Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Few Thoughts

1) Having anti-virus software is important because it makes it harder for hackers to steal information from you than, say, your neighbor who doesn't use it. However, Symantec anti-virus software does not protect you from targeted cyber-espionage by the Chinese military.

2) How much extra are you willing to pay for good, Californian weather? For Phil Mickelson, the answer may be less than 8 million dollars a year.  

3) Cursive is leaving the elementary curriculum. However, the article presents about the worst pro-cursive arguments I have ever heard.
     -- "[C]hildren will no longer be able to read the Declaration of Independence or birthday cards from their grandparents." (We didn't keep the long s just for this.)
    -- "[T]yping doesn't help the brain develop as much as writing in longhand." (What does this even mean?)
    -- "If George Washington signed his name on an electronic signature pad, we'd have no idea he was there." (Really?)
     Well, if you can't come up with better arguments than those, you shouldn't teach cursive. I am a fan of cursive for two reasons: I write faster in cursive and it looks good. The write faster part is probably the key. It is important to know how to take notes and synthesize information. Writing faster in cursive and/or shorthand is an important part of this skill. Schools don't teach full shorthand systems anymore, as word for word dictation is not a job skill everyone needs now, but learning some alphabetic shorthand along with cursive still seems important in an overall lesson of note-taking.
     I am curious to hear about what schools are teaching in place of cursive. That is the real question, of course: whether education can be improved by teaching something else, instead.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pass Through

From a notice DirectTV mailed to me this week:
In 2013, the programming costs we pay to owners of television channels will increase by about 8.0%, but we have chosen to adjust the prices our customers pay by an average of only 4.5%.
They're just being nice not increasing the price by the full 8%, right? Well, not really. Economists use the term pass through to denote the ratio of a price change relative to a change in the marginal cost (e.g. a supply shock or tax increase). It's not always 100%, not even for a profit maximizing monopolist. It depends on supply and demand*. In fact, for a monopolist facing linear demand, pass through is 50%.

* In particular, demand and supply elasticities, and in the case of a monopolist, the curvature of the demand curve, as well.