Quotulatiousness

December 8, 2016

Greg Lake, RIP

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:44

The BBC reported that Greg Lake has died:

Greg Lake, who fronted both King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, has died aged 69.

One of the founding fathers of progressive rock, the British musician is known for songs including “In the Court of the Crimson King” and his solo hit “I Believe in Father Christmas”.

He died on Wednesday after “a long and stubborn battle with cancer”, said his manager.

The news comes nine months after Lake’s band-mate Keith Emerson died.

Keyboardist Emerson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, coroners in the US said.

Lake’s manager Stewart Young wrote on Facebook: “Yesterday, December 7th, I lost my best friend to a long and stubborn battle with cancer.

“Greg Lake will stay in my heart forever, as he has always been.”

Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett paid tribute on Twitter, writing: “Music bows its head to acknowledge the passing of a great musician and singer, Greg Lake.”

“Another sad loss with the passing of Greg Lake,” wrote Rick Wakeman, keyboardist in pro rock band Yes.

“You left some great music with us my friend & so like Keith, you will live on.”

The History of Paper Money – VI: The Gold Standard – Extra History

Filed under: Economics, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on Nov 5, 2016

Even as the use of paper money grew, ties to the gold standard remained… and remained challenging. From the First Opium War to the Great Depression, events around the world stretched the capacity of bullion based economics. So what – and who – finally abandoned it?

David Hume’s suggestions for improving political discourse

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle thinks that both sides can benefit from some advice from 18th century Scotland:

Are you tired yet of hearing about what we need to do to fix American politics? The earthquake of Trump’s election has unleashed a torrent of such suggestions. Mostly, it turns out that we need to do whatever it was the author wanted us to do on the day before the election. Those few contributions that struck an original note have caused an eruption of white-hot molten outrage from former allies.

So it is with some trepidation that I offer yet another suggestion for improving the sad state of our political discourse: Study David Hume’s distinction between “is” and “ought,” a concept that a whole lot of people on both sides seem to be struggling with.

The 18th-century Scotsman was complaining that philosophical treatises often went along discussing things that are, and then suddenly jumped to discussing how things ought to be, without seeming to notice that these were quite different categories of argument. His work has been widely available for two centuries, and yet, a casual observer of political discourse will readily note political warriors confusing their goals (“ought”) with tactics that might achieve them (“is”).

For example, in a column last week (and in private for longer than that), I argued that however noble the goals that social justice warriors seek, total war against religious conservatives is probably not the right tactic to achieve them. Offering religious conservatives the choice of recanting their beliefs about sexuality or forfeiting their livelihood is apt to create fierce political resistance that could reverse recent victories. Even if you don’t place much value on religious liberty, even if you are outraged by the beliefs those people espouse, I argued that it is far better to adopt a live-and-let-live policy than to try to exterminate those beliefs by any means necessary.

Why do some men send unsolicited photos of their “junk”?

Filed under: Media, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Scott Adams says that the “Moist Robot Hypothesis” explains why dick pics are a thing:

The Moist Robot Hypothesis also assumes that most, if not all, of our “decisions” are little more than rationalizations for our instinct to procreate in the most productive way. And by that I mean mating with people who have genetic advantages that would make the offspring successful. That’s why people are attracted to beauty, because it is a visual proxy for good health and good genes. For the same reason, women are naturally attracted to successful men that have talent, money, or some other sort of advantage. (Obviously these are generalizations and don’t apply to all.)

[…]

Our sex drive is so strong that it largely eliminates the option for rational behavior. And as you know, the hornier you get, the stupider you are. Once a guy reaches a critical level of horniness, his rational brain shuts off and he becomes primal. And when he’s primal, he sometimes signals his availability for mating in the most basic way possible: He displays his junk in full preparedness.

If you think the men doing this behavior are extra-dumb, or extra-rude, that might be true. But it is just as likely that such men are extra-horny. That gets you to the same decision no matter your IQ because the rational brain is shut down during maximum arousal.

