Wednesday, December 28, 2011

25,000 Pages Read

12/29/10The Fourth BearFforde382(382)
12/31/10Book of Mormon Stories for Young Latter-day SaintsPetersen302(684)
12/31/10GoldLewis448(1,132)
1/4/11Hector and the Search for HappinessLelord178(1,310)
1/14/11Denationalisation of MoneyHayek108(1,418)
1/16/11A Dog Called GrkDoder260(1,678)
1/19/11Invasion From Planet DorkTrine138(1,816)
1/22/11The Phantom MudderOdgers & Odgers78(1,894)
1/31/11Very Good, JeevesWodehouse275(2,169)
2/19/11Lehi in the Desert/World of the Jaredites/There Were JareditesNibley476(2,645)
2/22/11Manias, Panics, and CrashesKindleberger303(2,948)
2/28/11The Name of This Book Is SecretBosch374(3,322)
3/8/11Money and Foreign Exchange After 1914Cassel289(3,611)
4/6/11The IliadHomer472(4,083)
4/7/11Grk and the Pelotti GangDoder202(4,285)
4/10/11Abel's IslandSteig119(4,404)
4/13/11Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued AboutMillington378(4,782)
4/17/11The Theory of Monetary InstitutionsWhite272(5,054)
4/19/11IonPlato48(5,102)
4/21/11Tom Brown's SchooldaysHughes466(5,568)
4/22/11Apostles and Bishops in Early ChristianityNibley270(5,838)
4/22/11Chasing VermeerBalliett286(6,124)
4/23/11The White FeatherWodehouse148(6,272)
4/24/11William Tell Told AgainWodehouse92(6,364)
4/28/11The Man Who Was ThursdayChesterton215(6,579)
4/29/11The Mugged PugOdgers & Odgers78(6,657)
5/8/11The Puzzling World of Winston BreenBerlin220(6,877)
5/11/11CiceroEveritt368(7,245)
5/21/11Understanding IsaiahParry, et Al.651(7,896)
5/23/11The RepublicPlato490(8,386)
5/26/11Amazing MontyHurwitz106(8,492)
5/29/11Grk and the Hot Dog TrailDoder218(8,710)
6/6/11Martin Bridge Blazing AheadKerrin110(8,820)
6/7/11One of Our Thursdays Is MissingFforde367(9,187)
6/9/11The Last TemplarKhoury406(9,593)
6/10/11Man Out at FirstChristopher60(9,653)
6/11/11The Great BrainFitzgerald177(9,830)
6/11/11The Hunger GamesCollins384(10,214)
6/15/11Going RoguePalin413(10,627)
6/17/11The Blue StealerOdgers & Odgers81(10,708)
6/18/11Economics in One LessonHazlitt214(10,922)
6/22/11More Adventures of the Great BrainFitzgerald142(11,064)
6/26/11The Punic WarsGoldsworthy402(11,466)
7/8/11Long Stretch at First BaseChristopher148(11,614)
7/11/11The Not-So-Great DepressionKoss266(11,880)
7/17/11BabeKing-Smith118(11,998)
7/18/11Empire FallsRusso483(12,481)
7/28/11Mostly MontyHurwitz86(12,567)
7/31/11Me and My Little BrainFitzgerald137(12,704)
7/31/11The Book of MormonSmith (trans.)541(13,245)
8/10/11Catching FireCollins378(13,623)
8/12/11MockingjayCollins396(14,019)
8/25/11The Happiness ProjectRubin333(14,352)
9/6/11The Closing of the American MindBloom382(14,734)
9/12/11My Man JeevesWodehouse125(14,859)
9/18/11A Confederacy of DuncesToole409(15,268)
9/23/11Inspector JacquesOdgers & Odgers81(15,349)
9/28/11101 Commonsense Rules for Making Things HappenBrinkerhoff265(15,614)
9/28/11Grk: Operation TortoiseDoder234(15,848)
9/28/11A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 1Robinson & Garrett296(16,144)
10/2/11Honus & MeGutman140(16,284)
10/6/11Alas, BabylonFrank339(16,623)
10/10/11The Advanced Genius TheoryHartley268(16,891)
10/15/11The Wright 3Balliett333(17,224)
10/16/11A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 2Robinson & Garrett370(17,594)
10/17/11Optimum Currency AreasBleier, et Al. (eds.)114(17,708)
10/18/11Beric the BritonHenty404(18,112)
10/19/11The ECB: Safe at Any Speed?Begg, et Al.58(18,170)
10/20/11One Money, Many CountriesFavero, et Al.88(18,258)
10/21/11The Crystal BridgePulsipher364(18,622)
10/22/11Comet in MoominlandJansson192(18,814)
10/25/11Less Than ZeroSelgin81(18,895)
11/2/11A Journey to the Center of the EarthVerne580(19,475)
11/12/11The London Eye MysteryDowd325(19,800)
11/18/11Competition and CurrencyWhite263(20,063)
11/19/11Mighty MontyHurwitz106(20,169)
11/23/11Richard IIIShakespeare429(20,598)
11/28/11Grk Smells a RatDoder210(20,808)
11/28/11Cranky PawsOdgers & Odgers87(20,895)
11/30/11A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 3Robinson & Garrett317(21,212)
11/30/11A Canticle for LeibowitzMiller347(21,559)
12/15/11Money MischiefFriedman288(21,847)
12/16/11Doctrine and CovenantsSmith, et Al.305(22,152)
12/17/11A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 4Robinson & Garrett334(22,486)
12/22/11Henry Reed, Inc.Robertson239(22,725)
12/22/11King LearShakespeare383(23,108)
12/23/11Economics of a Pure Gold StandardSkousen188(23,296)
12/24/11The Depression CureIlardi288(23,584)
12/25/11Becoming MetropolitanWood274(23,858)
12/25/11The Pig ScrollsShipton293(24,151)
12/26/11When Money DiesFergusson274(24,425)
12/27/11Managerial DilemmasMiller264(24,689)
12/28/11Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse WomanMiller443(25,132)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Counting Pages

