jump to navigation

People sure love to hate oil companies January 15, 2009

Posted by A Texan In Grad School in Energy.
Tags:
1 comment so far

From the New York Times’ Economix blog:

A recent consumer survey from Issues & Answers Network and Stratcom Communications, market research and consulting firms, asked respondents whether they felt “betrayed” as a result of the crisis, and if so, which entities they felt “betrayed” by. It also asked them which industries “had a MAJOR effect on the current economic environment.”

Here’s the results of a segment of the survey where respondents were asked if a given industry had an impact on the current crisis:

Why do oil companies rank above insurance and credit card companies?  An even more interesting question, though, is: Given how much energy prices have come down, will people give credit to the oil companies for the economy’s recovery?

Advertisements

It’s sad how little this surprised me January 14, 2009

Posted by A Texan In Grad School in Uncategorized.
Tags:
add a comment

Crazy admission practices at colleges.

I’ll believe it when I see it January 14, 2009

Posted by A Texan In Grad School in Energy.
Tags: ,
add a comment

Over at MasterResource.org, Michael Lynch states that, “an increase in offshore drilling is still on the policy table, which suggests Obama is taking a more rational approach to energy policy than many of his colleagues.”  I’m not going to hold my breath.  There’s too much pressure on politicians from the green lobbies.  Plus, gas is pretty cheap right now.  Gas prices will have to get really high before people will come around to opening up more space for drilling.

All that aside, Lynch has excellent arguments for off-shore drilling.

The Worst Part is Waiting January 14, 2009

Posted by A Texan In Grad School in Personal Development.
Tags:
add a comment

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting new blog entitled Laid Off And Looking.  In the most recent post, Kevin Hudson discusses the difficulty of waiting for a response during job hunting.  I have to agree that  it is the worst part.  Even a negative response is better than none.

I think this is a component of the job search that is especially hard for recent graduates to deal with.  As a student, one gets used to decisions.  Schools accept or deny your admission.  They may wait-list you, but that gives you infinitely more information than a non-responsive employer.  Personally I deal with this by using a send and forget strategy.  I send out resumes under the assumption I won’t hear anything back.

Recession vs Depression January 13, 2009

Posted by A Texan In Grad School in Economic Statistics.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

While Tyler Cowen gives 8 reasons we are in a depression.  But I think these graphs from Alex Tabarrok, should make one question use of the ‘D’ word.

Grading and the Workplace January 2, 2009

Posted by A Texan In Grad School in Personal Development.
add a comment

My earlier post on Generation Y and the workplace got me thinking about a discussion I had recently with a friend of mine.  Like me, she finished her undergrad in May ’08, but she has just started a research job in television.  We discussed the weird disconnect between task performance and evaluation in the professional world.  The most difficult thing for me to get used to in internships was a lack of formal grading and evaluation.

This is two-fold.  First, I won’t lie, turning something in and then getting a big A on it feels good.  It’s like watching the final seconds tick away on the clock when you win a game.  Secondly, when you don’t get an A, you get told why.  The very first thing I ask about a professor is not how difficult their class is, but what kind of feedback do they give.  If a professor just flips through your paper, then writes B or C on it, that doesn’t do anybody any good.  A good professor helps you understand how the paper could/should have been better.

In the professional setting, managers don’t have time to give detailed feedback.  A professor is paid to grade.  A manager is paid to manage.  the two are different.  But, especially when you are starting out, a manager ought to set aside more time to constructive criticism of your work.  It’s an investment in the company’s human capital.

Social Security as Ponzi January 2, 2009

Posted by A Texan In Grad School in Economic Theories, Federal Debt.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

The recent Madoff scandal has brought renewed attention to the Ponzian nature of Social Security.  But, is Socially Security really a Ponzi scheme?  Michael Mandel at Business Week’s Economics Unbound says that because technology advances more than population does, Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme. The key to any debate is to define the terms.  So let’s look at the definition of Ponzi Scheme:

An investment swindle in which high profits are promised from fictitious sources and early investors are paid off with funds raised from later ones.

That’s according to The American Heritage Dictionary.  From this definition, it seems that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.  Generation A pays in, then Generation B pays in while A receives, so on and so on.  But, interestingly I noticed that some dictionaries have a slightly tweaked definition of a Ponzi Scheme:

an investment swindle in which some early investors are paid off with money put up by later ones in order to encourage more and bigger risk

That’s from Merriam-Webster.  The intriguing part of this definition is the idea that a Ponzi scheme has the goal of encouraging more and bigger risk.  Who is taking these risks and what they are is ambiguous.  Social Security encourages some risks because people don’t feel as much a need to save for their own retirement because Uncle Sam will pay them to be old.  But I don’t think this is the kind of risk Merriam & Webster have in mind.  So, under this (I believe poor) definition, Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme.

But, ultimately what seperates Social Security from a Ponzi scheme is the ability of the government to always make good on its promises.  The government can always raise taxes or print more money.  The government could even stop forcing people to pay in to Social Security while still paying people.  Obviously this would have perverse effects on inflation and debt, but it’s possible.  Social Security does  not require that people pay in, so that it can pay out to others, at least in nominal terms.  Therefore Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme.  But, that isn’t exactly a good thing.

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation January 1, 2009

Posted by A Texan In Grad School in Uncategorized.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

The Economist takes on Generation Y, or the so-called Millenials (here, here, and here).  I have to say this is the worst reporting I’ve ever seen in The Economist.  I’m a big fan of the magazine, but these three articles should have been put together as one.  For example check out the following passages:

“Net Geners demand far more frequent feedback and an over-precise set of objectives on the path to promotion (rather like the missions that must be completed in a video game).” – Managing the Facebookers

Just as they are used to checking their progress on leader boards when playing video games, so Net Geners want to keep close tabs on their performance at work, too.” -The Rypple Effect

It wouldn’t be nearly as bad if they didn’t use a video game analogy in both statements.  What really bugs me about this set of articles though is that they contradict themselves by later stating that Net Geners have trouble with “command-and-control” management styles (Facebookers & Generation Y Goes to Work).  Personally, I don’t have a problem with open-ended management or command-and-control management.  What I have a problem with is inconsistency.  The Economist demonstrates the type of inconsistency that frustrates my generation.

What The Economist misses is that we are not frustrated with a lack of precision or command-and-control management innately, but rather its poor application.  Often I find that people want to give you a vague description of the goals of your task, then when you complete the project they have a precise set of goals to judge you with.  To me, this shows laziness on the part of the manager.  If you have a clear idea, then tell it to me.  Don’t withhold criteria from me, then use it to criticize me.  Alternatively, managers will use command-and-control for a project, then criticize you for not being creative enough.  Management is a surprisingly difficult skill to master.