Friday, December 19, 2008

Add This site

i will soon add this to this site and others I run. This has been out for years, but I just stumbled upon it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008 -- one more example of use of video in teaching

I just discovered free video lectures on the Internet. While covering a wide variety of disciplines i am concentrating and linking to the economics lectures. I started watching Mark Thoma's Introduction to Econometric Lectures from Winter 2008 (University of Oregon). [His class web page is here and he blogs here.]

I think the lectures at freevideolectures could be very useful for many to brush up on something or learn it from scratch. Perhaps some of these could be linked from professor's course syllabuses.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Black Friday with the crowds or online?

Looking for good gifts and want to avoid the mall?'s Black Friday page is now open..

OR Search in the Amazon box to the left.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Am A Tablet PC (WIPTE 2008)

This is fun -- from WIPTE 2008

Now I wish I had gone this year ... :)

Typealyzer -- Analyze this

Typealyzer at will analyze a blog to inform you about the writer of the blog. Very interesting...

(found on Greg Mankiw's Blog)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

What Really Happened in the 2008 Election

Andrew Gelman, professor of statistics and political science at Columbia in his blog, Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State, has some facinating graphs of what happened with the 2008 vote. Republicians have lost share in all income groups and among the youth, but "the red/blue map was not redrawn; if was more of a national partisan swing" as shown in the following graph:

I am still playing with the data from the WSJ in my
previous post. Letting D2008 and D2004 be the gap between the democrat and republician, and pctinc and pcthouse be the percentage change in income and house prices (all of this by state) I get no significance for pcthouse if I control for D2004 and I do get significance if I only control for whether the state was a bluestate.

The residual maps are really suggestive and I think this makes a great class problem to solve. Start with the data given in the WSJ, then have the students collect the actual D2008 (the number in the WSJ is based on final polls). Then have the students build a model and collect the state by state data that would be better used than those I used.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A New WPA? or Change We Can Believe In!

Last night I was catching up on reading and found on Greg Mankiw's site a posting called "The New Draft" that showed the new administration ready to REQUIRE service from citizens. He quotes the website "Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. (emphasis and color is Greg's)"

I was moved to post, but it was late, so...

This morning Greg has modified his post since: "The presidential transition website to which I linked above no longer uses the word 'require.' The passage quoted above was copied and pasted from that website (with bolding added by me). But within a few hours after I posted it here, the wording changed to "setting a goal."I am delighted to see this blog having so much influence on the policies of the new administration. That's change I can believe in!"

I hope bloggers do continue to have influence when this positive. What at first struck me about the posting on the Obama website was that this was the kind of economic policy change that can not help the overall economy. I have been troubled by the constant statements from the campaign (and I suspect still) that the way to grow an economy is from the bottom up.

I suspect we are in for a lot of these kind of proposals.

Friday, November 07, 2008

State-by-State Polls Compared to Economic Indicators

This is facintating if it holds up to analysis. Certainly there is something here in more of McCain's support coming from states where house prices have been rising and more of Obama's support coming from states where house prices have fallen.

See the article from the WSJ

Have we organized our education to kill creativity? - or How might web 2.0 help?

Reading through various blogs that I frequent I stumbled again on which is a great teaching resource. In particular a video by Sir Ken Robinson is quite challenging on how we teach and organize our learning.

For more information on this great resource go to the TED webpage.

And thanks to Steve Greenlaw for leading me to this resource via his presentation on Engaging the Next Generation to be given to faculty at Manchester College in Indiana. He makes some excellent points about Web 2.0 methods that can really help in the classroom.

Blog entry from EDUCAUSE CONNECT

I found this interesting... freeing up spectrum opens up lots of possibilities.

While You Were Voting: FCC Frees Up The White Spaces

Created by Anna M. Gould (EDUCAUSE) on November 06, 2008

While the country fixated on the historic presidential election on Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) quietly expanded the use of unused airwaves, or "white spaces." The move, one which EDUCAUSE has supported for several years now, will free up this high quality spectrum for unlicensed uses such as WiFi. The white space issue has become increasingly important as the national transition from analog to digital television wraps up in February 2009.