So how do I determine which pages to count? I used to just write down the page number on the last page of text. Then I read Sister Carrie, which had 84 Roman numeral pages of introduction, so I started adding those pages in. Then I read The Gathering Storm, which had nearly 100 pages of endnotes, so I started adding those pages in, too. I don't count the index (because I don't read it), but I do count bibliographies, because I look through them to see if anything else would be interesting to read.

So here's an example of how this all works: I recently finished Economics of a Pure Gold Standard, which has its last page of text on Page 153. However, I count it as reading a 188-page book, because it has a bibliography that ends on Page 164, it has xxii pages of prefaces, and it has two pages of author biography and "about the publisher."

What's more, I've decided that, starting next year, I'm counting journal articles in my reading total, as well. They are recognized separately-titled works that have pagination. I will still NOT count magazine articles, though, because that doesn't seem very sporting. I mean, when I go out to eat I read the menu, but that's not really an accomplishment, is it?

  • King Lear, by William Shakespeare

    FINISHED 12/22

  • Henry Reed, Inc., by Keith Robertson

    FINISHED 12/22

  • The Pig Scrolls, by Paul Shipton

    FINISHED 12/25

  • The Depression Cure, by Stephen S. Ilardi

    FINISHED 12/24

  • Economics of a Pure Gold Standard, by Mark Skousen

    FINISHED 12/23

  • When Money Dies, by Adam Fergusson

    Page 0 of 274

  • Managerial Dilemmas, by Gary J. Miller

    Page 101 of 264

  • Becoming Metropolitan, by Nathaniel D. Wood

    FINISHED 12/25

  • Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

    Page 0 of 443

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Excitement

Yesterday I was lying in bed reading when out on the street there arose such a clatter I thought, "Hmm, I wonder what that was," and waited for my wife to look out the window. A car had lost its tire, nearly sideswiped our car, and come to a rest, leaving a trailing scoring of the pavement. A few hours later the car, now abandoned with its hazard lights on, attracted four police cruisers, much to the delight of my sons.

But on to the real business at hand: a reading update.

  • King Lear, by William Shakespeare

    FINISHED 12/22

  • Henry Reed, Inc., by Keith Robertson

    FINISHED 12/22

  • The Pig Scrolls, by Paul Shipton

    Page 150 of 293

  • The Depression Cure, by Stephen S. Ilardi

    FINISHED 12/24

  • Economics of a Pure Gold Standard, by Mark Skousen

    FINISHED 12/23

  • When Money Dies, by Adam Fergusson

    Page 0 of 274

  • Managerial Dilemmas, by Gary J. Miller

    Page 101 of 264

  • Becoming Metropolitan, by Nathaniel D. Wood

    Page 78 of 274

  • Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

    Page 0 of 443

Friday, December 23, 2011

Vote Early and Often in South Carolina

South Carolina thinks voting should be as secure as renting a movie. The Justice Department disagrees. The DOJ's explanation is complete nonsense.

