Thursday, March 16, 2017

Thoughts on Sweden

I accompanied 20 of our (fantastic) business students on a trip to Sweden.  These students are all juniors and part of the schools London program.  Overall it was a great trip.  Some brief thoughts:

The Good:

1. Stockholm feels incredibly safe.  Some locals told me it is a bit less safe now relative to a few years ago with the increased immigration.  Compared to US cities, however, it seems fantastically safe.

2. The people are friendly, although if I would stereotype them, I'd say there are a lot of "hipsters".

3. I've been impressed by their pizza.  It is more "Italian style" and is very tasty.

4. Their beers are good - really good, in fact.  We had a tour of a great place called Stockholm Brewing Company.

5. I also saw the Vasa Museum, Old Town, and History of Money Museum.

6.  I also visited Uppsala - a city about 30 minutes north of Stockholm.  It was a fun little city with a great town square, a prestigious university, and some historic sites.  (Including King Vasa's tomb.)

The bad:

Most of the bad boils down to socialism.

7. It snowed, and they don't know how to clear snow from city streets or sidewalks.  Given it snows a reasonable amount there, it seems crazy that they wouldn't do a better job with this.

8. Their casinos are run by the government.  I guess in the states we see governments running the lottery, but governments running the casino still seems really odd to me.  They also charge an admission fee - 6 Euros for one entry of 15 Euros for an annual pass.  The casino was clean and and the blackjack rules were not awful, but they don't give you free drinks (of any sort - not even a soda) when you're playing.

Where this really looked like socialism was in the poker room, where there were very long lines to get into a game.  I had never, before Sweden, put my name on a list to get into a poker game and not played poker that day.  That happened here.  In the states, the profit-maximizing casinos have an incentive to serve customers - but in Sweden they do not.

Given the government runs the casinos, this shouldn't be surprising.  They do exactly what you'd expect from a socialist entity - they run it OK, but would be forced out of business fast if there was any competition by not serving their customers in a better way.

9.  The state runs the liquor stores like Pennsylvania.  To "protect" their citizens they close at 3:00 PM on Saturday and are not open at all on Sunday.

10. It is an expensive city.  I used to think London was expensive.  But it is not compared to Stockholm.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

New role

I'm excited to take a new role soon - as interim dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business at Susquehanna University.

Link to story here.

I've been busy with this - which explains the lack of posts recently.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Education as a signal vs. human capital

I really enjoyed this "Econ Duel" between the professors at Marginal Revolution University.

It is certainly worth 9 minutes of your time ...

Monday, January 2, 2017

My 2016 in review: Musicals and plays

In 2016 I was fortunate to see many great musicals and plays.  I love seeing shows, and now that I'm running, I also am looking for new songs that help teach about economics.

Shows in New York (6 Broadway, 1 off-Broadway)

1. Hamilton

The whole show is great, but I don't think I've ever been more astonished by a song/scene for how they handled the Dinner Table Compromise - where Jefferson and Hamilton agreed to let Hamilton open the Central Bank in exchange for the capital being moved from New York to its current location on the Potomac.  I've always been fascinated by this moment in history and the way the show portrayed it was fascinating.

With Hamilton the music is so good, many who get the soundtrack listen to the whole thing prior to seeing the show ... I listened to the first act prior to going, and think it was a bit of a mistake. I enjoyed the 2nd act so much more.  I don't think it was because the 2nd act is better, I think it was the surprise. I would recommend that those who have tickets perhaps listen to part of it first, but not the whole thing.

2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

I usually prefer musicals to plays, but this was one of the best plays that I have ever seen.  The story does a fantastic job of getting you in the head of the (likely) autistic lead character.

3. Waitress

Great music and entertaining.  The song "When He Sees Me" was one of the top songs I saw on the stage in 2016.

4. She Loves Me

Just a fun show - incredibly fun.  It also has two songs that I have now posted on Broadway Economics.

5. Bright Star.

We actually had front row seats for this one!  A fantastic bluegrass score and a great story.

6. Fiddler on the Roof

I had seen this show almost 20 years ago.  That was with a touring group and the seats weren't great.  I did not enjoy it back then.

This was a completely different experience.  Seeing a fantastic cast perform Fiddler on the Roof is an absolute treat.

7. Avenue Q

I had heard much of this score over the years and had looked forward to seeing this show since 2004.  I don't know if my expectations were too high, but I was disappointed.  I think I might have known the material too well - I suspect if I didn't know any of the songs or jokes I would have been more entertained.


I got to see three shows in the West End in London.

1. Funny Girl

I saw this in London when co-leading an international trip.  I saw the understudy, Natasha Barnes, as the lead role and she was absolutely fantastic.  I know it was the west end and not Broadway, but if it were on Broadway this is the type of performance that would have garnered a Tony nomination.  The show ... not bad, although I certainly don't need to see it again.

