Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fun Thing to do on Sunday

Here is a fun thing to do today after watching the Arsenal-Chelsea derby:

1) Read Nicholas Kristoff's column in today's NYTimes HERE
2) Explain how a wealthy, supposedly moral society would let things like this happen
3) Explain how the Republicans, who claim to be the party of morality, can consistently resist any changes to a health care system that allows this to happen.
4) Look forward to tomorrow night's Pats-Saints game....hey, we can't suffer all the time!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Something Good for Xmas

Amid all the shopping, commercialism, bad music, schmaltz, fakery (Jesus was almost certainly born in the summer, just to begin with) and other horrible things that will take place, there is reason for hope.

For those of your near Boulder, there is the Boulder Ensemble Theater's production of "SantaLand Diaries", based on a story by the hilarious writer David Sedaris, and starring my old murder mystery co-star Geoffrey Kent. If you are familiar at all with Sedaris' work, you know this has got to be funny. For info go HERE.

And for the really geeky among you, the gang at Rifftrax, the guys who used to do the wickedly funny "Mystery Science Theater 3000", are doing a live Xmas show that is being simulcast to a movie theater near you. They will be abusing a variety of short xmas films on Dec. 16, with an encore available the following night. Check it out HERE.

And, for those of you who will be trampled while shopping on Friday, driven crazy by your family, have to fly through Chicago, or will suffer many of the other horrors of the season, enjoy the video below.

McGuckin's, the World's Greatest Hardware Store

I am the Buffalo Bills of home improvement.....incompetent, without a clue, and unwilling to pay the big bucks for top notch talent. So, when little things go wrong around my house I tend to let them go until they really annoy me, then finally suck it up and try to fix them. The latest case is my downstairs toilet, which apparently does not realize it lives in a semi-arid climate because it will not stop running water.

When it is time to fix something, I don't go to Home Depot or any other chain store, because along with being a place of great beauty and deep thought, Boulder has the World's Greatest Hardware Store, McGuckin Hardware. What makes it so great? Easy. They have an army of green-smocked "Als" (you know, from "Home Improvement") roaming the store, happy to help a moron like me. They send you home with the right stuff, and instructions on how to use it. It may cost a bit more than HD, but the advice is priceless. And, since they give you what you need, they save you time and money.

When I went in yesterday to find a correction to my toilet problem, I was expecting I would end up replacing the innards of the toilet for about $15. But when I explained my toilet issue to "Al", he asked in what way it kept running, then sent me home with a $2 plastic part that has fixed the problem. Maybe I could have gotten that part for $1.50 at HD, but I would never have known. So, "Al" saved me $13 and a much harder job. And, he had showed me exactly how to open the top of the device and where to put the part.

A Home Depot opened not far from McGuckin,s a few years ago. I am sure it is hurting them financially. But it would be a shame to see this level of customer service disappear. If you can even find anyone working in a Home Depot it is usually a kid who started last week. So, I am encouraging all my readers, both of you, to go to McGuckin,s and do all your XMas shopping this season, or to THEIR WEB SITE. If they go under, I will surely die when my house collapses!

I hope my Mom enjoys the 3-speed power drill she gets this year!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2 Funny Pictures

As I mentioned earlier, I was in a play that had a short run that finished last week. Set in 1915, I played a bad lawyer who screws up the murder case of union organizer Joe Hill. With me in the photo above is Juan, who, although being 22 and Mexican, bravely plays 13 year old Martin Henderson in the play. They gave him the blond wig in an effort to make him look young and Anglo. We couldn't decide which of us look sillier, so you can decide for yourself.

On a totally related note, enjoy this picture of how Americans view the world, courtesy of Barry Ritholtz's blog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

You NEED to watch this!!!

In case youmissed 60 minutes last night, you need to watch this report about the money spent in the last months of peoples' lives. Kudos to Steve Kroft et at for discussing the uncomfortable question of the outrageous amounts of taxpayer money spent, with no question, on people who are almost certain to die within months. Truly scary, and a problem no one wants to deal with, but we MUST in order not to bankrupt the country.

The idiots who oppose health care reform will claim that nothing is being done about cost controls, then yell "DEATH PANELS" when this is brought up. We need to get our heads out of our asses and address these problems today!!!

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Dead Weight Loss of Xmas

Ever get a Christmas gift you hated? Of course you have. Would you have spent that money differently if given the cash instead of the gift? Hell yes! Therefore, gift giving creates what economists call a "dead weight loss".....a loss of welfare based on the fact that money is spent on things people don't want.

I didn't think of this myself. It is the idea of an economist named Joel Waldfogel. He first published his paper on the subject in 1993, and you can read the whole thing HERE if you are so inclined. Waldfogel has now published a book on the subject, called, appropriately "Scroogenomics: Why you shouldn't buy presents for the Holidays".

Hey, they don't call Economics "the dismal science" for nothing! Try giving a handful of bills to your wife or girlfriend and using this to explain that is actually MORE thoughtful than jewelry or a fur......and let us all know how that goes for you, if you are still alive! As if Christmas wasn't hard enough for us guys, now we have to select gifts so good there is no dead weight loss. Oy Vey!