"The state's data demonstrate that non-white voters are both significantly burdened" by the law and "disproportionately unlikely to possess the most common types of photo identification" needed, Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said in a letter to the state.

Long-distance bus rides require an ID. Getting a library card requires an ID. But the DOJ is fighting to keep voting less secure than those processes. Of course, driving a car requires an ID, yet no one is out making the argument that minorities are disproportionately burdened when they want to drive cars.

What if the state had a mobile ID lab that came to minorities' houses and gave them a free ID? Would the DOJ drop its opposition. No, because this isn't about racial equality. It's about allowing inelligible voters to participate in elections. That's what same-day registration does, that what "provisional ballots" do, and that's what the DOJ wants in its fight against voter ID laws. Preserving a republican form of government requires oversight of the voting process. The federal government is making travel as burdensome as possible while snuffing out any attempt to safeguard the actual basis of liberty.

Christmas Slow-Down

I'll probably blog about random things over the next few days, but most of my time is going to be spent reading.

  • King Lear, by William Shakespeare

    FINISHED 12/22

  • Henry Reed, Inc., by Keith Robertson

    FINISHED 12/22

  • The Pig Scrolls, by Paul Shipton

    Page 100 of 293

  • The Depression Cure, by Stephen S. Ilardi

    Page 94 of 288

  • Economics of a Pure Gold Standard, by Mark Skousen

    Page 74 of 188

  • When Money Dies, by Adam Fergusson

    Page 0 of 274

  • Managerial Dilemmas, by Gary J. Miller

    Page 101 of 264

  • Becoming Metropolitan, by Nathaniel D. Wood

    Page 26 of 274

  • Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

    Page 0 of 443

My first choice would be to finish this all by the end of the 26th. If that doesn't happen, though, finishing all of this by the end of the 28th will accomplish the same goal. (On the 29th I have 382 pages expire, so I'd have to replace them.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Another Day At the Office

When I first got my sweet office, I didn't know this was going to be part of the deal.

Two hours in the office, then upstairs for a while to return circulation to my feet. Hence my recent bleg regarding space heaters.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Celebrity Switch

I have a negative opinion of most celebrities. I think there's something wrong with people who need to be known to strangers. (I differentiating between celebrities and just plain actors, musicians, and athletes. Albert Pujols is an athlete; Alex Rodriguez is a sports celebrity.)

I also have a negative opinion of people who have favorable opinions of celebrities. Once I watched Rita Wilson be interviewed on Oprah Winfrey's show. An audience member asked Rita if her husband (Tom Hanks) would consider running for office because "I just love him and think he'd do a great job." I thought, "You don't KNOW him! You know the characters he portrays and the persona he adopts for publicity events. You have no idea what his position is on ANYTHING (aside from an informed guess that he toes the elite statist line)." I already had a low opinion of the audience member (because she was in the audience at a taping of Oprah), but it fell a little lower after her question.

So I don't really subscribe to celebrity worship. But there is one celebrity that I WOULD trade lives with: Michael Bublé. That's just a no-brainer. The guy is super good-looking and rich, and he can sing like nobody's business.

When I first realized I wanted to switch lives with Michael Bublé, I thought, "Provided I could take my family with me," but then I thought about it some more and realized that proviso was unnecessary. Because Michael Bublé could bag my wife in about thirty seconds. (But then she'd have to learn to say "Bublé" without saying "Bubliet." Something tells me that, given those circumstances, she'd find a way.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

"The Government Hates Competition"

I remember being a kid and seeing the bumper sticker, "Don't steal: the government hates competition." I didn't really understand it (don't governments stop people from stealing?), but, like I said, I was a kid.

On Marginal Revolution I read this excerpt from a Financial Times article:

Indeed, the basic functions of organised crime – protection rackets, narcotics, extortion and prostitution, have increasingly been assumed by the Russian state.

Just an aside ("Just an Aside" would be a very good name for a blog): I hate the Financial Times registration requirement. Yeah, I know it's free, but it requires me to log in. If you're going to inconvenience me, at least make some money from it, right? What ends up happening is I click on the link, see the log-in box, and then think, "Oh, yeah, I forgot I don't read the Financial Times," EVEN THOUGH I HAVE AN FT LOG-IN. Just make your ad revenue from counting visitors like a normal website, FT, okay?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Terminology

I refuse to use fad terms. I feel like I'm in an impossible situation: I'm being insufferably trendy if I do, and insufferably boorish if I don't.

