Saturday, February 27, 2010

HOCKEY!!

If you aren't watching tomorrow's US-Canada hockey match, you must either have something AWESOME to do, or something really important.

Every 4 years we are reminded of the "Miracle on Ice" in 1980. I was in grad school at the time, getting my MBA at the University of Michigan, where the hockey team still plays in the same building where I played intramural hockey.

Because it was a good excuse to drink, a lot of my fellow MBA students would come to our intramural games to cheer us on and, mostly, enjoy the keg they also brought. They were particularly happy when we beat up on the team from the law school! If you recall, the chant of "USA" for the Olympic team became prominent during the 1980 games. So, during and after the Olympics, our fans started chanting "MBA,MBA". We loved it. Beer is good.

As for tomorrow's game, here is my prediction.....okay, really my dream. Ryan Miller stands on his head again, and Chris Drury scores the game-winner late in the third for a 2-1 US win. Hell, and Olympic gold is the only thing Drury has never won, so he's due.

That's my hope, but Canada probably wins 4-2. Either way, it will be fun to watch. I almost wish I was back in Buffalo where I could watch on Canadian TV.

As for the rest of the Olympics, some comedian on TV said the sports are not so much sports as a series of drunken dares ("Dude, bet you can't slide down that sheet of ice on a tiny sled"). After hearing that, it occurred to me that, after curling and figure skating, hockey is the safest sport in the winter Olympics. Wow, the hockey players are the wimps!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Southpark on the Economy

I'm not sure if Trey Parker and Matt Stone took and Eco classes while they were at school here in Boulder, but they sure seem to understand some of it. Thanks to a couple of my students for making me aware of the South Park's hilarious take on the economic meltdown. These guys even understand the faith based nature of the economy. Sorry, I can't embed the episode, but I encourage you to watch it HERE.

This is not a hoax!!!!!! And a few funny things from my classes

Just a couple things as I watch the US hockey team stomp all over the Finns.

The other day after teaching about the concepts of "consumer surplus", which I often describe as "happiness" that consumers have when they buy something for less than they were willing to pay, I said at the end of class that in the next class I would show how we can destroy happiness. An older student in the front of class replied "Get married!".

Today, my class wondered what people with small penises and smaller brains would drive around in now that Hummers will no longer be manufactured.

Later, one of the students said something about having porn on his Ipod. We determined watching that would surely make you go blind (think about it!).

Who says economics is the dismal science.

Finally, I have been a fan for many years of the web site Factcheck.org. They are a non-partisan site that checks the facts of the claims of politicians everywhere. Although they are a bit nitpicky at times, they mostly do good work debunking bullshit from all sources. They have a weekly email you can subscribe to, and today it included the video below, about how to recognize a chain email that is utter nonsense. Share it with your crazy uncle!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Plugging my Gig

For those of you in the Boulder area, I will be appearing in the hilarious murder mystery "Death Rides the Airwaves" at the Boulderado on 3 Fridays in March, 3/12,19, and 26. This show is set on Oct. 30 1941, and includes a radio show, in which I play the overly enthusiastic sound effects guy. Death and hilarity ensues!

For info go HERE

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Interesting Arena Technology

The "Goal" blog in today's NY Times reports that the new Red Bull Arena in New Jersey will have an entry system where season ticket holders will pass through the turnstile in the same way that NJ Turnpike drivers pass through the toll booth (although probably not as often!). They will be issued a card that they can keep in their pockets and will be scanned as they pass.

The article says this technology is already in place in several English football stadiums. In England, the fans are used to restrictions on who can get tickets to events. Because of a history of fans from away teams fighting with the home fans, you can't just walk up and buy a ticket. And, you can't just resell your ticket. So this type of system is very workable for them.

Here in the US, season ticket holders for all sports are used to reselling their tickets, or giving them to friends, family and clients. In fact many businesses buy tickets for that reason (although probably not for MLS games!). It will be interesting to see if this type of technology will be workable with our frequent resale sports culture.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Stuff from some friends

A couple of things from friends recently that may interest you.

For those of you who live here on the Front Range of Colorado, my ski buddy Claire Walter has a web site called "Mile High on the Cheap", which does exactly what you would think. Claire and her partner find freebies and bargains in the Denver-Boulder area on all sorts of stuff. Check it out, and sign up for the free daily email.

Another friend of mine, Zoe Katsulos, started a travel company a few years ago called Humanitourism. Their hook is this to combine humanitarian work with adventure travel. I haven't taken part in any of their tours, but if Zoe is involved, it must be fun and good for the world. If you're looking for a fun and meaningful adventure, please check them out.

Finally, thanks to Ed Ayres for sending this video of a standup comedian who calls herself Mrs. Hughes. She's the antithesis of Dane Cook.....smart and funny. Enjoy!

video

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Climate Change Insurance

I have read several articles by economists lately comparing some sort of action against climate change to insurance. There is another by Robert Frank in today's NYT.