It is also true – as far as I can tell from discussions with women over the years – that sometimes a dick pic actually results in dating and sex. I realize how hard that is to believe. But sometimes (maybe one time in 500) it actually works. You would think those odds would be enough to discourage even a man with a temporarily suspended intellect, but that view ignores the basic nature of men: We’re risk takers when it comes to reproduction.

QotD: The law

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

Frédéric Bastiat, The Law, 1850.

December 7, 2016

NFL time is weird

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Dave Rappoccio on the least likely event that just apparently happened in the NFL:

What I think is funny is an irony that I don’t think anyone else has picked up on yet. Andy Reid, a coach with quite possibly the worst reputation for time management on final drives, now effectively, in a way, holds the record for fastest game winning comeback drive in an NFL game.

It is. It’s the fastest. The only way a comeback can be faster is if the exact same thing happens but the guy runs to the endzone slightly faster. There is no way to score a faster comeback. Extra Points or conversion attempts do not take time off the clock. Effectively, the Falcons, despite scoring the go-ahead touchdown…were never actually ahead. When the clock started again, the Chiefs had the lead. The Falcons lead was maybe a minute of real time, but in game time sits in a weird vacuum between dimensions, never to be found. This is the fastest game winning drive in NFL history, and the man who owns it couldn’t call a timeout properly if his lunch date depended on it. Andy Reid, a man who is so baffled by clocks he’s still trying to understand how daylight savings works, owns this record. This might low-key be the most amazing thing that happens all year. Sometimes football can deliver in ways you’d never expect.

Self-protection for women – “making the carrying of mace and pepper spray a sex-linked legal privilege”

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Colby Cosh discusses the proposal of federal Conservative leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch to legalize the use of non-lethal chemical weapons:

… Leitch’s Thursday announcement struck me as a potentially elegant move in a hopeless chess game. Noting that a large number of women suffer physical violence over the course of their lives, she proposes that Canadians should be allowed to carry chemical mace and pepper spray for self-defence. “Women should not,” she wrote in a Facebook posting, “be forced by the law to be victims of violence when there exist non-lethal means by which they can protect themselves.”

That’s a true statement, no? Leitch does not suggest that the carrying of chemical spray weapons should be a benefit reserved only to women — she just wants to legalize those weapons generally. Perhaps I am a little more feminist than she is: I would be comfortable making the carrying of mace and pepper spray a sex-linked legal privilege. Hell, I would consider extending it to very small firearms.

Activists for feminism are continually characterizing the world of women as one of terror, abuse, and uncertainty. For Leitch to take them at their word, applying a tough-on-criminals spin, is an authentic Trump touch. I do not wholly approve of the tactic, but, as much as I think some feminists are attention-hungry zanies, I recognize the kernel of truth in their image of the universe. I’ve never had a close female friend who could not tell of bizarre, creepy, threatening things happening to them — sights and encounters that, to a male with an ordinary upbringing, seem to have wriggled from the corner of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

Leitch got exactly the response she must have wanted from the Liberal Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu, who blurted that giving women extra self-defence options was “putting the onus on” them, and thereby “offensive.” I find this is an odd way to raise the status of women — suggesting that if some of them might like to carry a can of mace in their purses, and could even be trusted by the authorities to use it responsibly, they are thereby dupes of the patriarchy.

I also enjoyed Colby’s description of Leitch’s “Trump-flavoured” campaign: “it’s like a bag of boring snack chips with a chemical dash of Southern spice exhaled over it. And I can’t help suspecting that there is something slightly phony about the media panic surrounding her candidacy.”

QotD: Turning ordinary recycling into a vast revenue enhancement tool

Filed under: Economics, Government, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… we know that ubiquitous RFID tags are coming to consumer products. They’ve been coming for years, now, and the applications are endless. More to the point they can be integrated with plastic products and packaging, and printed cheaply enough that they’re on course to replace bar codes.

