Sunday, June 29, 2014

Highly Linkable

My finger painting never looked quite this good.

I like this framework comparing networks to hierarchies. I find it captures something very true. I'll have more to say on it once I get around to starting a new meme on the blog which I will call Dimension Analysis. (HT: Arnold Kling)

Cliff Asness makes the case for HFT and indicates how some of the "facts" and "reasoning" about it might not be quite so factual or reasonable.

David Bernstein weighs in on an on-going discussion over at The Volokh Conspiracy about how legal extremist (and ridiculous) the Obama Administration has been.

Sumner argues that the American system is rigged to favor the rich. I think this is part of a natural evolution and hope to expand on this thought in an upcoming post.

The O'Bannon v. NCAA trial has ended. Michael McCann has a good summary of how the last day turned a bit in the NCAA's favor. Anyway you look at it, though, the NCAA is in a prolonged process much like a divorce where there is no winning--only degrees of losing. They have all but lost the moral/ethical argument. They have been forced to admit to being a cartel (but a good one, not like any of those other bad cartels). Like I tweeted to McCann,
They can't have it both ways in either an ethical or legal sense: the NCAA is either a consumer-harming monopolist or a labor-harming monopsonist (or both, they can fail to have it both ways).

In a different realm of sports meets law meets consumer demand, it only surprises me that this has taken until now to come about. I expect a lot more up and through a tipping point. Poor guy . . .

PS. I've made many promises in this post. I hope I can live up to them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Going to California

It had been a long time since I had taken a road trip that far, and thankfully now after the fact I regret how long it had been and not how far this trip was. The trip was a great success. Below I'll share some of the reasons. First, a brief synopsis:

We left OKC and took I-40 west almost as far as it goes. The destination was Disneyland and Newport Beach, but as always the journey was at least part of the destination. The Grand Canyon was the highlight on the return. In between we took in many of the classic Route 66 diversions. My thoughts:

  • You cannot appreciate the vastness of this country and especially the western portion without driving it. We clocked 2,980 miles round trip.
  • Before we left, we each guessed how many moving trains we would see. The high guess was 40. We surpassed that number before hitting LA. The final total was 77, which was suppressed somewhat since some of the return drive was after dark.
  • Not once did I hear, "Are we there yet?" Grandparents being along made it much better--specifically by having a second minivan and generally by just being there. If nothing else, it meant we outnumbered the kids four to three. DVD movies, iPads, and car swapping helped, but the kids were great in their own right. They never resisted when I wanted them to look out to see something. Chalk this up as a virtue of the dreaded screen time--they were never so bored with looking out the window as to not appreciate when something was worth looking at out the window.
  • On the way out we hit the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, Central Ave (old Route 66) in Albuquerque, Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque, noticed the lava flows in Grants, NM and the continental divide just outside of Gallup (for some reason this concept was hard for me to grasp as a kid), the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, a small bit of the Petrified Forest, and a great dinner for two in Flagstaff on the patio at Brix. I was very surprised by how fun and charming downtown Flagstaff is. 
  • The Mouse knows what he is doing. The parks are orchestrated masterpieces. Nothing is left to chance or half effort. The staff ("cast members") make one feel as if he is Truman Burbank from "The Truman Show" where it is all meant for him. 
  • California Adventure is underrated. We had apprehension of spending our second Disney day there (we had one-park-only passes). Fortunately we risked it. There was as much or more to do for each kid (2, 4, & 9) as there was in Disneyland. The crowd was not as intense; hence, the lines were shorter. Presentation-wise it is laid out better. In aggregate the rides were better. The 13-hours in this park did not seem as exhausting even though it came two-days after Disneyland (welcomed exhaustion due to thorough fun, but exhaustion nonetheless).
  • Newport Beach, Balboa Island, Corona Del Mar, these places are of another realm. Truly amazing places. Disappointed to find Bluth's Banana Stand in Newport is fiction, but the ones on Balboa Island did not disappoint. 
  • On the way back we skimmed the edge of Joshua Tree N.P. moving on to the surprisingly cool highway 62 from Twentynine Palms until Parker, AZ (the road reminded me of the uber-popular California Adventure ride Radiator Springs; there were stretches for miles where people had arranged rocks to form messages on the parallel-running railroad tracks), London Bridge and Lake Havasu, a really big (some might say Grand) Canyon, the rejuvenating scenery of Sedona, and another dinner for two in Flagstaff this time at Cottage Place
  • Especially in California you can see lots of evidence of social desirability bias and poor economics (and congruently poor environmentalism) in the name of good intentions. Some apparently see it as a virtue.
  • My formula for successful, stress-free travel is having a well-researched but flexible agenda, taking a go-with-the-flow attitude to both the desires of others as well as the reality on the ground, accepting that it is largely about exploration not efficient logistics (you are a wanderer not a deliveryman), and knowing when to call it a day (take breaks, rest; travel is supposed to be refreshing). Admittedly, I am not perfect at practicing this. 
Some pictures:


