From: Travis Wiebe
To: Christina Catalan
Sent: Fri, December 17, 2010 3:33:48 PM
Subject: Re: Purchase was not what I thought it was.

Hi Cristina,

I appreciate your response.  I do remember the box that you are referring to.  I didn't think to click it, but after the fact I wish that I had.  I will say that hiding restriction in a separate place from the actual purchase is not fully transparent.  I had literally had no idea until just after the purchase that there were any restriction.  The fact the restriction came up in full view RIGHT AFTER the purchase was final, means that they were an important aspect of the purchase.  Putting the burden on the buyer to find that out is deceptive.  Since you could tell me the restrictions, extremely clearly, after the purchase, you should have done the same before the purchase.  Now you have an unhappy customer with a story to tell about the negative experience they had with your firm; and I'm sure you don't want that.

Based on my earlier email you know that the purchase was gift and that immediately after the restrictions were fully disclosed to me, I asked that the transaction be reversed.  So, I am not interested in an exchange.

I sent my email requesting that the transaction be reversed immediately after the transaction took place, more than a week ago.  Your email below is the first contact I have received from your firm since that time.  Given the way the transaction took place and the lack of responsiveness that I perceived on the part of your firm, I was worried that I had "been taken in " by a fly-by-night internet scam.  Given my concern, I checked my credit card statement the next day, and sure enough, my request for a refund had been ignored and I had been charged for the transaction.  I immediately lodged a complaint with the credit card provider and asked that the charge be reserved for all the reason I stated in my original email.  Yesterday the credit card company sent me a note telling me that they concluded their investigation into the matter and determined my complaint was valid that they would issue a credit for the transaction on my next statement.

As you can probably tell, I am still pretty annoyed at the way I've been treated by your firm.   I have since talked to another customer of your firm who had very nice things to say about the way you conduct your business and told me about some of the great deals they had by using your service.  I can't say the same, but it's nice to now know that you are not a scam and this could all just be due to a poor (I hope not sneaky) design decision on your web page.  At this point I just want to encourage you to (1) Communicate restrictions clearly before transactions are completed (2) Make your refund process is transparent and easy for the user (3) Communicate in a more timely fashion with customer emails.  Finally, I want to be sure you don't do anything to keep me from getting my refund.  

If you to get more feedback from a disgruntled customer, feel free to give me a call my number is xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Travis Wiebe

From: Christina Catalan
To: Travis Wiebe
Sent: Fri, December 17, 2010 1:38:31 PM
Subject: RE: Purchase was not what I thought it was.

I apologize for any inconvenience.   Before you checked out, there is a box that you do manually have to check. The website will not allow your order to go through until the box has been manually clicked. Next to this box it will state:
 I have read and agree to the applicable restaurant or merchant specific restrictions and the standard certificate restrictions.
"Specific restrictions", and " certificate restrictionsare links that you can click on to read the conditions of your purchase. By you clicking on the box and proceeding to check, you are telling that you have read and agreed.
Terms and Conditions:
The special instructions that each restaurant does have also appear on the restaurant listing. Please keep in mind that if the restaurant has more then denomination, the minimum purchase will change. It will change when you click on the denomination that you pick.
We do have an exchange policy that will allow you to exchange your dining certificate at any time for a credit to that can be redeemed for a new dining certificate of your choice. A Customer Service Representative can issue you credit to, in the form of a gift certificate. If it was given as a gift, please also send me the email address that you would like the credit sent to, otherwise it will be sent to the original purchaser.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please email me so I may further assist you.
Thank you,
Christina Catalan
Customer Service Representative
Please tell my boss how I am doing by emailing

From: Travis Wiebe []
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 8:55 PM
To: RDC Help
Cc: Amy Wiebe
Subject: Purchase was not what I thought it was.
Please retract the purchase of gift certificate I just completed.  Once I realized that there were very specific restriction on the usage of these gift certificates, they became an undesirable gift for a family member.  Please reverse the transaction.

The transaction numbers are 37220420 and 37220423.  The restaurant is called the East Side Checker Club and it's in Pawtucket, RI.  The restrictions on the usage of the gift certificate were only made clear at the time of printing.  If they had been highlighted prior to your taking my payment information, I wouldn't have carried out the transaction.  Please contact me directly if you have any questions as to the intent of this email or you have any questions at all.  I appreciate your attention to this matter.

An October Post

And so now, a rare post from Wiebe. 

