Archive for October, 2003

More is better. The post is about this article and I even went through the painful ordeal of reading the lecture.

In his Richard T. Ely lecture to the American Economic Association in 2002, economist Edward Prescott of the University of Minnesota concluded that almost all of the difference in living standards between the U.S. and France is accounted for by the impact of taxes on work. He notes that while the capital/output ratio is about the same in both countries, French workers work 30 percent less, due entirely to the much heavier French tax burden on labor. Prof. Prescott concluded that if France had the U.S. tax system, the French standard of living would immediately rise by 20 percent.

This brillant observation points out that if the French worked 30% more their standard of living would rise to American levels. I hope Mr. Prescott did not receive any special merit for pointing out that the French would make more money if they worked more.

Does anyone see an issue with equating more work and more money with a higher standard of living?

Here is my brillant observation: If the French work 30% more they will have 30% less free time. Is that really an increase in living standards?? I’d be upset if I worked 30% more and only received a 20% increase in “living standards”. Where did the other 10% go?

Mr. Prescott’s research isn’t really about the living standard question. It is about the effect of taxation on one’s willingness to work. He proposes that if you are taxed less, you will work more. In effect you will choose work over leisure time because there is more reward for working.

That sounds right, not that it matters what I think sounds good. I am just always amazed by the assumption that more money equals a better life. In a country where money is plentiful and no one is satisfied with it, it troubles me that the assumption lies unquestioned.

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I’ve been to Starbucks almost everday since I’ve been home. Its inside the Barnes and Noble.

Books and coffee, oh how I love thee. Let me count the ways:

1) Most people get a coffee and skim articles in People or Newsweek. Yesterday I read a whole book about buying and selling real estate. It took me two cups of coffee to finish it. I’m beginning to feel like Young Flannigan in Cocktail. Anyone want to open a business in a foreign country?

2) College?? Education?? There is more in Barnes and Noble than I will ever be able to know….and its all free. All I have to do is get wired on excellent Starbucks┬« coffee and start speed reading until I’m shaking and dehydrated from all the caffeine. Do you know how many cups of coffee I could buy with money I’ve given to colleges?

3) Did you ever go to the bottom floor of your university library, back in the catacombs and feel that one of those old dusty tomes contained exactly what you were looking for, that if you just picked the right book it would lead you to the treasure of One Eyed Willy?? Well, it still feels like that sometimes….minus the dusty part.

4) What great and nice people!! Although I could never talk to any of them for fear of ruining my fantasy, there is a whole store of people quitely searching for their inner peace, walking pensively, reading, considering all the ways they are about to make the world a better place….and all for 10% less with their Barnes and Noble discount card.

I could go on, but I won’t.

I finally talked to the regional recruiter for Starbucks today about opening a free standing store in Greenville. He said they will open their first Greenville location in December. They’d promoted from within about six months ago when they finalized the location.

He sort of implied that if I’d just been quicker that perhaps there would’ve been an opportunity. I told him I’d been trying to get in touch with him for about 10 months…..which is true.

That is fucking ridiculous!! I’ve been calling all over the country for almost a year, have talked to probably 5 or 6 people inside the company, made at least one or two calls a week, and countless emails….and the guy tells me I should’ve acted sooner???

I bet I’ve left him 20 messages if I’ve left one.

On the flip side they’re opening at least three more stores in Greenville in the next year and he suggested that maybe I could get on as a shift supervisor at the first location so as to be in the right place when the new stores open.

I suggest he eat my ass.

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I’ve been home a week? Not quite I guess.

I haven’t done anything at all other than play a lot of basketball. I learned to play a new song on the guitar today, but my strings broke so I didn’t get a chance to practice it. I might play golf with my dad tomorrow.

He is “retired” now. I’ll likely write about that later. I’m happy for him though. He deserves it. I just hope he doesn’t drive my mother nuts by being at home.

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I’m about to leave SF.

I’ve enjoyed my month here. I met lots of nice, if a little strange, people. The city is full of stuff to indulge every hobby/fetish I’d ever like to take up. The weather has been phenomenal.

It has been a good month personally. I never realized how stable and un-neurotic I am compared to many people that can nonetheless lead functioning lives. Neurotic can be interesting, but also emotionally draining to be around.

There is a danger in being a functioning neurotic, more so than if you were non-functioning. If you are a sinking ship you’ll try to plug the leak, but if your life is more or less working (sometimes less than more) you will continue as you are, always attracting other functioning neurotics, stumbling through a string dysfunctional relationships that reinforce and soothe your issues, but do not help deal with them.