Supporters, including Microsoft and Google, said freeing white spaces would allow for greater innovation in wireless technologies and provide better access to consumers. However, some expressed concern that usage of the spectrum would create interference with wireless microphones. Churches, Broadway producers, and the Walt Disney Company opposed the measure, arguing that there would be interference in church sermons, live musical performances, and university lectures. The FCC, though, says they conducted tests and could not prove there was any interference.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

From the desk of John Micklethwait, Editor - 6th November 2008

Govern from the center?  Really?

From: <>

Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2008 14:15:34 -0500
Subject: From the desk of John Micklethwait, Editor - 6th November 2008


Dear Reader,

This was a remarkable week for America. In our cover leader we celebrate Barack Obama's famous victory but we also worry about the unreasonably great expectations of his supporters and the outside world. The president-elect should use the next ten weeks to recalibrate people's hopes—and also to send a clear message that he will govern from the centre of American politics.

Here are some other pieces from this week's issue you might also be interested in. You can click straight through to each one and read it online at using the links below.

John Micklethwait
John Micklethwait
Editor in Chief


Nanotechnology and cancer
How treatments could be delivered by clever nanoparticles

The end of the fiesta
A 14-page special report on Spain, still one of Europe's success stories

A green New Deal
Sometimes the easy answer is the wrong one

In defence of credit-default swaps
The case for an unloved derivative

Don't expand Heathrow
Enlarging the world's busiest airport does not make sense

Highlights from this week's edition of The Economist
Subscribers have free access to all content on
Subscriber login
America's election | The challenges facing Barack Obama | Spain's morning after | Treating cancer with nanoparticles | Expanding Heathrow | The charm of big cities | Clean technology in the downturn | In defence of credit-default swaps | Dmitry Medvedev speaks to the nation | Brazil's economy and its banks | The worsening crisis in Congo | Taiwan and China boost economic links | Putting Patty Hearst in context | Studs Terkel, recorder of America's voices

Click Here!  

Monday, November 03, 2008

Future Senarios for Economics: Kling or Caplan?

Will the demand for economics courses rise (ala Caplan) or has economics suffered a fatal crash leading to a new economics of control (ala Kling)? Are we in for a trend of justifications for economic policy prescriptions of greater and greater governmental controls? Will academic economists change the way they teach? Has anything changed our profession in a fundamental way? If so is it the poverty of our politics or the poverty of our economics?

Tomorrow ... VOTE

Vote tomorrow Nov. 4 or don't complain later.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Are we in a recession, or is capitalism really evil?

The economy is resilient, but its resiliency depends on the economic boat being able to right itself and not on the government pulling it into dry dock indefinitely. Sure you can't sink in dry dock, but you don't get anywhere either.

For me, the political world has taken center stage. I can not believe our choices this time and the risks to the economy if either win, however, the risks of the democrats to the economy are higher than I can ever remember. Capitalism is under full attack and siege. GDP down only .3 today (not a permalink).

The consensus forecast was -.5% and this from

"This has not been a recession - yet. Third quarter real GDP will be near flat. Regardless of whether it is a slight increase, as we expect, or a slight decline, the fact remains that the US economy has been far stronger than generally perceived. This has been due in large part to strong exports and a resilient consumer. Gas prices, home prices, and higher unemployment didn't lead to a recession in the first three quarters of 2008. Of course, everyone knows that it "feels like a recession." This is in part because the stock market is down, and it is often taken as an indicator of the economy (even more so than GDP). GDP is also now likely to support the recession argument. We expect fourth quarter real GDP to decline. The outlook into 2009 is for a sluggish economy at best, but the specifics depend highly on how well the liquidity crisis on Wall Street is addressed. That remains highly uncertain."