I'm sorry folks, my work has taken over my brain for the past (and next) several weeks.  I don't see a lot of action happening on this blog for now.  I know, the election is getting really hot.  Questions like: Does Travis think the Democrats will hold the senate? (Answer: I'm actually beginning to doubt it) How large a majority does Travis think the GOP will have in the house? (Answer: at least 15 seats)  Does Travis still find Sarah Palin annoying and danegrous? (Yes)  Does Travis still believe that Faux news represent all that is wrong with the political system? (Yes)  Is South Park still hilarious? (Absolutely).

My rants, so common in the late spring and early summer are now a thing of the past.  I haven't been able to get myself to even do a lame 'twitter link' post.  Yep, the blog has hit a low point.  My budget season lasts through Christmas and I do foresee a return to using the blog. 

In the meantime, I can still do a quick and easy video post!  Enjoy a little clip from one of my heroes.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Foreclosure Crisis
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Links: 9-21-10 + The Hendersons

My morning read has been (temporarily?) replaced with the use of a laptop with WiFi.  Hence, a post during my morning commute.  And with that, the links that caught my eye yesterday.

The Best
1) Ever consider buying a term paper, instead of writing it yourself.  Very bad idea.  Plus, it won't even work. (Dan Ariely)

The Rest
> Is the 'Tea Party' movement a net positive or negative for the GOP? (FiveThirtyEight)
> Let's say you believe lying is always wrong.  Do you think you'd turn in Anne Frank to the Nazis if they showed up at your door? (James Downie)
> How to eat a muffin while walking (The Incidental Economist)
> Of course, Palin can win (A plain blog about politics)

The Hendersons
There were a number of posts yesterday from bloggers on "The Hendersons", a Law Professor's family living in Chicago.  The whole thing is in reaction to a post which Mr. Henderson wrote for his own blog over the weekend, where he complains about his taxes going up.  He's taken the post down, likely due to the attention it received.  But, here's the full post (link) due to the magic of google's cache.  And here's reaction from Ezra Klein (link), The Reality Based Community (link), and Bradford DeLong (link).  There is much more written on this.  I love the issue.  Income/wealth is a positional good for those with means.  You can feel the dismay that Mr. Henderson is feeling at his perceived shrinking (relative) position to his peers. Here's a great quote from his piece:

We pay about $15,000 in property taxes, about half of which goes to fund public education in Chicago. Since we care the education of our three children, this means we also have to pay to send them to private school. My wife has school loans of nearly $250,000 and I do too, although becoming a lawyer is significantly cheaper. We try to invest in our retirement by putting some money in the stock market, something that these days sounds like a patriotic act. Our account isn’t worth much, and is worth a lot less than it used to be.

Boy, life can be tough.  Despite his economic situation, he's also in the top 1% of households in the US, which his critics do a great job of calling out.

Just because it's my blog, I'll give Paul Krugman the final word (link) on the matter.

Links: 9-20-10

Just a quick post before entering the usual grind of the day.

The Best:
1) Dog poop never felt so good (Wired Science)

The Rest:
> Oops, we didn't want that to get out (Techdirt)
> Rally to Restore Sanity (Jon Stewart)
> March to Keep Fear Alive (Stephen Colbert)
> They really do want to take your money (Jonathan Chait)
> More deflation indicators (Calculated Risk)
> My favorite reason: pampering of the 'stinking rich' (The Daily Dish)
> Who cares about the deficit when we're talking about tax policy? (FireDogLake)

9/16/10 Links

I'm completely psyched to writing this from my new laptop.  I'm sure this thing will feel old in about 6 months, but I'm going to enjoy the 'Brand New' feeling while it lasts.  I took a few days away from blogging to deal with work, which continues at its usual grinding fall pace, a little earlier than usual.  But with a 'share on twitter' button on my googlebar, I'm having no trouble grabbing and keeping links.  Hope there a few in here that you find interesting.  Enjoy!

The Best:
3) Because where I come from $250k a year is a lot of money (Modeled Behavior)
2) Contraceptives increase the value of "Erotic Capital" (Prospect)
1) Palin's staff thinks she's in it to win it (Jonathan Chait)

