Saturday, February 28, 2009

The right way and the wrong way..... score a lot of points.

The right way: Shaq! (1) be a center, (2) get 45 points on 25 shots, (3) throw in 11 boards, (4) have a +17 rating for the game, (5) get the W.

The wrong way: Russell Westbrook! (1) be a point guard, (2) get 33 points on 32 shots, (3) have 4 turnovers to go with your 5 assists, (4) have a -6 rating (tied for worst on the team) for the game, (5) lose.

Do androids dream of electric cigs?

"With its slim white body and glowing amber tip, it can easily pass as a regular cigarette. It even emits what look like curlicues of white smoke. The Ruyan V8, which produces a nicotine-infused mist absorbed directly into the lungs, is just one of a rapidly growing array of electronic cigarettes attracting attention in China, the U.S. and elsewhere — and the scrutiny of world health officials.

Marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking and a potential way to kick the habit, the smokeless smokes have been distributed in swag bags at the British film awards and hawked at an international trade show.

Because no burning is involved, makers say there's no hazardous cocktail of cancer-causing chemicals and gases like those produced by a regular cigarette. There's no secondhand smoke, so they can be used in places where cigarettes are banned, the makers say."

I am pretty sure that nothing can go wrong with a product that sprays atomized nicotine down your throat. Kudos to you Ruyan Group LTD. Full story is here. FYI, according to the AP "Ruyan" means "like smoking". It doesn't say in what language.

Fried Onion Lad

Lance seems to be having some issues about adjusting to the new kind of "change" our President is helping us out with.

And, for those of you who wonder what EBT cards are going to be hearing a lot more about them.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Takes Me Back....Though I Don't Want to Go

A lot of you folks think I exaggerate the....well.....redneckitude of my upbringing.

But, here's an example:

Appparently Roosevelt Holloman just died. There was an obituary in the Orlando Sentinel.

But it was a bit odd. People protested. And the Sentinel pulled the obit. I found it on the cache at Google:

Roosevelt Holloman devoted himself to helping others learn
Winter Park residents will remember Roosevelt "Big Holly" Holloman as an educator with a big voice and an even bigger heart.

Pretty standard obit, right. Well.....there's more to the story. You see, Roosevelt Holloman was an assistant principal at my high school, West Orange High. And Roosevelt got into a spot of trouble with the head principal, Raymond Screws. Mr. Holloman, it appears, was likely to be fired.

And, so, Mr. Holloman did what any red-blooded Central Floridian from our area would do. He took a gun to school, and shot Mr. Screws dead. In December 1977, just after I graduated from this Mecca of higher learning.

Yes, he did. The obit in the Sentinel left that out. Wow. Mr. Holloman was sentenced to life in prison without parole. So, when he died just now, on Feb 20, 2009, he prison. The obit in the Sentinel left THAT out, also.

Now, the football field, where the Mighty Warriors get killed every Friday night in the fall, is named....Raymond Screws field. And that, as Paul Harvey would say, is the REST of the story.

The West Orange Times gives the denouement....

So he COULD keep up, after all.....

Quite a party. Two young ladies bet a guy he couldn't "keep up" with them for an all night....activity.

But he did. Of course, he took an entire bottle of Viagra first. (Article)

And then he died, after 12 hours of solid....activity.

I even have a picture of the guy, after about 8 hours of the....contest.

Gestapo? PAH! Girly Men....

One of the radio shows I am on each week sometimes gets complaints, and since I am in the studio I get to hear the cross-talk between producer and host. What surprises me most is the little tiny distinctions that really matter to listeners.

Within the last month, I heard the following conversation:

PRODUCER: "You really made a guy mad yesterday. A Russian guy. You were talking about Russians, and during that Russian music, you said something about the Gestapo."

HOST: (Honestly confused) "I was justing making the point that many totalitarian regimes have disappeared. We weren't just talking about Russia. In fact, I...."

PRODUCER: (interrupting) "Well, he just thought you should have said KGB."

HOST: (Even more confused) "You mean he just wanted me to get the correct thuggish sercret police name? He just wanted me to say KGB instead of Gestapo?"

PRODUCER: "Yeah, he thought the KGB was much worse than the Gestapo. And he seemed kind of proud of that. He was going for the 'Germans were just girly men, compared to the KGB.'"

