Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Maybe he just doesn't understand how trains are built

Responding to the anonymous TPMCafe poster who

Transit is not stimulus....The recession may last two years. That would make it the worst since World War II. It might last four years, which would be epochal. By contrast, optimistically a high-speed rail system takes two or three times as long to get from gleam in the eye to operational.

Emphasis mine.

Er, no. You are conflating the stimulus goal with the delivery of a finished transit product. Stimulus works by providing jobs during a projects execution which is that time between being a "gleam in the eye" and "going operational".

And given the Great Depression lasted 10 years I don't think he/she should be granted 2-4 years as some reasonable range of time for the current downturn.

The 30 hour work week

With the seemingly daily massive lay-offs, I've been meaning to write a post about the 30 hour work week. I may get aroud to it. But shorter PDog: why not now? The studies (which I will site when/if? I get around to that larger post) clearly show that productivety averages out to about 6 hours a day per worker. The rest of the time we work is just filling out time cards. Studies on health have also shown that countries with 30-35 hour work weeks also have higher reported levels of worker satisfaction and general life happiness.

In short, 40+ hour weeks are a drain on capital resources because they don't increase production (as productivity averages out for whatever reason: maybe I got 10 hours work done on monday but by Friday my 10 hour days are getting 2 actual hours of work done) and lower work weeks lead to better health, happiness and general well being.

I don't think we are going to get a better opportunity than now to break the cultural bias that keeps us working more than we should.

Soup Bloggin'

So the soup a day challenge is still going, although we cheated a bit. There was so much soup left over from Day 1 that I've been having Lentil & Lemon soup for 3 days. Tonight Mrs. PDog is making some stew.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Better Analysis Please

Contrary to the Seattle Times headline, Seattle area prices did not decline 11.2% in November. And you'd have to go to the PI to learn that the Seattle-area as defined by Standard & Poors includes King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

This is not to minimize the devaluation of houses. But suburban and rurals homes are losing value by an order of magnitude more than Urban houses. Including these very different areas together shortchanges the very real pain the snohomish and pierce counties are feeling. And it overstates the situation in Seattle.

Of course I am listening to NPR were the announcer just stated that economists believe that tax cuts are better stimulus that spending. This may be true of commercial economists, but then again the have a structural incentive to believe that (since they work for companies that want tax breaks) and , as Nate Silver docments, have a consistent track record of being wrong.

Among most Academic Economists there is very little debate that spending is better than tax cuts* (Nate started doing an analysis here). The real skepticism is whether even the more effiecient spending will be enough or whether conventional monetary tools still exist..

*Some notable Academic Economists like Mankiw may disagree, but when I read or hear their arguments they rest on Niggles, i.e. debating points about specific projects that are wasteful, rather than arguments about whether spending in the aggregate is more efficient than tax cuts or rebates in the aggregate.

To TARP or not to TARP

Via calculated risk I see that AmEx is complaining that losses will mount as customers reduce spending on their AmEx cards. He also notes that delinquent payments are up and so are write-offs.

AmEx has also been on the forefront of lowering customers credit limits as they pay down their balances.

I have ambivilent feelings about that strategy as it affects risky borrowers. It strikes me that someone in economic hardship and has to choose what debts to pay is more likely to blow off the debtor that has pre-emptively told them they won't loan them more money in the future. And it seems those fearing economic hardship should make the same calculus: pay the minimum on AmEx cause if worse comes to worse we'll need the credit limit free on other cards*

What I don't get is why AmEx is dropping the credit limit of low risk customers. I've heard anecdotal evidence that AmEx is dropping the credit limit for pretty much everyone. Which makes no sense to me if their business model is dependent on people using the card and then paying it back.

For example, we just got a notice that our credit limit has been reduced. On one level, I don't care because I thought we had cancelled the card. We have 0 balance and don't intend to use it. But we've also never been late, have 2 incomes own a home that is not underwater, etc etc. We aren't rich, but we are the kind of people AmEx should be trying to encourage to spend money.

On the otherhand, I've never been impressed with AmEx. They claim to be statistically driven, but make basic errors of hasty generalization often mistaking aggregate trends with individual behanviour. To be fair, that's endemic in the credit card industry and at least they don't make nearly the number of billing errors BoA does.

I guess it's easy to see how the fools got in this mess.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Soup a Day

Anyone want to join my Soup a day challenge?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

And the answer is....

No. Turns out you guys were training while I was gone. Damn.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blame The Bankers.

I don't think this should really surprise anyone.

Friday, January 23, 2009

You say tomato, I say tomato

It's interesting how on wallstreet types* think John Thain a highly repectable, intelligent CEO when as far as I can tell he's an amoral jackass who thinks nothing of taking 3 billion meant for loans and mortgage recapitilization and giving it to his cronies and doesn't have a Freshman understanding of economic principles.

In fact, I find it amazing how otherwise intelligent professionals seem to have a net negative understanding of principles covered in Econ 101.

*On the other hand I am not really sure why anyone would listen to Wall Street types given how spectacularly and consistently wrong their aggregate wisdom has been for the last 12 years (and yes I am going back to the Tech Bubble).


Save the date. In celebration of Pie Day Pru-Dog will be leading the newly traditional February 14th QueenAnne-Seward-QueenAnne ride over 11 sections of Seattle's best Pave. Keep in mind that there is a Sprint finish, but like all good euro-style races it's fixed! You must let me win!

The real holiday season is here

It's National Pie Day! Merry Pie-giving!

Meet The New Boss

As I hauled my portly figure down Lake Washington Blvd I couldn't help but notice a lack of the 2 wheeled tribe. Could it be that despite my own fitlessness that I am, in fact, in better shape than you? (Yah, I mean you, don't look at that other guy.. he's been riding!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Boy, you'll be a masters cyclist soon...

How the hell am I going to race my bike with Teh Big Boys without any time to ride my bike?


Baby, it's cold outside.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Presonnal to Dan in Kent

Calling into a talk show to bitch about Obama is ok. But when you self-describe as a "liberal moderate that leans conservative and doesn't vote" that doesn't make you deep or thoughtful. It makes you a douchebag

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Final Cylon is People

According to last nights big reveal, Ellen "The Cougar" Tigh is the final Cylon.

I say not so fast. I have been expecting some reveal like this for a bit as red herring: I think Ellen Tigh is a Cylon, but not the 5th. Rather, I think she was an aged #6. That would track with Tigh's visions of six as Ellen and his attraction to Six.

That said, I don't think it's Starbuck.

I am in for Tom Zerrick.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Maybe this is part of the reason the PI is dead. Shorter version of the story: guy walks dog without plastic bag to clean up poop. guy gets caught. Guy tries to raise a stink on an abjectly stupid technicality.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I am so COOL.

Shorter Michael Ball:

No, I've never heard of an oral contract or good faith obligations under the law. Why do you ask?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

No access, No bloggin'

Where have you gone, my lovely Intertrons? Away? When will you return? I am sorry I did not call you sooner but must we wait until your next available appointment? Oh return to me Intertrons so that I may bore the world with my blogginess....