Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Larry the Beer Bread Guy

After a trip to Big Lots, I returned with a package of Larry the Cable Guy Garlic Beer Bread.

None of these things should surprise anyone.  The best part of Big Lots is the random assortment of food products that failed to capture the hearts and minds of the American public.  My husband couldn't believe that I would buy such a thing.  Why WOULDN'T I buy this?  It's from the guy who sells Prilosec and it was a dollar.  How could I have walked away from the ability to buy this?

Well, it's pretty bad.  The best part was the top crust, which is pretty amazing because the package asks you to dump 3 Tablespoons of melted butter on top.  It's hard to go wrong with instructions like that.  It is hard to go wrong when the instructions ask you to check for doneness with the crumbs on the toothpick method when this does not produce a bread that can be checked in this way.  If you decide to ever make this on a whim, check the color on the sides of the bread pan instead - this goes from undone to burnt edges very quickly.

But, better yet is to spend your dollar on watermelon-flavored soda or dill pickle flavored potato chips.  Making beer bread from scratch will make you happier, and a dollar will buy what you need.  The worst part is that I wasted a perfectly good bottle of Goose Island on this.

Well, that didn't go well...

The worst thing I can do is make promises that I'm going to do something.  Right after starting my lovely Read-A-Book-A-Week idea, I got an internship and a part-time job in addition to being a full-time graduate student.  14 hour days are not conducive to reading, let along blogging.  Fortunately, the semester is now over, but I start another internship next week.

I might have a little more time on my hands, but what to write about?  I joke that all of the extra lectures and keynotes and book talks are like an extra class, but I never seem to do anything about this.  Perhaps the adventures of Patti, Expert Grad Student, would be a worthwhile endeavor.  Yet, I fear that this is one more way that I can be disappointed in this blog and how I don't do nearly enough with it as I would wish.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pareto Optimization and the Republican's Gay Agenda

OMG!  Can you BELIEVE it?  Rand Paul is advocating for gay marriage?  He's, like, a REPUBLICAN and stuff!!!  OMG!  Who saw this coming?  OMG!!!  HE'S EVEN FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM!  This is unbelievable!!!

Or, entirely believable.  What was strange was that a Libertarian would not have been in favor of these programs.  And so, the untenable marriage between Fundamentalist Christianity and Libertarian economists has filed for a very public divorce.  The question is now whether someone tries to patch them up for another four years or if they can come to an amicable settlement and go their separate ways.

What is clear is that Sen. Paul is heading towards the 2016 Presidential Race with guns blazing.  Sure, he threw the Christian Right a bone with the "Life Begins At Conception Bill", which I'm sure will be followed by the "Life Begins The Moment Your Car Parks at MakeOut Point Bill".  Not that either would be signed by the president, nor would it get by the Supreme Court with its current make-up.  But, by supporting gay marriage, he can pretty much write-off this vote.

Instead, Paul is showing that commitment to Libertarian principles that made him advocate for the repeal of the Civil Rights Act back in 2010.  If you believe that the best regulator is the free market, then eventually, the market will penalize those who discriminate, leading to a competitive disadvantage where your discriminators will be run out of business due to the efficient operations of the more tolerant competitors.  Cause, in rural Mississippi, this is soooo what happens.  Neoliberal economists even lament the idea that government interference prevents us from proving that we're good human beings.  Extending this to the Civil Rights era, the problem was that we didn't give Alabama enough time to prove that they could be good people before we violated their rights to free trade.  (I'm an oppressive Northerner, I know.)

Extending this logic to immigration, free markets would include the labor market.  Wages are going to remain sticky if labor is not free to move around the world to where the jobs are.  If there is one minimum wage job available in Iowa, and one person applies, we'd normally think that the labor market was fine and dandy.  However, we prevented hundreds of migrant laborers to invade Iowa, increasing the supply of labor, and having them bid down the wages of the job to a level where the owner gets really happy.  Your free flow of labor in the form of immigration reform could have the result be an erosion of minimum wage laws, right at the time that Obama wants to raise the rate to $9/hour.

Coming out in favor of gay marriage by a Libertarian was one of the least-shocking things that happened this week.  Few examples of a truly Pareto-optimizing policy exist, but here's a true gift.  With gay marriage, some are better off - primarily the couples who were denied this right in the past.  None are worse off - I'm not losing rights in my marriage by extending them to others.  Usually, one could find losers in an apparent Pareto-optimizing exchange, but they just do not exist here.  One could argue that employers who offer spousal benefits could be worse off, but their exposure is the same as it had been - after all, a gay man could marry a straight woman for health insurance in the past (also, this sounds like the plot to a romantic comedy.  Is it?) so they are no worse off or better off than before.  Within this context, why HADN'T Rand Paul supported gay marriage before?  That's the real question here.  The only answer I had was that he had to appease the voters of Kentucky.  It no longer seems that this is his concern.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Statistical Study of the Children of Lake Wobegon

The dark side of grad school... I can't even listen to NPR without getting into hyper analytical mode.

Take Garrison Keillor's description of Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.  Teehee, you say, how can ALL the children be above average (snicker snicker).  I am apparently incapable of enjoying simple humor, and instead miss the point entirely.

Instead, I assume that this can be explained by the Central Limits Theorem, and decide that the null hypothesis should reflect that all the children score above average on some scale.  To do so, we assume that the scale is normally distributed, with the average score being 50. 