The Rest:
> Value is an over-rated strategy (Felix Salmon)
> A few stats to remind you that things aren't good yet (The Big Picture)
> Consistency doesn't really matter in political arguments (Paul Krugman
> Why do they hate Keynes? Most of their policy up until now has been justified by using his thinking (Dana Milbank
> Who thinks we should 'make permanent' the Bush tax cuts (The Big Picture)
> 2/3 chance of house takeover (FiveThirtyEight)
> Housing usually comes to the rescue.  Not this time. (Calculated Risk
> US corporations don't really need a healthy US to be profitable (Robert Reich)
> Is Forbes mainstream? (Kevin Drum)
> Is a compromise on tax policy a good thing? (Ezra Klein)
> Nice chart on how the US is viewed in the Middle East (The League of Ordinary Gentlemen)
> This year's 'excited' voter makes sure to get their daily dose of Fox News - nice chart (Kevin Drum)
> Corn syrup has a branding issue, but I guess sugar is a-ok. (Yahoo News)
> There have been times when deflation wasn't so bad - not now (Macro and Other Market Musings)
> Rep. John Boehner is full of nonsense on spending cuts (Kevin Drum)
> The winner-take-all economy (Marginal Revolution)
> Nice time-series chart showing what's keeping small business owners up at night (Paul Krugman)
> Saying you are serious about the deficit is not the same as being serious about the deficit (Ezra Klein)
> Seeing a little Palin in O'Donnell (Jonathan Chait)
> Brian Williams defines 'risk-averse' (The Daily Dish)
> Sentences where there should never be a 'but': Our goal is not to shut down the government... (TPM)
> ... but, we have to do, what we have to do (Capital Gains and Games)
> Cook's senate scorecard (The Cook Political Report)

Brady's accident - The 911 call

Thanks Lori!

9/10/10 Links

Horribly busy day in the office today.  Many more to follow.  Ah, the joys of budget season.  Here are the links that caught my attention today.  Enjoy!

The best:

2. Link to survey on morality for Dan Ariely, a prominent behaviorial economist, with request that the link be sent to as many people from different countries as possible (Qualtrics)
1. A new low.  Actually running on shutting down the government.  I mean who needs government services anyway? (Weigel)

The rest:
> Income inequality doesn't appear to have been caused by skill-biased technological change (Kevin Drum)
> Calculated Risk sees unemployment rising to double digits in the near-term (Calculated Risk)
> Men, your waist size may be bigger than you think (The Daily Dish)
> As Jon Stewart would say, "Ahh yeah" (TPM) Note: I haven't seen the video yet
> Health care spending is supposed to go up with the ACHA? (Health Affairs)
> No, not really (Ezra Klein)

Concerned about the current account deficit?

Here's Matthew Yglesias on another good reason for a high gas tax (Link):

In my view the biggest source of drag on net exports that’s amenable to a clear policy fix is our unusually high per capita gasoline consumption. Higher gasoline taxes to finance increased transportation infrastructure spending could, especially if the spending was front-loaded, boost employment while helping the environment and laying the groundwork for a more dynamic future economy. China’s currency peg is another significant drag on net exports, but while it’s not clear to me which US policy steps (as opposed to Chinese policy steps—that’s easy) would address it effectively.

Are there limits to the market?

Long awaited link post - 9/9/10

I think I'm beginning to find these posts boring.  I haven't done one in about 10 days.  That said, here are the links you have been so anxiously awaiting.  Enjoy!

Top Three
3. Airline prices do go up (NYT
2. Did you know that social networks (Like Facebook) can be used to fight crime? (The Economist)
1. A great graphic showing the real danger of deflation - timely (The Big Picture)

The Rest (Most recent links at the bottom)
> Krugman trusts the writings of the ancients (NYT)
> Thank the heavens.  The like her; they just don't want her to do anything. (PPP)
> I never liked Gary Bauer (The Daily Dish)
> Don't worry, things will be better when we take over (FrumForum)
> Krugman does not think the stimulus package was represented Keynesian policies (NYT)
> It's a fair expectation that the temporary Bush tax cuts will be extended (McClatchy)
> Ron Paul is very conspiracy-minded (Bruce Bartlett)
> Mixed drinks are not IP, for now... (Liquidity Preference)
> Sabato sees good things for the GOP this fall (Larry J. Sabato)
> A decade of GOP policy implementation... In ONE chart (Ezra Klein)
> What do you call using language to mask conflict: Corporate-speak (Marginal Revolution)
> The NAR is a propaganda outlet (The Big Picture)
> Krugman wants some inflation now, and doesn't see it coming (NYT)
> Some great economics blogs that you need to bookmark (Bruce Bartlett
> So Beck and Palin are going to help us remember the lessons of 9/11.  Yea, that seems on the level. (Weigel)
> Student loan debt is larger than credit card debt with fewer protections for the borrower (The Big Picture)
> Krugman argues against the idea that stimulus policies has been proven ineffective (NYT)
> The best charts and initial reaction to the August employment numbers are here (Calculated Risk)
> It's not about federal budget policy, it's about economic policy (FrumForum)
> Is Krugman saying that we'll need WWIII in order to get out of the economic slump? (NYT)
> A community college professor talks about his students (The Daily Dish)
> Inflation would really hit elderly savers hard (Seeking Alpha)
> Singing as a way to get voters to the polls (The Daily Dish)
> Belgian content owners open up a front against the DVR (ARS Technica)
> My bet is the that the GOP plan wins.  Maybe we should call it the "like deficits" plan or the "pretend I care about deficits" plan (TPM)
> Pictures from random places in the world - Thanks Rob! - (Globe Genie)
> Deconstructing a class warfare propaganda piece (Kid Dynamite)
> The writer of the original 'Jump the Shark' episode defends himself (LAT)
> The growth of income inequality makes the more tax brackets argument seem pretty reasonable.   (Kevin Drum)
> Andrew Sullivan asks what good are checks and balances when they paralyze. Strange that he would forget the role of tyranny in shaping our system of government. (The Daily Dish
> When they say 'It's ObamaCare', remember that rates have pretty much been doing this all along (Kevin Drum)
> Another reason to believe that it has absolutely nothing to do with the deficit (Kevin Drum)