HOST: (Staring, shakes head slowly)

All Hail Thomas Forester

There are apparently 8200 stock mutual fund managers in the US of A. Last year 8199 of them lost money, at an average clip of 39%. Not Thomas Forester of the Forester Value Fund though, He returned + 0.4% making him a god among men. His secret? Avoid stocks and hold cash. Of course that strategy made his fund under-perform relative to the S&P 500 in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The full story is here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

If this is true we are REALLY in trouble

Pastor and Stambaugh in a new NBER working paper argue that, contrary to received wisdom, stocks are actually more volatile over long horizons than over short ones. Here's their abstract:

Conventional wisdom views stocks as less volatile over long horizons than over short horizons due to mean reversion induced by return predictability. In contrast, we find stocks are substantially more volatile over long horizons from an investor's perspective. This perspective recognizes that parameters are uncertain, even with two centuries of data, and that observable predictors imperfectly deliver the conditional expected return. We decompose return variance into five components, which include mean reversion and various uncertainties faced by the investor. Although mean reversion makes a strong negative contribution to long-horizon variance, it is more than offset by the other components. Using a predictive system, we estimate annualized 30-year variance to be nearly 1.5 times the 1-year variance.

Here is an interesting paragraph, raising a point I had not thought about before:

Of the four components contributing positively, the one making the largest contribution at
the 30-year horizon reflects uncertainty about future expected returns. This component (iii) is
often neglected in discussions of how return predictability affects long-horizon return variance. Such discussions typically highlight mean reversion, but mean reversion—and predictability more generally—require variance in the conditional expected return, which we denote by ut . That variance makes the future values of ut uncertain, especially in the more distant future periods, thereby contributing to the overall uncertainty about future returns. The greater the degree of predictability, the larger is the variance of ut and thus the greater is the relative contribution of uncertainty about future expected returns to long-horizon return variance.

here is the link to an ungated version of the paper

Setting vs. Rising

"How you gonna sing a song that runs
From the mouth of where the singing comes
From the mouth of where the song is sung
Do you call a setting sun a sun rising?

How you gonna get the soil and the glory
When you want to be a harvester of light
But the soil only turns under the moon's shitty story?

There may be churches burning down next year
If I'm a city then my citizens will pass no pails along
There may be temples of temptation to take refuge in my dear
If I'm a city then my citizens will cast a vote

As to:
Where you pray Vs. What you're praying for
What/who you love Vs. What you bow before
Where you beg and what you're begging for"

--Spencer Krug

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Free at last

Starbury is finally free. I guess the Knicks were so embarrassed about Steph's $400,000 grievance that they just let him go (or maybe Stephon caved and gave up a more substantial chunk of his salary than the $1 million he'd said was his max).

In any event, if he signs with another team before March 1, he'll be eligible to play in the playoffs for that team.

I used to be a hater but this "Me and Stephon" set of mini-videos has made me into kind of a fan.

Check them all out here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Sticky Information manifesto

Ricardo Reis' new NBER working paper (ungated version here) is exactly that.

The SIGE (sticky information general equilibrium) model does away with the various real rigidities generally included in DSGE (dynamic stochastic general equilibrium) models like habit formation in consumption, and various ad-hoc-ish adjustment costs with the single assumption that many people only update their information sets sporadically.

The paper outlines a full GE model, and then estimates it using Bayesian computational methods for the US and the Euro-zone.

According to Reis: "The end result is a laboratory that is
rich enough to account for the dynamics of at least …five macroeconomic series (inflation,
output, hours, interest rates, and wages), and which can be used to inform applied
monetary policy."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Nicely put, Governor.....

Christmas is the time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it.

Deficits are when adults tell government what they want and their kids pay for it

Richard Lamm, Governor of Colorado, 1975-1987

Jeff Sachs knocks it out of the park

This is astonishingly good:

"Most important, we should stop panicking. One of the reasons we got into this mess was the Fed’s exaggerated fear in 2002 and 2003 that the U.S. was following Japan into a decade of stagnation caused by deflation (falling prices). To avoid a deflation the Fed created a bubble. Now the bubble has burst, and we’ve ended up with the deflation we feared! Panics end badly, even panics of policy; more moderate policies will be safer in the medium term.

There is little reason to fear a decade of stagnation, much less a depression. The U.S. economy is technologically dynamic and highly flexible. The world economy has tremendous growth potential if we don’t end up in financial and trade conflict, and if the central banks ensure adequate liquidity to avoid panicky runs on banks, businesses and sovereign borrowers. We should understand that the Great Depression itself resulted from a horrendous run on the U.S. banking system in an era without deposit insurance, and when the Fed and Congress did not understand the critical role of a lender of last resort. Moreover, the Gold Standard of the 1930s, which we long ago abandoned, acted like a kind of straightjacket on monetary policies.