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Wisdom from the Rubber Duck

On my recent travel of the holiday road I saw many, MANY a semi truck. On the back of one was a message that struck me as interesting. It read, "I get paid for all my miles. Do you?" Obviously this is an attempt at employee recruitment--not a message of disparagement. The implication is other truckers aren't getting all they can out of their particular employment arrangement. 

But an economist looks at this differently. Looked at through the eyes of the economic way of thinking, the message seems nonsensical. Let me explain. 

Suppose you are a trucker who only gets paid for the miles driven when actually delivering goods. If you cannot find a return load, you drive back to your point of origin "unpaid". Presumably this or something similar is what the message is getting at--the trucker with the "better" arrangement gets paid for the load-free return journey. But how can this be? To wit, it would be a remarkable thing if these two trucking situations were in existence at the same time with no meaningful differences between them otherwise. What we would have is a disequilibrium. Markets abhor those. They work to rectify them, and they do so quickly. 

Maybe we are witnessing the first step in movement toward the equilibrium, but that seems very unlikely. The message on the truck was probably there for some time. Yet it shouldn't take long for the message to do its work. And the solution it causes is not likely to be every trucker goes to work for the two-way paying firm. Much more likely truckers start to demand higher wages for the one-way journey or to have some other form of compensation, OR, and this is key, the competition for two-way payments bid down that type of pay. Of course, a combination of all these is the expected outcome. 

Finding an example of two truckers that seemingly are paid differently probably just means one is taking on a different wage risk/reward tradeoff. One way or another we would expect that every trucker gets paid equivalently once the proper adjustments are made. So the answer to the truck's message is "Yes, how could it not be the case?" 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Highly Linkable

I'm back from the land of make believe. Time to catch up. I'll have a summary post of my travels very soon.

I want to go to there and there.

Drilling and filling cavities might soon be a thing of the past.

Melinda Moyer offers a sensible examination of the science around "carbs bad, fat good" and "fat bad, carbs fine".

Here is a nice bit of push back against the extremes of over-scheduling, over-planning, and over-perfecting our children s' summers.

Ten general consumer-oriented firms have tremendous reach because of their vast brand empires as summarized in this graphic.

I love this post by Steve Landsburg because it captures an important point I try to make often. It is a point lost on many people, and in making it I get (unfairly in my opinion) the reaction from others that I am confrontational, judgmental, and snobby. You can like red while I like blue. Those are opinions. There is no right or wrong without further context. But if you tell me you like red and then always choose blue, my telling you that your behavior seems inconsistent is a good observation--not a bigoted one. Further, telling me that red is the better color to paint the ocean in a picture may not stand up to scrutiny, and we may have left the realm of equal-value opinion with this added context. Further still, opinions that have no right or wrong cannot have any arguments to support or defend them. The existence of any logical argument for or against an opinion means there must be to some extent or another right and wrong (illogical) opinions in a particular case. In short, the interjection of "it's a matter of opinion" is in many cases a cop out. And "agree to disagree" is often the argument of the weak/lazy minded with a touch of condescension.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Highly Linkable

I want to go to then.

Don Boudreaux on Piketty. Steve Landsburg on Piketty. Garrett Jones on Piketty.

Sugar bad, but fat good. I think this lady got the message.

The tide may be turning in the fight against those who want to spend OPM on the bright and shiny things. And the World Cup brings us fresh fuel to our well argued fire.

Sticking with sports, the game makers have settled with current and former college athletes. And Scott Sumner offers some critical thoughts about how anti-trust should be applied to sports leagues and organizations.

As a student of logic, I found these fallacies that don't but should exist to be quite interesting.