A Fantasy World

Having recently finished Andrew Sullivan's book The Conservative Soul wherein "conservatives" represent all that good in politics and economics and living (and religion and civilization), I'm really enjoying the Karl Smith blog entry, titled A Pessimist Manifesto (Link).  Here's a key quote:

Partially , however, I think it is that many modern Conservatives intuitively base their analysis of the world on a philosophy is that anathema to my worldview. Their view is that if you take a responsible, measured, well-reasoned approach to the world things will work out. Failure is thus a sign that you have not done that. My sense is that this is fundamentally crap.

First of all things are not going to work out. You are going to die. Your friends and family are going to die. Everything you care about and everything you ever worked for will be destroyed. This story, our story, only has one ending and it is death and destruction.

If you don’t recognize that, you are living in a fantasy world.

Oh my god.  Paul Krugman may have to move over for my new favorite blogger.  Fanboy Wiebe has a new crush.

A bad idea

Here's what NOT to do when remembering 9/11 (link):

A small evangelical Christian group in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida on Saturday plans to burn Korans as a protest against violent Islamic extremists. The day marks the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.

I should probably steal a propaganda line from those 'against the ground-zero mosque' and ask hypothetically whether just because this is within their constitutional rights whether it's a good idea.  Instead, I'm just going to call this a bad idea.  A really bad idea.  I'd throw the word stupid into the mix, but I'm trying to keep my kids from using that word.

I changed my mind.  This is a stupid idea that is within their constitutional rights.  Go ahead and have your crazy book burning, but do expect me to call you an idiot.

Coming soon...

I'd say I'm behind, but I'm not really sure what it means to be 'caught-up' with a personal blog.

Labor weekend came and I mostly put down the keyboard.  But...  I do have a ton of twitter links and expect to make a blog entry with far too many links.  Over the past month, I've been posting links chronologically, but I'm thinking of adding something like a top three/five links concept.  I like the way the link-post consolidates the 'good stuff' I find on the web, but fear the posts may overwhelming because they include too many items. Thoughts on how to make link posts more interesting/useful are welcome.

Note: I also finished Andrew Sullivan's book and need to post my thoughts.  Plus, I think I'm far enough into Red Faction to post my thoughts on the game.  If work doesn't interfere too much with my personal life, then this has the potential to be a heavy posting week (But don't hold your breath).

Happy 'Back to School' , 'End of Summer', 'Nearly Fall' !!!

Best economic piece I've read all summer...

Here is Karl Smith with his Blog piece Rome is Burning:

We have very low capacity utilization (75%) and very high unemployment (10%).

That is, we have factories sitting idle for lack of workers – low capacity utilization. At the same time we have workers sitting idle for lack of factories – high unemployment.

There are machines waiting to be worked and people waiting to work them but they are not getting together.

The labor market is failing to clear.

This is a fucking disaster.

Excuse my language, but you have to get that this is a big deal. This is not a big deal like the GOP doesn’t appreciate public goods. Or, Democrats don’t understand incentives. Or some other such second order debate that could reasonably concern us in different times.

This is a failure of our basic institutions of production. The job of the market is to bring together willing buyers with willing sellers in order to produce value. This is not happening and as a result literally trillions of dollars in value are not being produced.

Let me say that again because I think it fails to sink in – literally trillions of dollars in value are not being produced. Not misallocated. Not spent on programs you don’t approve of or distributed in tax cuts you don’t like. Trillions of dollars in value are not produced at all. Gone from the world entirely. Never to be had, by anyone, anywhere, at any time. Pure unadulterated loss.

Time and time again I see people speak about recessions as if they are a bad harvest – an unfortunate event wherein we have to figure out how to go with less. Some say we should all sacrifice – some say the sacrifice should be based on X or Y. Some say each family should take their lumps as they come.

