Saturday, February 28, 2009

My neighborhood in the news.

Last Sunday, a bullet, fired from the ranch across the street from my neighborhood, hit my neighbor's house. Since their house is connected to mine, that means it hit my house too, at least in my thinking. The guys shooting the guns work in law enforcement. The media didn't show much interest in this, other than channel 9 wanting my neighbor Cindy to appear on TV holding her baby, to make the story dramatic. She told them to fuck off, and they were shocked that she wasn't desperate to get her face on TV. Great girl, that Cindy.

Today, the story hit the Boulder Daily Camera. Read it here. And read the comments, because people are always so sane and reasoned when it comes to issues of guns, cops with guns, anyone with guns.

As a result of all this, I now wear a helmet at all times while at home. Makes sleeping difficult, as well as shampooing.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

People are good!

You probably wouldn't expect a cynical curmudgeon like me to write a headline like the one above, but it turns out that many people are good. As an example, take Rockin Robin, a friend a fellow murder mystery actor, and her friend Joanne. When their friend Karen needed emergency surgery and could not pay her medical bills (great health care system we have here in America!) they organized a group of bands in the area, many of whom knew Karen as a fan, and got them to put on a show for her. And these weren't crappy garage bands happy to get a gig, but some excellent local musicians, including Lionel Young, winner of the 2008 International Blues Challenge, and a man who does amazing things with a violin. They also got a bunch of stuff donated for silent and live auctions (I did the auction). They ended up raising about $5k for her.

I couldn't decide whether to be angry that our health care system is so screwed up that this is how people who work have to pay for the medical care, or happy that I got to listen to such great music on a Sunday afternoon. Either way, events like this do tend to upset my general belief that people are stupid, evil and selfish. Maybe I just thought that way because that's the kind of government we had for the past 8 years.

Here's a picture of Karen between Robin and I. I know, it would look better if I cropped that guy on the left.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spam at Costco and other thoughts

If you've never been to Costco, it's a great place for a free lunch. There is usually someone at the end of every aisle with a free sample of something. And usually it's quite good. Costco is the "upscale" warehouse store, known for selling quality stuff at low prices. So, I guess it is a sign of the times that yesterday they were handing out Spam samples, served as it should be, in a grilled sandwich with Velveeta. And, no, I didn't buy any. But a piece in the paper last week noted that sales at Hormel have been growing rapidly since last May. So, if you are looking for work, I hear Austin, MN is beautiful.

On another note, no matter what you think of the content of Obama's speech last night, isn't it nice to be able to watch your President speak without having the language butchered?

Finally, today's Denver Post notes that craft beer sales were up again in 2008. No matter what the state of the economy, life is too short to drink bad beer. Those of us at Front Range CC anxiously await the opening of a brewpub in the building across the street where an awful sports bar closed 2 years ago. Hurry up Oscar Blues, the FRCC faculty needs you!

Oh, and per the comment by Budd Bailey, you can't call me Tina, but you can all me, Tina.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Come Back, Billy Crystal!

Was that the worst Oscar's ever? Hard to say for sure, but it sure did suck. Even the big dance numbers were so disjointed that you couldn't tell what they were singing. And a montage of background music from depressing film? Really, you thought that would be entertaining? And they managed to shoot the tribute to the recently deceased in a way where you couldn't see who was on the screen half the time. Other than Steve Martin and Ben Stiller, a complete waste of time.

And Hugh Jackman, I assume, was chosen because......I'm trying to think here, because he sucked so bad I can't imagine why. I'm sure he's a nice enough guy, but he should stick to film.

I'm sure the E network is debating which celebrities looked hottest last night, so I'll tell you: Tina Fey is HOT! Okay, maybe not in a super model way, but in a "woman I'd really like to know better" way. She looks good, and she's brilliant. Call me Tina!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cultural Education for the Nepalese

Nepal is a mountainous, fairly poor nation of around 30 million people that is located half-way around the world from Colorado. So, you might be surprised to discover that I teach more students from Nepal than from any other foreign country. It would be less of a surprise if you knew that Boulder was home to one of the first Himalayan restaurants in the US, and the first Sherpa restaurant. It appears that early immigrants to the US from Nepal took a liking to this area because of the mountains, and now there is something of a Nepalese community in this area.

There are a couple of cool things about having students from Nepal. First, I get to learn about their country. A few years ago one student wrote an outstanding essay for extra credit about politics and economics in Nepal. Second, and I don't know why, but Nepalese students almost always seem to be smiling. I'm not sure why they are always smiling, but they are, and I love it.

