Day 354 – Shopping as a Discovery Process

While I was out finishing my Christmas shopping on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think a little bit about economics. I know I am strange, but it is what I am majoring in and what I’ve been studying these past three semesters at Hillsdale, and I am not very successful at turning my mind off (not that I’d ever want to…) More specifically, the work of Israel Kirzner. I read quite a bit of Kirzner in Austrian Economics I with Dr. Steele this past semester, so I thought I’d look at the world immediately around me through the lens of his work. The result? Shopping as a learning and discovery process.

Kirzner’s best work, in my opinion, is in characterizing the role and actions of the entrepreneur in the marketplace, a place which he viewed as in a constant state of disequilibrium. Entrepreneurs, by staying alert, learning, and discovering profit opportunities, tend to systematically move the market closer to equilibrium and erode ignorance that exists.

How does this relate to shopping?

I went shopping on Saturday not knowing what I was going to buy. I didn’t even have an idea. I was sheerly ignorant of all of the potential profit opportunities around me. All I needed was to stay alert to those opportunities the best I could and hope to stumble upon a profit opportunity and take advantage of it. I was, at least in my mind, a Kirznerian shopping entrepreneur, stumbling upon unexploited gains, reap the benefits, and add value to them as Christmas gifts to my loved ones. While shopping, I experienced first-hand the inherent “surprise element” (as Kirzner calls it) in the discovery process. I never knew the specific items I purchased existed, and there was no way I could search for them. I was in a state of sheer ignorance regarding their existence. Yet, due to the awareness of my cousin and me, I noticed the “$20 bills on the sidewalk” and “picked them up.” In the process, I was not only able to clear up a fraction of my ignorance and learn about shopping profit opportunities, but I had a good time engaging in it. If you aren’t all that keen on shopping and you are economically inclined, try thinking about it like this. It made my day a lot more enjoyable. (Okay, I know I am a little odd, but whatever works, you know?)

I am glad the market is in disequilibrium and that individuals do not have perfect knowledge of all possible trade opportunities. It allows for all sorts of interesting things to happen.

I encourage you to read a paper by Kirzner on entrepreneurial discovery and competition. You won’t regret it.

Day 322 – False Alarm

First of all, today is Sean Nelson’s birthday. Happy Birthday Sean!

Now, back to the regularly scheduled blog post:

While I was having lunch with Amanda and her friends in Saga today, Maria, the Collegian editor, rushed over to me and announced that there was breaking news happening that instant and I should rush down to the intramural fields with her and Will to investigate and take photos. A helicopter was just seen descending on the IM fields. I was the only Collegian photographer she could get ahold of, so I cut my lunch short, quickly said my goodbyes, literally ran to my dorm to get my gear, and jumped in the car to investigate. There was much adrenaline pumping between the three of us in the car…how often is it that you get to report breaking news on a small college campus?

On the way down to the fields, we saw an ambulance and paramedics carrying someone out of a house on a stretcher. We thought this might be related to the helicopter, since the IM fields is the closest spot a helicopter could land. Could someone be in such bad condition that a helicopter came to fly them to Jackson or Toledo hospital? We intended to find out.

…Well, after waiting by the helicopter for 10 minutes, Maria found out from campus security that the helicopter belonged to a family member of someone on the Board of Trustees, who was on campus today for a Board of Trustees meeting for the Michigan Colleges Foundation. False alarm!

Here are two quick shots I snapped of the helicopter, though:

Day 317 – Night Shot at Baw Beese Lake

I went out tonight to do a dry run before the Leonids show up on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Unfortunately, the special battery in my wireless remote died after one shot, and I was limited to 30 second exposures rather than 30 minute exposures. I decided to take a couple photos anyway, and here is one that came out. Click on the photo to enlarge it (recommended!).

I apologize to those of you who have dark monitors. The sky in this photo is supposed to be dark, but not pure black. You should still be able to see it.

Day 314 – Amanda’s Birthday

Today is Amanda’s Birthday!

For those of you who don’t know her, she is a beautiful, wonderful, smart young lady, and she has been a blessing in my life. If you have a chance to get to know her, I suggest you do. You won’t regret it.

