Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Sunday after church we headed up to Salt Lake to pick up Hilary, who was flying in from Omaha Monday evening and spend some time with my uncle and his family. We also got to see Jake's old roomie, Lincoln, and hang with Caleb, Melinda, and the Bean. It was so nice to spend time with friends and family! Other than Thanksgiving with my sister, this is the only other time we've seen family since July. I miss them all so much!
We left SLC Tuesday around noon to head back to southern Utah. Jake and I stayed in Cedar City for a few more hours to see his Aunt Mel and Uncle Ron. We didn't get to see as much of them as we liked that night, but we did get to go to a movie and hang out with them Christmas Eve.
Yesterday morning before Jake and I went to Cedar City, we played in the snow with Josh and Hilary. We threw snow at each other and then I had the bright idea to make snow cones with maraschino cherry juice. It was delicious. See picture:
We saw Bolt with Mel & Ron, Celeste, and Jenna yesterday and enjoyed it very much. Rhino the hamster totally made that movie. Go check it out. Later that night the Millers did their traditional Mary and Joseph dinner on wooden bowls: fish, nuts, figs, grape juice, and a couple of other delicacies that were quite delicious. Then we sang carols and called a few people and dropped off a present to a friend and drove back to New Harmony around 11 pm. The roads were starting to get bad, so we were happy to get all tucked in and wait for Santa to come.
Christmas morning was great. My mom made orange and cinnamon rolls, egg casserole, and her traditional cranberry Christmas hot punch. We opened presents and stockings and were thrilled with our haul. Jake gets very cold, so my parents and I got him very warm presents, scarves, a hat, gloves, fleece and flannel pajama pants, and a sweater. He also got The Dark Knight and the Twilight soundtrack, and his favorite childhood picturebook, among other things. I got Stranger Than Fiction and School of Rock, springform pans, a book, and the latest (a year ago) Matchbox Twenty CD. My parents also gave us a fantastic 72 hour emergency kit. It's incredible! It has two backpacks to hold it all, which includes water, tools, packaged food, matches, ponchos, and all kinds of stuff. We're going to have to ship it, as there's no way we'll be able to fit it on the plane.
We were hoping to get to Cedar to open presents with the Millers (including Jake's gift for me--I have no idea what it is), but with all the snow and no snowplow, we couldn't get out. So we've been hanging out with my family. Jake is playing Lego Star Wars on Josh's friend's Wii and has been for the last few hours. I've played games with my mom and sister and helped with food. We're making my favorite asparagus (it's the green beans from my Thanksgiving post but with asparagus...delish) and having a pork roast.
Tomorrow we're hoping the snow plow will come so we can head up to Brian Head to spend the weekend with the rest of the Miller clan and ski and snowboard. I haven't been skiing since 8th grade, so we'll see how it goes. We'll be spending our first anniversary up there, and I don't know how much Internet access we'll have, so I thought I'd post a few thoughts on the past year.
Sheri always asks me jokingly if I'm sick of Jake yet, as that was the problem with both Jake's and my previous relationships. I am definitely not sick of Jake--quite the opposite, in fact. I am still thoroughly in love with him and all his quirks. Here are two of my favorites.
There are only two categories of ice cream: chocolate and fruit. When he first explained this to me, I was confused. "What about Dreyer's Fried Ice Cream?" I asked.
"Chocolate," he said.
"But there's not an ounce of chocolate in it!" I protested.
"But it goes in the chocolate category," he explained.
So does Rocky Road, Caramel Swirl, and Cookie Dough.
The fruit category includes Bubble Gum, peach, and sherbet. I know that it doesn't make a lot of sense, but somehow it works for Jake. My mom and brother tried to convince him there has to be more than two (think vanilla) just now, but he'll have none of it.
My other favorite quirk is his use of decision trees in everyday life. One night I asked him if he wanted ice cream or pineapple for dessert. This is how he chose:
For those of you who don't read decision tree, the numbers at right are probabilities, 1 being 100%. Therefore, pineapple had a higher probability of being great, whereas the ice cream had a lower probability at just 65%. Based on this information, he chose pineapple.
Before we left Chicago, we decided to eat our slice of wedding cake. It survived the move across the country, and we didn't think it would be a good idea to try again or wait another three weeks to eat it after New Years. It wasn't awful, but it did taste like freezer. We each ate the ceremonial bite and then threw the rest away and ate a bowl of ice cream. I even took pictures to commemorate the event.
