Ludwig von Mises Institute
Israel at the UN
Cascade Policy Institute
Voluntary Trade Council
Dr. George Reisman
Mises Economics Blog
The Distributed Republic
The Angry Economist
Civilian Gun Self-Defense
In The Pipeline
Free Money Finance
Elements of a Great Story
Everyone loves a great story, but did you know that there's a simple forumla for telling a great story? It's true! The elements of a timeless, successful story are:
The first and third elements are familiar to everyone. The second is perhaps less obvious, but makes sense when you think about it. Great stories are about bears! Goldilocks leaps to mind, and … and … gosh, wasn't Goldilocks a great story?
The shortest great story is therefore simply:
Brilliant, isn't it?
The three elements are easily adapted to any storytelling setting. Here's an example of applying the elements to your story about why you were late for work.
That is grim and not at all pleasing. No one wants to tell or hear a story like that! Now here's the same story with the Three Elements applied:
Much better! This conveys the same information but with a playful, easy-going tone that makes everyone a little happier. That's the kind of story that people love to tell and hear.
He even reminds us of the historical precedent:
It's always a treat to read Reisman. I only wish he blogged more often.
It's Worse Elsewhere
If the recent stock market slumps, domestically and abroad, have got you feeling blue… just remind yourself that It Could Be Worse!
Tremendous mineral wealth — tremendously mismanaged.
From the breadbasket of Africa — to a country reliant on humanitarian aid.
Beware ye the socialists for they will destroy your economy!
Now that the popping of the housing bubble is beginning to be felt in the broader economy (thanks to last summer's seizing up of credit markets), politicians are falling over themselves to be the loudest proponent of a fiscal stimulus plan.
I want to be absolutely clear that I am completely in favor of this stimulus plan — I want my $800 back. (And if I were emperor, I would get rid of more than just the 10% tax bracket!) At the same time, I know that this stimulus plan won't achieve its stated purpose. This is one of those cases where bad economics makes people support a good thing for the wrong reasons.
The economics of this issue are very confused in the popular media. The great worry of various pundits is that people might not spend their whole tax rebate, and if they don't spend it it won't help the economy. This reasoning is totally backwards. Government spending is pure consumption. If the goal of the stimulus is to see those funds applied to consumption instead of savings, the government should keep the money!
Of course, it's not about consumption in the aggregate. (It never should be. Aggregation is the source of many economic confusions.) Government spends money on different things than individuals do, so the rebates will have a genuine economic effect. They will boost the revenues of companies that sell consumer's goods at the (relative) expense of other companies. Whatever part of the rebates is invested instead of consumed — and it will be a lot — will contribute to future production, which is good for the economy. (Yes, sadly, some of that will prop up malinvested businesses and allow them to avoid liquidation a little while longer. However I do not worry that businesses will mistake this one-time stimulus for a genuine reduction in the rate of originary interest; i.e. it won't reinflate a bubble.)
I'm completely in favor of diverting funds from wasteful government consumption to beneficial individual consumption and especially to productive investment. I specifically believe that individuals using their rebate to pay down debt is a good thing, too.
The economic benefit is that it increases the weight of individuals' spending preferences relative to government's spending preferences. The economic benefit is not that it increases consumption spending.
And it's not going to be enough to avert a recession.
When I Loose my Mind
… dumb things fall out.
I know that English is a difficult language, even for native users, but there are a few common errors that grate on me every single time I see them. The worst is the confusion between "lose" and "loose". Teams lose, knots are loose. The team that lost is the loser, the looser knot will come apart sooner. And, losers tie looser knots. Okay?
English isn't a tonal language — except for the word "dude" (which can mean practically anything depending on how it's uttered) — but that's no excuse for being tone deaf. These are all different and shouldn't be confused:
Granted, there are many rules for correct apostrophe use but my favored advice is simply that apostrophes make things possessive, but never plural. Some questions are silly, but one question's silliness is greater than all the other questions' silliness. Is everyone clear on the difference between "1960s", "1960's", and "1960s'"? Sheesh! And try to keep in mind that some words are inherently possessive, so don't get an apostrophe. The book is yours, not "your's".