H(sub o): mu > 50
H (sub a): mu < or = 50

What I'm sure we'd find in a sample of the population is a confidence interval where the mean may be above 50, meaning that we fail to reject the null hypothesis at, say, 90% confidence.  I do not know if we could ever conclude that the mean of the population is above or below average with any degree of statistical significance, not being in possession of a data set.  It is troubling that the contention is about all children, and not the mean of the children, but I can't really apply statistics to that, just common sense, which is not part of the curriculum.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Getting cocky...

You know those moments when you start getting cocky about all this free time that you have?

Yeah... Between an internship, an impromptu return to Chicago, a commitment in Milwaukee, a return to Upstate New York, and the beginning of the Spring Semester (with high temperatures of -2), all that free time evaporated.

Back to the sporadic posting and infrequent book reading.

Friday, January 4, 2013


Considering the rate through which I am plowing through books, one may conclude:
1) I seriously have nothing else to do
2) Am such a genius that 400 page tomes on breweries are no match to my superior intellect.
3) I read really easy books.

I fear the 3rd is the real reason, assisted by number 1.  Yet, here I am with the third book of the year completed and its only the 4th day.  I read Starbucked by Taylor Clark, a look at the founding and growth of Starbucks followed by a number of the criticisms of Starbucks as a force in the global marketplace.  It's a couple years old, being published in 2008, but it's not like the history of the founding of the company is going to change.  However, I did realized that anything written before the economic crisis of 2008 sounds false and ingenuine.  Everyday luxuries sounds decadent, not an occasional measured splurge for hard-working office drones.

So here I am, writing this post in a Starbucks in a pretty liberal college town.  Looking at the stickers on the laptops of those who have set up shop here, it seems that few are really worried about buying a cup of coffee here and what this means about the homogeneity of the global marketplace.  I can't help but laugh that I'm seeing stickers that spell out "Capitalism" in Coca-Cola scrall and an image of Che wearing Mickey Mouse ears.  In Starbucks.  Starbucks, who just announced that they were starting coffee shops in Vietnam.

As I take another sip of my Pike Place drip coffee with a pound of espresso roast beans in my bag (sitting next to this book that I need to return to the library), I found that the only thing this book really made me reflect on is my own preferences on roasted coffee and why I detest the freeze-dried instant coffee that my mom drinks.  Robusto beans are evil and must be destroyed.  But other than that, I'm not going to fret about buying coffee from a company that lets me park in a comfy chair for an hour and potentially use their internet to write scathing reviews of their company.  Nor will I pick up one of the trendy reusable coffee cups that they are trying to schill (I have my own).  The white and green cup described in the book is no longer a status symbol, but rather a fixture... something that says "I haven't really woken up yet, so don't talk to me about anything too important."  It'll have to do until Caribou Coffee makes its way eastward.

Also, I now know more about the Tully's Coffee chain that Patrick Dempsey just bought. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Fourth Down

Congress decided to punt on the fiscal cliff fiasco.  No major developments, except that Cantor is vying for Boehner's job, and Boehner tried so save face by swearing at Reid.

Looks like we have two more months of this.

Economics and Baseball!

I finally got around to reading a book that I've wanted to read for a while now.  Just finished "Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game" on the advice of my economics professor, who seriously modeled a couple lectures on the Chicago Cubs.  Who am I to complain when it appears that he had unlocked the reason for 104 years of futility due to lack of organizational focus and misplaced efficiency wages?  At least it's not because I didn't want it enough.

Wait, the Cubs overpay for players?  You have GOT to be kidding me.
What I loved about this book is the way that economics theory is casually introduced throughout the book.  Prices for players decrease as supply increases around the trading deadline?  LOVE!

Book #2 done... 48 more to go for the year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bitter Brew

One of my New Years resolutions is to read 50 books this year that are not assigned for class.  So here's to number one.  Or, as my husband noted, how the hell did you finish that book already when you started it last night?

I finished reading Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America's King of Beers by William Knoedelseder.  Not sure why I picked up the book, as I don't drink Busch products, and Budweiser never sits well in my stomach.  However, having a father who grew up over the river from St. Louis, I do have the memories of a cousin who worked for the Busch family, the clydesdale horse magnets and knicknacks, and the annual Budweiser calendar gifts.  Plus, I do like beer. 
Ironic, because at 15 IBU, Budweiser is really not bitter.
I won't spoil the read.  Just imagine a bunch of kids in St. Louis with instant name recognition and access to tons of alcohol and money.  You can almost see where this is going.  Now add a baseball team.

One thing I did find surprising: Harry Carey was rumored to be having an affair with his boss' daughter-in-law.  If you grew up watching Harry call games, you can see the heavy-drinking and heavy-partying that is described in the book.  But, sex scandals?  What?


Trying to keep my resolutions for the year somewhat managable, but for now they are:

1) Lose 15 pounds.  This would be the 10 pounds I managed to add in my first semester of grad school plus the 5 that I've been saying I need to get rid of for two years now.  I figure this will involve eating healthier food and exercising more.  I hesitate to say exactly how this will happen (eating local, organic, running, P90X), mainly because of a cash flow issue (see earlier post on the fiscal cliff).

2) Survive 2 more semesters at an intensely competitive Ivy League school.  Strangely, competition does not come from my fellow grad students, but rather the competition between my professors' expectations and my own abilities. 

3) Read 50 books that were not assigned for class.  Sure, some of these were recommended in class, but I will not be tested on them.

Let's go 2013!