Tatyana Deryugina (Twitter: @TDeryugina)

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Posted 28 Jan 10 by Tatyana in General
 One of the best things about this new blog that I’ve discovered so far is that I can create posts by sending an email! Lower the cost of creating an entry, and what happens? More entries! Let’s not think about the quality though…  

Posted 28 Jan 10 by Tatyana in General
 This is the new beer-or-quiche (unfortunately, WordPress didn’t let me keep the dashes). As much as I enjoyed having my own domain name, it was infinitely more expensive and the periodic site downtimes got annoying at some point. I was using WordPress anyway, so the cost of switching was pretty low. Now I just have to figure out how to get my posts out of the other website (they might make a nice book of jokes someday!)  

Posted 18 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

This will probably be the last "blog spammers jokes” publication, mostly because I’m tired of sorting through the spam comments to dig them out. And after a while, they do get kind of old and repetitive.

  1. Fresh joke! What do you call a dog with no legs? It doesn’t matter what you call him he ain’t gonna come. (I know, it’s mean)
  3. A joke for you! Where do polar bears vote? The North Poll.
  5. I have a nice joke for you) Why wouldn’t the bike move very fast?? It was too tired!!
  7. Wanna very nice joke?)) What would you get if you crossed a potato and a frog? A potatoad.
  9. I have a good fresh joke for you! Why do bagpipers walk when they play? They’re trying to get away from the noise.
  11. I have a fresh joke for you) Why did the bald man put a bunny on his head? He wanted a full head of hare.
  13. Wanna very nice joke?)) Why does Santa Claus go down the chimney on Christmas Eve? Because it SOOTS him!
  15. Why is it that people say they "slept like a baby” when babies wake up 10 times every hour?

My friends also suggested the following jokes. I’m pretty sure that the fact they’re both religious dyslexic jokes is a coincidence (please don’t be offended!):

1. What do dyslexic, agnostic insomniacs do?  They lay awake at night wondering if there really is a dog. (by TR)

2. Did you hear about the dyslexic devil-worshipper who made a deal with the devil and sold his soul to Santa? (by MP)

Posted 18 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics
 In the past couple of months, I’ve started reading a few economists’ blogs. I’m thinking of stopping because it’s beginning to interfere with my productivity. Brad DeLong is perhaps the most prolific of them, producing several pages of postings a day. Assuming he doesn’t just post everything he reads, he must read an insane amount. I have no time to read his exerts. It’s mind-boggling. Is that what it’s like to be a genius tenured economist?  

Posted 16 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

In college, one of my friends took a philosophy class where the professor didn’t adjust the grades based on which of the two TAs you had (they were responsible for grading the papers). One of the TAs was much tougher than the other one, but the professor’s reasoning was that people didn’t know this going into the class, so they had as much of a (random) chance to get the hard TA as the easy one. Because it wasn’t ex-ante unfair, he saw no need to adjust based on ex-post TA harshness.

At first, I thought the reasoning was kind of ridiculous. If you see that the highest grade one TA gave was a B and the other one gave out A’s to 60% of the class, do you really want to argue that nothing should be done about this outcome because of ex-ante equal probabilities of getting the harsh TA? Sure, you’ll be "redistributing” some of the good grades away from the people with the easy TA, but wouldn’t they have wanted that if they didn’t know which one they would get? By the way, this also happens with professors teaching the same class at very different difficulty levels and not adjusting for that when they give out grades.

Of course, the story can be a little more complicated. What if the "easy” TA’s session was at 8am and the "hard” TA’s session was at 2pm? Could it be that the TAs are the same, but the people signing up for the 8am session were smarter than the people who wanted to sleep in? And what if people knew about the TAs’ reputations going into the class?

In this case, of course, you can solve the problem somewhat by having the TAs grade random papers, not just their own students’ and then de-meaning the grade by each TA’s average. Or you can have them both grade each paper (not like they have anything else to do) and take the average grade. Or you can find out which one the easy one is and sign up for her section.

Posted 14 Jan 10 by Tatyana in General

I’m not going to try to make a sophisticated argument about why people should donate money to victims of random disasters. I didn’t even consider making a donation to the victims of the Haiti earthquake (read more about it here) until a good friend of mine sent a mass email to her friends. Her boyfriend has some family in Haiti who are missing right now. I’ve never met her boyfriend, much less his family, but it did make the event slightly more personal to me.