It's been a good year. Harder than I thought it would be in some ways and easier in others. Jake puts up with a lot from me; I worry about everything, I'm obsessive about food, and I'm also not a calm driver, especially when it comes to crazy Chicagoans. He is such a easy person to get along with. He tells me he loves me every day. He's kind, gentle, and funny and knows how to make me feel better everytime I get scared or worried. I'm blessed to be married to such a wonderful man. Jake, thanks for the best year of my life. I look forward to many, many more. Happy first anniversary!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
"Usually, GDP is a reasonable proxy for economic well-being, so more is better, but that is not true in this example. Part of the problem here is that GDP includes government purchases at cost. If the government hires people to produce stuff that is worthless, that stuff is included in GDP just as much as if the government buys something valuable. When calculating GDP, the national income accountants do not pass judgment on the social utility of government spending. Anyone concerned with economic well-being has to go beyond thinking about GDP. ... Willy-nilly spending is a good way to stimulate the economy only if the outcome is judged by the wrong metric."
Very interesting. ... It is strikingly similar. Also, this is not a hugely popular topic among economists. So luck of the draw is a possible explanation, but not the only one.
Here are my other potential explanations:
1) Great minds think alike.
2) Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in awhile (I would be the blind squirrel).
3) We both use crack liberally (what do you think are those chances?).
4) Greg reads my blog (highly unlikely).
5) Greg stalks me. (very... ?)
Saturday, December 20, 2008
When the Sauce Is Only for the Goose
I read with interest the president-elect's appointment of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education ("Obama's Education Choice," Review & Outlook, Dec. 17). Mr. Duncan may in fact be the right man for the job, but if the president-elect and his new secretary really wish to fix public education, they need only push through one change: It is hereby illegal for any member of Congress to send his or her children to any nonpublic elementary, junior or senior high school.
What do you think?
My guess is the whole system would be fixed over the weekend.
John M. Ogle
Waterford Works, N.J.
If that wasn't enough, here is an "inflation will solve all our problems" movie from 1933. Seriously. Hahahahaha. HT: Cafe Hayek.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The binomdist (true) formula is tricky because it sums the probability of each outcome including the number you put as the successful number of trials. So, =BINOMDIST(3,5,0.4,TRUE) actually depicts the probability of being an A student had I received 4 A's, not 3. However, since I learned today that I did get 4 out of 5 A's, Caleb still wins. Merry Christmas.
So the answer for four A's was 91.3%. However, a load of assumptions have to be made and I do not feel like defending them.
We will see you all veeeerry soon. Hooray again!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
"Journalists came under attack for the first time in the riots, with a Russian news crew assaulted by a mob of about 50 youths, some of them reportedly drunk. "
Teenagers + Russian + Riot = Alcohol?
No, we can't make that assertion. Let's use the word "some" and "reportedly" just so we don't paint them in a bad light and accuse them of something they did not do. Don't be stereotypical now!
I'm done with exams finally. I also probably got A's in most of my classes. Now the real trick is determining the probability that I am an A or B or C student given the strict bell curves in my classes. If I received 3 A's (out of 5), and the curve dictates that only 40% of students receive A's for any given class. What is the probability that I am an "A" student on average (assuming IID, and that this is a probability question that consists of prob A and prob not A)?
Hint: I'm pretty sure you can just use the formula binomdist in excel to solve it if you know what goes where.
If you get the answer right... you will get something good. I'm not sure what yet, but it's going to be really good.
Have a fantastic evening.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
We spent the first day getting to know each other (9 am to 5 pm). I learned more about people's past horrid relationships (boy, am I glad I'm married to a great guy!), the vegan's creepy pot-selling male roommate (see above parenthetical), and employment histories than I ever wanted to know. I've always enjoyed listening to other people, and this was no exception. More than ever, though, I was glad of my situation, beliefs, family, and husband. My favorite moment that day was when the vegan girl was telling about her most recent break-up, which involved having lived with a guy for two years and thinking she was going to marry him. She said, "You know, I decided I'll never live with a guy again until I'm at least engaged." The look of horror on the other three faces made me smile to myself.
"What do you mean?" cried one of the journalist.
"Wouldn't you want to try it out? See if it will work?" asked the other.
"I know I'd want to," said the history guy.
I finally piped up. "The statistics on that sort of thing are really interesting."
