How much will you pay for a bottomless cup of coffee

close up of coffee cup on table

Often we don’t think about coffee refills, as most diners will try to keep your cup full. For most restaurants, refills are free. As such, it is not uncommon for people to have a few cups of coffee. If someone is bringing you coffee, it is easier to keep the cup full than if one has to get up and walk to a coffee station. (And for most people, no one wants to refill the almost empty pot!) So, you make a decision concerning how much effort do you want to spend to get that next cup of coffee? But some people will go to the extreme! Especially if one tries to drink 60 Cups of Coffee!

This raised the question, economics utilizes the concept of utility. One of the concepts is that there is a decline regarding new happiness for each unit consumed. For example, drinking one cup of coffee may be existing, but when you get to the fifth cup, the perception of the utility (enjoyment) of drinking the coffee may decline, even if the quality of the coffee remained unchanged. So, really, did the person really feel better after drinking the 60th cup of coffee? I don’t know, but I think Frank and Earnest would agree.

My template for Peer Reviewing a Journal or Academic Article


In the past, I reviewed articles and gave a cursory review, such as the quality of the article, ease of reading, etc.  These elements are important, but as I am writing more academic articles, such limited approaches do not do the full justice to the editor and the authors, while contributing to my loss of learning something. The goal of the peer review is to identify if the paper contributes to the body of knowledge and creates value for those who will read its content.  As I am reviewing more papers, I developed my own checklist regarding a peer review paper, but there is a process of learning to critically read, process and review what I have read.

Here is my current list, which will change over time.  It’s a good reference point for me.  I hope you found some value in the work and I did provide a few links at the bottom I found helpful in preparing this post.

Before Reading the document

Preparing the review process

Download any instructions from the journal/group you are reviewing.

  • Paper formatting, length, graphic elements
  • Print out the article and any related materials

Time Management

  • Put the paper’s due date on your calendar
  • Put time on your calendar for the “Initial Review”, 2nd review and Review Composition

The “Initial Review”

  • With the printed text in front of me,
  • Look for any disclaimers, etc., related to the paper
  • Read the conclusion
  • Read the abstract
  • Skim the paper
  • See if the title, abstract and conclusion describe the same paper!

Questions to Ask

  • Do I have the skills, knowledge, etc., to review this paper? If not, tell the editor ASAP!
  • Do I have a conflict of interest with this paper?
  • Do I have time to read this paper?
  • Is this paper worthy of publication?

“The 2nd Review”

Now the work begins:

  • Reread any notes from Initial Reading
  • Read the conclusion
  • Read the paper from start to finish, actively marking up the paper


  • Look for two references that may be of interest.
  • See if there are any works of interest that should be referenced.

What to Consider As One Reads Each Section:

Introduction/Literature Review

  • Was the research question properly explained?
  • Did the article contribute to the overall body of knowledge? If so, in what way, and was the explained effectively?
  • Did the literature review reflect current research trends? How old are the citations?


  • Was the Methodology sound?
  • Any questions concerning how the researcher addressed questions of data quality, data availability, data gaps, etc.?
  • Any significant or factual errors?


  • How well did the results support the methodology?
  • Did the paper end strong, ie, did the author maintain his interest in the paper as it was finished?


  • Was the paper well-written?
  • Where graphic elements correct?  Quality, labels, etc.?
  • Any unclear language?

Overview of the Paper

  • Is the paper internally consistent?  Does major flaws exist in the structure, conclusions, methodology, etc.?
  • Any factual errors

First Draft of the Review

Open a Word document and put in the following outlines

  • Author Notes
  • Editor Notes
  • Paper Sections
  • General Comments

Create a Paragraph to the author

  • Thank them for effort
  • Summarize article
  • Discuss what was successful.  What were the strengths of the paper
  • Discuss areas of improvement

Create a paragraph to the editor with the following elements:

  • Thank them for asking to review the paper
  • Summarize the paper’s details and conclusions
  • Report your recommendation on the paper

Specific Comments

  • Write as specific as possible concerning your comments
  • If possible, page, paragraph, to facilitate review of your comments
  • Try to focus on constructive criticism to improve the paper and assist the editor in understanding your thoughts


Second Draft of the Review

Take the time to review what was written before it was submitted. 