When a blogger writes about something he saw on someone else's blog, he sometimes gives the original blogger a "hat tip" for being his source. That would be bad enough, but this gets abbreviated as "HT." I can't stand that crap. I refuse to give hat tips; instead I note who pointed it out.

When we frequented Cold Stone Creamery in Lawrence (high school friends' nickname: Stone Cold Creamery), I refused to use their size names of "Like It," "Love It," and "Gotta Have It." I hate myself a little (more) for even typing them out right now. I said I wanted a "medium," and the scoop-jockey knew what I meant every time.

There have been times when I've been in an IHOP and wanting to eat the Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N' Fruity breakfast, but have ordered something else to keep from having to say the name to the waiter. Don't make me say something stupid when ordering. I won't do it.

I feel like Michael Bluth in Season 2, telling everyone in his family who uses the term "The O.C." to not say that.

In Celebration of Ebenezer Scrooge

Stephen Landsburg writes on Slate.com:

In this whole world, there is nobody more generous than the miser—the man who could deplete the world's resources but chooses not to.
Pointer from Robin Hanson.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

In My Sights

If I finish reading this stack of books before midnight on December 26th*, I will have read 25,000 pages in a year.

In the stack:

  • King Lear, by William Shakespeare
  • Henry Reed, Inc., by Keith Robertson
  • The Pig Scrolls, by Paul Shipton
  • The Depression Cure, by Stephen S. Ilardi
  • Economics of a Pure Gold Standard, by Mark Skousen
  • When Money Dies, by Adam Fergusson
  • Managerial Dilemmas, by Gary J. Miller
  • Becoming Metropolitan, by Nathaniel D. Wood
  • Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

* = Midnight is technically tricky. Actual "midnight" (meaning 12:00:00 AM) on December 26th is at the start of the day, but in standard usage, "midnight on December 26th" means the end of the day. I'm using it here in the standard usage sense, even though I know it's wrong.

Friday, December 16, 2011

"Overturning the Existing Basis of Society"

Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become 'profiteers,' who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.

Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.

John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919)

***

As Forrest Capie points out in a fascinating paper (1986, p. 117), it took a century for the inflation in Rome, which contributed to the decline and fall of the empire, to raise the price level "from a base of 100 in 200 AD [sic] to 5000...--in other words a rate of between 3 and 4 percent per annum compound."

Milton Friedman, Money Mischief (1992)

***

The inflation rate in United States was last reported at 3.4 percent in November of 2011. From 1914 until 2010, the average inflation rate in United States was 3.38 percent....

www.tradingeconomics.com, "United States Inflation Rate"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not Dead (Yet)

I don't have anything blog-worthy today. (Careful readers of this blog will know that that's really saying something.) I'm finishing a paper and giving an exam. My last paper had its deadline extended to Monday, so I'll be working on it this weekend.

I got bumped from teaching Money and Banking next semester to teaching Industrial Organization. That's annoying because I enjoyed Money and Banking and had already taught it once, so would be able to cut down on preparation time (which would mean preparing for negative amounts of time). But it's not all bad because it'll broaden the teaching experience I will have when it comes time to find a job. And I/O is a fun topic. Lots of simultaneous equations to solve.

I told you I didn't have anything blog-worthy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Highs and the Lows of Pittsburgh

Last month I drew attention to Pittsburgh being the only American city on National Geographic's list of "must-see places."

Don't let it be said I only look on the bright side of life. (I know lots of people have been saying that about me lately.) The truth is: if you live in Pittsburgh during a bioterrorism attack, you will probably die.

I think I'm going to be okay, though, because I have plans to move away right before any attack comes.

Informer

When a third-world dictator asks his supporters to report which of their friends have dissident political views, we would bemoan the creation of a thought police Gestapo. But when it happens here, it's just for purposes of friendly persuasion.

Obama's reelection campaign is asking contributors to submit the names and e-mail addresses of Republicans. "Oh, but it's just for a joke e-mail." Only if the campaign wants it to go no further. There's no disputing the fact that the administration is compiling a list of citizens who don't support its policies; the only question is what they will do with it. Instead of trusting they use it appropriately, wouldn't it be better if they didn't create it at all?