Most fun of all though, is that I get to teach them not only Economics, but a bit of American culture as well. For instance, recently we worked through a problem in class from out textbook that used the names Curly, Larry and Moe as the characters in the problem. Now, anyone who grew up here and doesn't know those names as the 3 Stooges should be forced to leave. But the Nepalese students have never heard of them. So, I get to teach them about the important cultural contributions of the Stooges. Now days, they can go home and find some Stooges video on Youtube, and become quickly educated in the proper application of a shovel to the forehead.

Just another example of the enriching experience of teaching.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A couple things

1) Went to see Christopher Moore at the Boulder Book Store last night. If you aren't familiar, he is the author of a bunch of amusing books, the most famous of which is called "Lamb", and is the gospel of Jesus during all those missing years in his life story, as told by his best friend Biff. The guy is hilarious, particularly the story he told about when he was young and worked in a ceramic plant. The plant made various xmas stuff, one of which was small reindeer. Since the reindeer were small, they had a lot of antlers around for them, because they broke easily. So, Moore and his friends started glueing the antlers onto other things. They started by putting them on camels that were part of Nativity scenes. After 2 weeks, no one had noticed, so they started putting antlers on the small baby Jesus statues. It took another week before they were told to cut it out, meaning hundreds of Jesuses had been shipped with antlers.

His new book is called "Fool", and is the story of King Lear as told by a fool. He seemed very proud that the book contains the phrase "heinous fuckery most foul". Can't wait to read it.

2) Sports Illustrated reports that the Giants will be using a system called "dynamic pricing" to price tickets according to demand for the actual game, based on team, pitchers, weather, and other factors. I expect we will see this idea spread. Here in CO, the sports columnists were outraged a few years back that the Rockies, who sucked really bad at the time, were charging more for games against teams like the Yankees. I believe the opposite is true. A game here in CO against the Yanks or Bosox is rare, demand is high, and tickets should go for more. Where the Rox are off base is charging "regular" prices for a Tuesday night game against Pittsburgh in early May. No one wants to go, but maybe if you lower the price, you will at least sell some beer.

An empty seat is like spoiled produce, a missed opportunity to sell a product. The sports world needs more "dynamic pricing", which will be better for teams and fans alike.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Geeks on TV

There isn't much watchable on TV these days (except hockey, of course!), but it seems the shows I find worth watching now have geeks in them. Here's what I mean:

The Big Bang Theory- This CBS sitcom on Monday nights is about a group of Physics PHDs, and their tragic interactions with the non-geek world. They use some real science stuff for humor (one character went to a Halloween party dressed as The Doppler Effect), and it works quite well. And the acting and writing is excellent. Unfortunately, CBS doesn't show full episodes on of this on it's web site, so you'll have to watch it or record it.

The IT Crowd- Few of you have probably seen this. It is on IFC, which you may not get on your cable or dish system. It is about 2 Geeks, working in the basement IT department of a big company, and their less geeky female boss who they are turning into one of them. It was created by Graham Linehan, the man responsible for other English classics "Father Ted" and "Black Books". Just hilirous, in a wierd English way. A recent show had the geeks using language from a "how to talk football" site to attempt to fit in as "proper men". Look for it on video some day if you don't have IFC

Fringe-This is a show with the feel of "The X-Files". This time, the main geek is a scientist who the FBI springs from a mental institution to solve strange crimes. Hard to explain in on paragraph, but well worth checking out. But you should go to Hulu, where you can watch all the episodes so far.

Bones-I came late to this show. Watched it one night and liked it, so I've watched more. Again, geeks using their geek powers to solve crimes, while having trouble fitting in socially with the non-geeks. Funny sometimes, and clever. You can watch a lot of the old ones on Hulu if you want to get hooked.

So, 4 shows about geeks, and hockey. That's what I watch on the television.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Donald Trump's casino company is in bankruptcy for the third time. Does he fire himself when this happens? No, he blames his bondholders, as if it is them managing the company (although he did resign from that company).

Trump is the most over-rated blowhard in American business, and that is his only major accomplishment. He grew up rich and got richer. Whoopee! He acts like he invented the real estate business, when in fact he inherited a bunch of property from his dad. Yet, he goes on tv as if he is the world's greatest expert in the art of business. And people buy into it....I assume the same people who watch American Idol.