The basic idea is this: Scientists believe the climate is being changed by human activity. They don't, however, know for sure how much the temperature of the planet will rise over any given period of time. The lower range of estimates would be slightly painful, the upper range a complete disaster. So, the extra costs that we would suffer under a sensible program to curb carbon output should be viewed as insurance against what MIT scientists estimate as a 10% chance that temperatures would reach a level by the end of this century.

Now, think about the insurance you buy. I am pretty sure the chance of my house catching fire is less than 10%, yet I buy homeowner's insurance, because a fire would be financially devastating. We all do.

Of course, the people with their heads completely up their asses on this issue (Republicans, Fox News Pundits, the oil industry) say that the scientists are just running a scam......because we all know that scientists are far more likely than politicians, oil execs or TV personalities to be bullshitting us. Their claim that the snow on the east coast recently disproves the science shows how completely ignorant.....or what lying scumbags....they are.

So tell me, does it not make sense that we buy some insurance for the continued health of our planet?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Let's talk Curling!

Somehow, the topic of Olympic curling came up during my class this morning, with a discussion ensuing about what a choke artist the US Skip is. It appears about half of my class was paying attention to curling.

Back in the 80's, when I lived in Buffalo, it was common for any party among my friends to include a game of bocce. So, in 2002 when NBC first started showing curling late at night, I recognized that it was really just "ice bocce" and got hooked. It's a game of strategy and skill, and I wish there was a curling rink near me.

I never expected that I would have a class full of people in their early 20's who were watching curling. But then, I never would have guessed that there would be WI Curling....that's right, one of the students said he has an Olympics game for the Wi that includes all the events. Wi curling, Wi figure skating. He didn't say, but I"m sure hoping they have Wi Biathlon.

Apparently, there is an Olympics on NBC that shows figure skating and snowboarding. I haven't seen it. There is hockey and curling on CNBC and MSNBC, and that's what I'm watching.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I thought all dogs went to heaven!

A few years ago my sister gave me a silly book called "How to Profit From the Coming Rapture", a funny look at ways to make a profit from being left behind when the the rapture comes. If you believe the crazy nonsense that a lot of evangelicals do, this is going to happen soon, and those of us who are not true believers in the right kind of Christianity will be left in a hell on earth.

Well, apparently one other person has sold this book. Businessweek reports on a guy named Bart Centre, who has started a firm to take care of the pets who will be left behind when the rapture occurs. He is lining up athiests who like pets to take care of them. Charging $110 for the service. You can read the story HERE. (I became aware of this from Barry Ritholtz excellent blog)

Hard to believe how gullible humans can be. Meanwhile, I think I'd make a good candidate as pet adopter.

Hilarious but true stuff from The Onion

When I teach my class about money, I teach them that it is mostly an illusion, that in fact the money they think they can get is not there. Apparently, someone at The Onion took and eco class, as shown below.

The U.S. economy ceased to function this week after unexpected existential remarks by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shocked Americans into realizing that money is, in fact, just a meaningless and intangible social construct.

What began as a routine report before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday ended with Bernanke passionately disavowing the entire concept of currency, and negating in an instant the very foundation of the world’s largest economy.

“Though raising interest rates is unlikely at the moment, the Fed will of course act appropriately if we…if we…” said Bernanke, who then paused for a moment, looked down at his prepared statement, and shook his head in utter disbelief. “You know what? It doesn’t matter. None of this—this so-called ‘money’—really matters at all.”

“It’s just an illusion,” a wide-eyed Bernanke added as he removed bills from his wallet and slowly spread them out before him. “Just look at it: Meaningless pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. Worthless.”

According to witnesses, Finance Committee members sat in thunderstruck silence for several moments until Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) finally shouted out, “Oh my God, he’s right. It’s all a mirage. All of it—the money, our whole economy—it’s all a lie!

Who are the Tea Partiers

Excellent story in the NY Times yesterday by David Barstow about the Tea Party movement. Scary too.

It appears that many of the people who are joining the movement have no previous knowledge or interest in politics. As the story describes them, they became interested in what was going on when the recession hit them hard. Being basically ignorant of how the world works, and looking for someone to blame for their hardship, they gravitated to the most extreme answers, as offered by conspiracy nuts like Glenn Beck and the John Birch Society. And having accepted that those nutjobs are the only ones telling them the truth, they will buy into any crazy thing they are told.

For instance, some Teabaggers believe that Obama's health care plan is designed to push them into the arms of giant health insurers. Who do they think is running our health care system now? Doctors? Patients?

The scary thing is that this is a group of people looking for someone else to blame for their troubles, willing to believe things that are far from true. Is this not how the Nazis gained popularity in Germany? And while they don't attack any particular group of people as the Nazis did Jews, it is interesting that these "defenders of the Constitution" are all white, have connections to the anti-government racist crazies in Idaho, and were quite quiet during the years that Bush was wiping his butt with the constitution.

