Thursday, June 30, 2011

June Recap

Remember when I promised that June would have at least 31 posts? Well, June has about 14 hours left in it, and it won't have 31 posts. But here's why.

I sort of have two jobs now. "Sort of" because one of them is teaching in July, which has required work of me in June, and the other one is having me complete assignments although I have not finished contract negotiations, signed paperwork, or learned how I'm getting paid (assuming I'm getting paid).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Put Your Hands on Me / In My Skin-Tight Jeans"

"But rock music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal, to sexual desire--not love, not eros, but sexual desire undeveloped and untutored. It acknowledges the first emanations of children's emerging sensuality and addresses them seriously, eliciting them and legitimating them, not as little sprouts that must be carefully tended in order to grow into gorgeous flowers, but as the real thing. Rock gives children, on a silver platter, with all the public authority of the entertainment industry, everything their parents always used to tell them they had to wait for until they grew up and would understand later." --Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, p. 73

This quote out of context probably makes Bloom sound like a reactionary crank, but the truth is that the entire chapter is a very well-reasoned argument, based on the musical criticism portions of Plato's Republic, of the way rock music has killed the ability to educate young people. After reading this, I feel like King Agrippa: "Almost thou persuadest me to give up rock music."

Title from Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ancient Romans or Modern Westerners?

"In most communities there seemed always to be individuals or a faction which wished to dominate the state, or a group on the fringes of the established political class who were willing to raise a charismatic leader to the dictatorship if he promised to favour them." -- Adrian Goldsworthy, The Punic Wars, p. 222

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Professional Paragon

When I began my PhD studies, I wasn't planning on becoming a professor/pimp, but after reading about this one, I admit that I am now intrigued by the possibilities.

Gator needs his gat!

PS: If any of my professor readers happen to be moonlighting as pimps, feel free to leave some pointers on how to get started in the comments.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Smutty Literature

"For the same reason, it was normally inadvisable to ram from an angle higher than 60 degrees, since this also ran the risk of too deep a penetration." -- The Punic Wars, by Adian Goldsworthy, p. 101.

That's what Salammbo said.

One Nation, Under Nobody in Particular

You know what bothers me more than people doing offensive things? Half-assed apologies for the offensive things.

NBC showed a patriotic lead-in to their TV coverage of the US Open golf tournament today, and in that segment they played the Pledge of Allegiance with the phrase "under God" missing. Some folks minded, and then it was time for NBC to pull out the non-apology.

NBC's on-air statement regarding the issue said, "Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that was in that feature was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone and we’d like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it."

A portion was missing. Not a specific portion. Just a random portion. Could have been "to the flag." It wasn't, but it could have been. And we'll tell you it wasn't done to offend you, and that should be that. Disregard that it was done, and we won't tell you why it was done, but we'll tell you why not it was done, although we won't, in fact, tell you what was done.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Say My Name!

What's the top of my blog say? Does it say "A Random Stranger is barely getting by"? Does it say "A Random Stranger is economically disadvantaged"? Does it say "A Random Stranger is learning to make do with less"?


It's very clear: A Random Stranger is kicking life's ass.

And using super short paragraphs to make a point.




By 1 pm on August 27th, I will have revolutionized the world and everything in it. I will have beaten life like a rented mule.

One thousand years from now when minstrels tell the tale of the ass-kicking summer I'm about to have, they will use this Wesley Willis song as a template.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

So Engaged It's Scary

President Obama had a briefing with his economic advisors yesterday. The Los Angeles Times reports that they haven't met since April 26th, and prior to that, it was March 9th.

March 10th to June 10th is a quarter of a year, in which time the current state of the economy merited ONE meeting of the economic team. That's one fewer meeting than number of Final Four brackets he filled out in the same period.

Best Laid Plans

I have some catching up to do on blogging.

This past week I've been reading a bunch (see my previous post), so I haven't had much time to blog, nor have I had much to blog about. I've also been interviewing for a job, and tonight I have a final interview with the employee who would be working most closely with me, to make sure we're compatible. It seems like I'll probably get this job, which would be pretty good. It pays fairly poorly (but better than zero), and it should allow me to make some fairly good contacts in the DC area. It would also be working from home, which is something I would really like.

