Saturday, July 31, 2004

 

Just a few links on a Saturday

Courtesy of Mahalanobis, this is an article (pdf) on the self-selection bias that is interesting.

For my fellow gamblers in the Detroit area, here is an article from the Detroit Free press.

Finally, an interesting article on economics and eduction.

I'll try to add a little commentary later when I have some more time, but most readers probably just click to the link anyway so enjoy.



Wednesday, July 28, 2004

 

Poetry of Acid

I destroyed most of my poetry...so much of it was just a reminder of the pain and I get to keep that anyway, so it really isn't necessary.  What remains of my poetry, I thought, was in a book that I had tried to give to Emily as part of a graduation present.  She refused the gift and so it is still with the girl who was to give it to her.  Still, I guess that wasn't all of it.  I was unpacking a box last night and ran across one that survived.  It is obviously written by someone rather young, but then again that person is me so I'm not sure if I wrote something today that it would sound much different.

The poetry of acid
and the singing of the dope
the screaming of the dying souls
and the silence of the hope.

The pounding of my heart
set to some ancient drum
the vibrations of my soul
as they call  out for a gun

the sounds that gang up on me
and scream at me at night
are the sounds that come from loving you
it's the wrongness of the right

And hiding in the silence
somewhere in the noise,
I'm reminded hope belongs
to other girls and boys.

--Josh  1996

I seem to remember that there was a slightly better version of it after a rewrite, but I can't remember what the change was.  I don't know if it would have made it anymore tolerable.  For those of you who might wonder whether any of my poetry is worth a (insert your choice of expletives here), I sincerely doubt it.  They weren't bad for a high school student, but the immaturity of the writing style becomes apparent readily in retrospect.  I sometimes wonder if it wasn't a good thing Emily didn't take the  book because then the more I thought about how bad some of the poetry was the more I would be tormenting myself and imagining her reading it and laughing at me.  I do remember another poem from memory.  I had to read it quite a bit and it was published in the local paper, but I think it was more or less one of those lets laugh at the kids kind of things.  Here is that one:

I am driven to annoyance
I am brought into a rage
when the world tosses and turns me
like wind amongst the sage
when the pleas of all the world
go forgotten or denied
despite all our efforts
and no matter what we've tried
when I have loved her
yet she will not love me
when I can't get it through my head
that it just wasn't meant to be.
I think we need a world that's fair
where what wins is always right,
but I think we'd all settle for true love
if even for just one night.
--Josh 1995

Well, there ya all go...in an act of self indulgence I might have Marie dig that book out and I could post them online here.  I must admit, for the mediocrity of the poems, I do want to go back from time to time and read them.  Sometimes it is just an extension of my Emily intoxication, but other times it is because I actually remember some strange phrase or use of wording that I had particularly liked and I just want to see how it held up.  I don't know really, I guess I am just in one of those moods tonight.  I have things to say about the DNC, but all the energy has been sapped from me as I attempt to wrestle with my inner demons yet again.  I really thought they were supposed to call the match at some point when it is obvious you stand no chance of winning. 

Maybe I will be back to my more interesting (comparatively anyway) rants later.  Catch ya on the flip side.

 


Monday, July 26, 2004

 

Higher Gas Tax Means more Hours of Work?

One more post today.  I am upset as usual by the fact that people all around me complain about gas prices.  Gas prices are obscenely low not only from a historic perspective (adjusting for inflation), but also from a geographic perspective.  I am not a big fan of taxes in general, but specific taxes are another question.  I often annoy my more conservative friends because I see justification for an inheritance tax.  This NBER paper suggests increasing taxes (to a point) on gasoline would not only decrease car use, but also increase hours of work.  (Obviously there are some jobs upon which the opposite effect would occur.  Jobs that require a great deal of driving, for example.  However, it is hard to think of a job that requires a great deal of driving where decreasing the amount of time driving wouldn't at least increase efficiency in some sense.  I am thinking of trucking and incomplete loads on a truck).  I just wanted to throw it out there. 

 

Where is that girl from Norway?