Oh, and it goes without saying that I've already informed on all of you. I can squeal faster than a pig in sexual congress. Consider yourselves Gestapoed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jill's Cousin Mitt Is In the Hands of Demon Vice

So Mitt Romney took a page from the Bryan Caplan playbook and tried to make a bet with Rick "Somethin' 's wrong in the world when them queer-folk can act all respectable-like" Perry. And now everyone has their collective knickers in a twist.

Romney is rich, but so are the rest of the candidates. It's another example of hitting a guy with whatever is handy. Romney's rich, Gingrich's divorced, Bachmann's depressed (which should get its own blog post in a week or so). Not only do these things barely matter (if they matter at all), when it comes to riches, they all have them.

Gingrich says Romney made millions bankrupting companies. It's called liquidation and it's a vital economic activity. Attack the guy for a real position, not for a negative portrayal of a legitimate job.

Monday, December 12, 2011

They Don't Teach Geometry at Columbia

President Obama said this week: "Steve, the math is the math. You can't lower rates and raise revenue, unless you're getting revenue from someplace else."

Tax revenue is the tax rate multiplied by the tax base. Call tax revenue "area," call tax rate "height," and call tax base "length." Now we're dealing with third-grade geometry. If one rectangle is 4*6 = 24, is there a value for X such that 2*X = 30?

Of course there is. But Obama thinks there isn't. You can't possibly lower rates while increasing revenue, he says.

This is unsettling. Is he ignorant of grade-school mathematics, or is he really this much of a demagogue? Neither is a condition desirable in a president.

Boredom Practice

A note from my daughter:

I am Practiceing Sitting still for christmas eve. can You Please tell me some long convortation about something or other. Plus I need some thing to look forward to like on christmas eve we have presents.

I asked her, "So you want me to get you excited about something and then tell you a boring story?" She said, "Yes, so I can practice for when we have to listen to scriptures before we open presents."

Lame Dreams

I got an interview with the board of directors of my father's company for a cartography position for them. I showed up to the board meeting and told the secretary I was there, and they completely blew me off.

So I left and ended up at the Saint George Deseret Book, which was gigantic from the outside, but the inside was totally lame. It was like a crafting store on the inside (which isn't too different from a real Deseret Book), with nearly no books at all. I asked a worker where the books were and she pointed to one low shelf of one display, and it was behind the legs of an unfriendly-looking old lady, so I just left.

Next I was at the Camarillo Stake Center, where I was hosing down cars. One of the cars tried to drive away and I chased it. I followed it all the way across Constitution Park and City Hall before my hose ran out. I had to wind the hose back up, and some guys from Camarillo showed up to help. Erik's brother Christian was one of them. He had tattoos on his wrists and he was frustrated with me for getting the hose tangled up in a bunch of plants. When we were done with the hose, I suggested we all go swimming at a local apartment pool.

While at the pool, I got a call from my dad's company's board of directors that didn't tell me anything, so I went back to the meeting and found out they were very angry with me for leaving. I was supposed to have waiting for my turn, but it hadn't been obvious to me that I was ever going to have a turn. My father was mad because I made him look bad in front of his bosses.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stressful Dreams

Dreams are supposed to be relaxing. That's why people say "in your dreams" about unreasonably nice things. But lately my dreams have been about my regular life. That's not relaxing at all.

Last night's dream: I exited the freeway at an offramp that had an unexpected toll booth. I turned off the engine to save gas, and I started looking for change. The booth worker said the toll was $25. I didn't have $25, so I decided to drive to the next exit. But then my car's starter, which has been slowly become less and less reliable over the past three years, wouldn't start at all. I had to call Triple-A and I was deciding to get towed to our house instead of a mechanic when I woke up.

This is bogus. I want relaxing dreams. What's the point of going to sleep if it's just going to be like being awake?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Don't Make Me Turn This Into a Private Blog

I should be able to write stuff without you people getting all weird on me. My wife is concerned that I'm oversharing lately, and that someone might go and do something awkward as a result. Well, don't.

In other news, now that my semester is nearly over, I've requested Nathan's book from the interlibrary loan program again. Last time I got Georgetown's copy, but now that one is missing (I swear I returned it), so I'm going to get American University's copy. I hope not to lose every copy in the DC metro area.

What can any of you people tell me about space heaters? Aren't they huge fire hazards? Or was that just old models? Maybe the fire hazardness of it has been corrected.