"What?" one of them asked.
"The divorce rate is higher for people who live together before marriage than for people who don't," I said. More faces aghast.
The vegan agreed. "It's something to do with the level of commitment. I finally understood that when my ex just kept avoiding the issue of marriage but wanted to stay together."
"Huh," one of them said. "I'll have to look into that."
Score one for a teensy bit of morality.
The second day, one of the guys had the bright idea to bring the entire first season of Arrested Development. Not a lot of talking going on, but oh man, how I miss that show. "Illusions, Dad! You don't have time for my illusions!" "There's no 'i' in Teamocil, at least not where you'd think." "The zero hour, Michael. It's the end of the line. I'm the firstborn. Sick of playing second fiddle. Always third in line for everything. Tired of finishing fourth. Being the fifth wheel. There are six things I'm mad about, and I'm taking over." So many gems.
The third day was our last. The job was scheduled to go until a fourth or possibly a fifth day, but we got it all done much sooner than anticipated. Some of the others wanted to slow it down so we could get in one more day, but we didn't. I'm all about that whole "honest with your fellow man" thing, so I feel good about it. This day was also the most difficult for me. My back ached, my paper cuts had paper cuts, my fingertips were dry and scratchy, and I got really tired of the hour-long conversations about beer. I generally don't mind the odd conversation about a topic I have no knowledge about, but I obviously couldn't contribute, so I was happy when the conversation turned to something I do know something about: health care. Jake and I have discussed health care often; he likes to bounce his ideas off of me for clarity's sake. You can read them in earlier blogs. Most of my fellow temps were all for socialized medicine. I mentioned Jake's idea to just graduate more doctors. "But then there will be some crappy doctors!" So? At least then supply will go up, which means price should go down. Most of the time I go to a doctor, I just need a quick checkup or antibiotics for a sinus infection. Nearly any idiot can do that. One of the journalists was very skeptical of this idea, but I say why not give the people a choice? If I know it's no big thing, I can go to the cheap doctor. If I think it could be bad, I might choose a more expensive one.
Their real concern was for the poor, which I totally agree with. The conversation moved from health care to health in general, especially food. The other journalist had done a story about food deserts, which are large areas in urban neighborhoods with no grocery stores. I said that if the city really wanted to help those in poverty, the city should take away the ordinance that keeps places like Super Wal-Mart or Super Target out. They all turned on me like I was some kind of demon. "Wal-Mart is horrible!" they all cried. "Wal-Marts ruin small towns!" If there are no grocery stores of any size within a large area, Wal-Mart isn't going to run anyone out of business. People will simply have have another (less expensive) food option instead of the zillions of McDonald's in Chicago. "But Wal-Mart wouldn't WANT to come to Chicago. It wouldn't make business sense," said the first journalist. Sure it would, if you take away the restrictions keeping them out. Right now, Wal-Mart doesn't even have the option. Choices, people, choices. By the end of that third day, I think they were glad to be rid of me. This is what happens when your husband discusses economics with you, I guess.
With any luck, however, I won't have to temp for awhile. Last Friday, the sub coordinator from the high school called me and asked I was interested in a cadre sub position that will open up at the beginning of January. Cadres are the ones who get first dibs at sub jobs, get higher daily pay, and work nearly every day. Of course I was interested! I was one of several people who had their names thrown in, but apparently it worked out; I got an email saying the sub coordinator would be getting a contract to me soon. Jake and I figured it out, and we'll actually have money at the end of a month instead of drawing down on our savings! Huzzah!
Jake has one more final tomorrow. I'll be glad to have my husband back. Not that he's been completely absent, but I just like having a Jake who isn't spending hours at our kitchen table telling himself he's hosed. He's done well on the first three exams, by the way. Just Finance tomorrow, which he's studying for now while I finish this blog entry. He has requested that I post the following music video by The Killers in honor of our upcoming trip to Utah. The video was filmed in Goblin Valley (I totally nailed that when I first looked at it, by the way) and made us both nostalgic for mountains and hills, especially orange ones. Soon, Jake.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
1) It's been raining for the last 24 hours. Raining. In Chicago. Mid-December. Weird. Especially since this year is supposed to be the coldest year in a long long time. This is a good thing for Ashley and I because in an effort not to go bankrupt, the city stopped plowing our road and other "sidestreets".
