14 November 2007

My buddy Tim Harford and I go waaay back....

I sent the following e-mail to my Econ Idol, Mr. Tim Harford, regarding this blog post:

I think if I were a barista I might spend more time making a female's drink so as to impress her... not to spite her. I can't explain the increased wait for blacks though? By the way I think your book is the best in its genre and that you should be writing reviews for Freakonomics and the such, not the other way around! Anyway, write another book... though if your sales did well enough I won't have to entice you with my pitiful admiration.

Peace out,
Jeff Shepley
I know, I know, it has a very starry eyed tone... but he replied!
Hi Jeff,
You may be right, and you're very kind to write. Thank you.
There is (much) more here from the paper's author:

There is another book coming soon - timharford.com/logicoflife/

Yay, a new book! Booo, not in time for Christmas...

08 November 2007

Monkeys popping balloons = Formula for Addiction

The tower defense genre ranks among the more addicting gaming options for the casual gamer. Unlike PC and Console games, all you need is an Internet connection to play, yet it has many of those qualities that make more complicated games addicting:

1. Short levels that give instant gratification. You get a little rush of glee every 3-5 minutes.
2. Something to protect. If an enemy gets past your defenses you gasp as your life force (or balloon quota) is depleted.
3. Steadily progressing difficultly. Causing a little stress ("Will I be able to hold the balloons off next round?") but making each victory that much more sweet ("Yay, my monkeys popped all the balloons!").
4. Simple Rules; Less simple strategy. To play you just need to drag and drop some monkeys; to win, you need to think ahead and save your money for more effective defenses and upgrades (monkeys with boomerangs!).

05 November 2007

Domino deals deftly delivered ding.

On Saturday Domino Sugar slapped me in the face. You heard me right. It happened while I was sitting in the Jiffy Lube lounge waiting to get my oil changed. I was just sitting, minding my own business, when I glanced over at the stale coffee sitting under the TV. Right beside the little Styrofoam cups was a container of Domino Sugar.

The slogan on the container read: "We'll always be your sugar."

EXCUSE ME!!! The audacity of the claim shocked and appalled me. To help you understand why, perhaps I should spell out the events that led up to this simple carbo-bitchslap:

1. I happily purchase my refined sugar at the global (and efficient) price of 13 cents/pound. A Brazilian sugar farmer and a Brazilian refiner got some portion of that 13 cents/pound, and I got some delicious sugar. Note that this sugar includes the sugar in my soft drinks, the packet I put in my coffee, candy, as well as, ice cream, danishes and fudge. Yum!

2. The US sugar concern can't make sugar at 13 cents/pound, so they lobby Congress to subsidize their product and protect it with import quotas. Congress listens and all told I end up paying 52 cents/pound for refined sugar. Sure the American sugar farmer and refiner get a good wage. Heck, its only 52 cents/pound after all, its not like that's going to bankrupt me!

3. On second glance I realize the true injustice of the government support of Domino Sugar. (a) 52 cent/pound adds up to $1.9 billion/year in wealth transfer from me and you to relatively rich American Sugar farmers. (b) Since sugar is so expensive, high frutose corn syrup has replaced sugar in many sweets, especially soda. (c) Sugar is easier to grow in Brazil than in the U.S., which is why it costs less, but is also why it takes more pesticides and fertilizers to grow it here, at the expense of the environment --especially the Florida Everglades. (d) There are fewer opportunities in Brazil than in the U.S., yet our quotas keep them from selling me sugar and keeps U.S. worker who could be more productive at something else, being unproductive and making sugar at inflated prices.

So when Domino says, "We'll always be your sugar," forgive me if I say, "F@#$# off!" By which, of course, I mean "fudge" off, and that with a heaping cup of global sugar!

Papa Bear says: "Don't come near my family."

Sullum vs. Papa Bear on drugs -- use and abuse. But don't worry, I'm sure ol' Papa Bear doesn't mean it, after all, he admits it is "just an act."

01 November 2007

Why is Ron Paul a Republican...

... and not a Democrat?

No. I didn't say, "...and not an independent?" I know why Ron Paul is a Republican. It all comes down to practicality. You get elected in this country by being a member of one of the two parties. That is not the question though.

Looking beyond Ron Paul, more generally, the questions is why are libertarians often seen in the main stream as conservatives and not liberals? A libertarian is some one who believes in self-reliance and freedom to do what one chooses so long as it doesn't harm others. They often find it convenient to label themselves fiscally conservative and socially liberal. But if so, why are they typically labeled as "wacky conservatives" and not "wacky liberals"? I have three partial theories that may sum up to explain the phenomena...

1. Libertarians are just conservatives that don't let religious and nationalistic beliefs sway them into enforcing their morality on others.
2. Liberals have an urge to "do something" to fix our unfair world. They can't just sit idly by while people are homeless or without health care... "if we just spend a little more, it will help so much!" A libertarian believes that the best way to help more people fiscally is not to throw more money and government at the problem but to take more harmful government out of the equation. Liberals see libertarians sitting "idly by" and take that to mean they don't care about the poor, which fits in nicely with the stereotype of the greedy, rich conservative.
3. I should note that the libertarian is often more passionate about personal freedoms than the liberal, so why do liberals overlook this passion? Perhaps liberals, contrary to popular belief, do care more about "loyalty to the cause" than conservatives. You are either with the program or against it... everything is an ideal from welfare to free speech, we cannot sacrifice any of it! Whereas conservatives can tolerate some quirks. Heck conservatives probably would rather that the government were not as harsh on social issues such as drug prohibition and personal privacy, because that would let people make decisions for themselves, which in religion, is the only way to be righteous (you must be able to choose), but their overwhelming urge is to have safe neighborhoods and dead terrorists, ideals be damned.