OK, I will make a short argument for donating as little as $10. I personally would not notice if $20 disappeared from my wallet or my bank account. Even though I know that my donation has a tiny chance of making a difference, I do think it makes even less of a difference to my well-being.

Here’s a list of organizations that are accepting donations. I personally donated $20 to the Red Cross by texting "Haiti” to 90999. Each message you send will be a $10 donation, You will also have to send a text to confirm, so you might have to pay something like $0.50 for the donation itself, but I think the convenience is worth it.

Posted 02 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

Whenever surveys ask people whether they’re saving too much, too little, or not enough, the overwhelming majority claim to be saving too little. But you always get a few people who claim they’re saving too much. I’ve lately been wondering who those people are and how they manage to save too much. Do they not know what to spend their money on? Are they constrained by a controlling spouse? Did they read the question wrong?

If we allow people to make random mistakes, we would expect the proportion of people saving too much and too little to be similar. If anything, there should be more people saving too much if credit card companies realize people may borrow too much. Maybe there are people who are saving too much but don’t realize it.

An easy answer is that certain things like spending money are tempting and people’s long-run self conflicts with their short-run self, resulting in under-saving. But lately I’ve been wondering how social norms and expectations contribute to how much we think we should be saving. An interesting aspect of this is that social norms can make you save too little (because buying a house, a car, and an expensive vacation is something every American should be doing) AND make you think you should be saving more (because it’s good to prepare for the future).

Since it is January, a related question is why are New Year’s resolutions so one-sided?  Think about how the following sounds to you:

This year, I resolve to spend more money, eat more junk food, exercise less, gain weight, travel less, spend less time with loved ones and more time on facebook and on drugs…

Posted 01 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Books
 I recently finished Steven Landsburg’s "The Big Questions”. I can’t quite make up my mind about it. I learned some interesting facts about color vision, ripples in ponds, and the difference between something "true” and something "provable”. I also learned that Landsburg went to a very good kindergarten and had very functional parents.
Overall, I didn’t like the book because it covered too many things too superficially. If you agree with the author’s conclusions, you’re not going to find anything objectionable, but you also won’t hear a new argument. If you disagree, you’re not going to find a lot of solid arguments to rebut. I kept wishing Landsburg (who I’m sure is very intelligent!) were there for me to argue with. Maybe if I were less pedantic, I would be able to not take the sometimes ridiculous claims the author makes so seriously. It did seem like Landsburg wanted to be taken seriously (unlike Stephen Colbert in "I Am America, and So Can You!”), which made his underdeveloped arguments very irritating to read.  

Posted 24 Dec 09 by Tatyana in Books
Given the uproar that the global warming chapter in "Superfreakonomics” created and the fact that I know something about the subject matter, I decided to skip reviewing the whole book and focus on the chapter where the authors (Steve Levitt and Steve Dubner) discuss the issue of global warming.
Overall, it seems that the criticism of the chapter is largely unjustified. Levitt and Dubner are not claiming that global warming is a myth or that we should do nothing about carbon emissions. Their main point is that geoengineering may prove to be a more effective and cheaper solution than trying to get the world to forego things that emit carbon.

Posted 21 Dec 09 by Tatyana in Movies
 I watched "Avatar” yesterday. It was the first time I watched a movie in 3D (unless you count IMAX shark movies at the Aquarium). The 3D motion picture phenomenon is relatively recent. Most of the movies have been animated films, but I can definitely see how other genres, like action, can benefit from 3D as well. I wonder if this is going to make movie theaters more popular; it’s much harder to find a close substitute for watching a 3D movie in theaters and I’m much more willing to pay extra for this.
But musings on the future of the movie industry aside, Avatar was (unsurprisingly?) good. In the beginning, I didn’t think the plot was great. The parallels between the storyline and real world events were not subtle enough. Halfway through the movie I gave up on trying to get into the story and started focusing on the imagery. However, at the end the movie did make me feel somewhat emotional (mostly sad), so overall I give the plot a B+.
The animation was stunning, as were the number of people listed in the credits afterwards. The imagination that the makers put into creating this world was evident in every plant and animal of Pandora (the planet on which the action takes place). I’m not sure what my non-3D experience would have been like, but I can confidently say that this is a movie worth watching in theaters unless you have a huge HD panel at home.  

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