Embedded microcontrollers are also getting dirt cheap; you can buy them in bulk for under US $0.49 each. Cheap enough to embed in recycling bins, perhaps? Along with a photovoltaic cell for power and a short-range radio transceiver for data. I’ve trampled all over this ground already; the point is, if it’s cheap enough to embed in paving stones, it’s certainly cheap enough to embed in bins, along with a short-range RFID reader and maybe a biosensor that can tell what sort of DNA is contaminating the items dumped in the bins.

The evil business plan of evil (and misery) posits the existence of smart municipality-provided household recycling bins. There’s an inductance device around it (probably a coil) to sense ferrous metals, a DNA sniffer to identify plant or animal biomass and SmartWater tagged items, and an RFID reader to scan any packaging. The bin has a PV powered microcontroller that can talk to a base station in the nearest wifi-enabled street lamp, and thence to the city government’s waste department. The householder sorts their waste into the various recycling bins, and when the bins are full they’re added to a pickup list for the waste truck on the nearest routing — so that rather than being collected at a set interval, they’re only collected when they’re full.

But that’s not all.

Householders are lazy or otherwise noncompliant and sometimes dump stuff in the wrong bin, just as drivers sometimes disobey the speed limit.

The overt value proposition for the municipality (who we are selling these bins and their support infrastructure to) is that the bins can sense the presence of the wrong kind of waste. This increases management costs by requiring hand-sorting, so the individual homeowner can be surcharged (or fined). More reasonably, households can be charged a high annual waste recycling and sorting fee, and given a discount for pre-sorting everything properly, before collection — which they forefeit if they screw up too often.

The covert value proposition … local town governments are under increasing pressure to cut their operating budgets. But by implementing increasingly elaborate waste-sorting requirements and imposing direct fines on households for non-compliance, they can turn the smart recycling bins into a new revenue enhancement channel, much like the speed cameras in Waldo. Churn the recycling criteria just a little bit and rely on tired and over-engaged citizens to accidentally toss a piece of plastic in the metal bin, or some food waste in the packaging bin: it’ll make a fine contribution to your city’s revenue!

Charles Stross, “The Evil Business Plan of Evil (and misery for all)”, Charlie’s Diary, 2015-05-21.

December 6, 2016

Bowmanville, Ontario from 1984-2016 in Google Timelapse

Filed under: Cancon — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:57

Description from the Timelapse page:

Timelapse

Timelapse is a global, zoomable video that lets you see how the Earth has changed over the past 32 years. It is made from 33 cloud-free annual mosaics, one for each year from 1984 to 2016, which are made interactively explorable by Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab’s Time Machine library, a technology for creating and viewing zoomable and pannable timelapses over space and time.

Using Earth Engine, we combined over 5 million satellite images acquired over the past three decades by 5 different satellites. The majority of the images come from Landsat, a joint USGS/NASA Earth observation program that has observed the Earth since the 1970s. For 2015 and 2016, we combined Landsat 8 imagery with imagery from Sentinel-2A, part of the European Commission and European Space Agency’s Copernicus Earth observation program.

Hand Grenades – The Belgian Army – Flemish Nationalism I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 5 Dec 2016

Indy is sitting int he chair of madness again and answers all your questions about the First World War. This week we talk about the Belgians and Hand Grenades.

Alex & Tyler’s Economist’s Christmas

Filed under: Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 Dec 2016

This week: Let’s get in the holiday spirit! What would an economist do about Christmas gifts?

What do you really want for the holidays? And how can you be sure you’re giving the perfect gift to someone else?

Of course, you want to get your loved ones something they will appreciate, but you face a knowledge problem: you don’t know everything about their wants and needs. You also have an incentive problem: oftentimes people aren’t quite as careful choosing a gift for others as they would be if buying something for themselves.

We’ve all received a present that we didn’t really want. When that happens, the value that we place on the gift can be less than its cost. According to research by economist Joel Waldfogel, gift givers spend an average of $50 on gifts that recipients only value at $40. Given that Americans spend around $100 billion on Christmas gifts, we’re wasting $18-20 billion every holiday season!