Speaking of "home," I am getting more and more frustrated with where we currently live. The loud neighbors have turned out to also be stinky neighbors, and their stink is invading our home. Our storage closet and our coat closet smell like unbathed giant dogs, and the smell is now in the kitchen most days. I really, really want to move, but this job doesn't seem like it will pay us enough to do that. But then, we didn't have enough money to move to Virginia in the first place, and I still did that.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Reading Plans

Since I moved my completed reading from the sidebar to its own page, it is probably all slipping under the radar, just how my reader(s, perhaps?) want(s, probably) it. Well, allow me to bring that crap right up on the middle of the radar screen for just a moment.

Some of my yearly goals go unreached, and they roll over to the next year. In 2003 I read 20,000 pages and I decided to set a goal of 25,000 for the next year. I have not yet reached it. Recently I wondered if I had managed a 12-month period that garnered that many pages, figuring it would count. (Right? I don't want to "cheat" my way into a goal, but there's no reason that a 25,000-page year has to follow the arbitrary calendar year, is there?) It turned out my best 12-month period was April 2003 through March 2004 (23,409 pages). But even that follows the arbitrary months. A little additional work and I discovered my best 365-day period was 26 March 2003 through 25 March 2004 (24,150 pages).

So 25,000 pages is completely reasonable. Well, if I'm going to accomplish it, now is the time to make the push. Last summer when I was horribly depressed over my chances of passing my qualifying exams, I did a lot of reading. The smart student would have read a lot of economics books to have a better chance of passing the exams. I read a lot of non-economics books so I could forget about the exams altogether. The point is, that I read a lot of pages in the second half of last August.

Before all that reading is one year old, if I read a lot this summer, I can get to my goal. So I'm making a run at it. I have to read 6,750 pages by midnight on 11 August (which will come two hours later for me because I'll be in the Mountain time zone that day). That's my goal, and checking out my Books Read page will keep you updated on how I'm doing.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thinking Out Loud: Stinky Neighborhood Edition

Today I went for a run on one of my usual routes. In one neighborhood I detected a stink I couldn't remember. "Huh," I thought, "it turns out this neighborhood is stinky."

Here's what I'm wondering: how will the neighborhood stink affect the prices of homes? The seller knows of the stink and the buyer does not, but I think this is a little more interesting than a straight-up asymmetric information case. In standard asymmetric information thinking, like in Akerlof's "Market for Lemons" paper, the information is not only unknown to one transactor but unknowable. In this case, the stink is unknown but knowable.

Given that the stink is knowable, prices should be lower. I'll sell you my $200,000 house for $170,000, say, which is essence a $30,000 payment to get you to accept the stinky externality. I can't cover it up like in Akerlof's model because there's some probability you will find out the information. So is the threat of perfect information enough to get the perfect information outcome?

I think it will have something to do with the value of p. With the stink, the deciding factor is whether the wind is blowing a certain direction on the day the potential buyer is in the neighborhood. As long as there's a positive probability of finding out on any given day, it's a given you will find out, and that will factor into a discounted price.

I know there are lots of problems with this thinking, probably, (not the least of which is my rusty memory of infinite sequences and series), but this is what I was going through when I was running today. (Full disclosure: I was walking for most of this thinking. Something is wrong with my body, and I overheat and have an elevated heart rate lately. Running sucks (more than usual) now.)


Okay, so I promised the awesomest blogging month ever, and then I took a few days off. Maybe my blog is like fine wine: overpriced and only enjoyed by the pretentious. No, wait.

So here's something to talk about: wild beavers are rampaging in Philadelphia. We had beavers for neighbors in Kansas for a bit. The creek beside our house suddenly became a pond. I was upset because I thought it was the result of shoddy work done by a utility crew that had recently been in the area. I didn't really want to live next to an unfenced body of water with three small kids. However, a few weeks later, we spotted the lodge next to the dam. We never actually saw the beavers before the county chainsawed their dam.

