood. There are only so many artists I can say that about. I wore out my Bad cassette tape. He was a creative genius. There are only so many people you can say that about.

2. I am listening to the Cubs play the White Sox. Jermaine Dye just hit a home run. Jermaine Dye used to play for the Braves.

3. Chris Tucker was in the Rush Hours. Chris Rock was in Lethal Weapon 4. I get these confused, and I have to remind myself.

4. "If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change."

5. The fact that YouTube made it through the day without crashing is a credit to human ingenuity.

6. I wish I could moonwalk. I think if I could moonwalk or dance in general, I would be a better researcher.

7. Ron Santo just forgot that he was in an American League ballpark and talked about "pitcher coming up next." At least he admitted his mistake in the next half-inning.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Teaching Or The Value Of Doing Something Different

I sat through a lesson last night from an old school teacher. It was straightforward. He was somewhat prepared. The message was concise and hammered home.

All I wanted was something different. I wanted a tangential story, a little fire, some thing else.

One of the big questions in life is when to switch? When to change? When to try something different? You see it in sports. You see it in policy. You see it every day at an individual level.

So here is another exam question:

A professor has taught a class for 20 years. He has numerous exam questions, homework problems, assignments, PowerPoint slides etc. etc saved up. He gets average to above average reviews every year. He cares about teaching, but it is not his main source of income. He has some radical ideas that could make his class better or his class worse. These ideas would take time to develop but might also save him time in the future. What does he do?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Post That Is A Distraction But Hopefully A Good Distraction

The Marginal Revolution blogosphere has started discussing median voter theory. Here is a link to a summary post.

I always thought the median voter theory was interesting didactically. It teaches students about how democratic elections work and could work. It also explains national politicians, especially presidential candidates. But like most economic theories, I don't think it is an empirical theory. It is based on unmeasurable ever-changing (and indifferent) preferences.

I am not responding to the exact arguments made in Yglesia's post, and I don't think Cowen says much. The problem with economists is that they have things to say about the media, elections, health care, and many other things, but they don't have answers. But writing and media and being heard has become more and more about answers. Health care, GM and Chrysler, and many other issues are clusterfucks. There are no "easy" answers. I would argue that government intervention isn't the best or even a good answer, but it would just be an argument, just rhetoric.

The blogosphere and decentralized media is a good way to argue. The U.S.' three branches, checks and balances system is a good way to argue. The important thing is for the system to allow for arguments. The system becomes more important than answers. Economists need to do a better job of explicitly recognizing this in their work.

If I ever get my shit straight, my economist license, and a job that allows me to do things I want, I will study the contextual nature of preferences and emphasize systems, but for now, I'd better get back to my dissertation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Some Things

1. Talent usually trumps "heart" and good stories. Root for "heart" and good stories, bet on talent.

2. No matter what one has to do, he has to get started. Coffee, tea, Red Bull, whatever it takes.

3. I want to do a series called "The Economics of..." I want to start with the "The Economics of Marriage Ceremonies." My sister married Saturday. As I was eating the Prime Rib, I could dream of my measly inheritance going down the shitter.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Quick Healthcare Thought

One of the most discouraging things I have ever seen is my grandfather (and my grandmother also) growing old, getting sick and tired, and my parents and aunts and uncles ability and inability to take care of them. My grandfather turned (horrible word) from this virile "stormed the beaches at Normandy in '44 and could do it still in '94" to a man who could not and did not want to walk. I can't say he "gave up," but I can say that towards the end, he needed to be treated like a child.

This was the problem my parents and aunts and uncles faced. Here was a man who could not make decisions for himself anymore. A man who needed pushing to get better and survive. They could never fully accept the new parental role that they had inherited. They still wanted to treat him like an adult, but he wasn't acting like an adult. The doctors didn't help. Until the end, they kept asking him questions about decisions he couldn't really make.