2) As you may well know, the governor of Illinois got hit with corruption charges. No big surprises there. Hopefully Mayor Daley is next. This is the main news article that most people are seeing, but this is the more detailed one that I would rate "PG-13" for language (we try to keep this blog at a "G" rating).
Here is a great quote from the governor yesterday: "I should say if anybody wants to tape my conversations, go right ahead, feel free to do it. I appreciate anybody who wants to tape me openly and notoriously, and those who feel like they want to sneakily, and wear taping devices, I would remind them that it kind of smells like Nixon and Watergate."
Umm, I love that argument. Nixon made tapes of himself in conversations with other people that were eventually used to incriminate him. Therefore, I am innocent of these corruption charges.
Step 1: Make terrible analogy
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Take over the world
Unfortunately, people with a silver tongue can use terrible analogies all day. Oh well. Two finals down. Just a few more to go. (I have one every day at noon.)
Monday, December 8, 2008
First the side dishes: green beans, sweet potatoes, rolls, and mashed potatoes. I forgot to take a picture of the frog-eye salad, but you can see Jake's personal bowl of it in his picture. He's not a fan of the maraschino cherries. I am particularly proud of the rolls. I've never baked any kind of bread from scratch by myself.
The turkey turned out well. Oven bags are your friends. At least they're mine. No one really ate stuffing, but it seemed wrong to make turkey without it.
Hilary's lemon meringue on the left, and my pumpkin on the right. I discovered that my pie pan is too deep for a single recipe. Hmm. Hilary's pie was perfect!
On Sunday after the girls left, Jake's friend Min Goo and his wife came over for dinner and brought this amazing tart from Whole Foods. The picture doesn't even begin to do it justice. I don't know how anyone gets blackberries this time of year, but the tart was so good!
Also, a few weeks ago, I made apple stuffing pork chops, which turned out pretty good for my having dropped almost half the stuffing on the floor. (Yes, I threw it away.)
I'm not sure I should be in charge of Thanksgiving ever again. I'm not very good at letting anyone else cook in my kitchen, which has no counter space. Perhaps I shouldn't have cleaned it from top to bottom the day before. I got snappish at my sister and Jake a little too. I wanted everything to be perfect, and from a food standpoint, I suppose it was good. But if the point of Thanksgiving is to spend time with people I love and enjoy the gifts God blessed us with, I didn't do so well. I talked to my mom on Thursday afternoon, and she told me not to worry if everything doesn't turn out to be exactly the way I wanted it to. I didn't really get what she was saying until I sat down to my lovely meal and had no desire to eat it (which, for me, is a big deal). I hadn't spent any time with Hilary except to get annoyed with her not moving out of my way fast enough. The first time I really enjoyed myself all week was Thursday night after dinner when the four of us played games. That was what I was supposed to be doing. Every other Thanksgiving, I've been in the kitchen with my mom and aunts or grandmothers, and I've felt like I was part of the fun. Making food is supposed to be fun! We watched the new Hulk movie before we ate, but I was up and down and in and out through the whole thing checking on food. I felt like I missed out on something, but I did it to myself. I couldn't bear to let anyone else contribute. Part of me wants another chance in another year to do it right. Another part just wants to be a kitchen scullery maid peeling potatoes and helping the older women and letting them teach me how to be an adult. I'm married; I should be an adult, right? I should be able to do all of this, which is what I was trying to prove to everyone, including myself. The other part of me just wants a bigger kitchen.
Coming soon: Temping!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
98% of you will find what I will write below boring. For those who do, I recommend this very enlightening article (HT: Tyler Cowen) about "Karaoke Rage" instead. Karaoke rage is similar to road rage, except it is karaoke. Also, if you would like a more condensed and laymen version of the idea below, here is a related argument from Kling. However, my idea is quite different in a lot of respects.
For the remaining 2%, here you go:
GDP to a great extent has become the be-all and end-all of macroeconomics. This is unfortunate because it leads government to make the wrong conclusions. GDP is the main output on which people focus to determine the health of the economy. It is calculated as follows:
GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)
Just add up consumption, gross investment, government spending, and net exports.
There are many criticisms of GDP. I would like to focus on just one: G, or government spending.
GDP is supposed to accurately depict the economic well-being of a society. Voluntary transactions in the market is a good gauge of this. Government spending, however, is not. Here are my examples:
1) A government spends $10 M developing a new bomb. That money is now added into GDP. The economy is supposed to be better off by $10 M.
