Posts concerning economics

Too Few Good Men?

00:03 19 Mar 2012

I don’t usually comment on vapid “lifestyle” articles, particularly when they’re also year-old Wall Street Journal op-ed pieces, but Kay Hymowitz’s “Where Have The Good Men Gone?” has recently been shared by at least two friends and appears to need refutation.

Unfortunately, while it annoyed me greatly on first reading, further readings exposed a lot of difficulty in discerning what arguments it was making—mostly it’s composed of cultural buzzwords, snobbery, socially conservative hankering for the mores of yore, and the anecdata-driven slandering of an entire generation of males.

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Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything is a Remix”, Part 4

21:55 19 Feb 2012. Updated: 23:44 02 Mar 2012

I mentioned this on Facebook earlier in the week, but it’s important enough to also write a post about.

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NYPD Notes

23:59 30 Oct 2011

I don’t recall any interactions with the police when I lived in New York, but over the years my accumulated impression has been that it’s a very corrupt organization. That’s not necessarily unusual—I suspect that most of the police forces in major American cities would be just as bad (and nothing I’ve heard about, say, the Los Angeles or Chicago police has made me think otherwise). At the moment, though, the NYPD seem to be at the forefront.

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Steve Jobs

23:47 09 Oct 2011

I wasn’t a big Steve Jobs fan; despite my working almost exclusively on Mac hardware for the last several years, I disagreed strongly with the direction I thought he was moving computing in. I was surprised to find myself feeling very sad at the news of his passing.

I’m not entirely sure what drove the extent of that sadness.

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The Rorschach Riots

23:28 14 Aug 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

I mean the various incidents of unrest in England earlier this week. The reference is not to the Watchmen character, but to the blots, because from what I can tell every commentator (I include myself here) is seeing in the events a confirmation of their already-existing political beliefs. That’s not unique to this particular issue, but it strikes me as a particularly egregious example of the phenomenon.

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Safety Nets are for Losers

17:31 07 Jul 2011

Would it have been better if McCain had been elected?. The best argument that Obama is better than McCain would have been is that McCain might have started a war with Iran (instead of Libya); then again, he might not have. McCain would also have pushed for Social Security and Medicare cuts, but Democratic resistance would have been significant—now, with the push coming from a Democratic president, it’s highly likely that the Democrats will cave in.

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Some Bribery Statistics

11:40 05 Jul 2011

Using data culled from secret police records, John McMillan and Pablo Zoldo examined bribes made (by the secret police) to various figures in Peru during the 1990s: legislators, judges, and… the media. It was the television stations that commanded the most in bribes, about ten times as much per month as the other groups combined. The article explores why the media were worth more than the politicians and judges, and has some interesting hypotheses on how the incentives worked.

Also, it has data tables about bribes, something you don’t come across too often.

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Kirby on Remixes, Part 3

23:55 24 Jun 2011

Everything is a Remix Part 3. Definitely worth watching, particularly because the ideas discussed are presented effectively, and because the concepts of “originality” that govern our ethics and laws are definitely in need of major revision (a subject that will apparently be tackled in Part 3…)

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The Videotex Revolution

23:49 23 Jun 2011. Updated: 01:30 24 Jun 2011

In June 1982, the Institute for the Future published a report, “Teletext and Videotex in the United States”, which discussed the likely impact of teletext and videotex services on American homes, jobs, and lifestyles; an article summarizing the report was published in the New York Times. While in many ways it was utterly wrong, in the sense that those technologies never succeeded in the US, in perhaps more important ways it was almost prescient, describing quite well how the Internet has changed things.

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NCAA Inanity">More NCAA Inanity

22:04 06 Jun 2011

The University of Southern California football team has been stripped of its 2004 season national championship, because their star running back Reggie Bush was receiving “improper benefits” while he played for them.

What this story is really about, however, is trying to ensure that the players receive as little as possible of the vast revenues accumulated by the colleges, the leagues, and the BCS cartel.

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Visualizing Information Spread on Twitter

23:42 10 May 2011

“Breaking Bin Laden: visualizing the power of a single tweet” is an interesting analysis of how news (or rumor) of bin Laden’s death travelled across Twitter. Twitter certainly works phenomenally well at transmitting information of that kind; I wonder if they’ll be able to translate that advantage over other services directly into money somehow.

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Welcome to the Future Market II

23:18 25 Apr 2011

The year is 2011, and sophisticated AIs carefully watch for arbitrage opportunities, tracking/correlating/analyzing vast amounts of data at split-second speed to keep ahead of their competitors even in comparatively small arenas.

That, or overly simplistic scripting that seemed clever when it was written fails to take certain conditions into account, leading to the $23,698,655.93 (& $3.99 shipping) book.

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The Generosity of the Federal Reserve

00:20 15 Apr 2011. Updated: 00:22 16 Apr 2011

Matt Taibbi covers the still-astonishing handouts given out by the Federal Reserve as part of its “crisis management” measures over the last few years. Given the amounts of money involved, it is absolutely stunning that this stuff isn’t brought up whenever benefit cuts are discussed. Yes, I know that the whole point of the mainstream media is to prevent mass awareness of just how twisted the situation is, but even so, it’s amazing how effective it seems to be.