The whole situation was sad. Because part of the reason he was acting like a child was because his body was breaking, he was confined to bed, and I am sure he felt like a child but with the mind and experience of an adult.

Most of the health care policy proposals I see are based on the idea that decisions need to be taken away from people like my grandfather and my parents and given to some government or insurance authority. My experience suggests this might be a good thing. It might make my life easier when my parents get old.

But it also scares me. Because I see too many fine lines, and I don't think the essential problems are being addressed. The problem is information and fixed costs. I have addressed these issues in the past, here and here.

I guess what I am saying is that as sad and discouraging as my grandfather's situation was, I don't know if I would have had it any other way.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One Could Waste A Day On YouTube Or Watching TV But There Are Only So Many Days

The last few months I have been thinking a lot about my career, about "what I want to be when I grow up." My general conclusion is that I have the question all wrong. The right question is what should I be doing right now. Of course, the "right nows" need purpose if I want to do anything constructive, but the idea is that careers more times than not just happen. There are some people who plan on being doctors or teachers from the time they enter grade school, and some of them get there. But most people are like me and don't have the attention span.

Just like I don't have the attention span to properly finish this post.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Some Things

1. I am getting into this hockey game. I am rooting for Detroit. I don't know why. My future brother-in-law is from Pittsburgh. I like the Pistons. Here is an idea from an announcer that you don't hear much, "Some times the hockey gods aren't with you." I always recognized that some times it is better to be lucky than talented. But most NBA and NFL announcers rarely admit this fact.

2. I walked from the office to my apartment. It took me a little less than an hour. It was good exercise, but I don't know if I will keep it up.

3. I switched over to C-SPAN from the hockey game. I will more than likely never buy an American vehicle. I don't know how I feel about this yet. But I don't think I will lose any sleep.

4. Lebron versus the Lakers would have a lot more fun than what we have now.

The Braves

I saw the Braves play the Brewers on Saturday. It was two of the worse offensive teams I have ever seen. The stadium wasn't very full, and most of the tickets were sold at very low prices.

I will concentrate on the Braves. Besides Chipper Jones (OPS+=157), Brian McCann (OPS+=147) and some times Yunel Escobar (OPS+=110), they have no offense. McClouth will eventually help, but he is not enough. They have a back-up catcher and some back-up outfielders hitting the ball and getting on base, and they need to find ways to get these guys on the field. But they have very little offense.

Their overall offense strategy is completely opposite of the established "Moneyball" norms of "getting on base," "taking pitches," and "power is important." Some of this is the Braves and Bobby Cox have had some success with "pitching, defense, singles and sacrifices." Some of it is arrogance. Some of it is the parity of professional sports. The fact that the Braves can be a .500 team and kind of (but not really) in the NL East race helps to keep the few fans still interested in the Braves buying tickets (and memorabilia).

The points of this post are the following:

1. Many successful people base their lives on routine.
2. Change is hard especially when you're older.
3. It is hard to be above average for any extended period of time.

Monday, June 01, 2009

You Do

They say beauty is defined by them
They say they have answers
To the questions everyone asks

They tell you about coffee
And tea
Magnificent tea

And you want them so bad
But not at all 
At the same time

They don't care 
What you want

They don't care about you
Or your questions

And you think of your poor dad
Who is not poor at all
He don't drink coffee
And those limey bastards 
Used to stop the war to drink tea

But they don't care about your dad
Or limey bastards
Or war

You look in the mirror
You see what you see
Eyes that have seen too much
But not enough
A face worn
But still young
And you gird your strength
And grit your teeth
And you struggle

Because they don't have to care

But you do

Another Lebron Post

I just heard these lyrics:

"I'm a goddam sore loser."

And that is okay.   If you want to shake people's hands and talk to the media after losses, then you are not really competitive.  You do it, because everyone thinks you should do it.  Not because you want to.  

It is time for Lebron to start voicing what he really wants and stop worrying about everyone else. And Lebron wants an NBA title.  

Danny Ferry better get out of his way.