  • No one wants to hear you mention their quality when you did not have the same rigor on yourself!
  • Make sure there are no special characters that will be corrected when moved between different applications (such as wingdings, Greek characters, etc.)
  • Submit the article and retain a copy of your remarks in your filing system. 

The following template was developed to remind me the goal is to improve the quality of the research to the best of my ability. There is no way I will know all there is to know, but by following a template, I hope the quality of my reviews will improve as well as improving my critical reading skills.

Resources used to create this list:

Bill Walker Reviewing A Journal Article

Seri Rudolph

Wright State University

And one youtube video from Navigating Academia



The Eyes of the Master Fit the Stock – Lessons I Learned from My Father

When I was a kid, my father often quoted, “The Eyes of the Master Fit the Stock”. (A little background: my father was a veterinarian. We grew up working at both his clinic and on a broodmare farm.)

The proverb refers to the master, the person responsible for the care, as responsible for the well-being of the animal (livestock).  That care is not a single event, but fitting stock means preparing the stock for some future event, which means knowing what the future may be and knowing where the livestock is along that path.  For example, preparing animals for winter requires managing pasture in the summer, while a racehorse has to be trained before it can race. Steers must be fattened before they are butchered. 

The term does not identify any outcome, but rather where the responsibility lies.  As animals can not read spreadsheets or attend training videos, they depend upon the master, either acting directly or through some other agent As kids, we did not understand anything about raising horses (except which end bites and which end kicks!)  As we got older, we learned how to care for horses and other animals, and while my father did not feed the horses every day, these animals remained his responsibility.  But every day, we were on the farm.  For most days, this involved chores around school, sports, or other activities, but the animals required water, feed, and shelter. Regardless of how one felt, the weather, etc., every day we were doing something on the farm. 

And today, I have a hobby farm.  I don’t have any horses, but I have a few donkeys, geese, turkeys, chickens, and sheep.  (I tried pastured pigs once!)  And yes, I am responsible for them.  I have to make sure they have access to water, shelter, and feed.  I look at the pasture rotation, warming, and breeding cycles, Every morning, I go outside and check on the animals.

bottle-feeding a sheep in my kitchen!


Yesterday, I listened to the following Art of Manliness Podcast “#731: A Futurist’s Guide to Building the Life You Want”.  The podcast made me think that I am the master who is fitting my life.  Like a horse, I will opt for easy when I can and not necessarily choosing the daily work to be as successful as I can be. 

Maybe my father’s real lesson was not about the animals (Sounds like the Last Lecture).  Maybe his lesson was teaching his children values about responsibility, observation, etc.,  but the ultimate lesson may be that one has to “look at the stock” every day to be successful. 

Change: Do I Love It Or List It?

The Canadian Show “Love It or List It” has been very popular in the Lambert household for many years.  The show, which started in 2015, focuses on a couple struggling with what to do concerning their current house, such as “do we invest in the house” or “do we move to another house?”  The Show revolves around the drama of retrofitting/improving a house while at the same time the stress of looking for a new home.

It is common for one partner to be “all in” regarding staying in the current house, despite the costs and struggles, while the other seeks something different.  One partner argues the current home fails to meet their needs regarding family space, amenities,  or a number of different factors.  At this same time, the other spouse argues on the “value” of the house, including the family’s history there, proximity to the community (schools, friends, etc.). While the home improvement/home search plays out, the show’s two hosts (a designer and a real estate agent) engage in friendly banter about their own success in swaying the couple towards loving it or listing it.

After seeing many houses, the couple finally tour their own home, after the renovations are completed. Then they are presented with the appraisal of their own house. They are asked, after reviewing the appraisals, to either “love it (stay) or list it”? Generally, most people choose to “love it”, despite the best efforts of David Visentin, the person helping the couple evaluate new homes, choosing to stay after designer Hilary Farr has completed the renovations. (And I do enjoy David’s occasional glance into the camera, breaking the fourth wall.)

This reason for most couples to “love it” led me to think why so many people choose to stay, when initially, one of the partners found the house inadequate, pushing for a resolution to their “housing situation”.

