Monthly Archive for April, 2011

Death Star economics…

Oh, please, do go read the whole thing:

The more you spend on bureaucracy, the less control you have directly over your Empire. The less you spend on bureaucracy, the more you have to tighten your grip, and the more star systems slip through your fingers.

So, the Emperor and Tarkin focus on making one really huge, high-impact investment: The Death Star. They throw in Alderaan as part of that investment. This doomsday weapon will supposedly free up their resources to spend less on administration, personnel and infrastructure, and continue to function without a Senate. It seems like a big investment until you realize how much they save by not actually having a functioning government.

I know a couple of nerds that get all excited about the Star Wars world.  For example just get them going on about Han shooting first.  They need to study this whole article closely so that we can have further discussion.

Round two…

Keynes vs. Hayek.  This is really well done.  Enjoy:

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Get your kids to watch this.  I think it presents the two very broad and general “camps” of economic policy.

Regular readers know what side I take.

Update: For those of you who didn’t see the original, here it is:

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Some people I know will simply dismiss this guy…

Because he says he lives in central Arkansas.  Watch the video if you, like me, think it is time to separate governmnet and education.

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The management model for today’s schools are the prisons.  The only thing the schools do better than the prisons is to generally (generally, not perfectly) separate the children by weight class.  This does help keep the violence to a minimum.

Notice: With this post I am introducing the category Lower Education which will cover posts on high school and earlier.

I acknowledge the confirmation bias…

Going on here, when I point you to this article from Newsweek.

In some ways, it was inevitable. Automation isn’t just a blue-collar problem anymore. Powerful software programs replaced armies of financial officers, accountants, computer-chip designers, even lawyers, who now feed millions of documents into “e-discovery” programs. Job growth in management, technology, and other white-collar professions slowed to nearly zero. The media business has been perhaps hardest hit by technological change. Last year ABC News pink-slipped nearly 400 people—25 percent of its workforce.

The trend of computerization will continue.  As nations like China and India get richer and better educated, they will do more “white” collar work for less money than it is being done for now in the US.

It isn’t just white men that are having trouble in the economy.  I think it just may be that this is the first time white men have been having trouble in numbers noticed by the media (maybe the writers’ husbands are out of work?).  From my perch in the economy, I’m seeing all kinds of people, that are over forty, and credentialed with a least a bachelors degree, having trouble finding suitable work.

Suitable is defined simply as paying at or above 80% of what was earned 4 years ago.

Hat tip: Rex, as I don’t think I would have otherwise read Newsweek.

I predict continued decline of The Dallas Morning News…

They are in the midst of trying to move their subcriber base away from the paper and toward a subscription based internet only publication.  It is an ongoing project and I do wish them well, but…

I am of a demographic that is a shrinking part of their customer base.  I actually get the paper delivered to my home.  My wife and I still read the paper in the morning.  Reading the paper is how I like, in particular, to start my Saturday and Sunday mornings.  I know that I’m going to have to adjust over time and that eventually I’m going to have to find a device that provides the same experience as reading the paper in my favorite chair.  I’ll have to have more than one of these devices as taking turns with an ipad is not the same as swapping the Metro section for the front page with my wife.  I know technology firms will eventually provide something I find acceptable, but the ipad (at least not yet) is not it.

(If I were writing a typical essay, I would need to put down some sort of thesis about here.  But this is not a typical essay, it’s more of a whispered rant.)

The Dallas Morning News is the local newspaper monopoly and acts in a manner that I, someone of a Classical Liberal bent, find annoying.  The paper’s editorial position is best defined as being in favor of which ever way the wind is blowing.  It is not particularly liberal (in the current usage of the word), nor is it conservative.  The Dallas Morning News is in favor of whatever they deem to be good for Dallas.  They are always in favor of Big Government, broadly defined.  They like fancy bridges and new arenas.  They were disappointed the taxpayers weren’t given the opportunity to support a new football stadium.  They are very easy on the cronyism between local government and “developers.”  I point to their coverage of DART as a primary example.  There has to be a Pulitzer Prize in the story they are passing on that would cover the crazy route of the Orange Line from downtown to the airport.  I could go on…

So this morning, while reading the paper, I come across three editorials (here, here, and here) on education.  I thought I would put down the paper, step from the old world to the new as I removed myself from the comfy chair and went to the computer, and then go to the website to possibly comment on these editorials.  I have strong opinions on the mess that is our education system.  I think I express those opinions in a calm and courteous manner.  I’ll even admit I saw an opportunity to drive a little traffic to this here humble blog.  But the log in mess that is the dallasnews.com website is what prompted this rant.

Typical of organizations like The Dallas Morning News and Belo, which I characterize as a very mainstream media company, they want to control the way information flows across their website.  Hey, it’s their website and they can do what they want, but I found the process to be difficult to navigate and pointless in the extreme:

To comment you have to create a profile.  This profile has to have a name.  It has to be a unique name.  If you happened to be named Mike, Bill, Mary or Susan, you are out of luck as your name is already taken.  It doesn’t matter that you already have logged in with a unique e-mail address and password.  The Morning News clearly doesn’t want me to confuse one Joe with another Joe or Jane.  They have decided I am incapable of realizing that one John I may disagree with in a comment thread is not the same John that I also disagree with, as that sort of thing never happens in real life.  Writing styles and avatars, or no avatars, are not sufficiently distinguishing.  Some people may want to build a virtual relationship with other commenters and create a profile.  Other users may just want to hit and run with a pithy comment.  Belo does not allow that choice.

