Sunday, March 29, 2009

Voodoo Economics

South Park on the state of Economics today.



Hopped up on Coffee

A video of someone like me after a day of drinking coffee at work


HT: Ernie who also to a Malcolm Gladwell article about coffee.

Andrew Gelman has a nice post about someone who performed
a randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled experiment on himself
and
was astonished to see how much the caffeine had affected him. He was stronger -- his power output was 3 percent greater -- and faster. In fact, he said the average speed for his tests when he used caffeine was faster than his fastest speed when he was not using caffeine

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Achilles and Hector

Two birds in full throated song on a damp, dark winter evening in London, while people hurry past, bundled against the cold.

What a sight


Since Time Immemorial

Merriam Webster: a time antedating a period legally fixed as the basis for a custom or right.

While listening to the BBC, I was amazed to learn that this phrase has a precise meaning in English Law.

Checking online, I was even more astonished to learn just how long ago this phrase was defined. Wikipedia:
In 1276, this time was fixed by statute as the 3rd September 1189, the date of the coronation of King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart). Proof of unbroken possession or use of any right since that date made it unnecessary to establish the original grant. In 1832, the plan of dating legal memory from a fixed time was abandoned; instead, it was held that rights which had been enjoyed for twenty years (or as against the Crown thirty years) should not be impeached merely by proving that they had not been enjoyed before.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Overnight success can be a long time coming

John Kay writes an article on why choice matters
Choice is not an end in itself, but a means to the good services everyone seeks. Choice is working best when no one wants to exercise it.
and on a pernicious myth about markets.
But those who defend the market system are often the system’s worst enemies. I recently listened to a group of businessmen deploring the anti-capitalist tone of much of what is taught in schools. They had a point. But they spoiled it by promoting a description of capitalism that was at once repulsive and false.

They talked about “wealth creation”, although most of what they described seemed to be a diversion of wealth for the benefit of particular individuals rather than the creation of new wealth. They thought private sector activities – such as securities trading and automobile manufacture – created wealth; while public sector activities – such as health and education – used wealth up. They stressed that financial rewards were the mainspring of innovation, apparently unaware that material gain was not even at the back of the minds of those who invented computers, discovered antibiotics or created green revolution crops.
Over at Coding Horror, Jeff Atwood perfectly illustrates this point
Honestly, I look forward to waking up someday two or three years from now and doing the exact same thing I did today: working on the Stack Overflow code, eking out yet another tiny improvement or useful feature. Obviously we want to succeed. But on some level, success is irrelevant, because the process is inherently satisfying. Waking up every day and doing something you love -- even better, surrounded by a community who loves it too -- is its own reward. Despite being a metric ton of work.
Wealth matters: it allows you to focus better on what you really want to do, but I would never be able to get any real work done if the only reason I had to do it was a bonus or promotion. Of course, to be able to take that attitude, you already need to have some amount of basic security.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Waltz with Bashir

Watching Waltz with Bashir: A very good start to the year, and the second great animated movie I have seen this year.

I was drawn to seeing this movie by the poster above: it felt like a scene from Marine Drive in Mumbai. It is a documentary but, being an animation, it has no need for reconstructions of events which nobody filmed. Too much sepia, but the visuals are wonderful, the figures move stiffly but still do a great job of conveying emotion through body language, and the movie has a glorious soundtrack, and a very droll sense of humour.

I bombed Beirut, I bombed Sidon:



and Enola Gay




How distributed decision making typical of bureaucracies can help create atrocities by dispersing responsibility, how religions are only occasionally about what people believe, and how movies really are a multimedia art form.

Every single trailer in the theater felt like an advertisement for a computer game. The invention of photography forced painting to discover virtues other than realism, and the spread of the movies may have compelled novelists to discover qualities other than plot and scene. What will this new art do to old ones? We will have more movies which are made to go right into a computer game, but will we also see more works like Waltz with Bashir?