Not that I am always for dealing with your issues. Skeletons go in the closet because no one wants to sleep with skeletons in the bed.

I stated previously that Southerners are relatively boring and homogeneous compared to the people in SF. That is still true, but isn’t necessarily a negative. You could also say the South is less neurotic, more well-adjusted.

Actually, people from both places are reading this. I don’t wish to imply that SF folk are all neurotic, or that one must be neurotic to be interesting.

Neither do I wish to imply that Southerners are all well adjusted. They aren’t. However, the veneer of normalcy is very important in the South. We generally don’t like change, foreigners or people that want to be different.

Maybe people out here aren’t more neurotic….maybe they just express it more because it is allowed. Almost everything is allowed.

What will I miss most about San Francisco? The coffee.

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Here are some of the interesting facts I learned today:

According to the World Values Survey, Nigerians are the happiest people in the world. Mexicans are number two on the list.

On another site I saw that 74% of Mexicans live below the poverty level. Apparently poverty isn’t so bad.

General Motors has roughly the same revenues as the economies of Ireland, New Zealand and Hungary combined.

The World Bank praised the privatization of public health in Zambia: “It is a model for the rest of Africa. There are no more waiting lines at hospitals.” The Zambian Post Daily completed the idea: “There are no more waiting lines at hospitals because now people die at home.”

Humphrey Bogart never says “Play it again, Sam” in Casablanca. Frankenstein was not the monster, but its inventor.

If you can’t figure out whether you’re happy or not, Life Coach Peter Cohen has worked out the following equation: Happiness = P + (5xE) + (3xH). If you don’t understand what it means he will happily explain it to you…for a fee.

And finally, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the new governor of California.

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Today I saw a woman in a wheelchair begging for money on the subway.

I was sitting next to a mexican laborer. He was dirty, in a t-shirt, with plaster on his hands and dirt under his fingernails.

He gives the woman a dollar. It was a crisp, new bill with a small corner missing.

She got angry and asked for a different one.

And they say beggars can’t be choosers??

Then I was sitting on the bus going to Golden Gate Park for a blue grass festival.

The woman beside me had no front teeth and drank almost a fifth of vodka in 40 minutes.

The man across from me shook his head and the children all laughed.

She kept talking about the dictionary and how fun it was to read. “Electroencephalitis: E-L-E-C-T-R-O-E-N-C-E-P-H-A-L-I-T-I-S.” Her spelling was eclipsed only by her prowess as a drinker.

Everyone was trying to ignore her. “The dictionary is great, just great. It can tell you the meaning of everything,” she professed while trying to sneak a sip of vodka.

I wish. Can it tell me the meaning of a toothless woman drinking a fifth of vodka in 40 minutes??

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I’ve never been a big fan of “networking”, although I am told it is the greatest thing ever if you want to be successful and get a good job.

Essentially networking is where you meet people under the false pretense of friendship for the sole reason of finding out whether or not they can do anything for you.

In effect, networking has jargonized the process of making friends and reduced it to a utilitarian interaction.

Poopy on that!! What happened to “the art of meeting people simply because they might one day become your friend”?? It surely doesn’t have the same sterile ring to it as “networking” but I think it could be rewarding as well, perhaps more rewarding if one assumes people might actually enjoy the company of others for its own sake??

Anyway, I decided to network when I came to SF. This consists of calling anyone with whom I have even the remotest connection and asking them to catch dinner or have a drink. Then I talk for a few hours with a near stranger.

Guess what?? It is a ton of fun!! I love to go out to eat and I love to drink. And I’ve found that, because of all my hobbies and travels and interests and hang-ups, I always have something to talk about. If its with a girl, it sort of doubles as a date…which isn’t so bad either.

Additionally, I am very good at making strangers feel comfortable. Travelling teaches you that. You have to make new friends out of total strangers in a matter of hours or they’ll be gone to the next country before you’ve made a connection.

And networking has a ring of productivity to it. Hanging out with friends is what slackers do to avoid working. With networks you can “establish contacts”, “build relationships”, provide “customer service”, and engage in many other very official sounding activities.

So basically, I’ve turned getting drunk with new friends into something I can check off a to-do list as productive and time well-spent. Anyone think I’m just rationalizing what I wanted to do in the first place??

“Elliott, what did you do in SF?”

Answer 1: “I got drunk a lot and hung out with all the interesting people I met.”

Answer 2: “I spend most of my time networking, trying to find a job.”

Both answers are true.

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