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.