It would be one good thing to come from our current economic troubles if "The Donald" (what the hell does that even mean?) were to end up broke, and the arrogant bastard has to watch as they take his name off of everything he so humbly plastered it on.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A few sports things

I read Bill James Baseball Abstract for the first time about 25 years ago. It took baseball insiders about at least 15 years to catch on to James, to believe that there was truth in the numbers he produced, and their old way of doing things was silly. Some, like the Colorado Rockies, are still catching on, using a leadoff hitter for the past 2 years with an on-base percentage of about .280 because he steals bases.

A few years ago Michael Lewis wrote "Moneyball", about how the Oakland A's were using the sort of numbers James would use to find underpriced players. The idea was that there were more important stats, as far as actually winning games, than the ones that the average fan looks at. And about 5 years ago, the Red Sox hired James as a special consultant.

Lewis has a piece in the NYT Magazine Section about how basketball execs are now creeping towards the same sort of analysis. It is a pretty interesting story, although a bit light on the details of what "hidden" stats might contribute towards winning. And I would have liked to see more discussion about how this thinking might change the way players are paid. But it is definitely worth reading.

Meanwhile, for you soccer fans, why the hell does the LA Galaxy want Beckham back? I guess they were holding out for more than the the $3 Million that AC Milan offered. Beckham limped off the field in the Milan derby yesterday (great game, I'm sure you all watched!), so now the Galaxy is going to be paying him around 8 mil to go out and get injured again every game. Certainly, the thrill of having the famous pretty boy has worn off at the gate. And the Galaxy is awful even with Beckham, whose talent and durability are not going to improve into his mid-thirties. The should have jumped at that first offer, and used that money to fill in all the holes they have.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Darwin and Economics

We all know that Charles Darwin is the father of Evolution. But, until I read this story in the Economist, I did not realize the effect that an economist had on him. It seems Darwin was reading the works of Thomas Maltus' "And Essay on the Principle of Population", which promotes the idea that humans will not be able to produce enough food in the future, because population was, in the late 1700s, growing much faster than food production. Therefore, people would have to compete for food, with the fittest surviving. This stimulated Darwin towards his theory of natural selection. This is why everyone should study Economics.

I guess if you are a creationist, you can use this as proof that evolution is poppycock, since Malthus' predictions turned out to be amazingly wrong. He seemed to have underestimated man's ability to adapt.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More on the crash

I used to play soccer back in the 80's with a guy named Ron Guido (really!) who I knew also grew up in the area of the plane crash. I really didn't know his address. I got this email from Guides, or "Guido, Killer Pimp" as he was also known (rent "Risky Business") tonight.

as some of you may know the house I grew up in on long street in clarence ctr was the house that got hit by flight 3407. needless to say it was very odd seeing what was left of my childhood house on tv all day. my parents have sometimes wondered if moving out was the the right thing to do. today I think they are very happy where they are.

Can you imagine your childhood home burning on TV with part of airplane sticking out of it?

PLane Crash in Buffalo

That plane that went down outside Buffalo last night landed in Clarence, the town where I grew up. In fact, it crashed just up the street from where my good friend Kevin Chase grew up, and where his mom still lives. Fortunately, Ma Chase is fine, not even rattled enough to call her son in CT and wake him up to tell him.

Kevin was best man at Budd Bailey's wedding, and you can read Budd's account of what it like when a plane crashes in your home town, and you work for the newspaper, here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hulu rules!

I have written before about my feeling that the future of video entertainment is not cable, dish, or Netflix, but streamed video from the internet which gets connected to your high def TV. I have become a regular user of, which has a constantly growing collection of old and new tv shows, plus a variety of other content to view. The Economist writes this week about Hulu's success.

There are a few great things about Hulu. First, of course, is you can watch stuff for free when you want to watch it. I often enjoy an old Bob Newhart or Mary Tyler Moore while having lunch, or even a newer show like Bones, which I have taken a liking to.

Second, while there are ads, they are only 20 seconds long, so that an hour long show on TV plays in less than 45 minutes on Hulu. Interestingly, I have found that, because there is only one short ad, I watch it, instead of going to the bathroom, taking out the garbage, or flipping channels as I do when ads come on TV. I wonder if advertisers might find their ads more effective in such an environment.

Finally, it looks great. I haven't sprung for the HDTV yet, so newer stuff looks better on my laptop than on my TV, where I notice now that the sides are getting cropped.

I wrote this a while ago, and I'll repeat it: If I weren't a sports fan, I'd dump the DISH and watch all my video entertainment on line.

