All those tempting black Friday deals are out of control

Throughout the last week — deals, previews of deals, and leaks about deals have flooded my inbox. Overall, the sheer volume of deals competing with each other during this window of time is really out of control. The public mind only has so much attention to behold and process all these deals. It really is about the attention merchants trying to grind out their share of a highly finite commodity. Beyond just getting people’s attention the matter of translating that attention into financial action still exists. People only have so much bandwidth to buy things during the now two week long black Friday deal window. That makes it even more problematic for the companies trying to convert deals into transactions. At this point, I just sort of look at the emails and sometimes click the links. The only deals I ended up buying were for a couple 4K movies from Best Buy. They were pure impulse purchases. I probably ended up purchasing them due to the sale price. The content at the regular price had never compelled me into making a purchase before. To that end I guess the email and the deal worked. Apparently, the market for selling physical entertainment media is shrinking. For better or worse, I still buy Blu-ray discs and probably will keep doing so until our cable company removes the monthly data caps. 

Sitting down to write a second paragraph seemed an inspired thing to do. It may not have been the best decision of the day. At the moment, I’m watching a video on YouTube from Andertons music company featuring some black Friday deals on Jackson guitars. They look pretty amazing, but my next guitar purchase is pretty much set in stone at this point. I have been looking at the Chapman guitars ML3 BEA for some time. Sometime next year it will be mine. Right now, my arsenal of guitars includes three that I play on regular basis. First, my main guitar is a modified Fender Stratocaster. Second, for those times that I need a Les Paul guitar one sits next to me in my office. Third, now recently repaired my original circa 1995 Jackson Kelly modified guitar is up and running. The Floyd Rose on that one needed a couple new parts to get back to a reasonable floating state. A ton of tempting black Friday deals are out and about today. I just cleared around 30 of them out of my Inbox before writing this paragraph. Sure, this one was not as creative or constructive as my normal blocks of prose, but it was here and now it is done.  

Generally, within my weblog (blog) posts I do not insert direct links to things. I try to use all the words necessary to describe the linked item. That should help anybody with a reasonable understanding of searching the internet locate the link or item. These works will remind the same, but the internet is a current of ever-changing content that inevitably will leave my links broken and otherwise stale. For things in the moment my platform of choice is Twitter. That seems to be a good platform for in the moment shouting into the grand public commons that is the internet. At the moment, Twitter seems to be the largest public commons dedicated to people shouting at each other. Everything else is smaller in size at the moment or dedicated to other purposes. 

Oh yeah, I forget to mention that yesterday a viewing of, “Ralph Wrecks the Internet,” was on the agenda. If you enjoyed the first movie, or the Lego movie, then you probably will enjoy the film. 

Steal that moment

Steal that moment. You know the one. That moment when doing nothing happened. Take it back. Be present in that moment. My research interests have shifted. I’m working on real-time economic modeling. This new research thread combines my interests in game theory, data mining, and economics. I have set a 30 day clock on sketching out a theory. Goals help drive things forward, but deadlines draw a line in the sand.

That line in the sand can make all the difference. Being on the right side of the line can define the path forward. Being on the wrong side of the path provides an opportunity. It provides an opportunity to change directions. Sometimes an idea strikes in an instant. That idea can make it easier to change directions. Unfolding the idea into something that can be explained in a written form can be difficult. The simple expression of a complex idea tends to define mastery of that idea. Knowing a path forward and walking that path are two separate things.

A Chicago Workday

At 4:00 AM the drive to the Denver Airport is rather peaceful. Only now as we approach 5:00 AM are people starting to show signs of life. People all seem to be waking up. Economic activity is about to happen. Nothing in this part of the airport terminal is open for business. Nobody is about to get coffee or breakfast. I have already started to think about writing during the flight. My plan is to start writing about modernity, economics, workplace skills, and learning a trade. That combination of things seems to be at the forefront of my thoughts this morning. Maybe writing about them throughout a two hour flight will produce something useful. It is also possible that the inquiry will be devoid of inspiration. That happens from time to time. A solid false start can build the foundation to better prose down the road. Stranger things have happened.

My flight was only about half full. Getting connected to the Southwest Airlines WiFi with my ASUS Flip Chromebook was easy. My Chrome web browser redirected to the Southwest website and things worked normally. Flying to Chicago should be an exciting time. However, my attention is mostly focused on other matters. Work has been full of an avalanche of escalations. Most people who know enough to know better fear the tyranny of tiny tasks in the workplace. My problem remains a little bit different. If every single issue is an escalation, then defining normal becomes problematic. I make every effort to work with people in a positive and proactive way.

Economic theories are easier to read about than to build on your own. However, over the next couple of months we are about to build our own bottom up economic model to explain our place in the economy. This is not about building a budget or anything like that. It is a basic exercise to figure out within a rolling 30 day period what type of economic transactions do you participate in and how do you aggregate a ton of these scenarios to build a model of economic participation. I’m sure that sounds simple enough. It is very possible. We will build it together. I have also written some basic web crawlers to grab advertisements to see what people are trying to sell during the same window.