However, they are all getting the basic idea wrong. This is not a bad harvest. The problem isn’t that there is less to go around. The problem is that we are creating less, building less, making less.

We have people who would be working but are instead watching Judge Judy. We have machines that could be spinning but are literally rusting for lack of use. This is a coordination disaster.

Great writing and insightful analysis.  There are few paragraphs I haven't clipped in and the charts in the blog posting tell the story very well.  Worth a click through.  Here's that link again.

8/31/10 Links

It's the end of August (As we know it) and I feel fine. (R.E.M.) Here's today's links:

Do you believe that "this guy" is awful?  Yes.  Yes, I do.  (Sam Stein)

Another really bad poll for the Democrats.  (FiveThirtyEight)

Who's afraid of the big bad immigrant? (Felix Salmon)

If 'nobody' saw it coming, and it came, then the people who saw it coming are 'nobody'. (Calculated Risk)

No.  Unemployment would not have fallen if unemployment benefits hadn't been extended. (Media Matters)

You know that scene in the horror movie, right before the villian comes back alive for one last unexpected shot at our hero.  We're there. (The Big Picture)

Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessup: You can't handle the truth!
A Few Good Men

We are here...

OK, this is the real estate professional in me.  Awesome chart.  (Hat Tip:  The Big Picture)

8/30/10 Links

Is that an impending sense of doom I'm feeling?  Or, have I been reading too much on fundamentalist ideology in my attempt to understand today's GOP? Probably both.

Do people who have DVRs really watch ads?  When do advertisers give up on TV?  (Tech Crunch)

10,000 hours, right. But not too much competition, OK. (Wired)

You should always vote for the person, except for when the party matters most.  And it always matters most.  (Ezra Klein)

I'd agree, except for the fact that there is no easy stuff when the only thing you ever want to do is cut taxes.  (Ezra Klein)

Representing a fundamental misunderstanding of the liquidity trap (Megan McArdle)

"Dey tuk er jerbs!" (Economist's View) - Quote from Season 8, Episode 6 "Goobacks"

Eating local is not as energy efficient as advertised by local businesses.  File under, "Not surprising".  (Stephen Budiansky - NYT Op-Ed)

Week away links 8-29-10

OK, most of these are from the last day or so.  I don't really feel back yet (Week away with the family), because I haven't logged into the work email address yet.  But hey, Mondays are all about unpleasant experiences.  I'll add lots of work emails to the list.  Until then, here's what caught my eye over the past week (end):

Just buying some books might be worth more than you think (Evidence Based Mummy)

Going green kinda sucks (Scott Adams)

Because, really, if you don't need 'em, you don't need 'em (The Big Picture)

Cheap, "virtual" assistants, living in India, may be able to improve your dating life (Brad Ideas)

Some twitter feeds I need to add (Real Time Economics - WSJ)

Did you know that the third-person plural is a tell? (Farnam Street)

If I didn't agree, I wouldn't be posting this link (Paul Krugman)

Are you prepared for the death of the public sector? (TPM)

When in Rome (The Big Picture)

I'd post the video directly, but it doesn't seem appropriate to the blog.  But... I'll go with... cool.  Very cool.  (The Daily Dish)

That's it on my end.  If you have any fun links, send them my way.

Great graph of historic US interest rates

Hat tip - Barry Ritholtz:
(Click for larger image)

Are we working smarter?

Here's Tyler Cowen on the productivity increases in 2008/2009 (link):

In other words, there was a lot of "productivity growth" precisely when workers were being laid off, and not so much before or after. I interpret the "high productivity innovation" as the decision to lay the workers off, and the selection of workers, not the sudden advent and withdrawal of some new high productivity technology.

Lately, I've been wanting to go to a waterpark...

Then again, maybe I should pass.

8/20/10 Links

I'm taking a break for the next week.  Call it a swimming trip.  Here's a few links to hold you over until I get back.

Obama's doing OK.  Really.  No really.  He is. I swear. (Kevin Drum)

Shockingly, e-dating isn't terribly effective (Mind Hacks)

Hey look, we didn't bankrupt the country with the AHCA (Bruce Bartlett)

Excellent interactive map of the recession and where its hit hardest (AP)

And so, that puts 13 democratic seats in play for the US senate (Cook)

Video Killed The Radio Song - Chart on internet usage (Barry Ritholtz)

Apparently, doing more housework means getting more action (Freakonomics Blog)

"Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant" (Ezra Klein)

Copyright Protection - Who Does It Help?