Oh, and one more thing. On shows that are mostly lame, like SNL, but may have one really good bit, you can just catch the good bit, like this clip that one of my former students sent me. Enjoy the future.

Our F***ing Idiotic War on Drugs

As an idiot Sheriff in Georgia wastes taxpayer money trying to arrest everyone who was at the party with Michael Phelps, there is this headline in today's WSJ:

Latin American Panel Calls U.S. Drug War a Failure

You can read the whole story here, but since you have to subscribe to do so, I'll give you a few highlights:

"The available evidence indicates that the war on drugs is a failed war," said former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, in a conference call with reporters from Rio de Janeiro. "We have to move from this approach to another one."

The report, by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, is the latest to question the U.S.'s emphasis on punitive measures to deal with illegal drug use and the criminal violence that accompanies it. A recent Brookings Institution study concluded that despite interdiction and eradication efforts, the world's governments haven't been able to significantly decrease the supply of drugs, while punitive methods haven't succeeded in lowering drug use.

The report warned that the U.S.-style antidrug strategy was putting the region's fragile democratic institutions at risk and corrupting "judicial systems, governments, the political system and especially the police forces."

Wow, what a great war! We get all the above benefits for only about $60B a year. And when it's obvious after many years that what we do doesn't work, we do more of it! Isn't that the definition of insanity?

Wake up America! The war on drugs costs far more in money, lives, and erosion of our Constitution than any small benefit it provides.....unless, that is, you work in law enforcement.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Wikipedia of Dicks

My friend Ed Ayres alerted me to Dickipedia, the wikipedia of Dicks. It's full of rather humorous writing about some of the more annoying citizens of the planet. However, it's not very up to date, as it has no listing for ARod.

Speaking of ARod, is there anyone who is shocked by the latest news? Disappointed maybe, but shocked? Remember, he was just one of 103 players who tested positive at the time. In other words, everyone was doing it. Which makes the witch hunt against Barry Bonds a huge waste of our tax dollars. Sure, he lied. But this is an issue baseball should be dealing with. Barry didn't do anything anyone else in baseball didn't do, and that includes lying about what he did. Unless his case is part of the stimulous package, keeping lawyers employed, then I think we can spend the millions being pissed away on more important things.

What makes America great

What makes America great? Our sense of humor, and constitutional right to make fun of stuff. With that in mind, enjoy the video below of CU student Chad Heidt singing about Michael Phelps bong blunder.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Trade is still Good!

As a followup to my last post, here is a story about the WTO and it's worries that nations will drift to protectionism and worsen the already bad world economic situation. I particularly like this sentence:

Trade barriers aiming to defend jobs may deepen the global recession if they make it harder for other countries to sell their goods abroad, as happened when nations closed their markets in the Depression.

I hope there are some politicians who read this blog (although, I guess they probably read the NYT).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Trade is Good!

George Bernard Shaw once said "If you took all the economists in the world and laid them end to end, they still couldn't reach a conclusion". One conclusion they can agree upon is the mantra that I teach my students: "Trade is Good". Free trade makes the world better off. It's a fact. To most economists, "protectionism" should be one of the seven words you can't say on TV.

However, when times get tough as they are now, politicians think they can get votes by looking like they are saving jobs with tariffs and other protectionist measures, like the "Buy American" clause that was in the stimulus package. During the Great Depression Congress passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff act, raising tariffs and setting off a trade war that shrank world trade 60% between 1929 and 1932, and helping to make the Depression worse.

The New York Times has two articles today warning about the dangers of protectionism during these hard times. One is this editorial. And if you think the Times editorial page is written by commies, then you can read this opinion piece from the Times business section by Greg Mankiw, famous text book author and former adviser to w. Left or right, people interested in good policy know Trade is Good. Let's hope our politicians get the message.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The skiiing was great. The economy? Not so much!

Went to Copper Mountain to ski yesterday on a day that was just perfect. Sunny, warm and beautiful, but not so hot as to be melting the snow. In fact, it was so gorgeous that I felt compelled to call a few of my friends back in Buffalo to tell them about it. Honestly, I didn't realize it was -7 back home while I was sitting with my jacket off, in the sun, enjoying lunch and the fantastic view. This, it appears, is not a good way to endear yourself to the folks in western New York.