I had this girl from Norway in several of my econ classes in college.  I never learned her name.  I mean she kept telling me what it was, but for some reason I couldn't remember it so I just started calling her Miss Norway.  She was a very nice woman and not unattractive (I knew several guys who lusted for her long legs and ample assets, unfortunately she wasn't blonde) but what I remember most about her was that she fully intended to go back to Norway after she graduated and work in Norway.  She admitted to the problems with the economic system and did not even agree with the welfare state or even general economic policies, but it was her home and she had a certain longing to go back.  I can understand that.  unfortunately, as with so many of my college classmates, I didn't even really think about keeping in touch, but I would have loved to hear her take on this.  (For people who refuse to click on a link without knowing what it is...It is an article on the problems Norway has had on getting its employees to show up for work.)

Thinking about the Norway girl made me think about the girl from Price Theory  who was from Sweden.  She was blond.  Still not my ideal woman, but you have to get points for being a tall blonde from Sweden right?  Anyway, she was not an econ major...Price Theory was required for a degree in International Management, or whatever that degree was called and that is why she was there.  She did not particularly want to go back to Sweden to live and work.  She was looking forward to working in the U.S. but was afraid that she might have trouble getting a VISA...This was actually right after 9/11 and I remember her family came for a visit and she was wondering if they would have any problems getting into the country.  I didn't expect much of a problem (as bad as it sounds, I doubted that authorities were worrying about tall, blonde, Swedish girls in their 20's and their parents).  I thought about her when I read this article about foreign students being allowed to stay in the country until their applications are decided for VISAs.  The first point I want to make is that the article is unnecessarily vague.  "Certain foreign students"?  What the hell is that?  I don't know if the journalist just felt that it was unneccessary to explain what the criteria was or whether he just didn't know or understand, but it was troublesome to me.  The second point is one of timing...the article doesn't explain whether the reason for allowing the students to stay is because the government is taking longer than expected to process the applications or whether there is some other reason.  These are just points of journalistic style I suppose, but every once in awhile I have to vent on something like this...

By the way...whatever happened to the Swedish girl?  I wish I knew...she performed Swedish massages during her college years and at what she was charging could easily pull down a six figure income so I think it would be pretty interesting to see what she is doing now.  Also, as a policy point, we should have more open borders in any case, but could we at least start with the hot blondes...

Alright, I'm almost done...just bear with me here.  Geekpress directed me to this article.

"A heart drug being tested in black patients is on course to become the first medicine approved for use in a specific ethnic group, challenging those scientists who believe that race is a bad basis for prescriptions." 

I don't really have much to say on the issue per se, but I thought it was an interesting article...I might have some thoughts later on, but thoughts are so rare for me that I doubt it. 

Last thing I wanted to comment on today.  On the way home from my appointment today I was listening to NPR's MarketPlace and they started talking about Google and the Dutch Auction that they are performing for their IPO.  They were talking about today's announcement that the buy in price for a share of stock is going to be somewhere between $108 and $135.  I think that NPR made some good points, but it got me to thinking back to my days reading articles on Auction Theory.  I remember the first book that I read on the subject was an old book probably written before much theory was in existence.  I forget the title, but the author said that there were 2 interesting points about auctions.  1.  Theoretically the type of auction chosen should not effect the outcome of the auction.  2.  The type of auction obviously effects the outcome of the auction. 

The author was referring to the "Revenue Equivalence Theorem" which basically states that the expected price should be the same regardless of the auction chosen.  That is not to say that in actuality all of the auction models would always result in the same price.  It is a subtle distinction.  It is the distinction that point 2 makes clear.  In situations of differing strategies and asymmetrical information, many different outcomes are possible, but the amazing part of auction theory is the number of outcomes that it can effectively eliminate as possibilities.  I'm not going to go into a deep dissertation on auction theory, especially since I am by no means an expert.  I did want to mention one of the more interesting Dutch auctions I have read about though.

Apparently there are Ontario tobacco auctions that use a clock that ticks down the price incrementally and the tobacco buyers have jeopardy style buzzers to click so that when the price falls to what they will buy they can click it.  Reflexes are extremely important using that methodology, especially if most buyers would want to buy at the same price.  The first one to click gets it.  Okay...I'm done rambling on for the day. 