In fact, I wish you could all get to know her and find out what a beautiful person, both inside and out, she is.

Here is a photo of her from a few days ago, taken on my phone:

Happy Birthday, Amanda!

Day 313 – Twenty Year Anniversary of Tearing Down The Berlin Wall

Today, the Classical Liberal Organization (a group at Hillsdale I am the president of) organized a speaker panel on the topic: “The Fall of the Berlin Wall: Past, Present, and Future.” The CLO set up this panel to bring to light the reality of communism and how it affected the entire world. For far too many students today who did not live through the Cold War era, communism and its end can become just another set of historical facts. We don’t want this to happen here.

Here are the three speakers we had:

Dr. Bradley Birzer, History:

Dr. Charles Steele, Economics:

Dr. William Morrisey, Political Science:

We had a great turnout. Around 65 people showed up and filled the room we were in, even though today was a busy day at Hillsdale. The talks were excellent, and provoked some thoughtful questions. The event was a success!

If you have time, read this post Dr. Birzer had yesterday at De Regno Christi, entitled “The Priest, the Prophet, and the King.”

Day 310 – Break Time

Dr. Wenzel, an economics professor here at Hillsdale, occasionally gives his students an atypical assignment: Do nothing for 15 minutes. Turn off the cell phone, computer, music, television, etc. Get rid of all distractions, even books. Just sit on the edge of your bed in silence and think for 15 minutes. That’s all.

I tried it this evening, and it is relaxing, calming, and wonderful. Life can get so filled with things to do and deadlines to make that we never stop to actually think. Think and nothing else. After a stressful week, it was nice to reflect for a while.

Though I am, in terms of technology, an unapologetic modern, I still find value in turning some things off for a little while and having uninterrupted thought, free from the distractions of the modern world. If I knew I would not miss something important, I would like to turn my phone off and stop checking my email for a few days. The only problem I have is that technology is so ingrained in my life that if I shut off my phone or email, over 90% of my communication would be cut off. Perhaps this is a good thing, but not something I can do during school. Maybe I will give it a try over Christmas break or the summer.

Has anyone else tried this? How did it go? I am interested…let me know in the comments.

Day 309 – Dr. Richard Ebeling

Tonight, Richard Ebeling travelled to Hillsdale to give a thought-provoking and engaging lecture, titled “Why the Berlin Wall Came Down and Socialism Failed: Ludwig von Mises and the Power of Ideas.”

Dr. Ebeling is a prolific author, former president of the Foundation for Economic Education, and professor of economics at many different institutions, including Hillsdale from 1988-2003. In 1996, he and his wife, Anna Ebeling, obtained the lost papers of Ludwig von Mises, which had been kept in a formerly secret KGB archive in Moscow for 50 years. Dr. Ebeling is now on the faculty at Northwood University in Midland, MI.

If you are interested in what Dr. Ebeling had to say tonight, read this article he wrote yesterday.

Day 308 – Articles to Read

Have some spare time (unlike me)?

Read these articles. They are very good. I had to read three of them recently for class, and the fourth I came across a little over a week ago.

Menger: On the Origins of Money (PDF)
Hayek: The Use of Knowledge in Society (PDF)
Horwitz: Subjectivism (Google Book)
Buchheit: Applied Philosophy, a.k.a. “Hacking” (HTML)

I apologize for the lack of new photos and decent thoughts this week. I plan to get out and take some photos this weekend, when I won’t have more exams hanging over my head.

The only worthwhile thought I have right now (worthwhile to this blog, that is) is that you should not trust the hype about the 3.5% increase in GDP last quarter. Do some research and see where it actually came from. I will give you a hint: Individuals’ consumption levels stayed roughly the same, investment stayed roughly the same, and net exports roughly stayed the same. What changed? Government spending! Does this mean things are getting better? No. In fact, unemployment went up last quarter.
Beware of Christina Romer going on national news and trying to convince you that things are a lot better since GDP went up 3.5%. “It just ain’t so!”

Day 305 – Halloween Pt. Two

Two more Halloween Photos:

My cousin HankD made this zombie/skeleton by hand!