Great piece by Ezra Klein on the fashion industry and the cost/benefit of extending copyright protections (link).  Here is a quote that captures the nub of the issue:

And companies love copyright. They love it so much they persuaded Congress to pass the Sonny Bono Act, which extended individual copyright protections to the life of the author, plus another 70 years; and corporate copyrights to 120 years from creation, or 95 years from publication, whichever is earlier. That’s an absurdly long time, and it belies the original point of patents: does anyone seriously believe that a 40-year-old with a money-making idea is going to hold back because someone can mimic it 20 years after he dies?

At a certain point, copyrights stop protecting innovation and begin protecting profits. They scare off future inventors who want to take a 60-year-old idea and use it as the foundation to build something new and interesting. That’s the difficulty of copyrights, patents, and other forms of intellectual protection. Too little, and the first innovation won’t happen. Too much, and the second innovation—the one relying on the first—will be stanched.

Which is why we have to be careful when one industry or another demands more copyright protection for itself. “Intellectual property is legalized monopoly,” says James Boyle, a professor at Duke Law School. “And like any monopoly, its tendency is to raise prices and diminish availability. We should have a high burden of proof for whether it’s necessary."

I'm going to add one more concept in here.  Monopolies are really just a way to collect rents.  Effectively, you don't have to do anything of value other than allow the use of your property in order to collect income.  The hard part is protecting that monopoly.  And the way to do that is politically.  You need to get some lawmakers on your side and you're off and running.  Is it any wonder that the copyright protections in this country are absurdly long, far longer than what would be required for to encourage content production?  The politicians running for office have a friend in the content owners who are seeking rents from their monopoly.  Disney is not #70 on the highest all-time 1989-2010 donor list (link) for fun.  They are protecting their rent.  Here's a link with more on rent seeking and its consequences.

If it was up to me, I'd reduce the protection significantly.  Life of author, plus seventy years goes from rent collection, to theft from society.

The Workout

Beginning Weight: 273 lbs

Ending Weight: 213 lbs

Total Weight Loss: 60 lbs

Percentage Weight Loss: 22%

Starting Date: 4/26/2010

Ending Date: 8/20/2010

Weeks: 17

Days: 116

Core Workout: 90 minutes on the cross-trainer in the gym at my office.

Occasional Add-ins: 2 mile loop near my house.  Walking to and from train.  Walking over lunch.  Usage became more consistent over the summer and in final few weeks.  However, weight loss was pretty constant over the entire period.

Diet: I completely refused to do calories counting.  I did try to eat smaller portions (and didn't always succeed).  I went from rarely drinking anything with calories, to very rarely drinking anything with calories.  I became more diligent about eating near weight milestones (20 lbs, 30 lbs, etc...).  Still can't resist a five-guys bacon cheeseburger with BBQ sauce, hot sauce, jalapenos, pickles, lettuce, and tomato.  And I never saw a fried clam that I didn't fall in love with.

Other Notes: Exercise gets pretty boring after about a little bit.  So does TV and music.  I found that by mixing it up between all three, I could keep going.  BTW, morning TV is terrible.  I was working out the gym in my office and often had no control over what I watched.  If I never see the Today show again, it'll be too soon.

8/19/10 Links

Hope a few of these catch your eye.  Kevin Drum seems to be my passing fancy of the day.  Enjoy!

Outrage, across mainstream America - humor (The Daily Mash)

American Airlines, messing with you for profit (Kevin Drum)

1964.  A stereo cost $379.95 and a year's tuition at the University of Michigan cost $140.  Which would you rather have today?  (Jonathan Chait)

Copyright protection exists to encourage the creation of content.  No more, no less.  (The Daily Dish)

Did you know that we are W.E.I.R.D? (Social Science Research Network)

Only half of US citizens understand the first amendment to the constitution (Kevin Drum)

Explain to me the deal with social security and who's trying to weasel their way out if it (Kevin Drum)

Mmm....  Burger (Daily Fork)

Question: Do "Cougars" really exist?  Answer: No.  (Yahoo)

Nice chart showing total trend in consumer debt (Infectious Greed)

8/18/10 Links

Here are today links:

Great set of charts showing damage caused by the financial meltdown (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) (My post on this earlier today)

Refusing to submit to the U.S. News and World Report rankings results in improved performance (The Atlantic)

The two mosques that already exist near ground zero - 4 and 12 blocks away (NYT) (My post on this earlier today)

That's right, we pretty much disapprove of everybody (PPP)

How not to write news analysis (Jonathan Bernstein)

The problem with the deficit hawk - funny (Economist's View)

How UBS made out with Walmart using satellite technology - cool (CNBC)

You have to be kidding me...