Sunday, July 25, 2004

 

Working on a Sunday (part 356 of countless more)

Well, I'm in the office on a Sunday yet again.  It is a choice, I'm not being mandated too or anything like that, I just don't really have anything better to do...plus I didn't get much work done on Friday so I feel like I need to compensate.  I worked on Sundays, almost every Sunday in fact, when I was back in the banking industry.  Now I am in the government and here I go again.  People are going to start thinking that I'm so incompetent that I can't get everything done in the same  amount of time that everyone else does.  Of course, I don't have much of an incentive to get everything done as quickly as others.  If I had everything done, then I wouldn't have anything to do and since I don't have a girlfriend or family to spend my time with I would just end up being miserably depressed about how I have nothing to do.  Speaking of Sunday though, I always pull out the Kris Kristofferson on Sundays.

Those of you who are Kris fans will know exactly why.  Among other lyrical pieces of brilliance, I am thinking of "Sunday Morning, Coming Down." 

On the Sunday morning sidewalk,
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cos there's something in a Sunday,
Makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothin' short of dyin',
Half as lonesome as the sound,
On the sleepin' city sidewalks:
Sunday mornin' comin' down.

On a more interesting note, it looks like Microsoft is looking to unload Slate.  I find this interesting because I read slate, but often times I find myself wondering why.  It is not a newspaper and its articles feel more like op-ed pieces than stories.  Don't get me wrong, I am not one of those people who only listens to radio programs or news shows that support my beliefs, but Slate has always struck me as being a particularly strange venture for as big and mainstream a company as Microsoft.  That is almost certainly not why Microsoft is looking to unload Slate.  The fact that it is simply not a profit generating enterprise and that they simply do not know how to turn it into one seems to be the reason.  In any case, it will be interesting to see what a new owner would do with it, especially if it is bought by a big company, like the Washington Post.  Clearly, whoever buys it is either looking for a vanity project or must have some ideas about how they can turn a profit off of the venture.  This may mean some big changes ahead for Slate readers.  The one thing I would hate  to see change is Landsburg's rather sporadic articles.  They are generally articulate and thoughtful pieces on "economic" topics and are written in a very understandable vernacular.  That being said, I occasionally find that he has either missed a very obvious point or has failed to explain the technicalities of an issue so that the reader is left with the stereotype of economists that they are not living in the real world.  Still, he is infinitely more consistent than Paul Krugman at the NYT.  If the NYT were to buy slate, I can only hope that Landsburg would feel it his duty to speak out against some of  Krugman's more fallacious arguments and inconsistencies.

Anyway, back to the grindstone for a little bit. 




 

Some movie recommendations Post 1

No big news to report today.  My boss from Chicago is coming down on Monday and Tuesday and will observe me on Tuesday on an appointment.  Hopefully all goes well and I don't make an idiot of myself.  I have to go into the office for a couple of hours today (Sunday) to write up a few schedules and to get all my paperwork together for next week which will be fairly busy. 

JV at my office has been telling me that I need to start making lists of movies for everyone to watch since I see pretty much everything and know many obscure ones.  The problem with making a list like that is that I don't even know where to begin.  I think that on a fairly regular basis I will simply pick 5 or 6 movies that I found entertaining or enlightening and comment very briefly upon them as suggestions.  I'm not going to attempt to rank them or prioritize them because every movie is tapping into something different and it is impossible to compare apples to apples as the saying goes.  This is the main reason that despite my knowledge of movies I do not have any knowledge of awards.  I do not follow awards shows mainly because I think they are a sham.  An award for best movie is ridiculous because the category does not define the goal.  The best movie at what?  The best movie to make you think about life and death?  The best movie to make you laugh?  The best movie to make you vomit?  The best movie to put you to sleep?  It is utterly ridiculous.  I studied economics, so I do have sympathy for comparing things that are generally considered incomparable.  Economists often run into this argument from people outside of the field.  The difference between economics and awards shows is that in economics we attempt to account for the differences and to equalize them to engage in an objective measurement.  To the best of my knowledge, most awards shows engage in no leveling procedures to determine what the "best" is.  I have gone far astray of where I intended to be going damnit.  I was going to start listing some movies.  I think I will start with a few comedies.

