Monday, December 31, 2007

Economic Naturalist Essay Topics

I've been getting a lot of hits from searches for "economic naturalist" that lead here. I think searchers are looking for potential topics on which to write essays...I may add more in the future, but here's a starter list:

Why do some fast food restaurants offer you a free meal if you don't get a receipt?

Why do good friends make bad roommates?

Why is locally farmed, organic food more expensive when it uses less fertilizer and does not have to be shipped as far or as long?

Why do students get discounts for movie tickets but not for popcorn?

Why did the tobacco industry support a ban on cigarette advertising?

Why might pesticides be good for your health?

Why is there a light in the fridge, but not the freezer?

Why do drive-up ATMs have braille on the keys?

Why are sell-out concert (or sporting event) tickets, which will be scalped later, not priced higher to start with?

Why do pimps dress the way they do?

Why do some cars have the fuel filler door on the driver's side while others have it on the passenger's side?

Why are the portraits on coins done in profile while those on paper money are in full face?
Why are newspapers, but not soft drinks, sold in vending machines that allow customers to take more units than they pay for?
Why do many bars charge patrons for water but give them peanuts for free?
Why do new cars costing $20,000 rent for $40 a day, while tuxedos costing only $500 rent for around $90?
Why does an accident in the northbound lanes of a divided highway cause a traffic jam in the southbound lanes?
Why is the price of gasoline really NOT too high?
Why does the government pay farmers not to grow crops?
Why would everyone be worse off if everyone was given a million dollars?
Why do you park in a driveway and drive in a parkway? (I actually don't think that there's a good economic explanation of this)
Why might vehicle safety equipment such as airbags and seatbelts kill more people than they save?
Why might a politician vote against giving himself a pay raise?
Why does the stock market offer a higher average rate of return on investment than bonds?
If we have so much wealth in the world, why does poverty still exist?
Why do many people buy larger houses when they retire and their children leave home?
Why are servers paid more than assistant chefs at high-end restaurants?
Why are the least productive workers in a work group within a firm typically paid more than the value of what they produce, while the most productive workers are paid less?
Why do taxi drivers quit early on rainy days?
Why does Apple sell its black laptops for $150 more than for otherwise identically configured white ones?
Why should farmers hate years when the weather is great for farming?

Note: many of these hail from Robert H. Frank's book The Economic Naturalist.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Anti-Splashback Urinal

I would LOVE to see this design possibly coupled with a no-flow design to form the perfect urinal!

Monday, December 24, 2007

McKee Jungle Gardens

McKee Botanical Gardens, formerly known as McKee Jungle Gardens has a rich history of dazzling patrons.

I recommend you follow the link above and check out some of the historic pictures. I wish we could still make monkeys play violins and hold your hand while you walk down some (shorter-than-they-used-to-be) vistas. I'm going to visit this week with Andrea Gaga.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pick #56

Savage - Swing

featured on the movie "knocked up" in the dice rolling dance scene

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Old(s) Whips

not all of the Olds is in the shot, but you still get a flavor. Good cars.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pick #55

The Paul Schwartz Project - "Earthbound," title track from his 2002 album. I bought the album for $.50 or $1 or something like that from Jessica's FYE a few years ago.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Air Bubble of Death

I am laboriously typing this with 2 broken wrists...

When I was in the hospital, I saw a sequence of people who were taking care of different aspects of my condition. I had a Vicodin before the male nurse came to put in an IV, so I didn't mind the needle in my vein so was a small needle anyhow. In case you're wondering I still said "¡CabrĂ³n! ¡Hijo de puta madre!" I guess it's generally less offensive. Male nurse flushed the needle/tube setup with saline solution and left. A minute later, I noticed 2 air bubbles in the tube. I made sure to tell the doc (PA) that I thought we should suck some blood out to clear the line of air & he agreed. Between discovering the bubbles & the doc's return, I thought it quite possible that an air bubble had entered the blood stream. Not such a big deal while there was a tourniquet on my arm, but it had to come off some time.

I was thinking that this (accident of sloppy work) would be a craptastic way to die, especially for my family and friends. However, I decided that there was nothing I could do at that point and I would be ready to go if the air bubble ended up taking my life last Monday night. I have no pending grievances with anyone and I'm satisfied with my achievements thus far in my life. Don't misunderstand, I really would like to spend more time on Earth...I have lots more to give (and take, and share). I have most everything lined up, ready for death, including a will and living will.

This experience reminds me that I don't often tell people how much they mean to me. It just usually seems awkward. In general, now, and in a rather impersonal way, I'd like to thank all those people who have contributed to my positive life experiences and thus my ability to now view death from this perspective. I know that there was a good deal of uncertainty at the time, but emminent death is almost never certain. Special thanks to: family members, anyone affiliated with the HC, teammates, roommates, teachers (both in formal and informal settings, anyone with whom I've had a meaningful conversation with after midnight, people who've let me crash at their place during an adventure or after a party, fellow explorers of Spain and Ecuador, neighbors, and older people who are peer-like friends.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I broke both my wrists today...might not blog for a little while...maybe I'll post pix.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pick #54

Tracy Chapman - Would You Change?

I first heard this song on Meg's powerpoint presentation from a Flagler thingy. It took a while to figure out who the artist is. For a while, I thought Tracy was a man, until Ashley corrected me this past summer. She just has a kind of husky voice.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Handicap Button

I can't stand it when people (who are NOT handicapped) go to the GYM and press the handicap button to open the doors. I mean, it's one thing at the dining hall or the dorms, maybe even the bathroom...but at the MFing GYM?? Seriously.