What was the point of this? I don't know. Maybe I'm practicing for when I'm 80 years old and I tell pointless reminiscences.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

British Parliamentarians Loose in Brussels

I'm trying to break my "Hot in Herre" habit. While watching some auto-tuned news videos, I became aware of this great harangue from MEP Nigel Farage. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Wal-Mart Date

A lot of our "date nights" are trips to Target or Wal-Mart. Tonight I tried to make out with my wife in an aisle.

SUPER-HOT 111: [pushing me away] There are people from our ward who shop here.

A RANDOM STRANGER: On the list of people I don't want to get caught kissing in Wal-Mart, you're not one of them.

[strange-looking man walks by on the cross aisle]

ARS: That guy is one of them.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Musical Interlude

What have I been watching over and over for the past two days?

Unbiased Journalism

When Rick Santorum was a senator, he spent most of his time in the DC area. No surprise there; if Americans didn't want full-time congressmen, they shouldn't allow their Congress to pass resolutions honoring sports champions. But because Santorum was a polarizing figure, his Pennsylvania school district tried to declare he was not a resident while he was still his state's senator. When Santorum lost reelection in 2006, he sold his Virginia home.

Santorum is going to formally announce his presidential campaign on Monday, and the public servants at MSNBC want you to remember this fake controversy. Not because it's unresolved, or because it somehow impacts this race. Whether he spent the early part of the previous decade as a Pennsylvanian or a Virginian doesn't impact his eligibility for the presidency. No, they just want you to not like Rick Santorum.

As for how I feel about Rick Santorum, which I know is why you are all here reading this (all three of you), I don't know much about the guy beyond his strong opposition to abortion. That checks out just fine, as I'm opposed to abortion, too. Santorum might have a problem in that he seems to be not a conservative candidate with an abortion position, but an abortion candidate with some conservative positions. But people thought Lincoln was too anti-slavery to win the general election, so you never know. Twelve more months of nine-percent unemployment (or, as I see it, 15.8% un- and under-employment) and abortion will not be the biggest issue of the election.

Bigot '12

I get the feeling when Mike Huckabee's volunteering without being asked that he might still run for president is on the same day that Mitt Romney officially announces his campaign, Huckabee is once again putting his religious bigotry ahead of the party and the nation.

Again this year, I'm not on the Mitt bandwagon, and it's not because I'm a Huntsmaniac (a phrase I just coined, so don't steal it, jackass). I'm open to a political argument for why the two Mormons aren't the best Republicans in the field. What I cannot tolerate is Huckabee's show Christianity. It's more sickening to me than Palin's show Popularism.

My presidential candidate of choice is Paul Ryan, but he seems fairly certain he's not running. He hasn't given a Sherman-esque refusal, but close. The rest of the field is a long way back. There are things to like about Christie (who also says he's not running, but the difference is Christie doesn't mean it), and Ron Paul can make a lot of sense (before he says something that makes no sense at all).

Since 2008 I've been saying "It takes a Carter to get a Reagan." But what happens when a Carter comes along and there're no more Reagans to be found?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Internal Monologue

Leaving a job interview yesterday, I said to myself: "I think that went really, really well." Just then I had a very clear mental image of the interviewers saying to themselves, "I think that went really, really badly."


I know my blog has taken a hit lately. Depression and ending a semester has knocked me off the blogging wagon. Crap posts like this are designed to help me get back on. June will have at least 31 posts. You'd figure a few of them would have to be good, even if accidentally. (If you figured that, you probably haven't read this blog very long. Quickly pick 31 random posts to read, and then despair over the slim chances that June will produce anything worthwhile.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Pool Talk

Our community pool is now open for bidness. Today was the first this season we went. Shortly after entering the water, we found ourselves floating next to a gang of bikinied girls who appeared in my judgment to be about 15 years old. Their leader said,

I don't want no other man in my life. My mom told me, 'If Pablo wants to marry you, you have my blessing because I've never seen you as happy as he makes you.'

I asked Super-Hot 111, "How old do you think that girl is?" She said, "I don't know? Thirteen?"

Then, leaving the pool, we saw a 12-year-old boy smoking. He had been the cigarette hook-up for an adult woman who was smoking in the kiddie pool until a friend told her, "I don't think you can smoke in here," (at which time she took her smoking into the women's dressing room).