Current reading: King Lear; Doctrine and Covenants; A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 4; Money Mischief; Henry Reed, Inc.; and The Mortal Messiah, Book 2. I hope to top 23,000 pages by the end of the year, and top 25,000 pages for year-running by the end of February.

I want to make a vinyl lettering sign that reads "Vinyl Lettering Is Over-Rated," takes its picture, and pin it on Pinterest. (Yes, I'm a dude on Pinterest. I'm confident in my sexuality.)

Friday, December 09, 2011

Spreading Some Cheer

Yesterday I had a student come to office hours. She's failing badly and wanted to talk about what her options were next semester. I respected that she was taking responsibility for her grades and wasn't coming to me with pleas for unfair leniency. To help cheer her up, I told her about how I failed out of school and switched majors twice. It worked like a charm; she went away smiling and even came to class later in the day.

Not the Blog I Envisioned

I don't want to write one of those complaining-about-everything blogs. Seriously, when I envision my blog, I see it filled with humorous self-deprecating tales, insightful economic analysis of mainstream appeal, and occasional sardonic anecdotes. I don't see this as a place to vent frustration, mainly because venting is not shown to actually improve mental health, but also because it doesn't really increase readership.

However, comma, my brain does need to unload some things. There are times when I need to move on to something else, but I can't because my brain keeps cycling the problem. This was why I paid our previous landlord's bogus fee; I couldn't concentrate on school when my brain kept thinking, "Those bastards need to receive the following angry letter...."

I have to finish three papers this weekend, and had plans to finish two today, but then I woke up and opened yesterday's mail and today's e-mail, and now I've spent a good part of the day contemplating alternative employment.

My non-teaching job is an independent contractor position. I work from home because the company has no physical office space. A couple times every month I have to go to meetings in DC, which requires a lot of commuting time for me (we live in a fringe suburb, Bakersfield-Near-the-Potomac). Since it is not my regular office, I bill for the travel time. Yesterday my November paycheck came in the mail. I was at school all day, so I didn't open it until this morning, when I saw that it was $70 light. Then I got an e-mail explaining that I'd get paid for travel to a different city, but not to a meeting in town because it's like going to work.

Except that it's not like going to work for me. I took the job agreeing to a commute of walking down two flights of stairs. That's my office commute. Three hours of travel time and $8 of Metro expense was not part of my accepting the job. If I'd get paid to attend a client meeting in Chicago, I should be paid to attend a client meeting in DC.

I know a normal person would say, "It's only $70; walk it off." Except for the whole crushing poverty thing I outlined earlier this week. I don't have a $70 cushion to absorb unpaid work. And the two-weeks-before-Christmas timing of the thing pisses me off, too. As does the weak-ass way of handling it. Thanks for the phone call and the discussion. Oh, wait, you just told the bookkeeper to write a smaller check and didn't mention it to me until the check had arrived.

I can't afford to work for this company anymore, but I also can't afford to leave the position until the end of January. I don't think I can avoid DC meetings for six weeks, and I don't think I can explain that I'm no longer available for DC meetings without leaving my position. I went from interviewing with an understanding that I'd get $X/hr. to being offered 80% of X, to an after-tax pay of 68% of X, to an effective wage of 34% of X when I have client meetings. This upsets me, and I think justifiably so.

Okay, now to finish two papers today ("The Vox Populi as the Vox Dei: Voter Preference and Opinion Polls" and "Prison Money: Metallist Convergence in the Post-Cigarette Era") and one tomorrow ("Optimum Currency Areas Within the United States: A Beginning Look at Region-Based Currencies").

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Grammar Overthought Right(ly)

Somewhere along the way, I ended up with a blog entitled "Overthinking It" in my Google Reader feed. Here I've read about such things as the economics of The Hunger Games, Belle's delusion in Beauty and the Beast, and why Justin Bieber's early songs will sound bad when sung by an adult Justin Bieber. (Curiously, though, this is not where I read about the Endor Holocaust.)

Today on "Overthinking It" is a post about verb conjugation when a singular noun has a compound name (like the singular television show "Beavis and Butt-head"). It yields gems like the following:

The Smurfs (the show) was adapted as a movie, but the smurfs (all the little blue pests themselves) were awful in it. Or, more generally, though The Smurfs smurfs smurfily, the smurfs smurf smurfily.
In summation: "The Kardashians is a terrible show, but the Kardashians are terrible people."