It was excellent to be home, even if for a little while. My wonderful Mom did my laundry (thank you!) and cooked a delicious meal before I had to drive back to Hillsdale this afternoon.

The Spider Holster finally came out today! I’ve been looking forward to this since the spring, but now that it finally came out, I am waiting to buy it. Even the cheapest version (just the holster, nothing else) is more than I want to spend right now. I am excited that it is finally out, though!

Day 304 – Happy Halloween!

I decided at the last minute to drive home today and go to HankD and Jackie’s (my cousins) halloween party. I am glad I did! I had fun and enjoyed seeing everyone. Above is a photo I took of my Dad’s jack-o-lantern. I placed a strobe inside of it, a smoke machine behind it, and two skulls and a candle beside it.

Their yard looked pretty awesome:

Day 303 – Spring Semester’s Schedule

It is time to schedule classes for next semester!

After talking to a few professors, friends, and my advisor, I finally worked out my schedule for next semester, The number after the class name denotes the number of credits it is worth:

Symbolic Logic (3)
Theory of Probability (3)
Sophomore Math Seminar (1)
Intro to Philosophy (3)
Intermediate Macroeconomics (3)
Austrian Economics II (3)
Philosophy and Literature in Comics (1)

I think I am most excited about Logic, Probability, and Austrian II. In Austrian II, we read through and discuss Mises’s Human Action in a small group. The math seminar will focus on proof writing, oral presentations, literature research, and using programs like Mathematica to enhance our math skills. It is geared for math majors/minors. As of right now, I am working on a math and economics double major.

Day 302 – Patri Friedman at Hillsdale

Tuesday, political theorist, activist, former Google engineer, and World Series of Poker player Patri Friedman came to Hillsdale to give a talk on structural activism and seasteading. Friedman is the founder of The Seasteading Institute, whose mission is “to further the establishment and growth of permanent, autonomous ocean communities, enabling innovation with new political and social systems.”

He gave a very interesting talk on structural activism and the seasteading movement. The talk was the culmination of his past few years of thought on how to change political structures in order to maximize freedom in a society while still maintaining the stability of that society. While significant work has been done on how to set up political systems to preserve a high level of freedom and stability while minimizing coercion, little –if any– work has been done on how to actually get to political systems like this. Until now. That’s where Friedman comes in.

Does this interest you? If so, check out Friedman’s essay from April on the topic of structural activism and why he thinks it is the only way to make systematic changes that will lead us to a realistically freer world in our lifetime. The essay is basically an outline of what he spoke about on Tuesday night. Also check out Let A Thousand Nations Bloom.

Day 298 – Two Little Known 40D Settings

Here are two settings on the Canon 40D that few owners know about. If you know someone with a 40D, send this along to them!

1: ISO Expansion
In normal mode, the 40D only shoots in ISOs 100-1600. Once ISO expansion is turned on, ISO 3200 is made available, denoted as ISO H. This is a HUGE help in low light situations, especially capturing action, such as football games under the lights or indoor volleyball games.

To turn it on:
Menu > Scroll over to the Custom Functions menu (the orange square with the camera) > Select C.Fn I: Exposure > Set > Scroll over to 3: ISO Expansion > Set > Select 1: On > Hit Menu to go back to the regular menu.
There you are! You can now shoot in ISO 3200! (I suggest using something like Noise Ninja in your post-processing to clean up some of the additional noise.)

2: Highlight Rendition
This little known setting improves the details in highlights. You won’t notice a difference in most shots, but it becomes wildly apparent when shooting photos with strong highlights, such a sunset lighting up a few select clouds with others in shadow. Ken Rockwell has a great writeup on this setting.

To turn it on: Menu > Scroll over to the Custom Functions menu (the orange square with the camera) > C.Fn II: Image > Set > 3: Highlight Tone Priority > Set > 1: Enable > Hit Menu to go back to the regular menu.
As Ken Rockwell points out, this setting won’t help you if you overexpose a photo, and it limits your ISO from 200-1600 if you have it on. I only turn it on when I notice a scene with strong highlights I want to get more detail in.