My thoughts on why most people stay in their home:

  1. The house serves as a link to a broader community. Most of the couples appear to have been in the house for a significant period of time, meaning they have roots to the community. The familiarity of the neighborhood, the location to various social/recreation opportunities, etc., all suggest the couple would have to reconnect to a new community if they moved. There are costs for breaking these social ties. (I am reminded of the following quote from “Field of Dreams“: This is my most special place in all the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this, the wind never blows so cold again. You feel for it, like it was your child.)
  2. There are couples who put in the funding for renovations. If they have been paying for the house, the renovations could generate a significant equity. For most people, their home equity can be seen as a “retirement nest egg”.
  3. There maybe the potential for dealing with an angry “Hillary”, who seems upset when someone questions her design efforts, which could create a perception of staying to avoid her displeasure.
  4. The couple, unable to make a decision previous to the arrival of Hillary and David, uses the exercise to determine their housing needs. David questions them concerning their needs/wants, seeking to find the “perfect house”. In many ways, people do not know what they want, but can express what they do not want. Sometimes we need others to help clarify our thoughts.

So, if one was to consider the same process of evaluating any change, one would see that change must be adopted through some matrix of at least one or more things:

  1. trade-off between the known for the unknown,
  2. understanding the value of choices,
  3. seeking the approval of others (either to reinforce identity or avoid conflict), or
  4. learning to communicate one’s wants/needs.

So, the next time you are considering a change, think about what factors are/may influence your decision. The answer may surprise you. (If this is not enough, one could easily add to this list by examining the various cognitive biases listed here. )

What Can Speculative Fiction Teach Us About Scarcity, Resources and Markets

I am a fan of speculative fiction (science fiction) and was surprised to consider how many of these stories contain an economic bent.  There are plenty of stories that include the adoption and use of science, but for many stories, there remains the use of science to advance society and create wealth (To boldly go where no one has gone before?) But why is economics so attuned with science fiction?

Economics is about the allocation of scarce resources.  In many ways, science fiction discusses scarcity, such as the lack of air (Total Recall), Land (Waterworld), Spice (Dune), Food (Soylent Green), or other resources.  In these, and other stories, the characters seek ways to collect, mine, create, or otherwise  acquire something of value.  Often these characters require the engagement with others to assist in the quest, a potential buyer, or some advisory that prevents either the collection or exchange of an item to occur.  (Which is one  of the reasons that markets feature in so many stories, such as from Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  This markets provide a place for an exchange to occur, for no one is self-sufficient in an complex world.)  

Which leads to something else that lies at the heart of economics:  markets.  One can define a market as possessing three characteristics (although the Encyclopedia Britannica lists a few other items):

1.  A buyer,

2.  A seller, or

3.  A good or item to exchange between parties.

And one could add are few more caveats:

  • A medium for discussion (how do we discover information about the product and a price?)
  • A way to allocate geography (where is the product?)
  • A scarce resource that people value (is there a way to put a value on this product?)
  • An agreement regarding when the transaction occurs (how will we know when we reached a solution?)
  • Consent for the transaction to occur (are both parties agreeing to the outcome?).

If an exchange is/is not made, all parties agree to an outcome based on the what, the where and the when, that occurred.  As such, one could say the market is closed even if an agreement was not reached. (If one of these assumptions are not meet, while the exchange can occur, one would say that anything short of these tenants would be theft.) 

But even within the market and the assumptions are met, there are several stories that have an economic angle that drives some characters…

1. the potential power between the two parties (monopolies, competition).  The following story discusses how an electronic market is set up to handle resources in the Martian colony  (Escape Pod Martian Chronicles, Part 1 and Part 2).   

2. the potential for external observers to dictate a transaction (regulation),  Again, not all transactions are legal, or can be frowned upon, such as hauling children (Guardians of the Galaxy 2).

3. the presence of alternative goods/choices (opportunity costs), such as managing people as in the “The Evening, the Morning and the Night”.  

4. the timing of the final exchange (time value of money), the Restaurant at the End of Universe where compound interest pays for the final meal.  

5. determining a market price, such as in “Chivalry” by Neil Gaiman, where an elderly woman negotiates the value of the Holy Grail, read by Levar Burton,

6. the process of collecting resources and skills, such as in “The Starsmith”, where one travels across space and relearns how to craft metals.

7. Etc.

Not all science fiction stories have a strong economic tie, such as the Star Wars Episode IV: A New Beginning remains a retelling of the Hero’s Journey or the 1902 Journey to the Moon.  But there is enough stories that have an economic tie that there may always be a market exchange somewhere in the story. (Even Star Wars had a Cantina Bar where the search is on to hire a pilot!)