It's not just wasting electricity or wearing out the motor that gets on my nerves, it's the sheer laziness. Honestly, if you're that lazy, you probably aren't going to be doing your body much good at the gym.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Culture Shock

alright, this was taken in a small fishing town in Ecuador...

btw, for those who don't speak Spanish, fuerza means strength, not force.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Eco-Friendly Bill Payments

Are online bill pay services eco-friendly? They at least save a stamp. I'll go ahead and assume that the marginal electricity usage involved in paying the bills online is negligible. Paying bills online saves the paper of an envelope and the load on the postal service to deliver that envelope (gas, time, wear & tear on vehicles). Furthermore, funds are transferred save a check and all the handling of that check. Nobody has to process the check, stamp it and sort it, so you save ink and mechanical processes by not writing a check.

Just thinking about this, I may have to start paying more of my bills online. The only problem for me is that my checking accounts don't have an online bill pay option...I have to use my E*Trade account for that, and I don't keep enough cash on hand to deal with all my bills through E*Trade.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Automated Assessment

Go ahead and check yours by clicking the link!

I'm not sure how they determine the reading level. Maybe the algorithm searches for long sentences or weird punctuation or longer words. Anybody out there know how this works?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Donating My Body to Science

When I was younger, I wanted to be buried intact. I'm not sure why anymore. After I'm dead, I'm dead (hard to argue with logic like that). I became an organ donor through a sign-up project in college. I probably have a pretty good heart & lungs right now...hopefully it'll stay that way. Anyway, donating your body to science postmortem and being an organ donor are mutually exclusive.

Although it wasn't an explicit attempt to donate my body to science, I began to think about my participation in an FSU exercise physiology experiment as such. I pretty much just ran on a treadmill for these people while they monitored my exhaust gases and heart rate. My only sacrifice was time...and dietary control for a couple days. I think that this may be the best way for me to participate in the experimental (hard) science community unless\until I get my degree in chemistry.

It's too bad I'm ineligible to participate in economics experiments because they pay good money. I didn't get any monetary compensation for my participation in the exercise phys. study, but they did tell me what my VO2 max is, which made doing all the other work worthwhile.

I like the idea of contributing to the repertoire of knowledge through my personal efforts. I told the exercise phys. people that I am willing to participate in future experiments involving running or biking since I'm not fast enough for any of their swim studies (yet). It might also be fun to participate in a psych study or two since there's all these human subjects regulations to keep them from injecting me with crazy viruses or causing me permanent harm.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Naptime Switcheroo

Ever notice how kindergarteners have nap time, yet they hate to take naps. Later in life, high schoolers don't have nap time, yet fall asleep in class. I say that the logical thing to do is move mandatory nap time from kindergarten to high school. The only feasible way to do this is to also move an equal amount of high school time to kindergarten. Since much of high school subject matter requires a foundation (can't do calculus if you don't know algebra), the subject you move would have to be an easy one without much of a foundation. I'm going to vote for economics. High school economics is pretty much a joke, and I think that teaching kids early on that they should forget about sunk costs and think at the margin would help them in the years between childhood and puberty.

The problem with this approach is that economics is only one semester in high school...high schoolers need at least 6 semesters of nap time...but there are only 2 semesters of nap time offered in kindergarten. I guess a reasonable compromise would be to pick some BS elective (pottery, leadership, basketball) and trade that out for a semester of nap time.

After this change, the students who are most likely to fall asleep will have nap time and those who won't fall asleep don't get to. This sounds like a Pareto improvement over the status quo.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Pick #53

Athenaeum - "No One" from Radiance

When I bought this album, I just listened to the first 2 songs (the singles). Then I took the CD on a road trip and ended up playing it through. It was so incredible that I burned copies of it for many of my friends. It was extremely hard to pick only one song from Athenaeum. I recommend a playthrough of the album. If you don't have a copy, you should go pick one up.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Double Entendre

A girl walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a double he gives it to her!

best joke ever.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Incredible Laptops

OLPC is a program with a mission to supply laptop computers to children in developing countries. The specs of their XO computer are pretty impressive. The computers are designed for kids in the developing world to use and therefore are extremely durable/weather resistant, consume very small amounts of power, have incredible batteries, and are versatile. The features combined with the price of this thing are incredible.

I wonder why we can't get something like this going on in the States for poor schools. For instance, one of my brother's classes in middle or high school (neither of them "poor" schools) tried to give a laptop to every student enrolled in that (I think it was science) class. I never saw it, but I'm pretty sure the program failed.

What is a laptop going to teach a kid about general science anyway? Maybe you could have interactive dissections where instead of cutting open a real frog or pig fetus, you move a blade across the screen. I know that I didn't understand electron hybrid orbitals until I saw an online cartoon of how they form. HOWEVER, our kids have access to computer labs everywhere. Developing country children have probably never seen a computer in their lives.

Imagine the amount of information that can be loaded on an XO laptop and shared with different classes. In a way, it's better than textbooks because of its size and weight. Also, the architects of the project are pretty sure that children will begin to reprogram much of the software that comes on the machines.

I hope that these computers will not be taken by adults who are in a quest for power to be perpetuated by either violence or suppression. I guess I'm mostly thinking of Africa...I don't see this as a problem in Peru. OK, last laptop per child is a little too dense. Maybe one laptop per pair of children would be feasible. I'm not sure how long these things are supposed to last before breaking or becoming obsolete, but I think a couple rounds (not generations) of children could use the same computer during its lifespan. These guys are on to something.