I was skiing with my neighbor Kathy, and since most of the chair lifts are "quads", that meant we rode the lift with a bunch of different people during the day. I like to talk to strangers, and I learned a long time ago that "where you from?" is a great conversation starter. In years past when I'd ski on a weekday, about half of those people would be from outside Colorado. And at the end of the day, while enjoying the apre-ski brewski, I would see many groups of people on the patio who were obviously here on a ski vacation.

Yesterday, all of our fellow lift-riders were Coloradans. And there were only 2 tables of folks having a beer who appeared to be vacationers. And today in the mail I got a mailing from Breckinridge offering 70% off rooms during Spring Break, usually the busiest time of the year in ski country. Now, none of this is hard data that the economy is killing the ski industry this year, but it sure doesn't feel good. And a real problem for the ski resorts is that those of us who live in state and ski there are not much of a source of revenue. Sure, there are a lot of us, but we have already bought our passes, and we don't stay over night or stay for dinner. Lunch and a beer is about the best they can expect to get out of us.

So, if you can afford a ski trip this year, it looks like a hell of a good time to go. Deals will be many, and lift lines short, and we need your money!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Want a little Economics education?

Did you major in Humanities in college, and now you wish you knew something about Economics? Wonder who the hell these Keynesians are, and why we should or shouldn't be among them? Don't have time to go back to school and major in Eco? Then I suggest "New Ideas from Dead Economists", by Todd Buchholz, which was loaned to me by a student who wrote a paper on if for extra credit last semester (thanks Charlotte!). If I were teaching an "Economics for Poets" class (and hey, you guys at Naropa, don't you think that's a great idea!) I would use this as the text book. Not technical or full of math, but it will give you an excellent history of the study of Economics, and the ideas that still shape our thinking. However, it was written some time ago, so it won't tell you how we got into the current mess.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Just a few things....

My class was talking about the economics of the Super Bowl yesterday which led us to talking about the "losers gear". Every year the league makes a bunch of gear to be worn by the winners right after the game, which means that there are now a bunch of "Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl Champs" shirts and hats. The league donates the loser gear to people in poor, remote areas....poor enough, I guess, that they've never heard of Ebay. Imagine what collectors, or even constantly jilted fans would pay for it.

Well, one of my students is from Buffalo, and a loyal Bills fan, which certainly can't hurt her grade. She said she was in Mexico and saw a guy wearing a Bills Super Bowl champs shirt. She started chasing the guy down the street, trying to buy it from him for $60. He looked at her like she was crazy and ran off. Bills fans can't even get respect in the third world.

The class also wanted to talk about Michael Phelps' new-found use of a bong. The question is, did he hurt his image, or has he just become a lot cooler in the eyes of a bunch of people? We he lose his Speedo endorsement, or get a new one from Doritos? The moralist hypocrites who are raging about this should shut up. When they can do with their bodies what he does with his, they can tell him what to put in it. It's not like it's performance enhancing, unless of course, you are performing rock n roll!

Finally, tomorrow night on PBS (channel 6 at 8pm in Denver) there is a tribute to the late, great George Carlin, the greatest stand-up comic who ever lived. Saw this on Taplin's blog today, so I put it here so you can all enjoy a brilliant bit of comic poetry.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

3 Comments about the Super Bowl

1) What a great game!!! This was the kind of game after which I feel sorry for those stuffy people who don't like sports. I like indy films, theater, music of all kinds, but I won't likely see anything in any of those arts that is close to the thrill of a great game like this one. Those who can't appreciate sports are missing out on the best theater in the world.

2) Greatest Halftime show ever!!! Not the greatest Super Bowl halftime show, or even the best football halftime show, but the greatest halftime show in the history of halftime shows. A very young woman at the party where I watched the game, said that Janet Jackson was cooler than Bruce. He killed that argument with that performance. First time in my whole life that I didn't want halftime to be over! Anyone have an argument about that point? Please leave a comment.

3) My apologies to Kurt Warner. If you read my last post, if looks like an attack on Kurt Warner. I meant it to be an attack on athletes who are always talking about their religion, and Warner is certainly an example of that. But I didn't mean to say that is his in any way a bad guy. As a matter of fact, he seems to be a really good guy. He played his ass off and loss tonight, and I would still love to ask him those questions. And I imagine he would answer them like the gentleman he is, and I would probably not buy his answers. But isn't that kind of civil disagreement what America is all about? I didn't mean to make that comment a personal assault.

Great game, The Boss rocked, and Kurt Warner, even though he lost, played his ass off. And how great was Jennifer Hudson's singing of the national anthem?

A truly super Super Bowl. Not many years you could say that!