Some people erroneously believe that war helps the economy (e.g., "World War II got us out of the Great Depression!" This is false). Large amounts of spending on war simply manipulates GDP to no longer represent the economic well-being of a society. Someone needs to explain how is it that people producing large amounts of tanks, bombers, and guns makes a society better off than when those same people produce butter, hair cuts, and buildings. Now, of course there is the obvious argument that survival makes one better off than death and that defense is a crucial part of this. Point noted. However, I fail to see how this makes me better off than if people produced something that created actual utility. GDP equates bombs with corn flakes. I'd prefer to not need the bomb and eat my corn flakes, but GDP states that I'm just as well off if I have no corn flakes and the bomb is made. Of course I prefer survival, but survival and corn flakes is even better than survival and no corn flakes. GDP doesn't make this distinction.
2) A farmer receives a $5 M subsidy to plant nothing. The economy is supposed to be better off by $5 M.
The result is higher agriculture prices, never mind the deadweight social loss that comes from the transfer of money through government (Also, never mind the question of morality, "No real American wants to be subsidized."). The economy is better off according to GDP.
3) A state spends $15 B on the biggest public works project in history. It is a piece of garbage.
Government spending begs the question, "How much quality am I receiving per dollar spent?"
When GDP is calculated, involuntary transactions by government are weighted equally with voluntary transactions of people trying to maximize their well-being. The economic well-being of society is simply:
Existing Wealth + The sum of productivity of individual members of society
Voluntary transactions promote productivity. A lot of the involuntary ones fall in the dead-weight social loss bin. It is difficult to equate productivity of government projects with private projects. It is also difficult to equate endeavors that make an economy worse off with private endeavors that make an economy better off.
Governments spend exorbitant amounts on bad projects during recessions and then watch GDP climb out of negative figures. They then pat themselves on the back and say, "Hey! Look how great we are." This is similar to chaining your two year old to the toilet and then proudly watch the two year old use the toilet. Is the child better off? Probably not. Maybe the kid is emotionally scarred for life and is terrified of toilets forever after. Also, the toddler had to give up whatever unplanned fun adventures for the day. This could be a great part of the reason why the USSR's GDP dropped so drastically when it ceased being a communist state. People started doing things that made themselves better off. If people do things to make themselves happier, and GDP falls, is GDP truly a good indicator of economic well-being? I say no. "G" should be discounted or taken out of the picture completely in order to focus on the aspects that more truly reflect economic well-being.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Now I have seen it all. This paper (or speech) claims that the levered up firms that bought mortgage backed securities (what some call the subprime crisis) was actually caused by... wait for it... a general lack of labor union power in the United States and free trade agreements. I bet economists read this over lunch laughing so hard they cry. Oh wait. I forgot the best part. This guy (associate general counsel of the AFL-CIO) blames global warming on a lack of union power and free trade as well. While he is at it, he might as well throw in teenage pregnancy, nuclear proliferation, and daytime television in there too!
Here is my favorite line:
"We can go in a new direction, one with enormous benefits not just for Americans but for a world facing a future of rising energy costs and a destabilized climate"
Yes. The world will really appreciate it when we tell them that it is illegal for them to sell their products to Americans. Now, as far as energy costs and the destabilized climate, it really has nothing to do with anything else that he talks about. I really think he just made a list of feel good buzzwords and threw them in wherever it didn't sound too weird.
And I thought we were doing better at economic literacy...
Monday, December 1, 2008
Yet More Sacrifice?
I read "UAW Faces Prospect of More Concessions" (U.S. News, Nov. 17), wherein Robert Reich, adviser to President-elect Obama, is quoted as saying, "Every stakeholder needs to sacrifice. That means creditors should take a haircut. Shareholders should sacrifice; executives should put something onto the table and also employees."
He needs to explain further what sacrifices shareholders can and should make besides now holding stock that is worth peanuts, if that. Perhaps we should form a volunteer contingent and ask to replace some of the workers who now sit around the house drawing their pay for not working, thanks to a management that has demonstrated the common sense, foresight and business acumen comparable to that found in a box of rocks.
Richard R. Gallimore
He does make a good point though. The shares of the company are almost worthless. What else can the shareholders sacrifice? Maybe Mr. Reich is suggesting that the stock become negative in value and require the shareholders to pay money into the corporation. Sure it makes no sense and is illegal, but that hasn't stopped a lot of ideas from being implemented.