Swimming with the Sharks (drama/comedy/satire)   This is a brilliant film that looks at the entry level job of P.A. in Hollywood.  Kevin Spacey gives the bests performance I've ever seen him give.  Incidentally, if you like Kevin Spacey, I must recommend---

The Big Kahuna (comedy/drama/philosophical ramblings)  This was a three person play with one set and worked out to be a great film featuring performances by Kevin Spacey, who also produced the film, and Danny DeVito.  DeVito and Spacey work well with each other and DeVito engages in perhaps the most sedate role of his career.  The dialogue is constantly entertaining (The world is full of clocks and mirrors.  It's a damn conspiracy) and there are several important messages to be taken from the film about evangelism, God, how we relate to other people, and a particularly important speech on character.

Noises Off (Comedy)  The comedy in this movie is all about timing.  A group of actors are doing a play and so must race around behind the scenes and deal with their personal problems without missing their next cue to get on stage.  I didn't think much of Christopher Reeves until I saw him in this film. 

Jane White is Sick and Twisted (Comedy)--This is a parody of pretty much every television you can think of.  If you are a pop culture whore, like me, then you should find much of this movie hilarious.  It features Will Wheaton in a roll that makes it clear to me that despite his leading man looks he can deliver on zanier comic possibilities. 

Cannibal Women from the avocado Jungle of Death (B-movie/comedy)--How can you go wrong with lines like these: 

1.  Frat Rat: This is gonna be a toga party and a beer bust, and for special girls like you, we are going to be having a wet T-shirt contest. Bunny: But all my T-shirts are dry.

2. Bunny: I have a lot of fantasies about being tied up and spanked. I suppose it isn't very liberated, is it? What kind of fantasies do feminists have?

I think that speaks for itself, although for those of you interested, it also stars Shannon Tweed, Bill Maher, and Adrienne Barbeau.

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (B-movie/comedy/horror)--I really don't know what to say about this movie other than that it is a classic.  Here is a quote from it:
Jack Chandler: I'd stumbled into the middle of an evil, insidious cult of chainsaw worshipping maniacs. I had to wonder if we'd let our religious freedom go too far in this country, or maybe our immigration laws were just too lax.

If you do check out this movie, make sure and get it on DVD if you have the choice.  The DVD includes a making of featurette and a special introduction by Mr. Fred Olen Ray himself.

Bikini Summer 2 (B-movie/comedy)--I have to recommend this movie for the simple fact that it features Avalon Anders, although I have to ask why she didn't get more screen time and why she hasn't had any more prominent roles.  Her other ventures into film included Wish Me Luck, Sorority House Party (she was extremely underutilized in this film as well), The Great Bikini Off-Road Adventure, and several even smaller rolls.  None of them compare to her performance in Bikini Summer 2 though, but part of that may be because she gets to be both a D.A. and a Dominatrix in the film.  We don't see nearly as much of her legal skills as we do her dominatrix skills, but I don't have a fetish for lawyers so that is fine with me.  Maybe if they do Bikini Summer 4 they can bring her back as a judge...A hot judge/dominatrix could make for a very interesting story.

My Boyfriends Back (comedy)--It is a classic story really.  Boy likes girl.  Girl doesn't know boy is alive.  Boy dies for girl.  Boy comes back from the dead to take girl to prom.  How can you not love that?  It actually has many statements to make about prejudice.  Here is an exchange:
Johnny: It's because I'm dead, isn't it. That's why you won't go out with me. Missy: Don't insult me. Johnny: You're afraid of what people might say, aren't you. Behind your back, everybody whispering, 'there goes Missy and the dead kid'!

Believe it or not, this movie also has a performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who I can't say enough good things about.

Happiness (Dark Comedy)--This movie is deeply disturbing and downright hilarious at points.  Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an obscene phone caller in this one.  I'm not really sure how to describe what it is about as there are many different story lines, but the title of the movie should give you some clues as to the subject matter.  Here are a few lines from the film:

1. Andy: You think I don't appreciate art? You think I don't understand fashion? You think I'm not hip? You think I'm pathetic? A nerd? A lard-ass fat-so? You think I'm shit? Well, you're wrong, 'cause i'm champagne, and you're shit. Until the day you die, you, not me, will always be shit.

2. Helen Jordan: I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you. Joy Jordan: But I'm not laughing.

3. Joe: What do you think would happen if I got him a professional... you know... Bill: A professional? Joe: Hooker. You know, the kind that can teach things... first-timers, you know... break him in. Bill: But Joe, he's 11. Joe: You're right, you're right. It's too late.