In short, although the sharp downturn will unavoidably last another year or even two, we will not need zero interest rates and mega-deficits to avoid a depression or even to bring about a recovery. In fact, the long-term, sustainable recovery will be accelerated by a policy framework in which the budget credibly returns to balance over several years, the government meets its critical responsibilities in social services, infrastructure and regulation, and the Fed avoids dangerous swings in interest rates that actually contribute to the booms and busts we seek to avoid."

Full text here. Hat tip to LeBron!

Fair Trade

Our good friends over at Adam Smith Institute Blog were kind enough to publish a post of mine, on "Fair Trade."

For more on the effects of REAL commerce on "primitive" peoples, see Tyler Cowen's excellent book, "Creative Destruction: How Globalization is Changing the World's Cultures." He really nailed it, with lots of interesting details.

My own conclusion:

"Fair trade" raises costs to consumers. Worse, it enslaves the people it claims to help, with the invisible chains of artificial subsidy, and arrested economic development. If it pleases you to think of happy natives, living primitive lives, just go rent a BBC documentary, and let the market work.

Labor conquers all things???

Click image to view larger version. Source is here.

sweet shooting

On the menu bar off to the side, if you click on 18 three pointers, you can see Baron Davis besting Nash. I am still laughing about their version of the movie "Stepbrothers".

Movie Closure

This weekend was the Oscars (I know, horrible grammer, eh?) AND also I finally saw the last two movies I projected would be in my top 10. They were Frozen River and Happy Go Lucky. Frozen River was terrific. Melissa Leo nailed her role as did the kids playing her kids and the actress playing Leila. Well done all around. Not exactly a feel-good movie, but excellent.

Happy Go Lucky was just alright. I was expecting a lot because I really like Mike Leigh, but this was, for him, just about average. If anyone out there has seen this film, do you have any explanation for the weird scenes in the middle where Poppy is first strolling alone through a sunny meadow and then out at night with a deranged homeless guy? To me they were complete non sequitors.

I wouldn't be Angus if I also didn't take this opportunity to point out to my pal Mungowitz that his "disappointment" and my top movie of the year, Slumdog Millionare won 8 Oscars. I got your "objective verification" right here, bro!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Just in Case Any Prospective Obama Cabinent Members, or....

Just in case any prospective Obama Cabinet members read this, or if ANYONE from Illinois is doing their taxes:

"Bribes: If you receive a bribe, include it in your income...

"Illegal activities: Income from illegal activities, such as money from dealing
illegal drugs, must be included in your income on Form 1040, line 21, or on
Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) if from your self-employment

"Kickbacks: You must include kickbacks, side commissions, push money, or similar payments you receive in your income on Form 1040, line 21, or on Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) if from your self-employment activity....Stolen property. If you steal property, you must report its fair market value in your income in the year you steal it unless in the same year, you return it to its rightful owner." [IRS Publication 525
(Taxable and Nontaxable Income)]

I do have one question: If you steal something in one tax year, and return it the following year, are you supposed to pay the tax in Year 1, and then apply for a refund in Year 2? It's that sort of complexity that kills entrepreneurship, your realize.

(Nod to Kevin L, who pays his taxes)

Getting mad about the wrong thing

An "activist" put a bug up UConn coach Jim Calhoun's butt about Calhoun getting a big salary in these tough economic times.

Calhoun went off on the guy as follows:

“My best advice to you is, shut up,”

“Quite frankly, we bring in $12 million to the university, nothing to do with state funds,” Calhoun shouted back. “We make $12 million a year for this university. Get some facts and come back and see me. … Don’t throw out salaries and other things.

“Get some facts and come back and see me. We turn over $12 million to the University of Connecticut, which is state-run. Next question.”

People, Jimmy's rant unwittingly reveals the real outrage about Jim Calhoun, the University of Connecticut athletic department, Bob Stoops, the University of Oklahoma athletic department, indeed all of "big time" college sports.

For you see, the way Jim Calhoun turns over millions of dollars to the University is the same way all big time athletic programs turn a profit. On the backs of young men (and in some cases women) who toil on the last plantation left in America, the NCAA.

TV networks make money, journalists make money, coaches make money, Universities make money, but the actual performers do not make money. I can't believe we have made it to 2009 with this archaic, unfair, and often racist system still in place.