There is also the problem of one user profile per account.  This is probably the worst thing about the website.  We currently have a sign for one of the mayoral candidates in our front yard.  My wife put it there.  I’m not so sure about the guy.  So if my wife and I both get active in commenting on the mayoral race you would see my profile in support of this candidate and also see the profile expressing doubt about the guy.  Does the Morning News not realize that the addresses to which they deliver the paper may have more than one person living there?

I imagine that the people that make these decisions downtown are very concerned that the comment sections of their articles will be over run by racists and cranks.  I understand that concern, but having such rigid credentialing also dampens enthusiasm on the part of the audience (customer base).

The Dallas Morning News will continue to suffer decreases in revenue as long as it treats its subscriber base like a bunch of people incapable of handling themselves well in a public forum.  I, and others, will just go elsewhere for our news and b

Update: So the Lurker points out that I didn’t finish my thought.  I can’t remember what my thought was at the time of writing the post.  Probably something about going off elsewhere for our virtual communities and online discussions.  But I don’t know what that “b” is about.

It looks like things at Big State U…

Are not that different than things here at little Directional U.  From an article on gas prices:

“I can’t go anywhere because I can’t afford it,” said Greg Sensing, who works in admissions for the University of Maryland.

To which I say: No Shit!

I don’t blame my employer.  I took the job.  It’s just all just part of the general aggravation generated by the current state of the economy.

When it comes to my dislike of our current Higher Education system…

I am a mere lightweight.

I give you Charles Hugh Smith:

Of all the exploitative systems in the U.S., none is more rapacious than the Education Cartel. Like the proverbial frog that is unaware that it’s being boiled because the water temperature rises so gradually, college students and their parents are unable to recall what higher education was like before students were herded into debt-serfdom.

Apologists for the Education Cartel like to blame Corporate America or the banks, but the reality is that the Federal and State governments and the employees of the Cartel are willing partners in the exploitation and fraud. How did we get to the boiling-water point where students are expected to take on $100,000 or more in debt to attend college–even a mediocre one?

Answer: immensely profitable Government-backed loans. If the Central State wasn’t partnered with the Education Cartel, today’s debt-serfdom would be impossible.

He’s right of course.  Go read the whole thing.  It’s quite a rant.

I suggest you go read his other post on the alternatives to borrowing $100,000 for college.  Some good advice in there.  I should try to get my wife and daughter to read that one.

In that article he also links to this WSJ article by Scott Adams and this one by James Altucher.  Good advice in both of those reads too.

Happy Easter…

Stolen, without any shame whatsoever, from Bird Dog at Maggie’s Farm.

Again, I will say that Maggie’s Farm is one of my favorite places on all these intertubes.

Update:  Have you seen the women driving around with Easter Bunny ears on their cars?  I see several sets a day.  I wonder if the people that had a container full of that crap delivered from China made their money back.  It has been pretty funny seeing them the last couple of weeks.  They started out all nice and pink.  The ones I saw today looked like the ears in that dog’s mouth: all dirty and tore up.

For many of my friends…

This is not evidence in support of my assertions about the future of education.

But Jeb Bush is on my side:

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He says the right things about the entrenched interests of the existing education monopoly.

There is more at Reason.

The Skipper…

We all remember The Skipper, don’t we?  The leader of that ill fated three hour tour?

It must have been about 1988.  My roommate and I were reading the paper on a Saturday morning while drinking coffee.  It was a Saturday morning in the spring and it was really nice out.  I spotted an advertisement for a boat show at the Arlington Convention Center.  The ad touted an appearance by Alan Hale, Jr., the actor that played the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island.  He was scheduled to appear that afternoon.

I read this out loud, and said we should go to the boat show and see the Skipper.

Woody said, half joking, “Yeah, that’s a good idea, maybe we can get our picture taken with him.”

I laughed, then said, “That’s a good idea.  We get a picture with him and then we can make it into a Christmas card.”

Woody laughed, by this time we were quite amused with ourselves, and said, “It could say Merry Christmas from Mike, Woody and The Skipper!”

More laughter.

Then a long pause…

I put the paper down, looked across the room at Woody, and said, “Let’s do it.  I’ve got film in my camera.”  (Yes this was back in the days when you could still buy Kodachrome.)

We laughed the whole way over to the Arlington Convention Center, we were stupid giddy with the cleverness of our idea.  We had to stand in line for about half an hour.  When we got to the front, we asked Mr Hale (RIP), if we could have our picture taken with him.  He gave us a big smile and said, “Sure!”

I can’t find the Christmas card anymore, but I did come across the picture:

If you know me today; that is one funny looking picture.  I’m way better looking now, just ask me.

It’s a good thing this blog is somewhat anonymous, as I’ve just embarrassed the crap out of my kids.

My wife is long past the stage where she is embarrassed by my antics.

Woody?  He’s in the seminary.  On his way to becoming a priest.  I hope the Bishop doesn’t see this.