That is all for now.
U.S. financial markets opened today to the news that Citigroup lost a bunch of money in Q4'07. A few highlights:
Intel also published earnings for Q4'07 today. Giant pile of money:
So what does our stock do? … it fell 1.7% during the session, and after our earnings announcement it fell 14% after hours.
Awesome. My stock options have lost 96% of their value in the past two weeks.
Interesting how Citigroup's nigh-apocalyptic earnings report is met with a big decline, yet Intel's hugely profitable earnings report nets a decline twice as large. Investors are fickle. :)
I'm enormously happy about the horrible year the stock market has been having so far (e.g. Dow down ~6% YTD) because I fund all my tax-advantaged accounts during the first quarter. I'll be buying more cheaply.
But now I wish I hadn't also invested a bunch in mid-December! At least I invested safely… only one very small position of what I bought (~$500) has underperformed the Dow since then.
For comparison, gold is up ~6.5% YTD, and silver is up ~8%.
2007 Personal Year in Review
It's time for a little personal reflection. I know I'm usually an issues blogger but you can excuse a post or two about my life, right?
I had another great year at work. Last year, the processor I've been working on for so long was finally built and our debug tools are accomplishing their mission. Back in 2003/2004 the technical challenges involved in this project loomed large and no one was sure whether it was possible to do what we've done. Now, years of innovation and problem-solving later, we have proof in the lab.
We don't stop often enough or long enough to contratulate ourselves on what we've achieved. We're so busy improving things for the current project and looking forward to the next projects that it's easy to lose perspective. But the view from here is awfully nice!
We've done a great job and I'm proud of the work I've done and the team I've done it with. I know a lot of my co-workers read my blog, so I want to say: Thank you. We have done a great thing.
I stopped posting net worth updates about halfway through the year. I didn't want to spend the time writing those posts when I thought not many people cared about them in the first place. Additionally, I think they tilted my blog too far away from its roots. (I did keep posting on Networth IQ, though.) I'll continue to do personal finance articles from time to time but I don't want that to be the blog's theme.
That said, 2007 was a very rich year for me, clearly the best ever — I was up about $150,000. (2006 also looked good, but artificially, because I wasn't valuing my house at its market value at the beginning of the year.) I've certainly felt the gyrations of the housing market this year, with my home's estimated value up $21,000 at peak only to finish down $5,000.
In 2007, two close friends and co-workers had significant family events: A marriage, and a birth. These things finally overcame my inertia about the single life and I started dating. The curious can read my personal ad. (Those with too much time on their hands can contrast it with Micha Ghertner's.) I'm actually active on three online dating sites (eHarmony, Match.com, and Yahoo! Personals) but I think eHarmony's system is awful and the population is very small on Yahoo.
I don't want to dwell on failure here by recounting the details. But I can't resist offering one piece of salacious advice: Do not kiss a Thai woman on the second date.
The most puzzling and remarkable thing I learned is that foreign-born asian women are dramatically more likely to be interested in me than any other demographic group. Of the women I met, 4 out of 6 fit that profile.
I had a roommate for one month this year. It was actually the first time I've had a roommate since my first semester of college. My cousin moved to Portland and her living arrangements fell apart as soon as she got here… so she stayed with me until getting that mess straightened out. Despite being accustomed to living alone, I do miss having someone else around the house!
And speaking of the house… I've been very relaxed about completing my decorating project, so we're still not finished. But we're close enough that I can share these shocking before-and-after pictures of my living room and downstairs bathroom.
My tiny downstairs bathroom
My living room
The improvement is stunning! Sadly, the entire upper floor of my house still looks like the "before" pictures…