I am not alone in my assessment, based on the following article from the World Economic Forum.   So the next time you ride a spaceship, travel through time or battle an alien, you may meet rational parties (at least to themselves) seeking resources, living out your first lesson of “Economics 101”. 

How to not succeed as a Phd Candidate

I am working on my PhD disseration, and thought I would share a few thoughts on what not to do…

1. Do not follow the rules concerning your PhD Candidacy to the letter
   You should read and understand what is required.
2. Do not assume your professor can read your mind
   If you can’t communicate your ideas, no one will understand them
3. Do not communicate with your professor
   They are there to help you succeed
4. Do not write daily
   You may find this the ultimate labor
5. Do not read daily
   This should be a labor of love
6. Do not participate in academic, scholarly forums to engage with others
   Sharing with others helps you understand your own research perspective.
7. Do not forget that there are people who wish to help you succeed
   You have a lot of cheerleaders, not only academically, but with family and friends.  
8. Do not have any hard dates
   A goal without a deadline is but a wish…
9. Do not try to solve all the world’s problems
   My biggest challenge – focus on one point!!

I am sure I will be revising this list over time, but it’s a start!

The Goal of Training: “You Must Be the Weapon Before You Can Use a Weapon”.

I was thinking about how to return to my martial arts training as gyms start opening up, especially about how do I improve both my conditioning and rusted skills. Unlike the Karate Kid, there is no Sensei telling me to “Wax On, or Wax Off”, as I must prepare before I can compete safely. The Karate Kid did not quite comprehend his situation until Sensei forced him to link his conditioning to skill development, but I know a little more than he did.

Frequently, the mind and the body tread divergent paths, unclear as to either the route or the destination. For Daniel, he had to have the techniques demonstrated before his eyes to see his own development. However, not everyone who trains learns, as the following video shows a young soldier struggling to feel secure in the African Savannah (Adumu).

In many ways, the lion killer was a warrior: he assessed, listened, and executed. The young soldier, scared, full of adrenaline, etc., was unable to defend himself, even with a more formidable weapon. In the end, the warrior remained a warrior, a weapon, even when he left the spear behind for the other.

In both videos, the more inexperienced fighter did not grasp what he learned until he was shown the deficiency of his training. So, not only must I prepare my body for training, but I must prepare my mind also. 

The moral of the two stories could be summed up by a quote from Jason Bogden, “You must be the weapon before you can use a weapon”.  Over the course of the Karate Kid, Daniel learns to effectively execute his training, much like the taller warrior was able to do at the moment of the lion attack. And frankly, that is good advice for anyone getting ready to face not only other fighters but life itself.

Thoughts on Coaching A Novice High School Heavyweight Wrestler

I came across a few notes I made when I was a volunteer wrestling coach at  Mandeville High School.  It was a very rewarding experience, but I am sharing these as I thought there were some useful nuggets regarding training in general.


Who is likely to be a heavyweight wrestler in high school:

  • An athletic football player – tends to have already played sports and can understand coaching
  • A boy who has just grown into his body, so he will be very awkward when he has gained two inches and 25 pounds. I think of them as the big puppy as they do not necessarily understand their new growth.  
  • The kid who grew up fast, so he experienced a big advantage when he was younger. So while he learned how to use the body, his fight style may be influenced by subliminal messages received throughout his younger days about “not beating up on little kids or bullying” – creating a “gentle giant.”
  • The kid who played no sports nor does he understand the rigors of wrestling or even the challenges of moving his body. He may want to wrestle because of TV fighting (MMA) or his friends doing some other martial arts.

Techniques to Teach:


  • What not to teach: Do not immediately teach a single or double leg (Stay with Blast Doubles)- most big wrestlers will have problems coming up off the ground, especially if they let go of a leg and plant an arm on the ground. They may get discouraged and will be less willing to learn the technique until they have some success with fighting off the bottom.
  • What to teach: teach hip toss, over-under positions, bear hugs, or even old school blast doubles from a collar grip, Russians, etc. 
  • The focus is on movement and angles, as if heavyweights don’t move, they are subject to certain setups from more experienced wrestlers.
  • A heavyweight wrestler should not stand in the same spot for more than 3 seconds, and if this is not broken earlier, it’s hard to “unteach” later. (I would teach hip toss after they mastered other positions.)