Bubba HoTep (comedy/horror)--This stars Bruce Campbell as Elvis and Ossie Davis as a man who thinks he is JFK and that the CIA dyed him Black and put him in a retirement home to hide him.  These two cultural icons have to fight an ancient mummy that is sucking out the souls of the residents at the local Texas retirement home.

Okay, that should be enough movies to get everyone started.  Get out there and support the making of both decent films and low budget films that have campy lines and bikini clad women.  I think it is every American's duty on some level. 

I really do intend at some point to post on current events and political topics, but I think things like books and movies are important too.  Anyway, that is all for now, I need to try and get some sleep before I go into the office.

 




Saturday, July 24, 2004

 

First Post (aptly titled)

Well, I finally decided to engage in this act of self-indulgence and create a blog.  I have been hanging out with a couple of new friends and when I mentioned a story from one of the blogs that I read on a regular basis, they both informed me that they had their own blogs.  The truth is, that I really don't know if I have anything to say...At least not anything that anyone else would care about.  I also would like to state from the outset, that since I am not expecting any readers of this blog, I am not going to go out of my way to be particularly eloquent.  This statement is a word of warning to those people who know me and come across this blog and would like to hold the level of writing on this site against me as a person.  Anyway, where do you start a blog? 

I guess there are three methods of blogging.  One is to be entirely issue or topic oriented.  Two is to blog as if you were writing in a personal journal, with the ability to link and to let others read about why you had an awful day.  Third is obviously an amalgam of the two.   The fact is that if I go too far into my personal life I will invariably spiral out of control and every single post will be about the love of my life and how unrequited love, to put it plainly, sucks.  I am going to try to avoid making that the centerpiece of the blog, though I am sure some night at 2 am when I can't sleep I will make my way over to the computer and in a haze of self pity, I will delve into a diatribe on the virtues of my sweet little pyromaniac.

I am going to try and make this blog a little bit more commentary based, although I make no promises and as the dictator of my particular blogosphere, I will not hesitate to change directions at a whim.  So anyway, as the title of the blog may indicate, I am into economics so there is likely to be an economic slant on most issues.  The title of the blog, Sequential Rationality, is often used in game theory to denote the idea that a player should maximize his payoffs at each point in the game, re-optimizing his decisions at each point and taking into account the fact that he will re-optimize in the future.  The point is that what is rational at one point in time is not necessarily rational at another.  I am sure at some point I will post a blog defining rationality and defending its existence in the real world as this is a topic that seems to come up way too often and I am an ardent believer that the rational agent assumption in many economic models is not unrealistic, despite the objections of my friends in the humanities departments where I went to school.  In any case, I named the blog as I did based on the premise that I will no doubt post things that contradict each other from time to time or will publish a post before my idea has been fully flushed out and before people start creaming me, they might think about the fact that when more information is provided I can be swayed and reassess the optimization point based upon my new information. 

My first real post will probably be tomorrow night, but this evening I thought I would just introduce myself.  Most of that is done.  I am 24 years old and am newly relocated to the Detroit area from Sunny California.  Everyone is always shocked when they find out I moved from California to Detroit on purpose.  They act like it must have been some accident and that I bought a plane ticket without looking at the destination.  I moved to change career paths.  I was in the banking industry but after working 80-100hrs a week for awhile I decided that if I ever wanted to have a family and to treat them right I needed to change careers.  I got a job with the Federal Government and had three choices.  1. San Francisco--If you are going to live in California, live in Southern California.  Northern California is just f'd up.  Okay, maybe I am painting with too broad a brush, but I had an aunt who joined what I consider to be a cult in San Francisco and I can't imagine living in that area, at least not until I'm making 70 or 80 grand a year.  2nd choice was Dallas.  I am trying to find a woman who can make me forget about the most amazing woman on the planet.  This is no easy task and it wouldn't be helped by living in an area where I would have to compare the sweet voice of my angel with the annoying southern drawl of the women in that area.  (Have I offended enough people yet?)  So that left me with my 3rd choice, aka Detroit.  I didn't know too much about it, but I grew up in Illinois so it is kinda like returning to my Midwest roots. 

My roommate just came home...she is a little drunk and seems to need some help so I will say goodnight for now and will hopefully post more later.

 




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