And to my good friend Budd Bailey, whose sister is world famous for her horrible gift selection, well, I guess you can call Jane "The Queen of the Dead Weight Loss!"

More Stupidity from Texans, and other stuff.

If you didn't realize it after 8 years of George W. Bush in the White House, Texans aren't very smart. Nice people mostly, but dumber than a bag of Twizzlers. So I am amused by not surprised when I read things like THIS STORY about how Texas, in their rush to make sure they can discriminate against gays, may have actually banned any marriage in their state. If a conservative Christian Texan were on Jeopardy against a tree stump and cocker spaniel, I am pretty sure the Texan finishes third, but also brings delicious cookies for everyone.

I am currently appearing in a play for the first time ever. There is an article about it (not a review) in the Broomfield local paper. Read about it HERE. While I have been acting and performing comedy for years, this is my first appearance in something I had no hand in writing or creating. Frankly, I am not enjoying it all that much. Too much rehearsing, too little performing, and I don't get the adrenaline rush I get from improvising. The play is a good story that was not well written by the author, and thus needed a lot of editing. I still think it needs a bit more editing to be really good. I have, however, had the pleasure of working with a lot of talented actors who have done wonders with the material.

Finally, if you don't read the comments left here, take a moment now and read Fiona's comment on my previous post. She is currently teaching in Korea, and provides some interesting info on the difference between there and here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Fairer Tax System

Sometimes I have my students get in groups and discuss what should be done about income inequality. The other day one of the groups thought it wrong that policemen and teachers make so little money, and athletes so much.

Clearly, it would be wrong to regulate what an industry can pay people, and inefficient as well. But, we could use tax policy to correct the obvious fact that a police officer is doing far more for society than Lebron James.

I am calling this new tax proposal the "Locke Are You Benefiting Society Tax Code". Here's how it would work. Your tax rate would be determined by how you make your money. If you are performing a vital service to society, such as teaching, cop, serving in the military, you pay 0% income tax. As your benefit to society goes down, your tax rate goes up. Manufacture something, you pay a reasonable rate, depending on what you are making. Create a new product or service that makes our lives better, pay a low tax. However, if you are making your money scamming people, making us dumber, or selling us stuff no one should need, you are gonna be taxed bigtime! And if you are on TV just plain lying to people every night, like Glenn Beck, you can expect a 99% tax rate. Sit on your ass and collect checks from your trust fund, pay a high tax.

So, your local fireman pays no tax, as does your kids teacher. Economics, Science and Math professors pay no tax, while Women's Studies professors pay about 75%. Lawyers who defend the poor and oppressed, low tax rate. Lawyers who scare up complaints for class action suits where the lawyer is the only one who makes money, 99%. Lawyers who defend polluters, 99%, same as the polluters. Entertainers and athletes would pay a fairly high rate, depending on the quality of the entertainment they provide (Paris Hilton and the Buffalo Bills would be in a very high tax rate!).

And by what system, you might ask, would it be decided who pays what rate? Easy, it would be determined by me, your Tax Czar, a job that is vital to society and therefore has a 0% tax rate.

If there is a flaw in this idea, I certainly can't see it!

Monday, November 16, 2009

In Defense of Bill Belicek!

All the sports world is talking about what an arrogant moron Patriots' coach Bill Belicek is for going for it on 4th and 2 on his own 28 last night. And if all the sports world is in agreement, then Belicek must have been right! I believe all the sports world thought Detroit got a hell of deal by trading Chauncey Billups for Alan Iverson last year about this time.

I have written about this before (for links to data go to my previous post HERE). Statistical analysis by people who are interested in real knowledge instead of believing what everyone else does has shown that NFL coaches punt far to often. These big tough screaming guys on the sideline are really a group of frightened little girls. Belicek is one of the few who doesn't automatically do the most obvious, conservative thing. So the danger to sports fans is that all this blasting of Belicek will even further "pussify" the NFL coaching fraternity.....if that is even possible.

Perhaps, Belicek thought this: If I make the first down, the odds of win are about 95%. If I punt, Manning gets the ball with 1:57 to go at his own 30, plenty of time to score against my defense that has not stopped him this quarter. My offense should be good enough to get 2 yards (being the workaholic he is, he might even have had these odds calculated).

Sure, everyone loves beating up the arrogant "genius" coach with no personality and a few Super Bowl rings. But maybe this type of play is why he has those rings. Remember, the Pats won their first Super Bowl by marching down field and scoring from a point where most other coaches would have taken a knee and played for OT.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cool music ssite

Thanks to The Big Picture for bringing to my attention this cool site, Wolfgang's Vault. It has live music performances from a variety of artists. You can listen for free, or buy the download if you want to own it. Haven't had much time to check it out completely, but it looks pretty cool.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

At Least They Aren't Wearing Sequins!