Referee’s Position:

  • Always emphasized teaching confidence in the bottom before teaching any top techniques. A bigger kid will struggle to get up, so the fear of being out of position should be addressed first. As beginner top wrestlers will tend to push more weight onto the hands of the bottom wrestler, this makes “fat man rolls”, sit-outs, somewhat easier to execute.
  • Top position – remember to focus on pushing through, and not over the bottom position. While this sounds easy, the bigger frame can occasionally lead to wrestlers getting out of position easier.  

Escaping from pins:

  • Generally, larger heavyweights are less flexible, so may give up a pin that a smaller, nimbler wrestler may not. As such, they may need more reminders regarding pin escapes as they have the potential for giving up a fall if they are out of position or fatigued.
  • The focus should be a progression on pins here and then incorporated with escapes to reinforce both positions. Stress pin escape drills that last 20-30 seconds to create a clear feeling of progress and control points.


Some Mental Aspects:

  • Do not stress that heavyweight wrestling is boring.  This can create a negative message to your wrestler to not try as hard, or his contribution is not merited.  In many ways, the creation of “boring” heavyweight wrestling is a lack of teaching sound standing techniques, which may result in wrestlers remaining locked in a clinch for most of the round.  
  • Some big guys will rely upon up outmuscling their opponent, which may result in initial victories, but without additional technical development, they may see frustratingly slow progress.  This default towards outmuscling tends to lean itself to a slower match. A better focus would be on footwork, teaching the wrestler that movement will generate more opportunities, especially if they are in better shape than their opponent.
  • The heavyweight wrestler should learn to use his weight to “wear out” his opponent where possible while catching his breath in a match.
  • Big guys can fall into a counter wrestling mindset, as they learn that their size will enable them to counter techniques from other, smaller wrestlers. Avoid this at all costs, as they will turn into wrestlers who will only be able to beat opponents who make mistakes. They will learn to be less aggressive and will actually move less, as they wait for the other person to screw up.

A Special Note on Football Players

If they play football, wrestling should teach:

  • Beat the man in front of you.
  • Leverage and footwork can outperform weight only.
  • They will likely quit wrestling to focus on football if they feel this wresting is too hard, or if they completed a football season and want a break. The problem is this these players may lose the gross motor skills and mental disciple that wrestling will afford them, both in high school and beyond. And their opponents are not taking training breaks.

Techniques for incorporating football players into the middle of a wrestling season:

  • Start them on the stand-ups and bottom first. Once they are conformable in not getting pinned, then start with standing and turnovers. This is because the other kids will already have had the benefit of two months of training, so you have to get them where they feel they will see progress fast, which means “you are not being pinned!” If they know they can escape, they are more comfortable learning how to wrestle.
  • Also, many will quit if they get repeatedly pinned after a few days of practice, so one has to learn to manage expectations.   Football is not wrestling: one is a team sport, the other, an individual sport on a team.
  • Several will see powerlifting as getting them stronger. It should be stressed they can still do both.  Oh, if I had the recovery time of my 18-year-old self!!

What To Carry In a Laptop Bag?

After traveling for work (i.e., with a laptop) for a long time, I have settled on what I carry in my laptop bag.  This is my standard packing for all trips, assuming that overnight trips will have personal items in a separate bag.

The broad categories: Power, Audio, Other

Power items (All the charger cables are in a separate GREEN bag)

  • Power chord for laptop    
  • Charger cable for personal phone 
  • charger cable for iPad   
  • charger cable for iPhone 
  • backup portable charger 
  • small multiple outlet adaptor
  • power converter (if traveling overseas)

Audio  (All these cables are in a separate orange bag)

  • Headphones with mike/boom and 3.5 audio jack (Don’t want Bluetooth devices to die or worry about them not being charged)
  • Converter lightening to 3.5 jack (for calls on iPhone) 
  • USB-C 3.5 jack (for Teams meetings on iPad)

Other computer supplies (in a red bag)

  • a USB/flash drive
  • Mouse 
  • USB hub
  • Generally have a few AA/AAA batteries

Knowledge creation (sometimes you need to write something down!)

  • Bag with pencils/pen/highlighter  (in a blue bag)
  • Notebook   (I use the TUL system)

Personal Items

  • Tissue packets
  • Aspirin 
  • Eyeglass cleaner/eyeglass repair kit
  • Business cards

I am curious to learn what others.  Seems like everyone has their own list of “must-have” items!