All posts by chris

Out of Left Field

Baseball is a little strange, as team sports go. If you're a basketball fan, you'll remember that great scene in Hoosiers where Gene Hackman's scrappy underdogs are wandering around the enormous gym where they're about to play for the state championship, and they're looking all kinds of nervous. He pulls out a measuring tape to check the height of the basket and says, "Ten feet. I think you'll find it's the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory." In other words, any basketball player, stepping onto any court, knows exactly what the playing field looks like. But that's not the case in baseball: not all ballparks are created equal.

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About Time

Sometimes it feels as though technology is moving so fast that it's hard to keep pace.  Of course if we're talking about transportation technology, then that's often literally true — for example if you're sitting in a metallic contraption moving at more than 1,300 miles per hour — but you get the point. Actually, planes are […]

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Coupon Clipping

If we Americans love one thing, it's a bargain. And we're savvy about it, too. We know that only suckers pay retail, that the Internet is basically one giant going-out-of-business sale, and that there is always a coupon. You want to stick us with the sticker price? WE WILL TURN THIS CAR AROUND. We will not be hustled.

Of course, we're getting hustled every day. Much of the time, our beloved discounts are just a thinly veiled fiction. Exempli gratia, J. C. Penney. Not only is it the place you have to walk through on your way to the Cinnabon, it's also historically been the King of Department Store Discounts. Big time. In January of 2012, in fact, less than 1% of the store's revenue came from full-price purchases.

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In May of 2013, 84-year-old Gloria MacKenzie walked into a Publix supermarket in Zephyrhills, Florida, to buy a Powerball ticket. Less than a month later, her son politely escorted her down to the lottery office to claim a record $590.5 million jackpot, completing what must be the best trip to a Publix supermarket in human history.

So how does a lottery jackpot get to over half-a-billion dollars? Unlike most games in the U.S., which are run by state governments, Powerball is one of a handful of lotteries run by a consortium of states2, so players from all across the country pay into one giant kitty. That can lead to some astronomical top prizes. But is it worth playing? I mean, if you're not Gloria MacKenzie?

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Wealth of Nations

In 2011,  Harvard business professor Michael Norton and Duke behavioral economist Dan Ariley asked 5,000 Americans how they thought the country's wealth is distributed, and how they thought it should be distributed.  The results were striking. But first let's talk about distributions.  When we hear stats about economics, we get presented with 'average' data a […]

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The Waiting Game

Dating is the worst.  Smiling, nodding, pretending to foster an intense love of indie movies.  Sharing meals with total strangers you generally wish would've remained more total.  Not everyone is looking to settle down, of course, but for all those seeking out their one-and-onlys, dating is  a necessary evil --- a means to an end.  […]

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The Reel Deal

If you went to the movies last year, there's a good chance that you had your feet planted in mystery stickiness for a period of more than 120 consecutive minutes. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, for instance, was just shy of two and a half hours long. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug kept you glued to the concrete for a whopping two hours and 41 minutes. All told, the five top-grossing (live action) movies of 2013 ran for an average of about 134 minutes. That's more than a 20% increase in length since 1980. In fact, over the past 30 years, the most popular movies have been getting steadily longer, adding about an extra minute of running time annually. What gives?

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March is a little bit madder than usual this year, ever since investment mogul and noted suit-wearer Warren Buffett put up (along with Quicken Loans) a cool $1 billion for anyone who can perfectly predict the results of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. No purchase necessary.

While that's certainly an astounding offer, it comes with a bit of a mathematical asterisk. It's almost impossible to win. That might not be totally surprising, given the magnitude of the prize. Or maybe you followed last year's bracket-busting: none of the more than 8 million people in ESPN's online contest even got through the first round unscathed. But just how slim are your chances of buying that island?

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It's a Date

Quick, how many days are there in March?  Thirty?  Thirty-one?  Definitely not thirty-two.  Probably.  At least some of you are reciting a poem right now.  Or counting on your knuckles.  It's okay, we've all been there.  Let he who has never been surprised by March 31st cast the first stone. Because we use it every […]

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Almost 400 years ago, John Donne penned his famous line about no man being an island, and that sentiment has never been truer.  Think about all the available ways to be connected today: phone systems, broadcast media, social networks (both physical and virtual), the internet in general.  Human beings are tangled up in a web […]

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