OK, I find the NYC Mosque controversy offensive.  My position was very well stated by Obama on Friday night (I didn't appreciate his walk-back on Saturday morning).  Jon Stewart did a great job of presenting how ridiculous this issue is in one of last week's daily shows (the clip I liked is here).

OK, now the compromise position, which I disagree with, is for the builders of the mosque to back down and move the mosque to some other part of the city.  Somewhere... "less sensitive".  Let;'s pretend that isn't a violation of their basic constitutional rights.  Let's look at how far away we're talking about.  A compromise can't be that bad, right?  As has been well reported, the build site for the planned mosque is two blocks away from ground zero.  So, how far away are other mosques in the city (NYT link)?

Masjid Manhattan, on Warren Street, four blocks from ground zero, was founded in 1970. Masjid al-Farah, formerly on Mercer Street, moved to its present location on West Broadway, about 12 blocks from ground zero, in 1985. Both mosques — essentially one-room operations — routinely turn people away for lack of space. 

So there is an existing mosque that is FOUR blocks away from ground zero.

This controversy is pure political demagoguery appealing to the worst (racist) instincts of people.  Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrinch and all the others involved in this should bow their heads in shame and apologize for being so offensive.  And so unbelievably wrong.

OK, venting over.  Back to financial models.

Fun With Charts

Brad DeLong's twitter feed just brought me to an excellent set of charts showing the last two years of our economic disaster.  Basically, this is chart porn.  If you love economic charts, you need to check this out.

Below are a few samples.  Clink on the link for more.

8/17/10 Links

This is a light link day.  I just didn't have the information grazing need that usually carries me through the day.  That said, here are a few goodies...

Barry Ritholtz on how we should have rescued the financial system (The Big Picture)

Policy positions are largely irrelevant in US elections (Ezra Klein)

Why sometimes it doesn't make sense to buy and hold (Pragmatic Capitalism)

I'm getting old (Beloit College)

8/16/10 Links

Here's what I'm into today.

Palin supporters must be high (PPP)

One of the rare moments I find myself agreeing with an NRO blogger (The Agenda)

How long do you think the jobs recession will last? (Robert Reich)

Having a dog makes you more cooperative (Economist)

How to keep a politically useful story alive (David Weigel)

Can the GOP keep the lid on? (Mark Halperin)

The NYT isn't satisfied with the internet (Media Decoder)

Don't you just love a good burger? (DCist)

No conflict of interest to see here (Think Progress)

Story of a video game virgin (

When the end of world was here, was Bush or Obama president? Seriously. (PewResearchCenter)

Worst news of the day.  Stupid.  (Washington Post)

Jon Stewart's Take On Religious Tolerance

Funny and painful.  You know, the way Stewart is when he's completely right.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Municipal Land-Use Hearing Update
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Link to 1st amendment

Friday Linkage - On Thursday!

My twitter feed went crazy this week so I'm doing this post a day earlier than last week.  I'm considering doing a link post like this every time I have between 10 and 15 links.  Otherwise, the list gets way too long.  (I know, 42 links is too many). 

With that said, Links:

Men, you should wear red

Where Krugman explains how to read a report from the CBO

Crist benefited from the oil spill

A conservative evaluating his position against same-sex marriage

A political blog recommended by Chuck Todd

Mark Thoma on the weakness in last Friday's (8-6-10) job report

Part of the reason the administration didn't push for a larger stimulus package in 2009

It's been hot this year

A thawing glacier

Yuck.  Just yuck.

How many chargers do you have?

Economists call each other names, too

Where Coke says that no reasonable person would think that vitamin water is a healthy beverage

Where Nate Silver agrees with Paul Krugman that Paul Ryan is full of it

How large is the beauty premium for prostitutes?

A poll that asks if the oil spill was a good thing

Obama phones? Bush phones?

Fiscal enemy number one:  Public employees

Great chart showing how incomes dropped in 2009

Convincing secular arguments against same-sex marriage are hard to make

Bell. The purest case of government employee theft from the taxpayers that I have ever read.

Palin's eye-roll (old news, admit-ably)

Video games - from geek to jock

What kind of unemployment do we have, structural, frictional, or cyclical?  Does it matter?

Conservapedia is the best!

Mmm, state fair food (check out the pictures)

The origin of Mexico's drug war

Should government do more or less? What do independent voters think today?

Maybe, Palin pissed off the people of Alaska when she stepped down

When reality becomes unhinged, who will even notice?

The pension crisis is the fault of overly-optimistic economists (So much for the dismal science)

When the trade deficit ends, how much will it suck?

Political considerations in the recently passed $26 billion aid package to states.

How do you spell, shcool?