2. Sunny Afternoon (The Musical of the Kinks)

Of the three London shows, this was my favorite.  Outside of Mamma Mia, this was my favorite jukebox musical (ever).  Just great music and the story was also fantastic.  I didn't know the music of The Kinks too well before this (maybe 3-4 songs) and wow, The Kinks had some fantastic songs!

3. The Threepenny Opera

I had never seen this before.  What a weird story.  It was pretty cool to see this show with a world-class cast, but it was weird.  (And I have no desire to see it again.)

Touring Casts, Colleges, and Community Theatre

1. Cinderella (Hershey Theatre)

A great show - better than I expected.  Very good music and an interesting story.  (It doesn't exactly follow the Disney movie version ... which is good.)  Also, one song from this show is on Broadway Economics.

2. Ragtime (Hershey Theatre)

The score of this show is simply fantastic.  Click here for Henry Ford!

3. The Addams Family (Susquehanna University)

4. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Gammage Theatre - Tempe, AZ)

5. Carousel (Bucknell University)

This show was fantastic, and even better, my older two children got roles in this college production.  (They needed some younger actors to fill out the cast.)

6. Of Thee I Sing

The first musical to ever win a Pulitzer Prize.  This was one of my favorites, largely because my three favorite actors each had a role.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

My 2016 in review: Books I read

Throughout the year - I read a fair number of books.  Here are some of the books that I found most enjoyable or informative.

1. New Money, Staying Rich.  (By Philip Buchanon)

Really interesting book about the financial pressures felt when relatively uneducated athletes (at least uneducated about how to handle wealth) come into huge sums of money.  The stories presented here are quite sad.  Many people seem to feel entitled to the wealth of those who earn it and it has caused serious problems for thousands of professional athletes.

2. So You've Been Publicly Shamed (By Jon Ronson)

Fantastic read about the history of shaming.  Best non-econ/non-fiction book I read in 2016.

3. Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway (By Michael Riedel)

If you like Broadway shows and history, you'll really enjoy this book.  Lots of nuggets of the economics behind shows as well - a very entertaining read.

4. Narco-Economics (Tom Wainwright)

Fantastic economic analysis of drug cartels, why they might collude, when they might fight, and the consequences.  This book applies economic analysis to illegal drug manufacturing - and naturally the results of what has happened makes total sense.  Highly recommend.

5. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (J.K. Rowling)

Fantastic - if you're a Harry Potter fan.  I just wish I could get tickets to the show ...

6. Autobiography of Mike Sexton (Nolan Dalla and Peter Alson)
7. Biography of Stu Ungar (Nolan Dalla and Peter Alson)

--- #6 and #7 are great for poker afficiandos

8. Partners (John Grisham short)

It is short, but fun if you like Grisham.

9. Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (J.K. Rowling)
10. Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists (J.K. Rowling)
11. Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (J.K. Rowling)

These three short stories are fun if you are a fan of the Harry Potter series.

11.  The New Trail of Tears (N.S. Riley)

This book, featuring how the US government's policies are dooming reservations is fantastic and horrifying at the same time.  I really recommend reading it, but it will depress you.

12. The War on Cops (Heather Mac Donald)

Great, but disturbing.

13. The Upside of Inequality (Edward Conard)

I discussed this book here

14. Liar's Poker (Michael Lewis)

An older book I just hadn't read before.  It was entertaining, but I found his disdain for the finance industry a bit off-putting and quite unlike the people I've met from the major financial companies.  I've never worked on Wall Street, but the graduates from Susquehanna we send to major financial companies are among the nicest and smartest I know.

15. The Whistler (John Grisham)

I enjoy Grisham's books - this one was entertaining.

16. Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, the World's Most Beloved Musical (Barbara Isenberg)

Great read for theatre fans.

17. Hamilton: The Revolution (Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter)

See comment for #16.

In the queue (or just started)
1. Verbal Poker Tells
2. Order to Kill (Vince Flynn)
3. Brain Rules
4. The iPhone Photographer

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Smokers’ BMI and Perceived Health: Does the Order of Questions Matter?

"Smokers’ BMI and Perceived Health: Does the Order of Questions Matter?" is the title of a paper I wrote that was just published at Preventive Medicine Reports.  The link is here.  This was coauthored with Richard O'Connor and Maansi Bansal-Travers.

Here is the abstract:
We surveyed 431 daily smokers between November 2014-March 2015 to examine the impact of the order of questions on the response to a self-reported health question as part of a larger experimental study. We randomized the question order, with some respondents providing their weight prior to self-reporting their health, while others did the opposite. We found that self-reported health outcomes are worse when smokers are first asked to report their weight. However, the order of questions only seems to impact those who are overweight as we did not find evidence that the order of questions affected responses for those with a BMI below 25. These findings suggest that the order of asking self-rated health and weight questions appears to matter, at least for overweight current smokers.