To slash public spending while simultaneously showering money on the wealthy—never mind acting pious and responsible while doing so—is nothing less than massive thievery from the poor to the rich; there’s really no other way to describe it.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is busy addressing the key problems facing America today, although some members of Congress and the Senate want a different focus.

The current mantra guiding US actions seems to be “the floggings shall continue until morale improves”.

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You’ll Eat Our Lunch and Like It

21:04 12 Apr 2011

The headline really says it all: “Chicago school bans homemade lunches”.

That’s right. The daytime prisoners at this institution—sorry, the beloved Children Who Are Our Future at this Future-Oriented Center for Learning—are no longer allowed to provide their own alternatives to the midday meal, but must have whatever the school supplies.

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AT&T: No Escape

23:24 22 Mar 2011. Updated: 00:25 23 Mar 2011

When I first got my landline in San Francisco, it was with PacBell. They got bought by SBC, who were bought by AT&T. When I first got a cellphone in 2006, my service was with Cingular. They got taken over by AT&T. I stuck with AT&T for a while, with plenty of gripes, before escaping to T-Mobile. I’ve been very happy with T-Mobile.

So, naturally, AT&T now intends to buy T-Mobile.

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Welcome to the Future Market

21:58 18 Mar 2011

The year is 2011, and sophisticated AIs carefully watch trends and track/correlate/analyze vast amounts of data to inform sophisticated maneuvers in the global markets.

Or, well, maybe a bunch of dodgy scripts are doing clumsy sentiment analysis on various volatile and imprecise social networks and rumormongering news services, and they can’t tell the difference between Anne Hathaway and Berkshire Hathaway.

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Cities: Urban Centers or Transfer Points for Capital?

22:33 15 Mar 2011

Cities have always been centers of capital; I don’t think you can have cities without something (in our history, initially agriculture) to produce surpluses of goods that can (must?) be stored (hoarded? selectively distributed?), and the centralization that such storage encourages has always been a fundamental part of why cities exist.

I love cities. I love them for their concentration of people and culture (the modern form of which, it could be argued, arises out of the former), for the intermingling they encourage and for the aspects of cultural and social choice they provide. I’ve always disliked other aspects, however: the concentration of capital and the power dynamics this creates, and the shaping of cities as feeding/breeding grounds for capitalist/consumerist expenditure/exploitation. I don’t care that these dynamics have thus far been prime drivers for the existence of cities; an optimist (yes, really) about human potential, I believe it’s possible for us to reorganize cities to have the good without the bad. In any case, cities have always had this tension (among others) between capital and people, but they’re still understood largely as spaces for inhabitation—that is, as places for people.

This may be changing.

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Blast from the Past: Reddy Realty

23:50 14 Mar 2011. Updated: 00:51 15 Mar 2011

From 1999–2000 I lived in a Berkeley apartment, and was recently reminded that it was rented from a criminal sex offender who would ultimately plead guilty to, among other things, the transportation of minors for illegal sexual activity.

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Should’ve Bought Apple Stock

23:49 11 Mar 2011. Updated: 00:50 12 Mar 2011

This is actually a little painful to go through: a list of Apple hardware prices combined with what that many dollars’ worth of Apple stock at the time would be worth today.

I bought a PowerBook G4 800 DVI-Ti in 2002; it was and remains the most expensive machine I’ve ever purchased. It’s certainly served me well, and I still have it, but if I’d put that money into Apple stock at the time, my Apple stock would now be worth a shade over $72000.

Even though I’m posting it, I’m not sure what the point of this chart is. It’s not useful for predicting the future, so really it seems like a comprehensive exercise in enabling regret, but regret is one of the least useful states of mind. It might fire our dopamine receptors and convince us we’re gaining information, but it’s low-value information. Despite this realization, my feeling of “why didn’t I even consider buying Apple stock at the time?” is strong enough right now that I’m going to post it anyway.

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Online Convenience in an Ideal World

22:36 18 Jan 2011

I’ve recently been doing some online banking reorganization, and have realized just how inconvenient a lot of the services are. The main issue is that they’re all different services, where I want centralization.

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Zappos Service

23:55 19 Oct 2010

I’ve ordered shoes a few times from Zappos, and I’ve been quite happy with them. Everything has worked well, and I’ve had no complaints. Today, when I picked up my Zappos package expecting to see my brand new pair of Inov-8 F-Lite 195s (yes, apparently CrossFit trends get to me too), I instead opened up a pair of women’s shoes intended for someone in Seattle.

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Online Rental Payment (gasp!)

23:50 28 Sep 2010

It’s approaching the end of 2010, and I just paid my rent online for the first time.

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Consumer Serendipity

16:00 29 Jul 2010

Two weeks ago I wrote about having difficulties finding a wallet to match my somewhat specific requirements. Today, while looking for something else, I found one that matched almost perfectly—it’s like a cheap clone of my earlier wallet.

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