The uncertainty now is political. Don Boudreau, asks today in the Christian Science Monitor "Is Barack Obama really a socialist? (subtitled) Not exactly, but his 'socialist-lite' policies should still be cause for concern." This is a well written thoughful presentation at a time we should be paying attention to this.

I caught wind of Boudreau's letter to the editor in a blog presentation by Arnold Kling called Subtile Wisdom.

"To many people, the fundamental conflict in the economy is between the behavior of individuals (selfish, irrational) and the greater good. Shifting power from markets to government represents a move toward the greater good. (But) ... individual political leaders have less knowledge than is aggregated by markets. They face perverse incentives. And they pervert the incentives of others. Witness today's economy, in which everyone is asking not how they can create wealth but how they can get their share of a bailout."

Wasn't it President Kennedy that proclaimed: "Ask not what your country can do for you...?"

What I left out of Arnold Kling's words above in order to highlight them is his reference to the Masonomist position (worth reading). The George Mason school of thought is incredibly important today and in this election. Here is why. Take the words of Professor Kling to heart...

"At the University of Chicago, economists lean to the right of the economics profession. They are known for saying, in effect, 'Markets work well. Use the market.'

"At MIT and other bastions of mainstream economics, most economists are to the left of center but to the right of the academic community as a whole. These economists are known for saying, in effect, 'Markets fail. Use government.'

"Masonomics says, 'Markets fail. Use markets.' ... Masonomics worries much more about government failure than market failure. Governments do not face competitive pressure. They are immune from the "creative destruction" of entrepreneurial innovation. In the market, ineffective firms go out of business. In government, ineffective programs develop powerful constituent groups with a stake in their perpetuation."

"Things in our country run in spite of government, not by aid of it." Will Rodgers.

"Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives." Ronald Reagan

"Man is not free unless government is limited." Ronald Reagan

Building interactive economic models with Excel

Aaron Schiff of, posts a great article about using Excel to build and manipulate economic models. He highlights the user interface by adding a design mode. Check it out. He offers his spreadsheet example for free download.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Proper role of Math in Economics according to Alfred Marshall

Thanks to Don Coffin for this lead... Alfred Marshall on Math in Economics. An excellent read.

This is on Sean Flynn's web site: which is the companion to his Economics for Dummies book. Check out the last three chapters in particular. Never thought I would buy a ...for dummies book, but I may head out and get this one.

I offered a seminar in online course design -- it's what I do.

Poly Sci October14 2008
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ink Annotations Float in Word. How Can I Grade Papers with my Tablet PC

A question that came in recently was:
Today I marked up documents my students had submitted to their dropbox. I used the pen feature on my HP tablet PC. My plan was to send the papers back to my students using the Feedback feature in dropbox. However, when I later checked on those files going back to my students I found that for some of the documents my markings had slipped down on the document and therefore made no sense. My editing marks were not in the right place on the document. I'm not sure but I believe the problem was with files that were in Word 2007 (docx). I am using Word 2007 but I have noticed that the pen feature does not work the same on 2007 as it does on 2003. In fact my pen seems to work a lot better in 2003 than it does in 2007. Has anyone else run into this problem and, if so, do you know of a solution?

My Answer:
The problem is the way Word formats and treats annotations versus text formatting. You can usually see this by marking up a Word document (2003 and 2008) and then going back to the beginning of the Word document and adding text -- usually the annotations move.

What is the best work around? Well there are two, one free and one that will cost about $30 (for academics).

The free solution. Retrieve and open the word file from the drop box. Then select File/Print and select the printer called Journal Note Writer. This will copy the word file to Microsoft Journal and allow you to use your pen and annotate the document on each and every page. When finished you must print the Journal file to pdf (using Adobe Acrobat Pro) or supply the students with the free MS Journal Reader (click here for the web page) so they can read the files. This requires the students to be genuine MS Windows users.