Being 'concerned' about social security, improves your credibility

Where we learn that the U.S. is bankrupt

Negative TIPS yields.  Whoa.

Car shopping in the internet age

Without this jobs program, unemployment wouldn't be 9.5%, it would be 11.5%

Where Paul Krugman 'solves' the deficit problem

Same-sex couples should be able to marry again next Wednesday

Paul Ryan is entirely clear despite what his critics say

The Non-Recovery

Ezra gets depressed (link):

If states have to cut $120 billion from their budgets, that money -- and the things it does -- will just leave the economy. There will be fewer jobs, higher taxes, less financial aid. None of that is speculative. There's no theory in which it doesn't happen. This is a large economic contraction that we've decided to allow, because we would prefer to allow it than to put down the money -- much less money, incidentally, than it will cost to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich -- necessary to prevent it.

Of everything that's happened since the financial crisis, this is, to me, the most frustrating. It is a decision we, as a polity, are making to prolong our economic pain and slow our economic recovery. It is needless and senseless and largely the result of political, rather than economic, disagreement. And when it happens, we will all look around at one another and lament our slow recovery, and our terrible economy, and our inept political leaders, who have clearly done something wrong, even if we're not sure exactly what.

How Much Would It Hurt To Be Specific?

Just a quicky post linking to something from Yglesias' blog (link).  Here's the key quote:

To which I ask, if “the whole idea is to cut spending,” then why not propose spending cuts? It’s a lot easier to pass a budget than to pass a constitutional amendment. Surely, if a majority Americans are clamoring for “robust spending cuts” as DeMint claims, then the GOP would benefit in the midterms by proposing such cuts. Instead, the GOP either cannot or will not propose anything specific; rather, they continue to push for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy without any spending offsets. That really should end any serious consideration of what this balanced budget amendment is all about.

But the larger point here is that the Republican Party is refusing to detail an actual agenda in advance of the November elections. There are plenty of things a Speaker Boehner really might do if the GOP were to regain the House majority in the fall. But instead of talking about which of those things they’ll attempt, Republican leaders continue to play to their base with notions of ACA repeal and radical changes to the constitution that require 2/3 majorities and approval of 38 states. The answer of the pundit class seems to be to sort of laugh off this talk of amending the constitution since it “won’t happen” — to which the follow-up should be, what will happen if the GOP takes over Congress? Voters should probably hear the answer before going to the polls.

This fits in very nicely with my complete disdain for the Tea Party/GOP.  When pressed, the answer seems to be, "We'll figure out the spending cuts, so can I have my tax cut now, please?"  The weighty manner in which the government deficit is discussed is a front.  We'd see serious answers otherwise.  Why be specific and risk ideas being discussed, when my political position is improved by transparent pandering and fear-mongering.

As a side point;  I'm with Krugman, Klein, and Silver on how Ryan's blueprint is bogus, with the effect of spending cuts taken credit for but not showing the deficit worsening impact of his tax cuts.  But at least, Ryan is showing the government programs he wants to gut (Primarily Medicare).  A constitutional balanced budget amendment requiring a super-majority to pass a tax is not only fantasy land (And bad economics), it's also completely disingenuous.  But then again, what was I expecting?.

It's Always Darkest When It's Darkest

Just a quick post with the latest in bad news numbers.  Andrew Sullivan has this as his chart of the day (link) and I agree.  So with that is Calculated Risk's percent job-loss report (link):

You can go ahead and puke now.  And feel free to blame whomever you'd like.

Call Me Fanboy. Fanboy Wiebe.

I seriously have a man-crush on Paul Krugman.  His piece today on Paul Ryan is a complete tear-down of the man's ideas.  He uses plenty of facts to back up his argument.  And then he rips the news media for treating him seriously.  Here's Krugman's close (link):

So why have so many in Washington, especially in the news media, been taken in by this flimflam? It’s not just inability to do the math, although that’s part of it. There’s also the unwillingness of self-styled centrists to face up to the realities of the modern Republican Party; they want to pretend, in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, that there are still people in the G.O.P. making sense. And last but not least, there’s deference to power — the G.O.P. is a resurgent political force, so one mustn’t point out that its intellectual heroes have no clothes.

But they don’t.  The Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future.

And you think he's done, right?  But wait... Look at the piece below in italics.

David Brooks is off today.

I can't say that it was Paul's decision to put that at the end.  Maybe it was the NYT just letting us know that Mr. Brooks is off today.  But it is at least INTERESTING that Brooks is exactly the person who would praise Ryan.

Ohh, Mr. Krugman.  You had me at "One depressing aspect of American politics is the susceptibility of the political and media establishment to charlatans."