Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A More Perfect Union

America has always strived to be more than what it is. It is this never ending struggle towards freedom and equality that has made America the greatest country in the world. This is still the land of opportunity, still the land of religious and racial tolerance, and though it isn't perfect, we still all work to improve this place, to bring it closer to the ideals laid out by our founding fathers. To form a more perfect union.

Just look at the way we criticize our government and our culture. We are always looking for ways to improve, because we know it isn't perfect. But look around the world for a better place to be, and I think you will find that America is still number one. And if you don't think so, then why not move? You always have the freedom to do that. It's ok, there are millions of immigrants waiting to come in and take your place.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Olympics, For Real This Time

I just want to say how happy I am with the live streaming of this summer's Beijing Olympics.

Microsoft and NBC have teamed up to stream video from the games. Microsoft's new Flash competitor "Silverlight" is required to view the games, which was a very smart move on Microsoft's part. It's the perfect way for millions of people to install this new software. And it's not half bad either; i'm currently watching weightlifting, judo, badminton, and fencing, simultaneously. The viewing windows are kind of small, but this technology with more bandwidth would be spectacular

Online streaming also gives me the chance to watch many of the less televised sports, because come on, I can only watch so much swimming and gymnastics. Well, ok I can watch a lot of those, was this guy, China's Chen Yibing, on the rings, and it was ungodly the things he could do.

Fencing is incredibly fast, and packed with intensity. Not surprising I guess, they ARE sword fighting. Yesterday I watched equestrian and archery.

I hope NBC is paying attention to which events get the most online viewing and start tailoring their TV coverage more along those lines, because there are so many things they don't show at all, which is a tragedy. All of these people competing are the best in the world at what they do, so no matter what it is, you are watching greatness. And that includes more than swimming, gymnastics, and track.

NBC's coverage is is rather USA-centric, which is why they carry what they do. If we had a crack field hockey team, I bet we would see that.

The Olympics are a spectacular global event, and I'm glad I finally have the option of watching the lesser known sports.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

An easy experiment with interesting implications for the understanding of sales tax incentives

I propose a three condition experiment using prices and varying user information. They will be given $50 and allowed to buy certain desireable items such as drinks, snacks, stupid little toys. During the two hours the subject is there they will take valdated tests of their personality, mood, intelligence, and hand eye coordinaton. They will be told they can take a break at any time and that they could buy things. The difference between conditions will be the sales tax on the items. One will be 0%, one 7%, one 18%. The total prices including sales tax will be the same across conditions.

The amount spent will be statistically compared to the tax rate, as well as the various psychological tests. I want to see if raising the sales tax on certain items will indeed change people's buying habits. Or, just by knowing it's a tax, people will tend to disregard it since there is a sense they will get that money back in less tangible ways through government programs.

This experiment would be relatively cheap compared to functional neuroimaging, and I think more informative and useful to inform policy using empirically proven methods of government influence on economic transactions.