Detroit rapidly deteriorating as seen from Google Street View. Maybe if the just had some strong zoning laws, they could have avoided all this mess . . . No. When broad economic forces are working against you, you cannot reverse the decline by legislation or good intentions. D.C. offers a case in point.

Arnold Kling will not be invited to give a high school graduation speech any time soon, but he should be.

How to think and how to learn--including acing exams with hardly any studying. Sounds like good advice. Too much time is spent on worthless rote memorization. After all, life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

These ants are nuts!

I'm going on vacation shortly. L.A. La-La land. In my mind, I'm already there. To that end, here are some great travel tools. Especially don't miss Rome2rio.

Monday, June 2, 2014

How To Be Teflon

Everybody gets into difficult situations. EVERYBODY. Everyday. If you aren't getting in one today, good for you. Or maybe you're not trying hard enough. Or don't realize you're in one.

This is a guide to for difficult situations. Not a guide. A few ideas. They may be bad ideas. Apply at your own risk.

This isn't about being a Teflon Don. This isn't about committing crimes and getting away with it. It is about rising above a problem. Finding your way out of a difficult situation. Maybe that means a solution. Maybe that means a victory. Maybe that just means an escape hatch. They all look the same from the other side. I'm not saying this is what I'm always able to do. It is just what I try to do.


Suppose someone just challenged your solution, put down your proposal, laughed at your ideas. It was supposed to be a professional setting. Just like that you are on the emotional defensive. Stop right there. They have just paid you a flattering compliment. They've just said, "As good as that was, you are better. Show me better." Now do just that.

Who cares that they were crass, inconsiderate? We'll get to the insignificant moments shortly. Or maybe they are just bad communicators. Don't hold that against them. Show them the better way. Ask them what they want, what they think. Get them to tell you the way to communicate with them.

Most people lash out when they don't understand. Confusion sparks primitive emotions bordering on physical reaction. Defuse it by giving them control. Figure out what they need to know by letting them do the talking. Always be thinking about solutions and expect that other people are too.

What if you can't? If you and the other person are at an impasse? Back away. Put time between the two of you and the problem. Notice they aren't the antagonist. You aren't the protagonist. It is the two of you against the problem even if it doesn't, and it usually won't, feel that way.

What if you still can't? Oh, well. Walk away. Some people can't communicate. Or won't. Doesn't matter because . . .


Deep down the important people are always rooting for you. ALWAYS. And the people who aren't are insignificant. It is just like Thin Lizzy said, "If that chick don't want to know, forget her."

People we care about strive to 'get it'. That is how they show they care about us. And we reciprocate. Being a good friend, a good business partner, a good lover, a good person is about forgiveness, understanding, acceptance, and support. We're trying to make each other better while knowing we ourselves are highly imperfect. So imperfect that there isn't time to consider other's faults because . . .


What has happened is literally in the past. What comes next is what matters. You will be judged by what happened and what will happen and you can only change one of those things. It is you're next decision that matters. Make it right, or make a mistake, that's okay because . . .


Somewhere right now many people are making colossally bigger mistakes than you are right now. You've made bigger mistakes. You will make bigger mistakes. You learn, you adapt, you improve, you move on. Don't be stuck in the past with those who themselves can't escape it.

Don't focus on the mistakes; you're better than your last mistake. Much better. Now show it. Rise above it.

But how? What if it feels big? IT IS BIG. This mistake won't end well. Well, you're wrong. The Universe is big. You are small. Time is long. You are fleeting. And that moment, that mistake is but a flash that can be forgotten, undone, moved past, resolved because . . .


Most of life is in your own head. You sleep maybe one third of your life if you're lucky. And that time is just you and your dreams. You are alone with your thoughts perhaps another third of your time. The rest is also you thinking about what is happening around you while you intermittently interact with it.

This leaves very little time for you to actually act--be those actions successes or mistakes. And keep in mind you won't necessarily know the verdict right away if ever at all. Many actions we take are inconsequential. Many mistakes we make are as well. Some aren't, but you'll endure because . . .


You are the reason difficult situations were invented. Just so you'd have something to do.

Always be listening to your favorite music in your head. Give yourself a theme song. A whole playlist. As the situation dictates, switch to the perfect anthem.

Pretend the situation you're in is already scripted and you're just acting it out and you're the hero. Don't be cocky. Don't be arrogant. Just rise above. Let somebody else take the credit and the glory. The audience knows the truth. And they're rooting for you. Always.