The best solution and the one I use is Bluebeam PDF Revu. This will cost about $30 for an educational discount pricing and is the best $s I have spent on software since my Sudoku download to my phone (thanks Bluebeam Revu will allow you to annotate the word documents (or any other document and save and return to the students in a pdf format that everyone can read if they have Acrobat Reader.

Why not use Adobe Acrobat Professional and then how does one use Bluebeam Revu?

Adobe Acrobat Professional has terrible ink annotation tools, but you are welcome to prove that to yourself if you already have it. Adobe Acrobat Professional is also expensive. Even the on campus discount price is many multiples of the Bluebeam PDF Revu Educational Discount Price. See a video of's reason here (The Acrobat Alternative). Full disclosure-- has chosen to highlight my review on one of their pages, but it was not compensated. Perhaps this professor's review was ... click here for his electronic grading solution.

To use Bluebeam PDF Revu, open the document (Word, Excel, ... anything) you want to mark up. Then open the document as a pdf file using the printer 'Bluebeam pdf" which is installed with the installation. That is, if you have a Word document open, select File/Print from the menu, choose the "Bluebeam pdf" printer and the word document will be saved to pdf and opened in the Bluebeam Revu product. The pen annotations in Bluebeam's product are excellent and will allow you to grade the paper and save the annotations in a pdf file that all the students can read.

Information on Bluebeam PDF Revu:

Free download:

If you like it, then buy your license here for $30. You get two seats (one for your work computer and one for your home). Buy the standard edition unless you use CAD software.

I presented how to grade with a Tablet PC at the 2008 CELT (see here for the full presentation -- choose the first presentation under CELT 2008) and blogged about it (actually did a review of Bluebeam on October 2007 (here)).

Let me know if this helps or if you agree or disagree with this electronic grading fix.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Economics Search Engine

Bill Goffe on tch-econ let us know about a Economics Search Engine at This search seems to obey all the Google rules. I was able to restrict using a site: search, that is, typing in the box site:*.edu search terms and it did restrict to only edu sites. Cool search, but it is not comprehensive. For example, only some of our pages were found, but our pages were not, and my blog not at all. So with care, this is a terrific tool. I am sure it will only get better. At it says there are 12,000 economics web sites and in the link above ( over 20,000. Google will do what Google does best -- grow and organize. I added the tool on the right column of my blog so I can get to it quickly.

Thanks for the tool Bill.

Recession? Blog chatter vs. Prediction Markets

Aaron Scfiff has a great data problem on his blog at Does talking about a recession in blogs correlate with the probablility of a recession given in a prediction market? (see his blog for the caveats in the data).

The relationship is pretty intruguing. But I wonder whether he has captured the entire story. What about that elusive third factor that drives both? What about the amount of time 'recession' occurs in the old media, how many times by politicians. There appear to be two reversals around 9/14/07 and 10/26/07 -- are these correlated with major events or stories? I had just blogged about a great data problem for student econometricians and I think this one is even better. Again this one could be loosed on students for a PBL exercise and I just may.

Aaron goes on to posit a relationship and I wonder if the relationship has trend or drift. Facinating stuff. Thanks Aaron.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What's going on with the PPI? A problem for stimulating student learning.

What does this attached graphic tell you... intriguing anomaly or danger sign?

This graphic shows a huge run-up in the PPI and an increasing volatility. What is the underlying cause of this increasing volatility? Does this portray the normal functions of markets? Is it unstable? Perhaps the source is oil. Maybe it is rare metals. One possible source is in the agriculture sector:

"Continued speculation and skyrocketing commodity prices also threaten the business of agriculture. We've got all the makings for the destruction of the marketplace here." Rich Sauder, manager of the Tremont Cooperative Grain Company, says this as reported in
Commodity prices in 'Star Trek' land (January 15, 2008) by Steve Tarter
of the Journal Star (PEORIA).

I thing the graph holds a terrific problem for economic students. This will exercise their inductive powers and how they might solve the problem. This could be a nice authentic problem for some team based learning from the lowest level of classes to graduate students in time-series econometrics.

