Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Electronic textbooks FTW!

My new micro theory class uses a different textbook than does the one I just dropped. I was about to head over to Amazon to order the new one when I saw this notice on the course's Blackboard page:

Ebook program

This class participates in a pilot scheme, sponsored by the publisher Wiley, for free electronic download of the textbook. Instructions may be found under "Course Documents".

I installed the OS X version of the reader (VitalSource Bookshelf), downloaded the textbook, and voilà!


That's $131.61 I don't have a pay and 3 pounds I don't have to carry around. Nice!

Now I'm even more interested to see what Apple announces on Wednesday. Electronic textbooks could be a killer app for a tablet.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Failing fast

In the startup world "failing fast" is a good thing. The idea is that if you're going to fail, it's best get it over with quickly so you can move on and try something else.

This morning Dr. Slesnick arrived to class a few minutes late, spent about fifteen minutes having each student affirm in writing that he understood the "contract for this class" (no makeup exams, no sleeping in class, etc.), and then announced that he had intended to lecture but that he couldn't find a dry erase marker and that therefore class was over.

Wait, what?

I'm trying to imagine someone in any other setting calling a meeting of 60 people and then canceling the meeting on the spot because he didn't have a pen and didn't care to look for one.

Today is the last day of the official add/drop period. I'll be dropping Dr. Slesnick's class. I give people exactly one chance to waste my time.

I'm going to head back down to campus for the 1:00p meeting of Dr. Watson's 420K class, and may add it depending on my conversation with him. I'll also be sending Dr. Slesnick an email suggesting he add one point to his "contract": that he will put some minimal amount of effort into not wasting his students' time.

I am glad about one thing. At least Dr. Slesnick failed fast.

Update: I dropped Slesnick's class and added Watson's. I composed an email to Slesnick but on the sage advice of a friend am going to sleep on it before sending.

Update 2: After sleeping on it, I've decided not to send the email I drafted. Bygones.

Great Moments as a 40YOF #3

Yesterday I got a calculus refresher from a tutor who was born the year I last took calculus.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Well I can say I've never had a first class meeting like that before. Dr. Slesnick spent about an hour emphasizing how difficult the class will be, how there will be no quarter given, and how each one of us should seriously consider dropping it while we still can.

He reminded me a little bit of John Houseman's Kingsfield character in The Paper Chase, but younger and more intense. (Will I be Hart or Kevin? Yikes.)

So after class I beat a path to the UT Learning Center to sign up for a calculus tutor to help knock the rust off my differentials and integrals.

My kids don't understand about grades. Instead, they think you either "win" or "lose" each class, and the only person who wins is the one who does the best. Everyone else loses.

By that definition, I've won every economics course I've taken so far at UT. Looks like winning this one is going to be an interesting challenge.

Back in the saddle

This morning at 9:30 I begin my Micro Theory class, about which I'm both excited and a little nervous. I'm excited because I'm fascinated by microeconomics, and the principles class left me wanting more. I'm nervous because this class requires some knowledge of calculus, which I haven't studied since, oh, about 1989.

If Dr. Slesnick doesn't go in class over exactly how much calculus we'll need, I'll talk to him about it at his office hours. I knew that stuff pretty well once upon a time so hopefully it won't be hard to do a refresh.

This is going to be a busy semester. I'm only taking one class, but we have our third product in development, and our business selling and supporting the first two continues to grow rapidly. Never a dull moment. :-)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tell me again why the Co-op exists

Microeconomics (7th Edition) (Hardcover) $187.75 (including tax) from the Co-op.

$143.54 (including one-day shipping!) from Amazon.

Update: I wish I were a Kindle person so I could buy the Kindle version for $90.02. Come on, Apple, tablet up already!

Update 2: Third-party sellers on Amazon list the same book starting at $95.00.

Monday, January 11, 2010

On not knowing

People don't know what they want and firms don't know what they have.

As I progress in my Economics education, I assume that the idea of imperfect information will be increasingly incorporated into the models I study. But I wonder whether this idea—that no one knows how much satisfaction a product or service will produce—will come into play.

Obviously, people guess and firms guess, and their guesses intersect at some sort of equilibrium. But when markets are small, say, when one big company wants to buy another one, the guesses can be disastrously wrong.

Individuals make these kind of guesses all the time, and they can be just as wrong. But they can probably improve their chances of getting something that ultimately delivers high satisfaction if they use the collective experience of the market. So they buy what everyone else is buying.

It's not a bad strategy if you don't know what you want and you don't know what you'll get. But that's how you wind up eating at McDonald's wearing Gap jeans and driving a Camry. Or, for that matter, eating at Nobu wearing Prada and driving an S500.

So the key, I think, and this is I'm sure totally obvious to everyone else but me, is to know what you want and know what you'll get.

What do you want? I'm going to give that question some thought.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kedrosky on traditional vs. behavioral economists

From One Economist to Rule Them All by Paul Kedrosky:
After all, if we concede that traditional economists are historians with a math fetish, then behavioral economics are mathematicians with a psychology fetish. Either way, I don’t feel any more comfortable handing them the keys to the financial kingdom.