Within the last 30 days I did engage in a variety of economic activity from refueling my car to getting a haircut. Like a number of Americans I have a certain number of household related activities: electricity, water, gas, mortgage, cable, phone, and cleaning. Those types of things are easier to model. We should be able to model out what types of interactions commonly occur and for what percentage of the population. The other things that happen define the parts of the economy that are more complex to model. People engage in producing things and people engage in providing services. The complex mixes of those things define the current state of the economy. Over time the models we are building can help illustrate shifts or changes in the economy. This bottom up method of evaluating the economy will provide a more accurate method to forecast short term economic change. The items that become a part of the model and the items that fall off the model are incredibly important to modeling change in the short term.

The intersection of technology and modernity is changing the social fabric of America. It is changing the way we think about careers and about engaging in the workplace. Technological advances have been changing the economy. New companies have risen and fallen. Some blue chip companies of the past have adapted some of them did not. Automation will change everything. It will change things in ways it has only started to influence. We need to understand and describe the economy of the future to ensure we as the workforce are ready and able to adapt. The next generation of scholars to attend colleges and universities may very well face a radical shift in employment opportunities based on economic forces.

Outside of building economic models I often try to explain the value of higher education to people. Plenty of benefit models exist. Some of them even show interesting returns on investment from higher education. My explanation serves a slightly different purpose. I want to help people understand how to maximize the opportunities college provides before the journey is over. For most people the college experience really is about the overall experience. It is a time to learn and grow. It is a time to meet new people and to learn about new things. I frequently tell people that the experience part is great and it is important and ultimately relationship and life skills you learn are valuable. My journey after college has been about being a practitioner vs. a pure academic. That view of the world has helped me focus the guidance I give others on two key concepts that anyone in higher education should understand and be able to explain.

First, learning specific skills in college that translate to the workplace is important. Jobs are often won or lost based on the skills you bring to the table. When I look at a resume and conduct interviews I am evaluating what knowledge, skills, and abilities the candidate brings to the job. Second, learning a trade might narrow your career path, but it helps define that career path as well. Medical doctors, dentists, lawyers, and accountants all attend institutions of higher education to learn a trade. That trade directly translates to a specific career path. Both workplace skills and trades are important in marketplace. Some trade specialize based on skills or other factors, but certain skills are not part of a trade they translate to a variety of different careers.

Opportunities exist. Modeling out those opportunities is a worthwhile exercise. It is something that we will continue to explore throughout 2016.

Thinking about economics

Now is the time to write. You just have to make it happen. To that end, I recently purchased an ASUS Flip Chromebook computer to help focus my writing efforts. I needed a clamshell style computer. That form factor is apparently the key to my writing happiness. My HP Envy X2 was great while it lasted, but when things with the hardware failed no recovery was possible. My goal is to engage in some type of writing every day for at least 15 minutes.

Today I am focused on writing about economics. Most of my efforts to truly understand economics happened almost a decade ago. They happened the first few years of my college experience. An experience that lasted almost 13 years.

A couple of weeks ago, I started to build a search engine inspired economic algorithm to evaluate the velocity of everyday financial exchanges. I’m not sure if that is a good thing to do or if it is just something that seemed like a good idea at the time. The jury is still out on finishing the algorithm. Search engines are based on lists and branching techniques to follow a network of links. It should be possible to follow a series of individual transactions and overlay those maps. The map alone would be interesting. Figuring out the velocity and frequency of the transactions would be even more interesting to understand.

My efforts were thwarted by automation limitations. You can capture spending opportunities and figure out what is being advertised, but it is hard to build any type of linkages to potential transactions. It is equally as hard to describe motivation to potential transactions. That type of analysis may require a different form of investigation that does not involve web based automation.

That set of thoughts quickly spiraled into thinking about the moment. All moments have potential. The moment just occurred had potential. You might have seized the moment. Seizing the moment may have changed the course of your day. We have to focus on the present moment. The ability to take action is defined by that moment. We either take change in the moment and move forward or delay takes hold. Some tasks are bigger than the moment. Those tasks require a sustained focus on moving forward.

On complex decision making

My thoughts have wondered to writing a treatise on decision making capacity. A union of modern approaches to game theory, complexity theory, and strategic decision making mixed with some evaluation of decision making capacity could be an interesting read. That is what has occupied my thoughts this morning. My book shelf is full of strategic decision making and game theory books. Some of them are interesting and some of them are very dry. The academy at large contains even more considerations of those topics. However, we tend to hit an overwhelming limit to what we can work with at any one time. The stream of available content has outpaced our capacity to consume it. That is a true structural problem. It might be a problem that came into existence during the intersection of technology and modernity. We have a limited amount of capacity to tackle really complex problems. We can build extremely complex computational models and have computers execute them. Those simulations of decision making via computer models produce outputs. Those outputs could be accepted by others. They could be accepted by people that are not familiar with the models. Those outputs could be layered in decisions that are being made. That would results in previous simulations that may or may not be repeatable being used to make decisions. In some ways, that creates the potential of simulacrums in decision making.