The data are from This great resource offers free access for economics instructors. (click here for the graph shown above)

EconoBlogging Course at Ohio U

Donald Lacombe, an associate professor at Ohio University is offering a course he calls EconoBlogging. He has posted about discussions in class on the economics of bad behavior, growth, ethanol, the FDA and trade-offs. He appears to be using the blog as a reflection and summary of each days class.

Using a blog in class is potentially a great use of technology and there are other examples of this. Steve Greenlaw has actively used his blog (and later a wiki) to support his class. (see here and here) Greg Mankiw uses his blog to keep in touch with his current and former students. (The fact that it is ranked 3rd among all economics blogs is just a bonus for all of us). I have reflected on a problem based learning experience in my econometrics class in this blog.

Steve Greenlaw gave a presentation at Cambridge University last year called Augmenting Teaching and Learning With Social Software which is available as an online paper and a blog to support the presentation. Seeing what is possible with Web2.0 software for teaching economics is fun to watch and I encourage others to try.

I wonder how students take to blogs and how important they really are to the teaching and learning process for them. It is clearly important to many professors. As with many uses of technology the measurement of learning is very difficult. My mantra is always not to use technology unless you enhance student learning or you make professors or students time more efficient. I think the key is really whether students engage more with social software (blogs included) and thereby provide for deeper learning.

Last week I attended a lecture by Don Tapscott on his book Wikinomics. He focuses on the corporation in the wiki world, but he made a comment that he could have been talking about higher education. My mind started racing towards whether his four drivers (1) Web2.0, (2) The Net Generation. (3) The (online) Social Revolution and (4) The Economic Revolution couldn't be applied towards higher education and in particular to the teaching of economics. My head is still swimming on this so perhaps I will post some thoughts soon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Teaching Economics with You Tube

You tube can be a great teaching tool. It is amazing what you can find. I have a google alert set to "economists assessment' which has caught some interesting things. One of the more interesting is about inflation in China from a decidedly non economic blog.

At the AEA poster session, Dirk Mateer, Penn State University, showcased his you tube site "Teaching Economics With You Tube." At the conference, just days ago, he had 20 subscribers, as of today he has 34 and 1,900 views. I highly support this site and hope that many others add to it or provide links to their video content as well.

"Teaching with You Tube: An Economist's Guide to Free Web-Based Content"
AEA/CEE Poster Session, Janyary 5, 2008 (G. Dirk Mateer)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Social Networking: does it bring positive change to education?"

The third debate sponsored by the economist is open. (click here for the link). I think the evaluation of Web 2.0 in education is on all of our interests, so I hope many will take advantage of this debate.

From their webpage: Last October, readers of The Economist selected three education-related propositions for debate:

  1. The first proposition, "The continuing introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education", was rigorously debated and OPPOSED.
  2. The second, "Governments and universities everywhere should compete to attract qualified students, regardless of nationality or residence", was overwhelmingly ACCEPTED.
  3. Now we address the final proposition: "Social Networking: does it bring positive change to education?"

Your comments shape the debate and your votes decide the winner

Monday, January 07, 2008

Assessing the Economics Program

At the AEA meetings my colleagues and I presented a paper on assessing the economics program (Assessing A Proficiency Based Economics Program: Weathering The Perfect Storm While Thriving In A New Environment). It has had some nice recognition by Scott Jaschik at (Jan 7, 2008) and David Glenn at the The Chronicle of Higher Education (News Blog Jan. 5, 2008).

This paper has three goals: (1) to describe the general guidelines for programmatic assessment, (2) to describe our experience in requiring our majors to meet the Hansen Proficiencies and (3) to report results of a national survey of economics program assessment.

Sixty five percent of 208 economics department chairs report that they have a formal assessment plan for their economic program. Our survey results suggest strong confirmation for the actual stated Hansen proficiencies in the discipline, but not necessarily a strong awareness of the work of Hansen.