This is just so sad! The NY Times has a story today about a Canadian TV show called "Battle of the Blades". It could best be described as "Ice Dancing With the Stars". In this case, it is female figure skaters doing ice-dancing routines with retired NHL players. Interestingly, 3 of the former players listed are the last players you'd expect in this type of thing.....former goons Tie Domi and Bob Probert, and the hated Claude Lemieux.

It's one thing for D-list celebrities and attention-craving jackasses like Tom Delay to appear in sequins on "Dancing With the Stars". But hockey players? It is all too sad.

The only encouraging part of the story is this line:
The women wear conventional skating costumes — skimpy and spangly — but the men, for the most part, have been spared the Spandex and satin pants, although Domi made his final appearance in a short-sleeved pink shirt.

Tie Domi in a pink shirt. I am just so glad we can't get this show in Colorado!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Health Care Reform My Ass

The health care bill in Congress right now is a giant waste of time. By the time it is watered down enough to pass the Senate, it will be an expenditure bill that will do nothing to fix the problem of out of control health care costs in this country.

There are 2 big problems with health care in this country: It costs way too much and it leaves far too many people vulnerable or completely unable to get health care. We spend 16% of GDP for health care, while the rest of the rich world spends 10% or less, and we get worse results. The folks you hear on TV telling you we have the best health care system in the world are rich and have great is a great system for them. But tell that to the estimated 700,000 Americans who go bankrupt every year because of medical bills.

The current bill, and I haven't read the whole thing, appears to spend money to cover more people, and has provisions that will make it harder for the health insurance industry to screw us. But it completely fails to attack the huge waste in administrative costs (about 25% of private health insurance dollars) or change the system in which doctors get more money for more procedures.

It is not surprising that the politicians don't have the guts to blow up the system and start over, which is what is needed. We need radical change, not a bit of fiddling that is designed not to offend anyone who is currently making their living off our warped system.

Want some good ideas on what we should do? Watch the Frontline show "Sick Around the World" at PBS.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Horrors of Canadian Health Care Exposed

Those promoting the status quo in health care, and the resulting bankruptcy of our society, often site the horrors of the "socialized" Canadian health care system.

A open letter from the Canadian Medical Journal to America exposes some of those horrors. For instance, everyone in Canada has health care coverage. There is no "government bureaucrat" between the doctor and his patient. No one goes bankrupt because they get sick. Canadians have a higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality rate. Those frickin' canucks must be out of their hockey-addled minds to have designed such a nightmare. You can read the whole letter HERE.

Nobody's health care system is perfect. Ours is just way less perfect than anyone elses!

Thanks to Kerry (my friend Kerry, not the Senator from Mass) for sending this along to me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Interesting stats from 2 different businesses

Why do we need health care reform? One of the many reasons is that health care insurance companies are not using our money to keep us healthy. Particularly people like me, who have to pay for their own insurance, pay out only 74% of the money they take in on patients care, according to a study by Congress. Read the whole story in the NY Times HERE.

On a completely unrelated note, the NY Times soccer blog, GOAL, reports that a new book called "Soccernomics" will do for soccer what Bill James and the "Moneyball" guys did for baseball. Must have been much harder work, considering how few stats there are in soccer compared to most other sports. But, just like the James gang, they are poking holes in long-held beliefs that just aren't true. Will it change soccer? Maybe, but remember, despite the numbers, we still see too many sacrifice bunts and speedy lead-off men with horrible on-base percentages in baseball.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Watch these 2 videos back to back

I have been showing my Macro Eco classes the CNBC documentary "House of Cards", which is an excellent show about how the credit and housing bubbles built into the crash that started last year. Two main factors: Easy credit and a belief that prices could only go up.

This morning I finally got around to watching "The Crash of 1929", which aired last Monday on PBS. Watching this after just sitting through the CNBC documentary, well, it was almost like watching the same show, except the CNBC show didn't have old photos in black and white. But the story of easy credit and blind faith is almost the same.

I recommend watching them back to back.

You can watch the PBS show HERE, and the CNBC show HERE. Enjoy the Great Recession!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

From the "Only in Boulder" Department

It isn't too rare in this town to see something strange going on around town which elicits the response "Only in Boulder". To those who think Boulder is an evil place full of commie pot-head freaks, this is a pejorative statement. But to those proud commie pot-head freaks with advanced degrees and high IQ's who live here, well, we say it proudly.

Last night I was doing a tour on the Banjo Billy bus and pulled into the parking lot at the Justice Center around 6:30. My intention was to tell my tour guests the story of William Tull, the only man ever lynched in Boulder, whose ghost haunts the path along Boulder Creek. However, I never got around to it. When we pulled in, there were about 30 people with a boom box and costumes performing the dance from Micheal Jackson's "Thriller" video. I certainly wasn't going to compete with that, so we all just enjoyed the show. Turns out they were rehearsing for their plan to perform it on Pearl St. about an hour later, which you can watch below.

I told my riders that Banjo Billy had arranged for that bit of entertainment. Maybe they believed me, because they tipped really well!

Oh, and from the "This is Colorado" department, today, 3 days after posting that snow-filled picture below, I was riding my bike in shorts. I love this place!