My daughter needs to read this. She hasn't met a compound subject that she doesn't think can include the pronoun "me." First I told her I would tickle her. She persisted. Then I told her I would bite her. She persisted. Then I told her I would sit on her head and "toot" (our family's vulgar term for farting). She persisted. Now I tell her I am going to punch her in the face. She laughs and moves on with the story about what "me and Grace" did.

My Future Epitaph

"I am unhappy with what I have done but even more unhappy with the most obvious alternative." - Milton Friedman, Money Mischief, p. 98.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Christmas Comes Early

In August I began another semester of graduate school. If our student loans had worked out the way we were led to believe they would, we would have eased our way out of chronic poverty and into the lower-lower-middle class.

"Why would he put all those qualifiers on 'our student loans worked out'?" Well, because they didn't. And while we were trying to figure all that out, our last landlords tried to cheat us out of a thousand dollars. Writing letters back and forth and worrying about the next step was a distraction from the things I needed to be doing. While I was trying to figure out what to do, I remembered Doctrine and Covenants 19:35. "Pay the debt thou hast contracted with the printer. Release thyself from bondage." So I paid the disputed bill, telling myself it would be fine when our student loan money got released to us.

When we found out the student loan money wasn't going to come to us, we went from chronic poverty to crushing poverty. Our kids will still have some things to open on Christmas because of grandparents sending presents, but that will be it.

(Luckily we laid the groundwork for a small Christmas after last year, when our kids got new toys even though they were perfectly content with their old toys. It's a lot easier to keep Christmas small when they aren't competing with classmates* and don't see TV ads. And it was just a trivial step from "small Christmas" to "no Christmas." But grandparent presents have pushed the needle back to "minuscule Christmas," and since we never qualified "small," we can pretend this is what we meant all along.)

My wife and I were planning on not receiving anything (at least I was; if my wife wasn't, she should be once she reads this). Her parents sent us a little money to spend on presents for each other from them. And this is how...we got a new shower curtain rod today!

Our last one broke in September and we've been using the other shower since then. (Good thing we moved to a place with two showers this past summer.) Today I got my Christmas present shower rod from my in-laws and used it for the first time. It worked admirably.

A post like this should end with a life lesson about what really matters in life. You know what really matters in life? Money. Because without it a modern man cannot provide jack crap for his family. Can my kids eat explanations of covered interest parity? They cannot. (I tried.) Will they be excited on Christmas morning to open a lecture on the Long Run Phillips Curve? I doubt it. Will my landlord take payment in plans for restructuring the Federal Reserve? The contract doesn't say he will. I have one responsibility that's mine alone: to provide for my family. That means get them the money they need. Life is terrible right now.

*: Last spring I was sort of an assistant to the assistant coach for my son's tee ball team. Once I stood by and heard two six-year-olds compare their video game systems. "I have a Didj, Nintendo DS, PlayStation3, and xBox." "I have a Nintendo DS, PlayStation, and Wii." This past fall the same thing happened between kids on his soccer team, except they went into more depth, comparing particular games. It's when I spend time around other people's kids that I'm happiest we homeschool.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Sunday School Lessons

Our previous bishop would give small pieces of candy to kids who could report to him what their Sunday School lesson was about. Not so much for the Gestapo element as to give the kids reason to remember, at least for the ten minutes it takes to walk to the bishop's office and repeat.

Our current bishop is now locked into the arrangement, because who really wants to be the guy to cut off the candy gravy train? Now all three of our kids make the after-church pilgrimage to the bishop's office. We've started policing their reports after learning that Articulate Joe was walking in, saying, "I can't remember," and expecting candy. So now when they show up at the car with candy, I ask them, "What did you tell the bishop?"

Last Sunday, Jerome Jerome the Metronome said his lesson was about "not killing our pets." Crazy Jane said, "Yeah, that's what he told the bishop." We suspect it was probably about something like "God made animals for us," the teacher mentioned our responsibility to care for them, and the three-year-olds ran with it from there.

Oh well. It's a true principle (we shouldn't kill our pets), and that was good enough for a piece of candy.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Things to Do

Tomorrow night I make an in-class presentation, and I'm fifty-percent committed to blowing off Thursday night's class. That's the end of me having to attend class. Ever.

Of course, this doesn't mean I'm necessarily done with school. I have a pesky dissertation to write. But it does mean that I can start thinking about what I'm going to do with my life when I'm done with school. After all, I'd like to think the dissertation will be slightly easier for me based on the fact that I've written two novels. Yes, a novel isn't a dissertation, but it is a thing that you make yourself sit down and write.