Is there a solution to this costly problem? Well, you can always give cold, hard cash! Many gift recipients would prefer it. But if you know the recipient’s tastes very well, you do have the opportunity to give them a non-cash present that they’ll love and that creates value by lowering their search costs.

There are, of course, occasions where the gift of money doesn’t make sense. Perhaps you want to signal that you care in a different way, or maybe there’s a custom you want to follow. You’ll just have to risk it in these situations.

Around the holidays, there’s also a spike in charitable giving. If you face knowledge and incentive problems in giving gifts to loved ones, you can imagine that these issues increase when you’re giving to someone you’ve never met. To combat this problem, some charities, such as GiveDirectly, give cash to people in need so that they spend charitable donations however meets their needs.

The efficiency of an economist’s Christmas may feel less warm and fuzzy, but the value creation is no less generous!

QotD: The power of music

Filed under: Media, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

Mrs. T and I just got back from seeing Maria Schneider’s first set at the Jazz Standard. Two thoughts come to mind, the first original and the second not:

  • In the presence of music, time and trouble stop.
  • The band took a couple of corners too fast on “Gumba Blue.” Everything turned out all right, though, and when the number was over, Maria grinned at the audience and quoted something that David Bowie once said to her: “The beautiful thing about music is that if the plane goes down, everybody walks away.”

I’ll co-sign that.

Terry Teachout, “Two thoughts about music”, About Last Night, 2016-11-25.

December 5, 2016

Seasonal beers – Yule Shoot Your Eye Out

Filed under: Media, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

It’s from a brewer in Houston I’ve never heard of, so the chances that it’ll appear in the government monopoly liquor stores here in Ontario are pretty small:

A Christmas Story is such a staple of the American holiday season that in 1997, Turner Broadcasting’s TNT or TBS networks began running “24 Hours of A Christmas Story.” All day long on Christmas Eve and all day long on Christmas Day, you can turn on the TV and catch A Christmas Story. When the screaming kids have finally gone to sleep, and you’re done with all your wrapping, you can sit down and catch a true American classic that will let you unwind, make you laugh, and remind you of the Christmas frustration of kids everywhere.

When you sit down to watch the movie, grab a beer. It will undoubtedly help you relax. Christmas is stressful, especially as a parent. You can see this in the character of “the Old Man” in Ralphie’s story. His father is always trying to balance a battle against his angry furnace, the neighbor’s wild and hungry dogs, and the stress of balancing life with his kids and his job.

In the mid-twentieth-century, middle-America setting of A Christmas Story, “the Old Man” probably drank some pretty boring beer to relax at the end of a long day. You, my friends, have many more options. There are plenty of Christmas beers, and we’ll get into them in the coming weeks, but there is one you just can’t pass up if you’re a fan of A Christmas Story (and let’s admit, you all are).

Karbach Brewing Company out of Houston makes a beer called Yule Shoot Your Eye Out. With a wonderful reference to the classic line from A Christmas Story, the gang at Karbach take it one step further with a representation of the famous leg lamp on the can.

yule-shoot-your-eye-out

The History of Paper Money – V: Working out the Kinks – Extra History

Filed under: Economics, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on Oct 29, 2016

The first question of paper money is not how much you can print, nor even what its value is – but who prints the money? When every bank started to print their own bank notes, it caused confusion and frustration. Enter the Central Bank.

The next Laundry Files novel from Charles Stross

Filed under: Books — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

They won’t be out until mid-2017, but here are the cover designs for the UK and US editions:

The Delirium Brief (UK edition)

The Delirium Brief (UK edition)

The Delirium Brief (US edition)

The Delirium Brief (US edition)

The UK edition is going to be published by Orbit, as usual, and that’s their cover on the left (or above, depending on your browser). But in the United States, the series is now moving to Tor.com Publishing; so there’s a whole new cover design coming. (To be clear: earlier books will remain with Ace, but The Delirium Brief and subsequent novels will come from Tor.)

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