It's a long story, but worth reading. GO HERE FOR THE WHOLE ARTICLE.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I have to teach today!

Interesting situation. Front Range Community College, where I teach the dismal science, is open for business today, as, I believe, are all the state funded institutions of higher learning here in Colorado. The public schools, the stock market, the post office, and local government offices are also closed. But not the colleges.

What is interesting is that Front Range WAS closed on Martin Luther King Day. Now, don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of MLK, consider him a national hero, and truly believe a day to honor him and remember the past stupidity of our country are important. However, I'm not sure why his holiday commands more respect than one named in honor of Lincoln and Washington. In addition, in the Fall we are not closed for Veterans Day. Interesting choice of priorities we have made.

Why is there no holiday named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, without whom we would not have reason to honor any of these other folks?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Economics of dating and a horror story and Freakonomics radio

Did you spend Valentine's Day alone watching NBC make a televised disgrace out of another Olympics? Or, even if you didn't, you might enjoy Lori Gottlieb's very economic take on why she has been single for so long. It was on NPR's Marketplace Money over the weekend, and you can read it or download the whole show HERE.

Or, perhaps your taste runs to horror stories. If so, you might want to read this NY Times Magazine story by Russell Shorto called "How Christian Were The Founding Fathers". In this scary story, a group of batshit crazy right wing religious nuts are determining the teaching standards for history in the state of Texas, despite the fact that none of them has any expertise in the subject. And, even scarier, they are able to influence teaching standards throughout the country, based on the size of the Texas market. If only this horror story were fiction! It's not. Anything I can do to advance the cause of Texas seceding?

Finally, some good news. The guys at Freakonomics have created "Freakonomics Radio". So far, it is one interesting podcast about whether new safer products make us behave more recklessly. Here's hoping they do a lot more of these. You can download the podcast HERE.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Standup Economist on TV

Today PBS News Hour, tomorrow Saturday Night Live? Yoram Bauman and other funny economists in the video below.

How badlydo you need cash?

Lose you kids' college money in the market? Been unemployed for a year or more? Already sold you gold jewelry to those scammers on TV, and your beenie babies on eBay? Well, at least you've got your health, and if you do, you can sell your organs. Find out what they're worth, and the risks involved, HERE.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

If airlines were run like health care....

Enjoy this video. Not sure who made it, but big kudos to them.

Was Daultry's scream as fake as the coin toss?

Before tonight's Super Bowl, some of us were explaining to the uninitiated that the coin toss you see at an NFL game is actually a fake. The actual toss takes place about 1/2 hour before the game. You may have noticed that the camera went in close on the commemerative coin when the ref explained which side was heads, but after he tossed it, you never saw how he landed. The ref just yelled "heads" and off everyone went (except those crazy enough to have taken the prop bet on the toss).

During half-time the conversation during the Who show was first, what would the last song be? I guessed right that they would, in these uncertain times, have to end with "We Won't Get Fooled Again". We also noticed that lead singer Roger Daltrey hadn't even attempted the high notes he used to sing so powerfully. So, when the started playing their classic finale, now the guess was, will he do the scream. As the song built to the famous point in the song with rock's greatest scream we leaned forward in anticipation, and .....there it was, a scream, not quite as powerful as the one we all know from "Who's Next". I said I didn't think he had it in him, and a few other partiers noticed that the camera was not on Daltrey at that point. Interesting, in a show that choreographed, that the camera wouldn't be on the lead singer for the most dramatic note in the song....unless.......well, was it Daltrey who screamed? And, if so, did he do it live or was it pre-recorded? I'm guessing the word will come out if there was any fakery. You just can't pull an Milli Vanilli and get away with it any more.

OH, and someone at the party said that Vegas had a line on whether Townsend would smash his guitar at the end of the set. Gotta love Vegas.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Broke Trek....Hilarious

Thanks to my friend Carol for sending me the link to this. Enjoy

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tariffs Cost Jobs, Not Save Them!

It is the time of year when I am teaching my Eco classes the mantra "TRADE IS GOOD!". One of the few things that most economists agree upon is that free trade is beneficial to all economies, and that "protectionism" (tariffs, quotas, etc.) are evil. Some people don't believe this. They think if we put a tariff on imported steel, we will save steelworkers jobs. Perhaps, but at the cost of more jobs throughout the rest of the economy, particularly in industries that use a lot of steel.

Don't believe me? Then read Prof. Mark Perry's Carpe Diem blog about sugar tariffs. A quick summary: It costs the US $826k for every sugar growing job "saved" in this country, and for every sugar growing job "saved" by tariffs, there are 3 jobs lost in industries that use sugar. Oh, and the price of sugar in the US is twice the world price.

So, in fact the tariff LOSES jobs! And, it makes your Hostess Cupcakes more expensive.

Sorry, Can't help myself

Apple announced today that the new IPad will come in 2 sizes, the one already announced, and a bigger Maxi-IPad, for times when you have a heavy flow of data.