So what am I going to do when I have free time again? Well, I've been making a bit of an informal mental list over the past few years. I decided I should have a place where I write them down so I don't forget any. That place is this blog post.

  • Run a marathon in less than four hours.
  • Complete an Olympic-distance triathlon.
  • Learn Spanish. (I'll have to use some sort of objective standard to judge when this is completed. Do they allow random adults to take the AP exam?)
  • Complete my next novel.
  • Read the Journal of Discourses.
  • Learn to play the piano.
  • Learn Chinese. (This one reminds me of Lt. Frank Drebin: "Uh, that's a pretty tall order, Nordberg. You'll have to give me a couple of days on that one.")
  • Through-hike the Appalachian Trail.
  • Learn to play the clarinet.
  • Visit every county.
  • Summit every state high point.

Inappropriate Children's Literature

"Mrs. Claus and the elves got busy."

from Laura Rader's How Santa Lost His Ho! Ho! Ho!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Awkward Silences

INSURANCE REPRESENTATIVE: You got that notice because your policy is no longer offered. The Affordable Care Act banned your policy and we applied for a waiver to be allowed to continue offering it, and we recently learned our application was denied.

A RANDOM STRANGER: Funny, I thought the rhetoric said "if you like your plan you can keep it."

INSURANCE REPRESENTATIVE: [silence]

A RANDOM STRANGER: So what are my options? Do you still offer insurance?

INSURANCE REPRESENTATIVE: Yes. What are you looking for in an insurance plan?

A RANDOM STRANGER: I already had what I was looking for and it was taken away from me by an idiot who said he was doing me a favor.

INSURANCE REPRESENTATIVE: [silence]

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Family That Stays Home Together Stays Slovenly Together

I work my non-teaching job from home, and we homeschool our kids. That leads to conversations like the one I had this morning with Articulate Joe.

A RANDOM STRANGER: Why is everybody else dressed for the day but you?

ARTICULATE JOE: You're not dressed.

A RANDOM STRANGER: But I never get dressed.

Disclaimer: He and I were in pajamas, not naked. Even I have limits to my casualness. (Said limits are imposed by my wife.)

Flattery

A woman who requested to follow me on Twitter wrote by way of explanation: "Dorky guys turn me on BIG TIME!!!!"

Thank you?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Qwerty Question

I would think the keyboard would be set up such that the most common of a key's multiple functions is the one that happens with a single stroke, and the next-most-common function is the one that requires a concurrent use of the "SHIFT" key. Wouldn't you agree? So then why does the key to the right of the "L" give you a semicolon on the single stroke and a colon when used with "SHIFT"? Isn't the colon a MUCH more common punctuation mark than the semicolon? I'd guess 90% of computer users couldn't use a semicolon correctly in a sentence; they just stay away from the mark altogether and over-use the comma. Is this a programming thing? Is the semicolon much more prevalent in computer code?

Thinking Time

So I was playing Minesweeper, imagining that someone else was watching. This person was disparaging my ability to play, saying that clicks which uncover a lot of empty space are unfair. I was saying that that's not true, because there are still 99 mines to find, and if there is a lot of empty space, that means the mines are concentrated, which will make it harder to pick out the safe squares. There's a gain (a lot of board cleared quickly) and a loss (the remainder of the board is harder to clear), and so it's probably a wash. The only way it would be an advantage is if the mines were concentrated such that there were NO safe squares left to find, because the game automatically completes once all the safe squares have been uncovered.

I began to wonder if every game has about the same number of "big clearing" clicks in it. A game can start with a huge area cleared, or it can start modestly and have a large area cleared by a single click later on. I thought how one would find out would be to stop after each game and count the number of clear areas above a certain size (say, 10 squares), and see if the number of them is fairly constant across games.

Right when I started to think how I would implement such a plan, I said to myself, "You don't have time for that; you have school work to do." Then I thought, "You know who's smart enough to do weird stuff like this and also has the time to see it through? Doctoral candidates." And I suddenly understood who came up with analyses like this one about the Endor Holocaust.

New Favorite Novel

circa 1992: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

circa 1995: This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Dec. 31, 2000: The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck.

late summer 2001: Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee.

January 2002: Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

May 25, 2005: Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

Apr. 5, 2010: A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

Nov. 30, 2011: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

A quote from the book that I think relates to my previous blog posts about the underlying motivation of the Affordable Care Act:

To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law--a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security. (p. 326)